To Love Is To Be Happy With – Chapter 5

Love Relationships and The Option Alternative

I crawled on the hardwood floors of my childhood and built rainbows across the horizon. On a painted landscape of pinks, yellows and powder blues, the letters grew ten stories high . . . L-0-V-E. My expectations formed a hot sun in the sky as I became infatuated with my dream.

The culmination of it all! To love and be loved! To find that person who had waited silently around the corner of my fantasy. They told me about the bells I would hear during each embrace. I couldn’t help but be dazzled by the lovers reunited in red-rosy-cheeked romances displayed on the silver screen. From hairspray commercials to billboard cigarette advertisements, I was tempted and invited by the promise of arms that enfolded and mouths that beckoned.

“I’m ready … I can’t wait,” I said to myself despite my ambivalence at the loving in my family with its mixed metaphor of pain and punishment. Standing on the sidewalk of my youth, just past puberty. Slinking past the bookstores of my dreams, waiting. Designing scenes of romance and cotton-candy love behind the walls of my eyes.

And finally it came to me or me to it. The first time my eyes lit up for another human being. Zap … it grabbed me in the quick and I was flying. I was dazzled by that quiet, pretty girl with long eyelashes sitting in the third seat of the first row, a contemporary June Allyson scrubbed so clean and innocent. Later, it was the vivacious dancer whose body moved with such hypnotic ease, her smile suggesting all the fun and warmth I had ever imagined.

And I never limited those fantasy figures to members of my immediate peer group. There was the teacher who caught my fancy and sent me into dreamlike states right in front of the chalk and erasers. The Jane Fonda figures who raced like veiled apparitions through my most intimate daydreams. The neighbor’s wife three doors down. I even constructed the perfect lover out of the components of everyone I ever knew, fitting different bodies to different faces, changing personalities and interests to suit my whims.

I could feel the high. Then, I graduated into closer, more binding love relationships. Slowly, I dared and finally allowed myself to take the distance out of my crushes . . . touching the hands of my fantasies. Suddenly, I was let loose on the roller coaster of a love relationship. I grew old so quickly. Adjusting and readjusting.

“What’s happening?” I said to myself. “This isn’t the trip that I had imagined.” “Hey, this isn’t what I wanted at all.” A thousand years of protest bellowed from between the sheets. “Where’s the magic when she touches me?” “How come it seems so damned ordinary?”

I’ve known some who gave up at this juncture, deciding to accept less than they wanted. Others kept pushing, pursuing and hunting for the magic. But for most, there was at least one honeymoon … certainly, for me. We were two people flowing together, who gave and shared ourselves in harmony, who loved and were loved in return. Heart-shaped bathtubs, midnight boat rides, sunsets holding hands on the beach, wine sipped by candlelight, hands exploring so gently and eyes that said it all. Beautiful! Yet, it disappeared. Was the honeymoon over after only one day or was it one week or perhaps even a year? Why couldn’t we sustain it? What happened in the daylight of our time; why did it change the morning after?

I had wanted the love and the loving, the soft tender touches, the caresses, the sharing and even the images from the silver screen. I was willing to ride Hollywood right out the window. Yet, why did I get burned?

In wanting my fantasy, everything seemed dreary and colorless in comparison. What was I really telling myself as I lay alone under the quilted cover of night and whispered, “I need love!” I am “supposed to” have it. I “must” have it. In effect, I was saying I would be miserable, dejected and depressed without it. I created impossible mental models with which I continued to compare my reality and watch it suffer. I tried to manipulate my partners to conform to my own preconceived notions. I subjected my love relationships to elaborate conditions, all sorts of judgments and a manifold of expectations. I didn’t know any other way.

Somehow, my fantasies became a breeding ground for all the questions and an incubator for unhappiness.

I remember sweating through so many relationships.

Disjointed. Confused. And yet, at the same time, I guess I was unwilling to explore them … even to ask myself any questions. I thought, if I’m uncomfortable now, I don’t want to increase my distress by really finding out what is wrong. I believed I might walk through a doorway to greater unhappiness, never suspecting that in confronting my beliefs I could dispel them and change them.

I thought I needed a chisel when all I had to do was give myself permission to explore.

The first question was the most difficult . . . no, not the question as much as daring to ask it, to begin. “What am I unhappy about?” Suddenly, my mind went blank. “I don’t know,” I answered myself. “I’m just unhappy.” But then my lips betrayed a growing smile. I knew I had more reason than there were minutes in a day. As I relaxed, a flood of beliefs filled my head.

