When In Doubt, Keep Your Clothes On, You Won’t Regret It…John Page Burton

I recently saw a bumper sticker that said…”I live my life with no regrets”. Although this sounds highly “enlightened” I believe that ALL of us have regrets. I contend that it is important to let go of things and move on, however, I also believe that an occasional dose of regret can help guide us down a more conscious path. I recently had a conversation with a couple who is attempting to salvage their 14 year marriage. The cause of the marital turmoil began when it was discovered that one of the partners had been having an extra marital affair. “How could this have happened, I thought everything between us was fine” my client said between sobs. “That’s just it, it isn’t fine, you have not met my needs for years” the “other half” said indignantly. As I listened to their conversation I found myself taking a trip down memory lane, a trip that found me revisiting a place in time when I too was having this conversation with a partner. I have experienced infidelity both as a willing participant and as an unknowing recipient. I can honestly say that actively participating in the act of marital infidelity is one of my biggest regrets. Infidelity is a self absorbed act where very little if any attention is paid to long term consequences. Once revealed, infidelity has an exponential effect, potentially hurting a multitude of people. Once a trust is broken it is very hard if not impossible to restore it. Guilt, shame, anger and rage are common emotional responses when this most intimate trust has been violated.

Lets take a closer look at the mindset of someone who may engage in the act of infidelity and then ask ourselves if this is how we desire to show up in our marriage or relationship. Infidelity is a CHOICE. I always encourage friends or clients who are standing on the edge of this perilous cliff to stop and think about the CHOICE they are about to make. I know firsthand the power of the Ego’s chief weapon, our libido, which can make this an even taller order but one we owe ourselves, our partner and our family.

Old Mindset, NEW Strategies…

Insecurity. Insecure people tend to be implicit communicators. On the other hand, explicit communicators are prone to put their cards on the table and rarely play a guessing game with others. Implicit communicators expect people to “understand what they are thinking and feeling” and often “act out” when their silent expectations are not met. Implicit communicators can be “sneaky” and impulsive. NEW STRATEGY…Speak your truth in real time. Let your partner know how you are feeling. Real time communication can go along way in keeping our relationships in balance. Be explicit but also be respectful in your communication with your partner.

Narcissistic. Narcissists like to make everything about them. “MY partner is not meeting MY needs” or MY partner doesn’t know what turns ME on” are examples of some of the excuses a narcissistic person might use to justify bad behavior. “MY partner should be able to understand why I stepped out on our marriage, if he/she were paying attention to ME we wouldn’t be having this conversation”. Nothing is ever their fault. NEW STRATEGY…For the next 30 days focus exclusively on meeting your partners needs. This will be a challenge but one that will take the focus off of YOU. Refrain from using the words, ME, MY and MINE.

Fault. Blaming a spouse or partner is also routinely used to justify bad behavior. Rather than take personal responsibility for their indiscretion they may attempt to build a case around why “MY partner is not meeting MY needs”. They may also attempt to rally friends and family in an effort to garner support for their poor CHOICES. I know that I employed this misguided strategy when I was confronted with my own poor CHOICES. This was also the rational presented to me when I found myself on the receiving end of infidelity. “The wheels on the bus go around and around”. NEW STRATEGY…Every time we find ourselves blaming our partner for our relationship problems we must stop and turn it around. For example, instead of saying “MY partner is not meeting MY needs” say “I am not meeting my partners needs”. This “MY to I” strategy will help us share responsibility for the challenges in our relationship.

I and YOU. “YOU” is featured in most defensive conversations. For example, “YOU make me angry” or “YOU” don’t understand me”. When communication is centered around “YOU” it is very difficult to open a door to understanding and resolution. NEW STRATEGY…Change the word “YOU” to the word “I”. “I” am feeling angry right now because “I” don’t feel like you understand me”. This simple word switch can soften the tone of a disagreement and allow the other person to explain their position.

Drug. I remember the “rush” I would get during “acts” of infidelity and the crash I would feel when it was time to return “home”. At the time it never occurred to me that I could create the same “rush” in my own relationship if I would begin practicing honest communication with my partner and encourage them to do the same. NEW STRATEGY…Talk with your partner about intimacy and sex. They are two very different things. What turns your partner on? What turns them off? What sexual needs are and are not being met in the relationship? How does your partner define intimacy? Are you meeting their desires? This can be the beginning of a brand new level of intimacy in the relationship with the added bonus of mind blowing sex!!!

Evening the score. I am amazed by how many people engage in extra marital affairs as a way of exacting revenge or “evening the score” with a partner. If you are the “victim” of an affair you are well aware of the emotional scarring it can cause. It is a direct assault on our person hood, one that we may never completely recover from. Those who CHOOSE to remain in a relationship where infidelity has taken place may also carry around the feelings of weakness that come from not being strong enough to speak their authentic truth or leave the relationship. NEW STRATEGY…When thoughts of revenge begin to surface in a relationship we must make a conscious decision to NEVER use sex as a weapon. We must make the decision to either stay in the relationship and put our energy into working through our differences or we must make the decision to end the relationship. We must take SEXUAL REVENGE off the table!

Lack. When we contemplate or actively engage in the act of infidelity we are residing in a place of scarcity and lack. We are communicating to the universe that our partner is NO LONGER living up to the expectations we “demand” of them. We are also sending a clear message to our partner that they were only worthy of our “love” as long as they were at the top of their game. For example, a change in economics or health can be a very challenging time in a relationship but not a valid reason to run into the arms of someone else. NEW STRATEGY…When confronted with a significant challenge in our relationship, it is important to talk about the problem at hand and then make the decision to work together to find a solution. Life often happens when we are making other plans. Infidelity is avoidance that features long term consequences.

Immaturity. As children, many of us stomped up and down until we “got our way”. This is what is commonly referred to as a “tantrum”. As adults many of us throw “tantrums” of a different type, “affairs and flings”. Whether it’s a one night stand or an extra marital relationship lasting 5 years, infidelity is an immature act. An emotionally mature person is willing to cut ties before seeking a new “playmate”. NEW STRATEGY…When confronted with a sexual temptation (they will surface if we are receptive to them) it is advisable to stop, take out a piece of paper and do this exercise. Draw a line down the middle of the paper. On one side write the word BENEFITS. On the other side write the word CONSEQUENCES. Write down ALL of the benefits you will receive by engaging in the act of infidelity. On the other side make a list of ALL of the potential consequences that may arise if you are found out. Weigh them and proceed accordingly.

Theft. When we engage in infidelity we are stealing from the emotional bank account of our relationship. This emotional bank account contains deposits of faith, hope, love, dreams and most importantly, trust. Once the emotional bank account has been pilfered it will be difficult if not impossible to build it back up. NEW STRATEGY…When we find ourselves angry, bitter or feeling vengeful, we must strive to find a way to make a deposit into the relationship’s emotional bank account. Every time we make a “withdrawal” we are moving the relationship closer to emotional bankruptcy and every time we make even a small deposit we are securing our future. The CHOICE is ours.

Yukky. The bottom line…infidelity is a yukky mess that is very hard to clean up. NEW STRATEGY…Keep your clothes on while you decide to stay and work on the relationship or leave. There is enough pain in the dissolution of a relationship without adding an additional layer. A “clean break” should be just that…CLEAN.

3 Models of Relationship…which one best describes yours?

1. It’s all about MY needs. In this relationship model everything is about ME. What can YOU do for ME that will make MY life better. This is by far the most unconscious way to be in relationship and the chances of success are very low.

2. Let’s trade. I will do things for YOU in accordance with what you are willing to do for ME. For example, I will go to the game with YOU if you will go to the opera with ME. This model is a slight improvement over model # 1 yet still represents an unconscious way to be in relationship. Once one of the partners tires of “horse trading” the relationship is doomed.

3. It’s all about my partner. In this model my focus is on my partner. I am committed to meeting his/her needs rather than my own. At first this model may seem confusing as most of us have grown up with an “it’s all or mostly about me” mindset. When both partners are living in this relationship model they are each getting their needs met on a regular basis. This is a win-win model in which there is very little need to “roam” around the pasture.