The most prominent realization was “I am not getting what I want or think I want.” Ironically, I was not ever aware of that thought until I asked the question. When we are busy “working” at our relationships or worrying about losing them, we seldom allot time to explore and investigate them.

Is the nature of our love relationships right now all that we are wanting? Or are we fearing the next one as we remember the bittersweet quality of the one before? The only question that surfaces: Is there more we want from our relationships? If the answer is a no, we can pass. But if not, we can try to uncover some of our difficulties in an attempt to allow our current relationships to flow more easily . . . or, perhaps, to free ourselves to make new ones.

Although it seems petty now, there was one particular event in an earlier involvement which would annoy me greatly. Whenever I would see my friend, I always anticipated her greeting me with a great ceremonious hug . . . a gesture that I believed made our coming together special and valued. I even told her that was my particular joy. Yet, often she would just greet me casually with a flat Monday morning hello and I would become furious. Why did I get so upset? I guess I believed it was a sign she did not care enough. Her loving and affection was overshadowed by my distrust and anger. Accusations short-circuited the flow. “She couldn’t love me, otherwise she would do the things I want.” But how could that be true? How clear it seems now, but how ungraspable then. I was actually creating my own dissatisfactions by setting up specific images and activities to which my partner was “supposed to” conform. When she didn’t, I made a truckload of assessments about what I believed her actions meant.

It was my game with my own expectation. My misery was mine. And if I had made all those judgments about a greeting, there must have been so many other areas in which I did the same thing. Once I tipped the iceberg, I wanted to understand more. Okay, if there were ways I could make myself unhappy, then maybe I could unmake myself … free myself from the bind. At least I could try. Ultimately, each exploration became a beautiful awakening . . . seemingly complex at first, yet so transparent in the end.

Although there are many different binds of unhappiness in love relationships, as vast and varied as there are people and beliefs, some are more prominent than others and occur with great frequency.

The “am i a sucker” bind – My relationship is fairly new and still growing, but I’m beginning to notice that I seem to love you more than you love me. After all, I’m always so attentive to your interest in literature, your job and the people you meet. You, on the other hand, never ask me about my day or how I feel when I’m unhappy. If I keep loving you more than you love me, I begin to become afraid I’m going to be a sucker. So, to minimize my risk, I decide to withhold some of my love so I won’t be in that position and won’t get hurt. Perhaps I even believe this might stimulate you to try harder in our relationship. But instead, as you see me withhold my love, you withhold yours. Because of all the withholding, we conclude we do not love one another even though that may not be true. Finally, we either split or remain together while having bad feelings about each other.

The “we have nothing in common” bind – Although we love each other and that’s why we were married in the first place, we don’t really seem to have much in common. I’m into politics and he’s into music. I like tennis and water-skiing and he always wants to play basketball with the “boys.” So I tried. After all, marriage is a sacrifice of sorts (I believe) . . . I was always told you should put aside your own interests in order to share those of your mate. If you don’t, the marriage will never work. So I gave up politics and attended concerts, traded my tennis racket for a seat in the bleachers as he played ball. I don’t know exactly when it began, but I became angry. Why do I have to give up what I want? Why can’t he just love me the way I am? If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this to me. I resent all the compromises and not being able to do my thing. We really have nothing in common. And how could I allow myself to be put in this position? It’s no use, I decide, we’re a classic case of incompatibility.

The “bricks of silence” bind – Every time I bring up certain subjects, you get unhappy … so we just can’t talk about it. If we do, we’ll have an argument. Everyone always told me that a good relationship is one in which the parties don’t fight, since disagreements can lead to evidence of incompatibility and separation. So I become afraid to talk about one or two subjects. These become our first “bricks of silence” as we begin to build a wall between us. Soon other subjects we disagree on fall into the category of what we can’t talk about. As the wall becomes higher and the items increase dramatically in number, I become more and more afraid of a split … there are so many things to be careful about. The fear of separating becomes stronger. Soon the discomfort becomes extremely uncomfortable for both of us (after all, we can’t talk to each other about it since it might create “heavier” problems). One of us decides that it’s best to break up the relationship in order to relieve ourselves of fearing we might split up. Later, I realize that the silence which was our way of protecting our relationship, in fact, resulted in ruining it. We did what we feared most: ended the love relationship.