Most of us float between model 2 and 3. Our goal is to reside in model 3. When we live here our chances of stepping outside the relationship will decrease dramatically.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

The JOY of FAILURE…John Page Burton

Lets face it, most of us have a jaded relationship with failure. Many of us have experienced a love gone south, a business venture or career decision that didn’t go as planned or we may have even raised a child who chose to journey down a criminal path. Many of us have blamed ourselves for these “failures” and we have developed a negative self image as a result of them. When tough times happen (they will) it is our interpretation of the event that determines how we move forward. I recently wrote a book titled, Wisdom Through Failure. In this book I encourage my readers to first embrace and then establish a positive relationship with failure. This new relationship is essential for our mental health. Lets take a look at three ways we can find the positives (joy) from our perceived failures.

What was enjoyable about this experience? Looking back was it really all that bad? My intention is not to be a Pollyanna, however, ALL of us are capable of looking back and finding aspects of any experience that can put a smile on our face. By taking this approach we condition our mind to seek the positive in any given situation. For example, once upon a time I was in love with a girl. One day we got into a terrible fight and broke up. For weeks, I floated between the emotions of sadness, anger and guilt. I just couldn’t find anything positive about what “she had done to me”. (victim mindset) Twenty years later, it is easy to recall many fond memories of our time together. I needed to go through this “perceived failure/rejection” in order to become the person I am today. This experience allowed me to grow and it prepared me to meet the amazing women I now share my life with. Time can soften the hardest heart. Seek to find the positive aspects of the experience.

How did I grow from this experience? Who and where would I be if I had not gone through this? Like many, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting back on the things that I considered setbacks or outright failure. It is human nature to dwell on what we did “wrong ” and take for granted what we did “right”. Today, when I go through a rough spot, I tend to look for the lesson in the experience. What was I supposed to learn? When we seek to find the lesson, our setbacks and failures can be viewed from a more positive, conscious perspective.

Did this experience make me stronger? Anyone who has come out on the other side of a terminal illness will never look at their everyday challenges in the same way. Because of their near death experience, they now have an entirely different perspective. As survivors of the ultimate adversity, they now view setbacks and failures as mere bumps in the road. We don’t have to be an illness survivor to begin viewing our everyday challenges for what they really are….speed bumps. We can look back on a challenge, embrace the lesson, recognize that we are still standing and use this awareness to successfully navigate through future challenges. This is what I like to refer to as “personal power”.

If given a choice most of us would prefer to succeed at everything we do. Unfortunately this is not how it works. By implementing these three strategies we can re-frame any negative experience and truly begin finding the “joy” in our failure.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and perspective.

REVENGE…It just feels good! John Page Burton

For many of us, thoughts of revenge feel pretty darn good! “I’ll get even with that no good jerk, nobody is going to wrong ME and get away with it” is a common utterance of someone immersed in a revenge mindset. Thoughts of getting revenge tend to get our blood pumping and give us a new sense of purpose, one which enables us to summon all of our plotting and planning skills and formulate a misguided strategy to right the “perceived wrong”. We are determined to channel all of our frustration and anger into one big, tightly wound ball of hateful energy and let it fly! It feels GREAT to visualize the misery we will inflict on that no good, scum sucking weasel! Sound familiar?

At one time or another all of us have harbored thoughts of revenge. For some, these thoughts have become all consuming and are clearly effecting a person’s physical and mental health. Fortunately, most of us fail to act on our thoughts of revenge or else our prison system would be more taxed than it currently is. We create a great deal of internal turmoil each and every time we harbor thoughts of revenge. Let’s be honest, people do things to us that make us angry. They may hurt our feelings, cause us financial harm or in many cases they subject us to significant physical and emotional abuse. We want our perpetrator to feel the same degree of pain “they have caused us”. We repeatedly visualize how good it will feel to “give them a heavy dose of their own medicine”. Thoughts of revenge allow us to seemingly regain the power that has been taken away from us. The Ego is LOVING every minute of this drama and is more than willing to add more fuel to an already raging fire. Revenge is a verb. Revenge is action! The Ego unconditionally supports our feelings of anger, rage, hurt, jealousy and disappointment.