As I allow myself to look, it becomes clearer to me. I really can trip over my beliefs and judgments. It’s incredible how I could end up going down paths I never intended to walk. I always thought I had to be careful and weigh everything . . . make elaborate judgments so I would know what to do and be able to take care of myself. Yet, it is the very same judgments that seem to cause the problems and confuse the issues.

Judgments. Judgments are beliefs. In the “Am I a sucker?” bind, I am saying I am unhappy because I believe I am not getting enough of what I should get from my lover (she doesn’t love me as much as I love her). Or in the “We have nothing in common” example, she decides that she is not getting enough since the bulk of the interaction is composed of her sacrificing her own interests for him, with little in return. In the “bricks of silence” dilemma many judgments were made. Perhaps, the most significant was that I am not giving enough . . . otherwise there would not have been so many taboo areas and I would have made the difference. All these judgments are either about material issues or about the quality of loving and feelings.

As I look at it, it’s amazing how material assessments come so fast and furiously. The woman who feels she is not living the life-style her mate had promised. I’ve met her. The individual not satisfied with the creature comforts, from clothing to cars. The man who thinks his partner should do more for the household. These are material judgments about not getting enough. In contrast, there are material judgments about not giving enough. The person who sees herself as not contributing enough to her lover’s comfort or material support. The man who feels diminished because his gifts are small or inexpensive.

Then there are judgments about not getting enough in the area of feelings and loving. The man who sees his partner as cold, aloof and sexually abstract. The woman whose concept of a loving mate is soft, tender and caring . . . and who finds a rather cold, disapproving and abrasive man next to her in bed each morning. In contrast, here too, there are also judgments about not giving enough. The person who sees himself as not exciting or interesting enough to keep his lover happy. The man and woman who see themselves as impotent, unfaithful or incapable.

I have often noted a very specific quality about the nature of the initial judgment about not getting enough. It gets twisted into another assumption . . . that I must not be giving enough. I assume I “should” have been able to motivate my lovers to give me all I want and believe I deserve. If they don’t, it must be my shortcoming. And then I conclude: “There must be something wrong with me!” When I have believed such a self-indictment was unalterable, I have terminated relationships just to escape the pain and self-doubt.

How did it go from being so beautiful to being so difficult in such a short time? I guess as I ask that question, I’m not really sure it was ever beautiful except in my mind. Well, that’s not accurate either. There were times that were almost euphoric. Why then did the loving sour? Why did I decide to make those judgments about not getting and not giving in the first place?

They are based on my expectations and the cardinal belief of love (If you loved me, you would . . .), which are the two major causes (beliefs) of unhappiness in relationships.

In having expectations, I am needing my lover or friends to do or be what I expect in order to be comfortable and happy. If I don’t get what I expect, I become unhappy. Yet, for me, it is this phenomenon in my relationships that creates friction, discomfort, and, at times, separation.

My fantasies are created in a vacuum. They often have no real connection to the reality of who I am and who my lover is.

Thus, I create an improbable, if not impossible, task for myself – trying to match my everyday experiences to the content of my dreams. The result: I set myself up for disappointments. Creating fixed images to which my partner or friends must conform has its liabilities. In effect, we are asking others to fulfill our dreams of what we believe they “should” be or do, which is very different from allowing them to be or act in accordance with their own wants. Although expectations might appear to help me concretize my wants and seem to create motivation (the carrot in front of the donkey), they often backfire!

This leads me directly to the cardinal belief of love, which was taught to me and heavily reinforced very early in childhood. “If you loved me, you would . . .” It was the standard of proof for my parents, my friends and for me. If he or she does that thing or activity I want, then they love me. If they don’t, I take it as a sign they don’t love me or care.

The restatement of this belief echoes throughout the hallways of most homes. If Robert loved me, he would be more caring. If Jane loved me, she would put more effort into our business. If Harry loved me, he would want to satisfy me more in sex. If Tina cared, she would support me. If Judy really loved me, she would be nice to my parents. If Ted loved me, he wouldn’t be unfaithful. If Laura cared, she would write more often. If Mark trusted me, he would tell me more. Endless in content, but the classic form is still: “If you loved me, you would . . .”

But since my wants and expectations are my own and not necessarily my lover’s (who may have his own separate wants), he often does not conform to mine. Then I make a judgment based on my cardinal belief and assume I have many proofs that show me I am unloved and unlovable.