Revenge presents itself either explicitly or implicitly. Explicit revenge is action based and immediate. For example, your dog just bit my kid. I am going to load my gun and shoot your dog. Implicit revenge is the most common form of revenge and thankfully for humanity it remains primarily in our mind. We consistently visualize what we will do to the person who “wronged us” and we create imaginary scenarios that depict the suffering and humiliation they will endure from our callous acts of revenge. Explicit revenge is clear and concise with an eye for an eye being the only rule of this game. Implicit revenge is a slow and painful emotional process that causes the person who is immersed in thoughts of revenge to relive their drama over and over. In the end they put themselves through twice as much emotional pain as anything inflicted by the perpetrator. The object of “implicit revenge” is oblivious to how much energy is being devoted to them and therefore the only person continuing to suffer is the person consumed with the thoughts of revenge. “The wheels on the bus go round and round”. Implicit revenge rarely leaves the planning stage. Over time, the intensity usually wears off and the person seeking revenge moves on to their next psychological drama.

3 questions that can help us manage our thoughts of revenge…

Did they really do something significant to us? Asking ourselves this question causes us to pause and ponder. This process can bring us to a more reasonable state of mind. Nobody is worth ruining our physical or mental health over. It is also a good idea to ask ourselves if the object of our anger is really just a trigger for something else that is lurking below the surface? On several occasions I have placed a target in the middle of someones chest for no other reason than they were available in the moment. My anger and frustration from another “perceived wrong” had been lying in wait, impatiently waiting for the perfect moment to strike!

Will I become a better person if I act out my revenge? The answer is always a resounding NO. Revenge never has a positive outcome. Revenge is an unhealed response that fosters more negative energy. The only way can we can truly grow and become better people is to take the high road and move on. If someone steals from us we can press charges and let the legal system take it from there. If our spouse cheats on us we can choose to seek marital counseling or we can hire a divorce attorney. Taking the law into our own hands and dealing out the punishment of our choosing is not a wise option. NEVER ACT OUT REVENGE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL!!!

What would happen if I simply let it go? We must trust the universal law that says… what goes around will come around. It may not come around the way we want it to but it eventually will come around. Letting go is hard to do because of the Ego’s need to control. As I wrote in my book, Wisdom Through Failure, I experienced issues with a neighbor over the non stop barking of his dogs. Eventually our HOA manager was able to get it to stop. We recently arrived at our mountain home (neighbor with barking dogs) to find that 3 of our upstairs windows had been shot out with a pellet gun. I can’t prove that he was involved, however, none of the other homes in our neighborhood had any pellet holes in their glass. Being that he is the only person who I had any type of conflict with, the odds seem reasonably high that he knows something about it. It’s his Karma. I filed a police report for insurance purposes and released it to the universe. FYI…I am human and had a wealth of vengeful ideas rolling around in my head but chose to not act on them.

Thoughts of revenge are a normal response when we feel we have been wronged. Holding onto these thoughts for any length of time is unhealthy. Carrying out acts of revenge is not only unhealthy but can have dangerous results. When we were children our parents encouraged us to count to ten when we were angry. The purpose of this exercise was to allow us to pause and ponder rather than respond impulsively. I contend that this is still some very solid wisdom each of us should strive to follow.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.
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The Secret to Surviving The RIPTIDES of Life…John Page Burton

If you have ever spent time around the ocean you have more than likely heard the term riptide. Hopefully, you have never experienced a riptide while enjoying a swim. If by chance you have, you know that getting caught in a riptide is a terrifying experience. A riptide occurs when the sand suddenly shifts on the ocean floor, creating a canal that is approximately 8-10 yards wide. If you are caught in this canal the receding current will begin pulling you out to sea. For many of us, our immediate inclination is to begin swimming toward our “comfort zone” which in this case is the shore. As we exert our energy swimming toward the shore, the tide is exerting it’s own energy pulling us away from the shore and back out to sea. If we continue to fight the current, we will eventually use up all of our energy and drown. What we resist will persist. The secret to escaping the pull of a riptide is actually quite simple…CHANGE DIRECTION. By swimming approximately 15 yards to either side, a person is usually released from the pull of the riptide.