Suppose I arrived home to an empty house for the hundredth time. My wife is out with her friends shopping and dinner isn’t even prepared. I look through the emptiness and the silence, saying to myself, “If she loved me, she would be here when I get home. She would not be out with her friends. She would have prepared my dinner.” Since she did not conform to my expectations of a good and loving wife, I conclude that she does not love me, or at the very least, she does not love me enough.

The relationship, I deduce, is lopsided. This initial disillusionment turns into a more meditative depression. “Maybe, there is something wrong with me … I should be able to motivate her to care more, to love me more, to be more considerate and attentive. I should be able to make her love me.”

But since I haven’t been able to do it in the past, I believe I won’t be able to do it in the future. I get angry and I use this distress to push my wife into loving me more . . . ironically, it secures the opposite result, with her pleading, “Leave me alone.” Pervaded by a sense of powerlessness, I contemplate leaving the marriage to escape the discomfort. Later, as I review my actions, I see how my expectations, judgments and unhappiness had reaped a self-defeating harvest. My first want was to be loved and to love. Now, I might be cutting myself off from both.

Can we see the progression? First, I judged that I was not getting enough. This was based on my expectation that a good wife is home every night, cooks dinner and is attentive. I then used my cardinal belief as a standard of proof. If she loved me, she would do all the things I wanted. Since she didn’t, she did not love me. And because I see that as bad, I become unhappy, which in turn I try to use to motivate my wife to be more attentive. But that results in me getting even less of what I want. Ultimately, as the pain increases, I want to leave the relationship . . . which was the opposite of my original concern and attention.

Maybe another view of the same situation will help. Although I assumed that my wife did not love me because she was out of the house, my wife, at that very moment, could have been doing many things for herself . . . none of which was a comment on our marriage or her love. She might have been exploring her own self-worth and moving toward a more liberated life-style. She might have been feeling confined and was seeking an outlet. But nothing she did said, “I don’t love you.” She did what she did for her own reasons and from her own beliefs. My using the cardinal belief as proof was arbitrary . . . my assumptions come from my own judgments and fears. It proves nothing if someone else does not perform to my expectations.

Some real questions arise. Do I want to have expectations? If they set up conditions and judgments for me making me unhappy (I feel bad because I did not get what I expected), could I do without them? I could still want and try to get, but allow the future. If I don’t make happiness the reward of getting, I could perhaps be happy now while I try for what I want. Expectations are not productive … not if what I want is to love and be loved.

And the cardinal belief also has its fallacies and resulting unhappiness. Since my lover does many things from his or her own beliefs and resulting feelings, then my belief that “‘If she loved me, she would . . .” is certainly never conclusive. She could still love me and not do what I want or ask, just as I have loved her while doing things she disagreed with.

How often have we loved a parent and yet did the exact opposite of what was requested. When we were attending to our wants, we were simply attending to our wants . . . not saying “I don’t love you or care.” Yet, how often did they tell us “You don’t love me.”

I can remember experiences of being annoyed at a meeting or situation during the day and then dragging my moodiness into the evening . . . and perhaps being coarse and easily angered. Yet, that was just a statement about my own discomfort and unhappiness, not a comment about the person I loved. Nevertheless, it might have appeared as if I did not care. So, again, the cardinal belief is, in fact, not a standard of proof. It is really just another judgmental way of using unhappiness to take care of myself. Can I discard that belief if I want to? Sure . . . if I know discarding it would be a better way of taking care of myself. But if I am not sure, I can hold it where I am. I don’t have to push … just allow it.

This leads me to question another fundamental belief which is active for most of us in viewing love relationships. The belief is I am responsible for the unhappiness of others and they are responsible for my unhappiness.

If I believe that I have the power to control others, then I might think I have the power to determine their desires and behavior. Yet, if I create my own feelings and behavior from my own beliefs, the only person I can possibly control is myself. What I decide to do is my decision. And what others decide to do is their decision.

In effect, each of us is responsible for ourselves.

If I do not like or approve of what you do, I decide that for my reasons. If I become unhappy about it, I do because I believe it’s bad for me. My unhappiness comes from my judgments or beliefs about a situation. I could also reserve my judgment about what you did and not become unhappy. There are endless options. My unhappiness is mine. The myth that others make me unhappy or I make them unhappy is just another belief I had been taught from day one.

There is more to get from all this discussion and the examples, more to learn from being angry if my wife isn’t home, more to know about the couple who feared arguing, more to extract from the man unhappy that he might be a sucker, more to absorb from the woman resenting being pushed away from her interests. While we are unhappy and attending to our fears, we are not loving.

If I loved flying and I love someone who is frightened of flying, their not wanting to be in an airplane with me does not suggest they don’t care. If I loved someone who was fearful of the dark, their refusing to go into a dark room with me does not mean they are not loving. If my partner is jealous because he or she fears being left alone, that does not prove their lack of love.

If my wife, husband, lover or friend is uncomfortable, insecure, fearful, anxious, they will do many things that might suggest they are inconsiderate and unloving. Yet, the only thing their actions really say is that they are unhappy about something and trying to take care of themselves. Even if they seem cold, inconsiderate and self-defeating, they are doing the best they can in accordance with their current beliefs. What I say about the actions of others is my trip. My labels are my labels. The only conclusion I can draw is that while people are unhappy, they are distracted from loving in order to attend to their fears . . . which, in effect, could never be a comment on their loving, but only an example of their unhappiness.

My judgments can lead me to strange and erroneous conclusions. I could say to someone who is claustrophobic . . . if you loved me, you would overcome your fear of elevators. But your fear might be more immediate than your loving (we are walking toward the elevator in a high-rise apartment). Out of self-protection (as you see it), you run from me and the building to avoid danger. Ironically, I could interpret your fleeing or your apparent unhappiness as a criterion for judging that you don’t love me enough. I could have the belief that when someone loves me they would not fear anything when they are with me. But that would not be a proof about their loving me, just an exercise in passing judgment. The claustrophobic person on the other side of the interaction, if he shared my beliefs, might make his own judgments. He might resent me for needing him to be or perform in a certain way to “prove” his love. And if he chooses to go in the elevator and be terrified, he might have just opted to attend to his stronger fear of losing me. So the gesture still revolves around fear. Again, another exercise in expectations and judgments … not a proof of loving or lack of loving.

Let’s even take it further. If the claustrophobic does my bidding, he might come to resent me. Finally, he would resent himself for being so manipulated (he should love me for me and not for what I do). Herein lie the germs that feed self-hate and inner-directed anger. I don’t like myself for letting me be put in such a situation. I believe I am not loved for me, but for my performance. But is that really so? A person who asks me to do this or that as proof of my love is just trying (in that request) to cope with their own fears.

The plea is “please love me no matter what I do, no matter how I appear.” Accept me . . . be happy with me. And if I were able to get in touch with wanting that for myself, I would want it for my loved ones too. I would know my fears and expectations have everything to do with my unhappiness and nothing to do with my loving. When I really understand the process, I can discard many of the beliefs and conditions of unhappiness.

It’s intense, complex and yet very simple. There’s so much to see yet there isn’t. Unhappiness takes so many forms, it appears endless . . . but the dynamic always follows from beliefs and judgments. If all this just helps us to understand that “to love is to be happy with,” then we’ve heard all there is to hear. No conditions, no expectations and no judgments can become not only guideposts for our relationships, but also a very pragmatic, non-idealistic approach to getting more of what we want.

Allowing my lover her wants (even though I might not share them or participate in making them happen), permitting my lover her good feelings as well as her unhappiness, is really a beautiful way of giving her space and loving her.

There are those who would say the Option Attitude is selfless. On the contrary, clearly seeing, understanding and accepting the dilemmas of those I love is the most effective step toward helping them become happier and deal with themselves. In their increased happiness, they become more loving, and isn’t that really what I want for myself and for them?

Okay, we’ve made it to this point. Why not take a break . . . have a cup of coffee. I know you feel you’ve been bombarded with ideas. Don’t worry about what you can’t remember … you’ll retain what’s useful for you and the rest doesn’t matter. And if you feel it does, you’ll know to reread this section.

Okay, I’m ready to go on. Are you? Come, be with me.

When I use unhappiness as a motivator in love relationships, it usually backfires!

When my lover’s unhappiness meets up with my unhappiness (when I get unhappy about her being unhappy), it results in my either bribing her, ignoring her or attacking her. Ultimately it could lead to leaving her. I do this not out of maliciousness, but to improve my relationships. My behavior is performed in the name of love. Often, I am aware that I use unhappiness as a tool, but am I always aware that it usually backfires?

Since my lover is unhappy because I play cards every Thursday night, I will stop playing cards so she won’t be unhappy. This is my way of bribing her not to be unhappy with me. Later, I begin to resent depriving myself. “If she loved me, she would not make me sacrifice my enjoyments for her.” I believe that I “must” do this or that in order for her to love and be happy with me. And if I “must” sacrifice, I can easily begin to believe it’s not worth it. Backfire!