How many of us find ourselves valiantly fighting something or someone only to find ourselves being pulled further and further into a sea of drama. Our riptides occur at work, in relationships, friendships and for many, our internal riptides have pitted us against ourselves for as long as we can remember. We forcefully defend and justify our positions as we continue to frantically swim toward shore. If we would be willing to change our strategy and start swimming in a different direction we could be released from the bondage of our emotional riptide once and for all. Lets take a closer look at some of the ways we can avoid the push-pull in our lives.

COMMUNICATING OUR TRUTH IN REAL TIME. For example, if we really don’t desire to go to our sisters house for dinner, we need to tell her! Rather than “go anyway” and be miserable we must learn to be all right with asking for a rain check. When we express our true feelings in REAL TIME we can’t help but feel empowered because we are being true to ourselves. Many of us have conditioned ourselves to “go along to get along” for so long that at first “honest communication” may seem odd. SWIM TO THE RIGHT, it’s worth it! Our truth will indeed set us free!

STAY AWAY FROM GOSSIP. Gossip is unconscious, immature communication that never has a positive intent. When you find yourself in the pull of this disturbing current it’s time to SWIM LEFT, FAST!

MAKE COURSE CORRECTIONS WHEN NEEDED. When we recognize that something doesn’t feel right or simply isn’t working it is ALWAYS in our best interest to make a course correction. Trying to force things to work is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, it isn’t going to happen. Far too many of us are trying to “make” an abusive marriage work, “get through” another miserable week at work, “force” a sibling to finally “respect” us or “demand” that a parent be proud of us. Rather than continue to slowly drown in expectations, SWIM TO THE RIGHT! Our ability to be proactive will release us from our emotional riptide.

SURRENDER The Ego desires us to see ourselves as the end all be all. It is empowering to have a healthy sense of self worth and it is admirable to be willing to lead the charge but there are also times when we have to recognize that it is time to get out of our own way. Surrender comes in different forms. It may be to our creator or it may be to a spouse, co worker or friend. We should never feel shame in surrender. Surrender is a conscious acknowledgement that we have given our best but recognize our limitations in a given challenge. Rather than fight the current, we must SWIM TO THE LEFT!

Riptides are scary. Once we know how to release ourselves into safer water they will no longer hold power over us. Having a healthy respect for nature is always a good idea but having a healthy respect for ourselves is where the real magic happens. Here’s to swimming in the ocean!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

ONE RUG AT A TIME, A Dogs Journey To Inner Peace…John Page Burton

A year ago this month Diana and I adopted a dog from The Humane Society of The White Mountains. Our new “fur buddy” had been significantly abused and for Mr. Deeks (his new name) the world was an extremely dangerous place where the next kick, punch or worse could come at any moment. He had been found roaming the woods with his brother. Both dogs were extremely malnourished, scarred and understandably mistrusting of humans. Upon arriving at our home, Mr. Deeks instantly found a specific place in the living room that he deemed safe, curled up in a ball and spent the majority of his first week anchored to this “comfort zone”. We fed him by hand. A week later we adopted a companion for him, a little puppy who we named Kensi. From the moment Kensi arrived in our home she and Mr. Deeks hit it off and we can’t help but credit her whimsical nature for bringing out the “inner puppy” in Mr. Deeks.