What I originally wanted was to increase my good feelings; what I succeeded in doing was generating more unhappiness and extinguishing my own good feelings.

Ignoring our lovers or depriving them is another way of using unhappiness to fight unhappiness. Since my lover is always unhappy when I am not home, I will continue to stay away as often as possible as a way of “training” her not to need me to be home as a condition of her feeling good. I do not want to be confined or responsible. I will deprive her of what she “needs” so that she won’t “need” it anymore. But, in fact, she then becomes even more unhappy. Backfire! I wanted to help her feel better, but now she feels worse since she also believes that I am being malicious and unloving by not being home.

The attack is another way, via unhappiness, to solve my interpersonal problems. If I confront the person with anger and disapproval they’ll see how much it means to me and will stop doing what I don’t want them to do. I am saying, “If you continue to be this way, I will be harsh or angry with you in return.” But in doing that, I am really showing my disapproval of the other person. My actions, which I believe will be an effective deterrent, just become a wall to push against and even if the person is willing to change, they probably don’t want to be shoved and condemned into moving. Their reaction is to fight me. Backfire! I wanted to put the fire out; instead I fueled it.

Unhappiness as a tool to motivate doesn’t really work. It generates more problems than it solves. Even though it appears to work for the moment, the underlying resentment

and anger it creates ultimately undermines any “apparent” success. What I initially wanted was to love and be loved. What I achieved was the opposite . . . I was less loving and less loved. To the extent I am unhappy, I am not loving. This is not to say what I did was wrong … it was the best I could do based on my beliefs at that time. When I was depriving, bribing, or attacking my lover, I did so because I believed it would ultimately be beneficial to our relationship. So there is no need to kick myself around the block. If I know these beliefs are self-defeating, I can now discard them and be more allowing in my relationships.

This is the last step . . . the recap and what it could mean standing on the diving board at the end of this chapter. Unhappiness in my love relationships inevitably comes from my beliefs. What has been isolated are the two major causes of unhappiness in this arena: expectations and the belief “if you love me, you would …”

When I am hurt, anxious, or angry, I am doing the best I can in relation to my present beliefs. But as I come to see these beliefs as self-defeating and changeable, I can discard them and decide to be more accepting and less judgmental because I really know it gets me more of what I want. I can use this exploration as an opportunity to be happier, although awareness does not force change – it only presents me with additional opportunities. Change comes from our choosing to change. We can always stay where we are, if we want.

In seeing I am not responsible for another’s fears or their loving, I can be free from their recrimination and allow them to be free of mine. In understanding how unhappiness when used as a motivator often backfires, I can decide to give up using it as a tool. In knowing that others move directly against my “musts,” “have tos” and “shoulds,” I can discard those demands as ineffective and try to help my lover be motivated for his or her own reasons. With each new conclusion (belief), I see new options.

Tests and conditions never prove love; they just prove we are all capable of tapping someone else’s fears. The unhappiness of others and their attending to their discomforts has all to do with them and nothing to do with me. I see that when my lover comes from her fears, she is not in touch with her loving. It is not a proof that she doesn’t love me or want to love me more.

Even If my relationship crumbles, I could know that nothing is wrong with me. I do the best I can, the best I know how, based on my current beliefs. And so does my lover. But as I give up my self-defeating beliefs, I can function more effectively for myself, as can my lover.

I can know in my individual journey toward becoming happier, I am always trying to love others more as others are trying to love me more. The happier I become, the more I notice that I approach others with the Option Attitude: To love is to be happy with.

Sometimes, I stop my flow with the belief that if I am not uptight or unhappy about the possible demise of my relationships, I will not attend to them. But that belief is true if I make it so. I do not need to be unhappy to take care of myself and try to be more loving. I have everything to gain by becoming happier and nothing to lose … except my fears and anxieties.

My unhappiness can have many different underlying beliefs, but I have found as I clear myself of expectations and discard my cardinal belief of love, my whole world changes. I live the Option alternative by adopting the Option Attitude. As I become less judgmental, I become more accepting and loving. For me, as I have altered my beliefs through the Option Process, I have noticed I get so much more of what I want in my love relationships and the evolution spills over into every aspect of my life.

There is nothing to do to be happy, except shed my unhappy beliefs. What I choose to explore and change is my decision. Option does away with the rules, the promises, the shoulds and should nots. This book is not going to add to the collection of self-defeating beliefs, it will present an opportunity to clear them away. There is no doctor or priest advising with great authority how we ought to live our lives. No one is going to hold our hand or tell us what to do. We don’t need it nor do we really want it. We each know what is best for ourselves. Option is only a tool, which changes from hand to hand. It can be as effective as we want it to be.

In love relationships, or any area, I can begin getting more of what I want by accepting and seeing exactly what I do and the harvest of my unhappiness. Then, I can use the Option dialogue to uncover and alter beliefs. Or, if I have witnessed in this chapter many of my own beliefs in action, I can decide right now (if I want) to discard some of them.

There is more than an attitude and a vision of living presented here … more than a method and dialogue technique … allowing ourselves to be more loving is a most beautiful journey.

The Think Page (Love Relationships and The Option Alternative)

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you more loving when you are happy or when you are unhappy?
  • Do you expect your loved ones to conform to your wants?
  • Is your loving someone conditional on their loving you? If so, why?
  • Are you afraid of being hurt in relationships??
  • Do you have preset rules for your love relationships? If so, why?
  • Do you find yourself often saying “he should” or “she should”?
  • When you love someone, do you accept them for what they are or do you judge them?

Option Concepts to Consider

  • Expectations are a major cause of unhappiness in love relationships.
  • “if you loved me, you would …” is not a standard of proof.
  • If my lover does not do what i want, it says nothing about his loving me.
  • People love to the extent they are happy.
  • The happier i am, the more loving i am.
  • We cannot make others unhappy, only they can do that for themselves.
  • Each of us is responsible for our own unhappiness.
  • To love is to be happy with.
  • I do the best i can and so does my lover, the best we both know how based on our beliefs.

Beliefs to consider discarding

  • If you loved me, you would . . .
  • Her unhappiness is proof she doesn’t love me.
  • My lover makes me unhappy and I make him unhappy.
  • If I can’t motivate my lover to love me more or to be happy, then something must be wrong with me.
  • I should be able to make others love me more.

Fifth Dialogue … Relationships

Q. What are you unhappy about?

A. I’m not really unhappy, i’m depressed.

Q. What are you depressed about?

A. About being melancholy, lifeless, no energy … You know.

Q. What is it about being lifeless that bothers you most?

A. That i’m not doing anything.

Q. Why does that make you unhappy?

A. Maybe i should backtrack . . . What do you think?

Q. Why do you ask?

A. I guess i’m not sure which is the best way to proceed.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It’s the same problem i feel about not doing anything. Since i just feel confused, admittedly i can say i don’t know, so i ask others to tell me. To guide me.

Q. What are you afraid would happen if you guided you?

A. I’d screw everything up.

Q. What do you mean?

A. About six months ago, the guy i was living with for over three years split. And we had almost gotten married two times. Quietly, on saturday afternoon, he announced he had had enough and walked. Sh*t.

Q. Why do you say “sh*t”?

A. Because i really loved him. (crying) this is all i did for two months. Cried my eyes out . . . I did the whole “poor me” trip. Thought of slitting my wrists. But now i don’t even know anymore. I really loved him, our relationship really mattered to me. But we were just incompatible. Different people from different worlds right from the beginning.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean i used to lay it on our incompatibility, but maybe that wasn’t it. He always had to do what he wanted to do and i was supposed to follow. Whatever it was . . . Where to go on holidays, what restaurant to eat at, who to invite over for the weekend. It was like i never really mattered and i knew it. So, i fought him all the time.

Q. Why did you fight?

A. Because i wanted him to think of me, to appreciate and consider me. After all, if he loved me, he would have been a helluva lot more considerate.

Q. Do you believe that?

A. Well, when i’m loving him, i was always considerate.

Q. And when you weren’t?

A. Then i could be a real bi tch.

Q. When you were a ‘bi tch,” would you say you loved him less or didn’t love him at all?

A. That didn’t matter. If i was in a lousy mood, then i just acted nuts and difficult but i still loved him just the same.

Q. Okay, before you said that “‘if he loved me, he would be more considerate.” do you believe that?

A. Oh … You mean maybe all those times he acted angry and pissed was because he was feeling angry and pissed, but he still loved me? Funny how i was always sure it meant he didn’t love me. I never thought of that before. When i’m unhappy, i don’t have the patience or interest in being loving or sweet . . . But that doesn’t mean i don’t care. And you know, to make matters worse, when he would get that way, i would withdraw from him and become really angry.