This past weekend Diana and I paid a visit to our friends Tom and Judy. Our dogs love to interact with their dogs and it quickly becomes a circus atmosphere as all of the dogs are rescues, with each dog exhibiting their own unique set of challenges and triggers. For example, Mr. Deeks is very cautious when he encounters sliding glass patio doors. On Saturday morning, “the humans” and all of the other dogs were in the living room area, that is except for Mr. Deeks who was standing in front of the sliding glass patio door making a familiar squeaking sound that lets us know he is afraid. I encouraged him to come to me. Initially, he put one paw across the door frame and quickly pulled it back. This process went on for several minutes. I continued to encourage him. Eventually, he stuck his head and two paws through the door frame but quickly withdrew to the safety of the patio. I continued to speak words of encouragement to my buddy. A few minutes later the squeaking sounds began in earnest and much to my amazement Mr. Deeks was standing on the first of three throw rugs placed between the patio door and the opening to the living room. He looked at me and again “bolted back to the safety of the patio but this time he quickly returned to the first throw rug. With his squeaker in full force he reached his paw toward the second throw rug, closed his eyes and launched onto rug #2. By now all of “the humans” were cheering him on. He quickly bolted back to the safety of the patio. Kensi began making her own unique little squeaking sounds and before we knew what had happened Mr. Deeks was now standing on rug #3. This time instead of racing back to the patio he began to extend his paw across the door frame leading into the living room. After about 30 seconds, he bolted back to the safety of rug #2. Yes, I said rug #2. Deeks had established a new safety zone. Finally, he looked at all of his raving fans, turned his squeaker up full volume, closed his eyes and made a dead run for the couch. Mr. Deeks was safely in my lap. Cheers went up and his sister Kensi began licking his face. Mr. Deeks had just experienced a major BREAKTHROUGH in Tom and Judy’s living room. For the rest of our visit Mr. Deeks cruised around the house, stood in line for treats and bascially acted like he owned the place. His courage combined with a great deal of encouragement and acceptance from Kensi and “the humans” had led Mr. Deeks to finally leave his comfort zone and enter a brave new world of endless possibilities. He had built new muscles of courage.

How many of us “humans” live in a world of fear and doubt? Our life experiences have left us feeling frightened and alone. We don’t know who to trust and so we cling tightly to our comfort zones. Much like Mr. Deeks, we desire to expand our world and experience what lies on the other side of the “patio door” but we end up giving in to our fears and we return to the patio feeling even more frustrated and defeated. All of us can learn a great deal from the journey of Mr. Deeks. Here are a few of my takeaways from the BREAKTHROUGH I witnessed on Saturday.

*We ALL need a companion, someone who is there to pick us up when we are down. (They may not lick our face but we know they love us unconditionally and accept us for who and where we are) We ALL need to know that we have “raving fans”, people who cheer us on as we build our muscles of courage. IF YOU DO NOT NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW PLEASE FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES AND BE THIS PERSON FOR THEM.

*We are not our past. People can be cruel. They can do very unconscious things to us. We must show ourselves grace and keep moving toward the light. There a far more amazing, loving, caring, understanding, supportive people than there are cruel people. We must give ourselves permission to trust again, albeit one validation at a time. This is often a very slow process but one we must engage in if we desire to find inner peace. We must be willing to approach our desires and goals ONE RUG AT A TIME. Once we experience this BREAKTHROUGH our patio doors will never hold us hostage again. We now know what lies on the other side and IT IS GOOD!

*We must show grace to ourselves and others. Saturday was not the first attempt by Mr. Deeks to cross through a sliding glass patio door. Prior to Saturday he had never done it before. We have encouraged him to join us on our deck at both our mountain and city homes and although he has stood at the door and squeaked he has always retreated back to the safety of the living room couch. With every failed attempt we have shown him grace and let him know that the patio was his to enjoy as well as ours. We never placed him out there against his will because we knew that this would keep him from ever having a patio BREAKTHROUGH. We showed him grace and didn’t make him feel bad because he was afraid. This continued grace allowed him to finally experience his BREAKTHROUGH on Saturday.

We were ALL born into a different set of circumstances. None of us are any better than anyone else! We are ALL children of God who have traveled down different, sometimes painful paths. Our challenge is to live our lives in a manner that prioritizes grace and unconditional love. Strength doesn’t come from inflicting pain, strength is born from compassion. BTW….Since returning back to our mountain home, Mr. Deeks has routinely traveled back and forth through the sliding glass patio door and now spends much of his time lounging in a patio chair. Go figure, he has expanded his world!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.