Q. Why were you angry?

A. I don’t really know any more. I wanted him to love me more.

Q. What were you afraid would happen if you weren’t angry?

A. That he wouldn’t care . . . But that doesn’t make sense. Half the time, my yelling alone sent him running from our apartment. I know it sounds silly, but part of my screaming was to get him to love me … And it really got me the opposite. Another part of my screaming was because i was really furious at myself.

Q. Why were you furious with yourself?

A. I had expected so much more from that relationship. I really misjudged it.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It wasn’t what i had expected. It’s like making a plan, thinking about it in your head, how it would be and what you would feel . . . And then nothing fits. Nothing works out; it’s horrible how it all crumbles.

Q. Why would that make you unhappy?

A. Because i had my heart set on it; everything was going to be so beautiful. You know, this wasn’t the first guy i’ve lived with. I was so upset when it wasn’t working.

Q. Why?

A. Because i wanted it; i needed to be loved.

Q. I know that you wanted love, but why were you unhappy when you didn’t get it?

A. Why was i unhappy . . . Because i didn’t get it. I mean, when you care about something and it doesn’t work out, of course you get unhappy.

Q. Why do you believe that?

A. Well, look around, because you do.

Q. I understand that’s what you do … When you care about something you don’t get, you then become unhappy. The question is why?

A. I don’t know. Maybe because it’s natural.

Q. What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t get unhappy about not being loved?

A. Then it would mean i didn’t care enough, i’d be cold and unfeeling, and then maybe i’d never be loved.

Q. Do you believe that?

A. What? Is the question: “do i believe if i didn’t care, i wouldn’t be loved?” or is the question, “if i don’t get unhappy, then it’s a sign i don’t care?”

Q. Which question do you want to answer?

A. I don’t believe i have to be unhappy in order to care. I really don’t, although i guess i’ve acted like i do. It was my way of making it important. I guess if i didn’t get unhappy, i was afraid i would stop trying. Funny, somehow i’m back to the beginning … About being melancholy and not doing anything.

Q. How?

A. I saw trying again with another guy as so painful, that i stopped wanting it. That’s why i’m so lethargic. I use myself up being afraid of the pain and then i don’t feel anything.

Q. Why do you believe it’ll be so painful?

A. It’s not that i mind working at a relationship; its just all the heartache and disappointment when it doesn’t work out.

Q. Why is there heartache and disappointment?

A. I guess you feel used and old.

Q. What do you mean?

A. You’re not fresh any more. It’s like being worn out by all the guys you’ve tried to make it with. Energy expended and lost. There is nothing left to feel but exhaustion.

Q. Why is that?

A. Just thinking about trying again knocks me out.

Q. What about trying again or thinking about trying again does that to you?

A. I guess i see a long struggle, and zero as the ultimate reward.

Q. Why do you see it that way?

A. Because it’s always been that way.

Q. Why if it has always been that way, do you believe it will always be that way?

A. I guess it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Maybe i see it that way to protect myself.

Q. Against what?

A. Against getting sucked in again. Against wasting time and energy on some slob, instead of finding some really gentle, mellow man who really cares.

Q. What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t see it as a struggle?

A. I might get involved too easily, too casually. I’ll get tied to another unlikely prospect for a peaceful home.

Q. Are you saying you see it as a struggle so that you will be very careful choosing next time?

A. Yes. Isn’t that silly? I never quite realized that before. I guess i could not make that judgment and still choose carefully. (smiles) sometimes, though, i think i see it as a struggle so i’ll be smart enough not to bother to try again. Hands off.

Q. Why would you do that?

A. It’s not really what i would want to do. I guess that’s the ultimate way to protect myself, to stop me from getting involved again and getting hurt again.

Q. Why do you believe you’d get hurt?

A. I’m suddenly finding i don’t really believe it any more. In a way, my uprightness would probably contribute to making it happen.

Q. What are you wanting?

A. To try again . . . Lo and behold, i said it and i really mean it. This time, i’d want a simple, sane and loving relationship.

Q. Do you still believe in any way that you have to be unhappy in order to take care of yourself in choosing your relationships?

A. No . . . Definitely not. Whether i was unhappy or not, i’d still try to choose the best. I wouldn’t have to be unhappy first. (laughing) i could see myself even having much more energy since i wouldn’t be busy beating myself up. I’d just be me. Do you know how wonderful that sounds? Just being me.


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The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

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PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

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  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration


Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar