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Loving Relationships

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Steve and Erin Pavlina

Download MP3: relationships.mp3

STEVE

Today I'm here with my lovely wife, Erin.

ERIN

Hello

STEVE

And, together, we're going to talk about the nature of loving, intimate relationships. Now, Erin and I have been a couple for almost 15 years, married for almost eleven years, and we have two kids—ages 5 and 8—a boy and a girl.

ERIN

Mmhm. When I first met Steve, I knew that there was something really special about him right away, even though we met online, and we had conversations online, when I met him and spent time with him I knew that he was somebody special. He was way different than all the other guys I had dated, and I had dated probably a few dozen guys, in my years—but Steve had the qualities that I was looking for in a partner—like a long-term partner, a long-term relationship—and I had determined that from dating a lot of guys. So after I got to know Steve a little bit, I remember I was at one of my family birthday parties and I was telling my family about this new guy that I met, and I was going on about his qualities and what I liked about him, and every time I said something like, "Oh, and he's into computer games, and he's a programmer, and he likes Star Trek, and he likes going to Las Vegas"—every time I said something my brother would say, "She's done! She's done!" You know why? Because my family knew me really well and they knew what attracted me to a guy and they knew what I liked to do. And so when I was describing Steve to them, I think they already could sense that he might be 'The One'.

STEVE

I had an interesting experience when I met Erin, too. We actually met on a computer bulletin board system in 1994—and this was sort of a precursor to, say, an online chat forum that you might have today—and we just sort of met on this by coincidence and we started talking to each other a lot and one thing I noticed about Erin right away is she was so aware, I just thought, "Wow, who is this woman? It's like she can peer in to my very soul!" The stuff she was talking about was not the low-level things that other people would talk about, she was talking about things that were very important to her, like the sense of connection she had with everyone on the planet. I remember her saying how she thought everyone was "a piece to her puzzle in life" and she wanted to how everyone she met fit in to her piece of the puzzle, and how we all connected to form this larger puzzle. She was very interested in that—in knowing how our interconnected relationships can create this larger pattern.

ERIN

What I really liked about Steve was his deep answers to the questions that the bulletin board system asked in the profile. All the other guys just had really lame answers, but Steve's were so well thought out and so unique, interesting. And I could see, even then, that he was very much in to growth. And when he first connected with me, we were just eager to explore each other's minds, eager to explore each other's lives and see what made us who we are so we can learn from each other.

STEVE

We started connecting on this bulletin board system. We eventually moved to phone calls, we started talking a lot on the phone. I remember every morning one of us would call the other (usually Erin called me) and I'd answer the phone and we'd talk for hours sometimes. Eventually we met in person after a few weeks. The in-person meeting started with Erin coming over to my apartment, we only lived six miles apart. So she comes over my apartment and we just discussed lucid dreaming for two hours. I was just absolutely fascinated. I was mostly asking her questions about it, but she was an accomplished lucid dreamer. If you are not familiar with lucid dreaming, we have a podcast on that you can listen to too. It's one of our earlier podcasts. Lucid dreaming is simply being conscious in your dreams.

ERIN

And I was impressed that he wasn't going through the same typical routine that most guys I dated did, where they just asked very surface questions and leered at me and just wanted to know what I was going to be like in bed. Steve was getting in to my mind and it was a very stimulating conversation that we had. I was just so attracted to his openness and his honesty and his desire to get to know something about me. It was just very, very deep—right away.

STEVE

Yeah, we connected very strongly on this sort of combination of this mental, emotional, and spiritual level. We bypassed all this stuff you might consider in traditional dating frames, so we didn't go out to see a movie or go out to dinner. I mean, our first real date didn't happen until we'd been together for about 30 days, I'd say. It was like 30 days into the relationship when we actually finally went out to dinner and a movie together.

ERIN

'Cause usually we just talked to each other.

STEVE

Yeah, we just started talking. We just immediately started connecting, we had this amazing connection.

ERIN

We talked for hours, and finally I remember when I would call him in the morning, after being on the phone for an hour or two I'd said, "Just hang up and come over, it'll only take a few minutes".

STEVE

So I would just drive over to her place—which would only take 10 minutes to get there—and we'd just sit and we'd just talk more for hours.

ERIN

Then I would have to go to work and as soon as I got home I wanted him there with me and we'd cook dinner together and talk some more. We'd just talk, talk, talk.

STEVE

Yes. We got to the point where we were practically, I was practically, moving in. She was living in a small house and I was living in an apartment. It was like we were practically just moving in with each other because we were spending so much time together So a few months later, we met first in person on March 29, 1994, and I guess it was July when we moved in together, of that year. So not too long. And then we got married actually four years to the day after we met. It was just a fascinating connection. Erin pretty much instantly became my best friend. And it was such a fascinating type of relationship because it was unlike anything I experienced at any other time in my life. It was like we were sort of destined to be together. We had just this amazingly powerful connection.

ERIN

There was an extra energy between us that I had never felt with another person.

STEVE

Now as our relationship continued to develop and mature we ran into various issues that came up. Some of them were really easy to resolve, other ones were more challenging. Many challenges we overcame together. We ran a business together. We still work together today as entrepreneurs. We had children together. We built lives together. We moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas together. We've lived in a number of different locations together. And throughout that time our marriage has gotten stronger. Our connection with each other has gotten stronger. But we also had some problems occurring. And, the interesting thing was how these problems that were small started growing over time. And they really had to do with this area of meeting emotional needs, and they weren't so much problems for Erin as they were for me. As we'll explain later, Erin was finding a way to meet her needs in certain ways and I wasn't. And so I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with our relationship. Now this was really hard for me, because on this spiritual-emotional-mental level, I had this amazingly strong connection with Erin. But there were other areas in my life where I felt we were getting disconnected. And I didn't have a good model of how to fulfill those other needs, because it seemed like, "OK, if I fulfilled those needs outside the relationship, that's cheating, but then Erin can't provide those needs for me, so I'm left with no alternative. It is like I am just left with these unmet needs."

ERIN

A feeling of being dissatisfied and at the same time satisfied in other areas of the relationship.

STEVE

Yes, I was satisfied in some areas and not in others, so there was always this question of, "Gosh, where is this relationship heading? Are we growing closer or are we growing further apart?" In some ways we were growing closer and closer. We both changed careers together. We went through these amazing career changes.

ERIN

We always had a sense of teamwork as we planned our lives and went through our lives together, where if one of us was changing his or her career massively, the other one kept stability. And then when the first person got their career going again, the second person had the opportunity to make changes too.

STEVE

Yes, I mean we definitely had a very teamwork mindset. We had an amazing abundance mindset in our relationship, too, from the very beginning. And yet, there came a point where I began to feel like we would eventually get a divorce—like I was predicting that somehow there's these strains that are occurring, where my own path of personal growth was introducing new variables that we didn't have initially in our relationship. Like at one point—when we first met, I was a vegetarian and Erin was a meat-eater. She, soon after, went vegetarian. That was great, we were very compatible during that time. Then there came a point where I wanted to go vegan and Erin didn't. And I even said that if I have kids I would want raise them vegan.

ERIN

And that's where I drew the line. I thought, "What? Never have an ice cream cone with my kids on the boardwalk? Never eat a grilled cheese sandwich?" I couldn't fathom the idea of raising children vegan. I thought being vegetarian was going to be difficult enough, especially on the kids, with the social and emotional challenges that vegetarian kids must have to face. But then I realized—we almost broke up over this...

STEVE

This was before we were married, by the way.

ERIN

We were just engaged. Steve was very clear that he wanted to go vegan or at least try veganism. And I was very clear that I didn't. And then it sort of occurred to me, How do you know you don't want to go vegan if you've never tried it? And it was really a profound yet simple thought. How can I decide that I didn't want to do something if I've never tried it before? And so I told Steve, "Look, I don't know if I want to be vegan, but I am willing to try it for 30 days." And thus began the 30 day trial. I'll try it for 30 days and if I don't like it I'll know for sure that I didn't like it and I don't want to do it. But what if I do like it? Because I realized that if I ended a great relationship over something like the vegan situation, would I always regret or wonder what would have happened if I had just tried it? I even said to myself, What if 10 years from now you decide to go vegan on your own and realize how great it was, and you would have lost the love of your life over something you were unwilling to try?

STEVE

As challenging as that was to overcome, then there were other challenges later. Like I became a raw foodist in 2008. There were other changes I made in my life where I simply developed other interests. And so my constant challenge was, If I am on this path of personal growth, where I'm growing fairly rapidly and Erin is growing either at a different pace on those same lines that I'm growing or she's growing in other ways, then how do we avoid growing apart? How do we continue to grow together? And that's where I really started getting in to trouble, because I thought at some point if I keep going the way I'm going, I'm going to outgrow this relationship. As wonderful as it is, and it is definitely keeping pace in certain areas—there's areas where Erin is continuing to develop and I'm continuing to develop and we share so much and it's really wonderful. But in so many other ways, I was introducing so many different variables and threads in to my life where I continued to develop and I felt like if Erin is not doing those things with me, then we're growing apart. And that was pretty tricky because I thought, if I keep doing this, we are going to introduce so much incapability in to our relationship. I am going to become such a different person that this relationship is not going to really be supportive of who I am. It was supportive of who I was, but how can it continue to support who I am going to become?

ERIN

Because what we started to see was Steve had desires to do things that I was not interested in. And so he would try to encourage me to become interested and my choice was either to become interested in something I really wasn't interested, or tell him, "No, I don't want to do this," in which case he usually ended up not doing it either.

STEVE

So I was stuck because as I introduced these new growth experiences and experiments in to my life, say, like going raw and becoming a raw foodist, that was something I very much wanted to share with an intimate partner, especially on an emotional level. Because, hey, let's say I just wanted to just have a meal with somebody and if I can never have that experience of sharing a meal with Erin because it's a little weird for me to eat raw food all the time, eat something different and prepare something different all the time than what's she eating. We're always eating different food and it started to create this creeping incompatibility. And what I eventually realized though is that there's other ways to meet those needs that I didn't need her to meet those needs.

ERIN

And I had already discovered this myself because there were certain needs that I had that Steve wasn't interested in fulfilling and so I began, kind of naturally, gravitating towards other people who could fulfill those needs for me, which were mostly emotional or social. And, it didn't diminish or change my relationship with Steve, or my connection and my love for Steve. I was already, in some ways, going outside of the relationship, going outside of the partnership, and having some of my needs met by other people.

STEVE

Yes, and just to clarify by "needs" we're talking emotional needs,physical, spiritual, financial needs, romantic needs, sexual needs, social, partnered activities you might want to do with someone—anything really that you find fulfills you, that you would want to get out of your interpersonal relationships.

ERIN

Actually, we have a couple friend, who when they go on vacation, the guy, he wants to Go, See, Do. He wants to climb the mountain, and go jet skiing and do all of the activities, go scuba diving, sailing. She wants to sit on the beach with a book and a Mai Tai. And so they have learned that they either have to take separate vacations, which they're both okay with, so that they're each getting the kind of experience they want or, they go on vacation together and they spend one day doing heavy-duty activities and the next day lying on the beach reading a book.

STEVE

So in order to develop a really deep connection in a relationship, you need to get to the point where you align on some things that are very, very important to you, and you also need to become consciously aware of the areas where you don't align so that they don't become a source of conflict and strife in your relationship. For example, let's just talk about some of the areas where Erin and I align really well in our relationship. We align really well in the realm of purpose and mission. We really have a strong sense of life purpose. This is something I had before I even met Erin. I was always in to writing mission statements and knowing what my life was about, having a sense of purpose, having a sense of meaning to my life, knowing that I was here for a reason. And I sensed Erin had that too, although I don't think she went about it the same way. She didn't necessarily come at it from a viewpoint of a mission statement. Right?

ERIN

I felt like I wanted my life to matter. I felt like I wanted my life to mean something and I had a very, very strong desire to help people, to understand people.

STEVE

She was very purpose driven. She had a sense of…

ERIN

I had a sense. I had a sense of what I was here to do, but at the time when I first met Steve I didn't know exactly what that was.

STEVE

Another area where we align really well is in our values, our principles, and our ideals—what we think is important in life, what we think is not important in life. For one, we are really not very materialistic. That's an area where it is just not a big deal to us, the material values. But, we are very much aligned with our spiritual practice. That's something that has been important to both of us.

ERIN

One of the things that I loved about Steve when I first met him was that he was so open-minded. I am coming from my spirituality location that is a little bit unusual than the mainstream and it was one of my top four things I needed to find in a man, which was that he be open-minded to my thoughts about spirituality, who we are and where we come from. And that was one of the things that I noticed about Steve right away, he was very open-minded, even though he had been raised in a Catholic family, which concerned me when I first discovered that. He was extremely willing to learn and discover all of the things that I was discussing with him, what I thought life was all about.

STEVE

That was one of the things that really brought us close together, is we became teachers for each other. I was teaching her a lot of different things. I remember helping her a lot with her technical skills in the early days. When I first met her she was using this ten-inch Macintosh with this really puny black and white screen. I said, "Oh no, no, no, honey, we gotta fix this!"

ERIN

It was great having a techie in the house.

STEVE

So I upgraded her technology and helped her with that a lot. And to this day, still, I end up doing some support for her. I bought her a new computer recently.

ERIN

Yeah.

STEVE

And so she was teaching me things like lucid dreaming. I had never had a lucid dream before I met her. And I thought, Wow, this is fascinating! Astral projection was another thing I got in to.

ERIN

And psychic abilities and the psychic connection.

STEVE

Oh my gosh… It wasn't that I was totally convinced all that stuff was impossible, I just never experienced any of it. I had never had anybody teach it to me. I never read any books about it. I just thought it probably didn't exist. But, I was open to explore that. And Erin just opened this whole area of my life that, without her, my life would not be nearly as rich as it is today.

ERIN

I see us both as explorers. I kind of think back to the time of the explorers, Columbus and Magellan and all that. I imagine that we would have been two of the people who signed up to go on every excursion and expedition, no matter how dangerous it was. Because, the thrill of the exploration and discovery were way more important than physical safety.

STEVE

That's an area where our life aligns really well, our lifestyle. We're like co-explorers. We love doing things like helping people, but we also really love just exploring and having new experiences, doing new things together.

ERIN

We know that we need to learn and grow constantly, and that's why Steve and I both run development-oriented websites, because we are both still learning. The only way you can teach somebody anything is to keep learning yourself.

STEVE

We align really well in the area of spiritual beliefs. Another area where we align really well is that we are both co-parents. We have two children together, so that creates a common bond between us, discussing parenting issues and things like that.

ERIN

And I think that the main thing that we have going for us as co-parents is that we both want to teach our children to live consciously, to make their own decisions. We try not to inflict any of our beliefs on them. We try to get them to make their own choices. Our daughter has been talking about wanting to go raw and I am not pushing for that. I am not telling her, "You need to go raw and you can't eat this and you can't eat that." She is watching Steve and she was watching me during my 30 day trial and she was really enjoying the foods that we were giving to her and making available to her, and she just loved it. So she started telling me, "Don't put that peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunch. Give me some Tamari almonds, give me an orange." It was really great for me to see her make that conscious decision. That's all we do, we encourage them to make their decisions consciously, same as anybody.

STEVE

It is really true that your kids learn not from what you say, but what you do, how you live your life. So my daughter Emily, who is 8, she is always watching me make raw food and it looks good to her and she is curious and she wants to eat it. It is really funny because we joke that our son, Kyle, looks just like me, but has Erin's personality. And our daughter, Emily, she is just the splitting image of Erin at that age, and she has my personality. It's pretty funny.

ERIN

Yeah, it's cool.

STEVE

So it's like, you are going to be sentenced to raise yourself as a child. Yes,it is very true. It's the ultimate punishment, I guess you could say. [Laughing] Oh Boy! Another area where you can create a connection, where you can align, and this is definitely true for us—this was one of the things that brought us together pretty quickly in the early days—was common interests. Do you want to talk about that a little bit, Erin?

ERIN

Well, I was a pretty big Star Trek fan, and it was really great meeting Steve because he was a pretty big Star Trek fan too, although I think he came to Star Trek a little later than I did.

STEVE

Yeah

ERIN

I remember one of our first dates, this is kind of funny, but I had received a script for a Next Generation episode—Star Trek Next Generation—and I thought it would be fun if we read the script together using the characters in the script. So I took all the female roles and he took all the male roles and we sat on the couch and we had a lot of fun reading the script and then we decided to act it out a little bit. It was like a dream come true!

STEVE

In front of her friends who were just moaning and groaning at us.

ERIN

Yes, we were total nerds!

STEVE

We had a really good time doing it thought. It was pretty funny!

ERIN

And then we were both really in to The Princess Bride. It was so cool to meet somebody else who could quote The Princess Bride as well as I could.

STEVE

In fact, the first gift I bought Erin was a VHS video tape of The Princess Bride. And later I bought you the DVD when that came out.

ERIN

And the script

STEVE

And the script too

ERIN

And the book

STEVE

And the book

ERIN

Yep, we have it all

STEVE

We were really in to it, let's say. We still quote that to each other today.

ERIN

Another thing that we got in to… I think I kind of drew you in to this, was role playing games. I don't know if you guys are familiar with—it's like Dungeons & Dragons from back in the 80s.

STEVE

But, not on the computer, this is like pen and paper stuff.

ERIN

This is sitting in a room with a bunch of people with dice, paper, pencils and your imagination. And I had some friends that I had been role playing with and so we asked Steve if he wanted to role play with us and he did, and he liked it. We role played regularly for a few years and then we had children, we got busy with work, and so we weren't able to role play as often as we wanted, but still periodically, maybe two or three times a year we'll manage to find a weekend where we can connect with our old role playing buddies and have a session.

STEVE

Of course we align in the area of personal growth, that's been important to us. Psychic development is a common interest we both have, helping people grow is a big deal for both of us. We are both really focused on that in our career paths.

ERIN

Service, we are focused to servicing humanity as best we can.

STEVE

Toastmasters—we are both members of Toastmasters International, both developing our speaking skills. I started on that before Erin did. I joined about four and half years ago. And Erin, you've been a member about…

ERIN

About two and a half…

STEVE

About two and a half years, because she joined two years after I started.

ERIN

See Toastmasters is a speaking organization where you learn how to speak and try not to be that nervous. I was watching Steve go through Toastmasters and he was developing friendships and he was also growing in the process. And as I started to attend the contests that he was going to and actually competing in and meeting all of his friends I thought, Wow, this actually seems kind of interesting. I was very nervous to join Toastmasters, but I knew that someday I would probably find myself speaking on a stage or in a podcast, and I wanted to sound coherent. [Laughing] So I knew that I had to join Toastmasters. But I don't think I would have done that if Steve hadn't led the way.

STEVE

That was a great area where our relationship helped us grow, where one of us could help the other. We often have situations where one of us will take the lead in a certain area, and then they introduce the other to it. So in this case, I joined Toastmasters and I got in to it, and then I said, "Erin, you really should take a look in to this and join it." And today, what's interesting is that we do it not so much for getting over nervousness of public speaking, at least for me that's a non-issue, I think for you, you are getting there. The issue is now it is like a social organization for us. It's like most of the friends we made in Las Vegas came either directly from Toastmasters or we were introduced to another friend because of a buddy we had in Toastmasters. So it is like our whole social network in Las Vegas just blossomed.

ERIN

And it's wonderful because most of the Toastmaster friends we have are good communicators.

STEVE

Yeah, they are very good communicators. Some are professional comedians so they're really funny to hang with out, fun to be around. Another thing that we connected on early on in our relationship was online socializing, 'cause that was something we had both had in common. We met on a computer bulletin board system and we do a lot of stuff online today. So that was a common interest for us. Some people might see that as pretty nerdy but it is an area of compatibility for us. We don't fight over it.

ERIN

Computer area, computer games… Oh my God. I was doing a lot of role playing games initially when I met Steve. But Steve, I remember, one day came home with Warcraft, Warcraft One—or was it...?

STEVE

Warcraft Two, that was a biggie, we are in to it a lot.

ERIN

And he starts playing this game and I'm like, What is this and why is it taking so much time away from me? I had never played a computer game that involved before. So he said, "Why don't you check it out with me, you might like it?" And of course I did and we started playing Warcraft, a lot. This was before we had kids. We played Warcraft a lot. So after a whole day of him programming and doing all that stuff we would just be on the computer the whole day, playing.

STEVE

And of course I ran a computer games development business. I was just getting the business started when I first met Erin. I think my first game came out later that year or something.

ERIN

And I actually started helping him create and develop his computer games. I remember I designed Fortune Pack, and I did the music for his games because I am a musician as well. So he was able to utilize that skill of mine. And then when we were working further in Dexterity I actually quit my job and went to go work for him, with him.

STEVE

Our careers have just twisted and turned on each other in so many ways. They have been so intertwined. When Erin was started Veg Family I would help her with the technical issues with the site sometimes and provided hosting for the website, you know, piggybacking on one of my own sites. It was really kind of an amazing journey we've had over the years. Of course, another area we have compatibility with, since we met pretty much, is we love giving and receiving massages. I have had a number of professional massages at spas over the years and I always love Erin's massages better, because she puts so much love and energy in to it. She does stuff to my Chakras and things like that. Ok well, there was that double abhyanga guy, that professional one, with two people massaging you in synch, now that was really, really good.

ERIN

I couldn't do that one.

STEVE

You would need four hands! [Laughing]. But otherwise, we love just doing that sensual touch and giving each other massages. It's something we know we love. We never say No when one of us says, "Would you like a massage tonight?" It's like, "Okay!"

ERIN

Another area where we enjoy a lot of physicality is snuggling. We spend, well—I think I want to die snuggling. [Laughing] I can't think of a better way to go.

STEVE

We have such a rich snuggling life that we've long talked about writing this book about snuggling called The Snuggle Book. Because we have so much terminology that nobody else in the world would understand.

ERIN

We are master snugglers. [Laughing] Nobody snuggles like we do!

STEVE

[Laughing] We have literally hundreds of different terms to describe different snuggling situation.

ERIN

You know how the Eskimo's have different words for snow?

STEVE

It is like that.

ERIN

It is like that, yeah.

STEVE

So that was an area, of course, where we developed a lot of commonality. Career, that's another area where we align a lot. We mentioned some things already, 'cause we are both entrepreneurs today, we both earn like six figures a year individually so we both contribute financially to the relationship. We are always helping and supporting each other in our career paths. I remember when Erin was working at this job as a receptionist… you want to talk about that? You remember that story?

ERIN

Yes. I was working for a radio production company as a receptionist, I think I was earning $19,000 a year, before taxes.

STEVE

This was when we were living together, before we got married.

ERIN

I don't think we were engaged at this point either. And every day at lunch—my job was very, very close to our apartment so I could actually go home for lunch and I liked to do that so I could reconnect with Steve who was at home working on his games business—and every day I would come home from lunch I would bombard him with stories of how much I hated my job. And finally one day, he says, "Why are you still there? Why are you still doing this job if you hate it so much?" I'm like, "Well, what else would I be doing?" And he says,

"Well, what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" And I said, "That's easy, I'd be a writer," And he said, "Then write." And it just never occurred to me that you could do that. I said, "What do I do about my job?"

STEVE

I said, "Stop showing up. Don't go!"

ERIN

"Stop going." I said, "I can't, I gotta give them at least two weeks notice." And he said…

STEVE

"Why? You don't want to go there, you don't want to be there. You don't waste another two weeks of your life. You know you want to do something else so go connect with that instead.

ERIN

I had really, really had enough of that job and it was not so much that he gave me permission to quit, but he opened my eyes to the idea that I could quit if I wanted to and that staying there was a choice. And I didn't like the choice I was making. And even though I was a little bit nervous about quitting, as soon as I thought about quitting it was like... I'm done. So I actually called them the next morning and said, "I'm not coming in today." And they were like, "Why, are you sick?" "Nope, just done. Not coming in. I guess I'm quitting." "Well, aren't you going to come in for two weeks?" "Nope! No, I'm not." In hindsight, maybe that was sort of rude, but they certainly recovered very easily without me.

STEVE

But hey, looking back, that was years ago, looking back would you have rather vested those two weeks in that job?

ERIN

No, there was no need. I shouldn't have stayed as long as I did. But I actually went on to write a book right after that. That was my challenge, was to see if I could write a book, and my first book I wrote in sixteen days.

STEVE

It was amazing.

ERIN

It was amazing. I couldn't believe it was even possible. But I got so into it and it just flowed so easily through me. I discovered, you know, maybe I am a writer! And I never would have known that if Steve hadn't said that to me.

STEVE

And there are other areas where Erin was always encouraging me. I remember when I was planning to quit my game development business and just stop doing that kind of work, and switch over to doing personal development, it was going to mean a big drop in our income. Well, I've talked to so many other couples who are in a situation where one person in the couple wants to quit a job and start their own business and they know it is going to be a drop in their income, and the other partner is very resistant to it, saying, "No, no, no, you are not going to ruin our lifestyle by doing this and risk our house and risk all the stuff. We have a mortgage, we've got bills to pay, so on and so forth" Erin and I have a relationship that that kind of talk never comes up. We just never talk to each other like that. We say, "Okay, great. How do we make this work. If this is what is going to make you happy, I'm all for it." We can see when one of us isn't happy and we really work to create more fulfillment and happiness for each other.

ERIN

Because we know you can't take life that seriously. Life is here to serve you and you are here to serve life. And if you are unhappy, what's the point? What's the point of having your life?

STEVE

Yeah. It's like, we would rather be happy together and live with less financial abundance if that was necessary, then to have all our bills paid and be grumpy and unfulfilled and resentful of each other and be pulling apart. Our relationship is not based on that. You know when we met we were both not that financially well off. We went through a period of bankruptcy together, we were broke for many years, we had a lot of debt.

ERIN

Yep

STEVE

We really turned that around. That was pretty amazing. Another area of compatibility we have, where we can create a connection is in the financial area. We have compatible values. I mentioned earlier, we are both non-materialistic. We share one car. We do have a really nice house, and that was something that was important to both of us. We wanted to have a house, a really nice house, because we were going to work in it and live in it.

ERIN

Twenty-four hours a day!

STEVE

We work from home for the most part, and we have some flexibility but, since we work from home and we live at home we wanted to have a really nice place to live.

ERIN

We both wanted to have a home office because at our last house my office was in our bedroom and I never left the bedroom. I was there all night, I was there all day and I think I left for a couple of hours to eat. But, I was in that room all day. So, we very consciously chose to purchase a home that had six bedrooms. We have three—one for me and Steve, one for each child, we have a guest room because we have a lot of guests come visit us from Los Angeles, and we each have a home office. And so now I finally have two places.

STEVE

But that was an interesting area of compatibility for us because we didn't disagree about the kind of house we wanted. When we saw the house we wanted we were just like, "Yep, that's the house. Let's buy it."

ERIN

We've always been compatible in that area.

STEVE

We knew what we wanted. Also financially we maintain no credit card debt. We're both pretty financially conservative. We make far more money then we spend.

ERIN

And neither one of us every like blows our money on something kind of luxorious and frivolous. It's not that we wouldn't buy something that we wanted, but we would discuss it first, we'd research it, we'd find the best price, might even haggle a little bit. [Laughing]

STEVE

I never come home and say, "Look honey, I got a new Porsche!"

ERIN

Yeah

STEVE

The whole materialist stuff just doesn't mean that much to us.

ERIN

We are not motivated by money, so we are not trying to make money so we can buy the Porsche, or buy a fur coat, or diamonds or something. It just doesn't happen.

STEVE

Now, here is the interesting thing about this, the way we look at it is everyone is like a puzzle piece in this larger puzzle. In a relationship, though, if you are in an intimate relationship with one other person then your two puzzle pieces connect on a certain side, but not on every side. So, that's kind of interesting because as compatible as we are and as much as we have in common, as our relationship continues to grow and evolve there are always areas where we're not compatible. And these are the source of conflict for us.

ERIN

They can be a source of conflict if we are not consciously aware of what's happening.

STEVE

Yes. And they have been in the past at various times and that is how we work through and resolve these things. Like one thing is: How frequently do we have sex? It's like Erin wants it usually less frequently than I do. And so that is always something that is a source of conflict. So, the question is do I meet that need outside of the relationship? Do I compromise which means really not meeting the need or not meeting the desire?

ERIN

And do I have to step up my frequency just to make him happy?

STEVE

Or does Erin try to meet the need for me, which is frustrating to her because it is not what she wants.

ERIN

Right

STEVE

Another example is chick flicks. There are certain movies that Erin loves to go see.

ERIN

Well, I remember in the beginning I used to say, "Oh, let's go see this movie" and it was a chick flick. And he's like, "I don't want to sit through that movie, that doesn't sound appealing to me at all."

STEVE

With all the Renaissance costumes and things like that

ERIN

Kiera Knightly and pretty much anything. But it finally occurred to me he doesn't have to go with me to every movie. I'm fully capable of going to see a movie I want to see without making him miserable just because I want him there with me, just because I want him to like it too.

STEVE

More recently, when we moved to Las Vegas, I got interested in playing disc golf, and this is something that I have lots of friends to play with and we play all the time. I love it, it is a fun sport I do. Disc golf, if you are not familiar, is basically the same rules as golf, pretty much, except you play it with Frisbees.That's something that I do that is a lot of fun, but it is not a need that Erin can fulfill.

ERIN

Or wants to

STEVE

Or wants to. She has no interest in it. It is not something she wants to do.

ERIN

But I don't want to prevent him from playing Frisbee golf just because I am not interested. So I am happy to send him out with the boys to play.

STEVE

Another area would be family gatherings and holidays. This was an area where we had a lot of disagreements early on in our relationship because… yeah, go ahead.

ERIN

When I was growing up, my family got together a lot, usually every Sunday. Every Sunday we'd get together with my aunt's family, if we could. And our holiday gatherings were huge, sometimes 30 - 50 people would gather from the family. We would even open our gathering up to friends, friends of our family. And I got a lot of joy from spending the day with the family, eating, and we'd always play board games, sometimes we'd play Badminton outside, any kind of game. We would travel together, our extended family would travel together. I very much enjoyed being with my family around the holidays. But when I met Steve, I noticed that he was not interestedin—He just didn't grow up in a situation… I'll let him tell you… [Laughing]

STEVE

Yeah. See, when I grew up I was really just not in to family events. I really didn't like them that much. You know, for me seeing my family every three to six months was plenty, that was frequent for me. Whereas Erin would have these family events every few weeks it seemed when we were dating. And she would invite me to go to one and I would go, "No thanks, I'm not interested." And she would say, "What? No thanks! You can't—That's not an answer!"

ERIN

It is not an option!

STEVE

"That's an insult. I can't go to this alone! You are my boyfriend, you have to come to the family event."

ERIN

"They are going to wonder why you are not here."

STEVE

"You know, this big Jewish family, they are going to wonder why you are not here. What are you thinking! You can't do this to me!" And she was getting really mad at me because me not filling this role that she had in her mind was going to create strife between her and her family. And I was saying, "Wait a minute, this is an issue between you and your family, this has nothing to do with me." That was an area where we had a lot of incompatibility. My solution was to move to Vegas. Just put 300 miles distance. Solved the problem immediately.

ERIN

But, what we've done is I realize that I still like going to these family gatherings, so I'll pack up the kids and we'll go to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Hanukah, or whatever birthday party or something like that. But I don't need Steve to go with me now, because for one, when he would come with me to the holiday gatherings or the family gatherings he never wanted to stay as long as I did. I was happy staying six or seven hours, that is how long we would interact. But he was always encouraging me, "Can we go now? Can we go?" He wasn't enjoying it as much as I was and he didn't get the connection and love from it that I had always gotten growing up with it. So I learned to stop requiring him to go with me and I would just take the kids and go. And then I would start having a lot more fun because there was nobody pressuring me to leave early.

STEVE

Eventually her family came around and accepted that. And I was much happier too because I didn't really want to drive all the way to LA just to go to this little family event and then drive all the way back, four or five hour drive.

ERIN

It is not his cup of tea.

STEVE

No, no

ERIN

But once I stopped requiring it to be his cup of tea things got a lot better in that area.

STEVE

Definitely. We've talked about how your relationship, really, can have a deep connection that is formed on these different levels. Now you can have a relationship that is really—most of your compatibility, the level of common interests and that's where a lot of relationships start. Like you have hobbies together, activities you enjoy doing together. But eventually, I think, the deeper relationships move up in to the area of purpose and mission, compatible values, principles and ideals and especially compatible spiritual beliefs too. Having this compatibility in your life path and the way you think about things, and if you are missing that compatibility in your relationship it is going to create this void that you are going to want to fill some other way. Let's talk about now a couple of different primary forms of relationship: monogamy and polyamory. Now, monogamy simply just means you are in a committed relationship with one partner, and polyamory would be relationships with multiple partners.

So we'll talk first about monogamy. Now Erin and I, at this point, have had a totally monogamous relationship, we've never had any instances of cheating, we haven't had any sexual partners on the side. At least that is one way of looking at it. However, another way of looking at it is that all this time we've had a polyamorous relationship. See, the idea here is that when you have these different needs, how are you going to get them met? Are you going to get them met through your primary relationship, with your partner, or are you going to meet them some other way? Like, I am meeting many of my needs outside of our relationship. There are some emotional needs, some physical needs, things like that. No sexual needs or anything like that at this point. But, Erin has had deep emotional connections with other people, ways she can meet those needs also outside the relationship.

ERIN

I recognized right away, early on, I've always been connected to a lot of people and I always like to share my thoughts and feelings with many, many people. So even after I met Steve, I still had some of these intimate and emotional relationships with men and women. These were people I was not having sex with, just people I was relating to, friends. All throughout our marriage I have maintained these intimate relationships with these people. And these are people who I'll talk to about the deep meaningful things that I would talk to Steve about, but in some cases I'm talking to them about things Steve is not interested in, but I still need to talk about them. So I talk about them with other people. In some ways, you can consider that I am already polyamorous, I am just not having sex with somebody else but I am engaging in intimate relationships with people outside of my primary relationship.

STEVE

Think of it like this: Imagine you are a couple on a desert island, in that case you have to be the source of meeting needs for both of each other and there is no outside source of meeting those needs, if you're just all alone there just you and your partner. However, in a connected society like we live in now, there are all kinds of ways to meet your needs that are outside the relationship. So the question is: Really, where do you draw the line? What needs is it okay to meet outside the relationship if you cannot get them met inside the relationship See, if you don't meet your needs inside the relationship then you can't meet your needs outside the relationship because one or both partners considers that taboo and cause for divorce or separation. Then you're in a lose-lose situation, because you cannot have those needs met. And if you can't have them met, you're keeping yourself away from this state of higher fulfillment that you could reach if you had a relationship that is a little bit more flexible and allowed you to meet those needs however you want. The way I see it, each person in a relationship is individually responsible for seeing that their needs are met. The thing I like about my relationship with Erin is that we've been very good about recognizing that and seeing that if one of us has a need, that it is a challenge to both of us. Let's find out, let's work together and find a way that this need can be met, whether it is met between us both and we reach some sort of agreement about how we are going to work together to fulfill that need, like a career change need or a financial support need, something like that, or one of us might be helping out the other, or we talk about, "Okay, I'm not willing to meet that need because that would actually move me further away from fulfillment myself."

ERIN

Just as an example: Steve loves to go hiking. And Steve has tried to get me to enjoy hiking for many years. I do not enjoy hiking, I don't know if I ever will, I don't want to do it. But...

STEVE

I took Erin and the kinds on this family hike once and it was just like, I'm having a good time enjoying being out in nature and they are all just complaining. So I'm just like, "Okay, I'm just going to hike a few more paces ahead of you guys so I won't listen to it."

ERIN

We wanted to like it because Steve liked it. We wanted to support him in his hiking goals. But it was sort of disastrous. It was disastrous. And I don't ever want to experience that kind of thing again. But, I don't want Steve to never experience hiking, so he has the opportunity to find somebody that loves hiking as much as he does. And you know what? That makes me feel relieved. I want him to go hike with somebody else. I don't want to fulfill that need for him. But, I don't want him to never get that need met.

STEVE

Yeah, so I mean, that's that kind of negotiation that happens. And you don't want to reach a situation where you are compromising because then neither person is getting what they want. Now you both have an unfulfilled need and what's going to happen there? You are going to build resentment over time. Because now you've got this hole of unfulfillment and it is just going to build more and more and more. So compromise is not the answer.

ERIN

And you start to see your partner as deficient in some way, because they're not fulfilling a need you have and you haven't been able to convince them to do so.

STEVE

It creates this ongoing sense of tension. It is the source of many arguments. "You have to do this for me." "No, I don't want to do it that often, or I don't want to do it that much or I don't want to do it at all." "You have to, it's your role, you are my partner. We have to do this together."

ERIN

The other day I was in a store and a woman was with her boyfriend and she was returning something and we were all standing in line together. And I heard the guy say to her, "What are we doing? We've been standing in lines for three hours just returning unwanted Christmas gifts. Are we ever going to do something else? I am totally, totally bored." I could see she was kind of upset by this, she said, "But, we are spending time together." He's all, "We could be at a restaurant, we could be at a bar, we could be doing something other than shopping!" And I got the sense from her that she was upset because she felt like he didn't love her if he wasn't willing to go shopping with her for five hours. What they should have realized, and what I realized a long time ago, is why does he have to go shopping with her if he doesn't enjoy it? Doesn't that just create conflict and strife and anger? I learned a long time ago that if I want to go shopping not to take Steve with me or the kids, because they just whine and complain about how long it is taking. And I discovered that I much prefer shopping by myself. That's just an example.

STEVE

Absolutely. And everybody's happier. You find other ways to meet your needs. And you always want to look to meet these needs in different ways. And the question is just whether you are meeting them inside the relationship or outside the relationship. Examples of some other needs are: the need for friendship, the need for emotional intimacy, physical intimacy. And especially questions there arise of: Where do you draw the line? What's considered okay to have outside of the relationship and what's considered not okay? What is cheating? So flirting, touching, kissing, petting, sex—various levels of having sex, from erotic touch, up to intercourse—social needs, doing physical activities together, common interests. I remember early in our relationship and I was talking to Erin about something and she said, "You know I had this discussion about what we were talking about with this guy," a long term friend of hers. I said, "You told him that? What are you crazy? That's such a betrayal, I can't believe that!" We were like boyfriend and girlfriend at the time, I think. And I said, "How could you tell him that? And I thought we were supposed to be intimate partners here and just only share stuff like that with each other. How could you take that outside of the relationship and share that?" We did have to talk about what are appropriate boundaries and things like that.

ERIN

Because, when I was growing up, I don't know if this is typical of girls in general, but I gossiped and I chatted a lot with friends, and we discussed everybody and everything, whatever came to my mind, whatever I saw I shared with anybody or everybody who would listen. As I got older, of course, I realized that is inappropriate and you can't betray somebody's confidence by sharing what they've told you in confidence. So that was something that I had to learn as we went along, but it was something that I was used to doing, but became aware that it wasn't so nice.

STEVE

So this is an area where we had to negotiate these boundaries of what is cheating and what is not. Now, the challenge here is that if you're in a relationship where you and/or your partner define something as cheating and that is really the only valid way for you to fulfill your needs is to do what would be considered cheating, now you are in a conundrum. This is what leads so many relationships to go about cheating, because you are not able to fulfill those needs. And a lot of cheating happens, not for sexual needs, even though it may involve sex, a lot of it has to do with unmet emotional needs. There is an emotional connection you are not getting from your partner that your partner is unwilling or unable to provide, but yet, would consider you going outside the relationship to get that need met cheating. So now you have no choice. Now you are just in a completely lose-lose situation. You can't win in those circumstances. Really, the only real solution in that situation is to leave that kind of relationship behind, or if you can, renegotiate with your partner how you are going to define cheating. Because your partner needs to be the one providing those needs for you, that kind of emotional connection you need, whatever it is, any of the things we discussed as possible needs you want to fulfill in your life. If there were a need that you don't like, just think of it as a desire, something you want, something that would bring you greater happiness and fulfillment. The ultimate goal here is mutual fulfillment, happiness and growth. You should be working with your partner for that. And that's really the basis of a monogamous relationship. And, really, in practical terms there is no such thing as a pure monogamous relationship unless you and your partner are living together on a desert island and you are meeting all each other's needs right there. And in that case, most likely, you are both having a lot of unfulfilled needs. [Laughing

ERIN

Yeah

STEVE

So, maybe survival is even a challenge in that situation. But really, you want to be able to meet all your needs and help each other get those needs met. See, when I see Erin having an unfulfilled need then I have two choices, really: I can say, "I'm going to help you fulfill that need directly myself," or I'm going to allow her the opportunity to go outside the relationship to get that need met. If I put up a barrier and I say, "I'm not going to fulfill that need for you, but if you go out and do that that would be cheating," What recourse do I give her then? She has two choices, she has the choice to leave the relationship and seek fulfillment elsewhere…

ERIN

Or to have a need go unmet.

STEVE

Or to have a need go unmet and stay in the relationship. And if she allows that need to go unmet and stay in the relationship, which many, many people do— this is why so many marriages especially unhappy, so many committed relationship lead to unhappiness—she's trapped. She is trapped and this will build resentment in our relationship. And this is a situation that we had building in our relationship for many years, we had these implied definitions of what was wrong, that if you went outside the relationship that would be wrong to get these needs met, but at the same time, we were unwilling to fulfill these needs for each other. And I think especially, it wasn't so much what we talked about openly, it was more like these hidden inner beliefs. In a lot of ways it was just all inside me. Let's say I want to have sex more frequently than Erin does and she doesn't want it as often, if I go outside the relationship to meet that need that would be cheating, then it meant I wanted to end the relationship, when really, I had no interest in ending the relationship. I didn't want a divorce. I loved all the levels that Erin and I connected on, but yet I was constantly trapped in this circle of thinking that it was either one or the other.

ERIN

And all through these years I've been concerned because I didn't see Steve developing the intimate relationships with other people that I already had. I already have three or four people, that I can think of, that I share myself emotionally, intimately. But Steve never did and I always thought that was a real shame. And I used to encourage him to try to develop intimate friendships with men or women. But it was just something he never did. I am not exactly sure why, either he thought he couldn't, shouldn't, or just didn't—but it just never happened. I always thought that was kind of a shame that he wasn't able to express himself intimately with somebody else besides me.

STEVE

When you set boundaries you want to make sure that your boundaries are pushed far out enough that both of you are able to get all your important needs met, that you are able to fulfill your desires and keep growing. These boundaries will change and shift over time. You could renegotiate them. But what really helped was when we really started consciously discussing this and discussing where those boundaries really were in our relationship.

ERIN

I remember actually feeling relieved when he said I didn't have to go hiking with him anymore, that he would find someone else to do that with. I didn't feel like, "Oh no, if you are not going to do it with me you can't do it with anybody because I'll feel jealous." I didn't have that. I was like, "Yes, please, find somebody to go hiking with. Find someone to go dancing with." I don't like dancing either, but Steve really likes to dance. We haven't danced for years because I am just not that in to it. So I want him to find someone to dance with him.

STEVE

I was thinking… Can I do that? Would that be considered cheating? In one sense, I feel really lucky to have a wife that is so aware and so conscious about this that she actually wants me to be happy and fulfilled. And I thought, Wow, that's exactly the way I feel about her. If she had a sexual need or something that I was unwilling to go fulfill and she went outside the relationship to get that fulfilled, I don't think that would draw us further apart, that would only bring us closer. She would see that I am so committed to meeting her needs. I want to make sure she's getting her needs met. If I can't provide for them, then I will help her find someone who can.

ERIN

If I'm getting all of my needs met in the relationship and outside of the relationship, then why would I leave either relationship?

STEVE

Exactly. If there is no source of resentment building within the relationship then the couple maintains this wonderful ongoing connection where you can keep growing together. So as long as you keep seeking to fulfill each other's desire for happiness that is the basis of a wonderful, committed relationship. Whether you call it monogamous or polyamorous or anything else is irrelevant, really. Because it's all about coming together as people to help each other learn, grow.

ERIN

Be happy and get your needs met

STEVE

… be fulfilled and live a wonderful life. And again, if you eliminate the barriers to meeting each other's needs, and you allow each person to be who they are and to meet their needs however they want, this makes your love grow, it doesn't make you grow further apart. It makes you grow closer together. And you move more in to this area of compatibility with your values and principles and stuff. This is real love, this is not just like attachment.

ERIN

This is not bonded love.

STEVE

...and clinginess and pair bonding. This more about how can I help Erin be the person she was meant to be and how can she do the same for me?

ERIN

How can I make sure Steve is happy and fulfilled?

STEVE

Now let's talk about polyamory or non-monogamy. Again, like we said before, you're getting in to a little bit of a play on words here, whether we call a relationship polyamorous or monogamous. But in this case, what we are talking more about is the sexual aspect of the relationship. And it really doesn't make that much sense to single that out. It's really our social conditioning that tells us that sexuality is some whole other area that's not on the same level as, say, getting your emotional needs met, or your friendship needs met, or your activity partner needs met.You know? Financial needs met, whatever. There are a lot of taboos about sex, so we have this whole other area of relationships we define on the basis of sexuality. But I would encourage you, as we go through this part, also to think about polyamory in terms of getting all your needs met. Don't think of it just as a way for relationships to change on the basis of sexuality, of sexual exclusivity versus non-exclusivity, but, think of it in terms of the exclusivity of how you are meeting your emotional needs or who is your activity partner and so on. Now, I recently read an amazing book called Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taramino. This book covers a lot of amazing topics about polyamory in practice and how it can really work. One of the things I really got from the book was these six different styles of open relationships. This means when you're no longer sexually exclusive with each other, all these different ways to do that. See because, when we started talking about polyamory on our website, we got some interesting reactions from people that showed us that people were thinking of polyamory as all kinds of different things. And so the reason we want to share this information with you is that we want to help get everyone on the same page so that we can discuss this and use a certain terminology here so that we are all taking about it in the same way. Now, when I started getting emails from people who were in polyamorous relationships they already had this type of terminology and they would share with me what type of polyamorous relationship they were in, which of these six styles. Whereas people who are new to this kind of material just lumped it all together as just one big thing. It's sort of like saying there is only one type of monogamous relationship—it doesn't matter if you are married, if you have children together, if you are just friends, if you are just two people walking down the street holding hands together, if you're having sex with somebody and that's it. It's like to call that whole thing, that's a marriage for example, it is like there is a lot more variability there. You want to separate this out a little bit. Let's talk about the first of the six styles. The first style Tristan calls Partnered Non-monogamy. Again, this is all from the book, Opening Up. Partnered non-monogamy is basically you're in a committed relationship with somebody, so you have a primary partner, whether it is a marriage or not, and you basically open it up and start having sexual partners outside of the relationship. In this case, there is no emotional connection, or bonding, or romance, or dating, or anything like that. Maybe a little bit of the dating as a warm up or something, but the whole idea is to just go out and have sex with other people. That's really it. So in other words, you are getting your sexual needs met. This works well for couples who you are in a relationship where one or both of you are not able to fully satisfy each other's sexual needs. Like maybe one person is really in to kinky stuff and the other is not. And to have a kinky partner on the side who would fulfill those needs is actually going to make your relationship with your primary partner stronger. Now that unmet need is being addressed and you can relax. Ahhhh.

ERIN

And the primary partner doesn't feel like they have to do something they don't want to.

STEVE

Absolutely. There is no pressure. Otherwise what happens is you get in to a situation where you are like, "Do this for me, do this for me, I want this from you," and your partner is like, "Oh no, I would never do that!" My feeling about partnered non-monogamy personally is that really doesn't appeal to me all that much,because just getting sex needs met on the side is really not the most exciting thing to me.

ERIN

It's not the most driving thing for you.

STEVE

That's not the model that I would likely move towards. It's interesting and I could understand why people would want to do that, just not one that appeals to me personally. How do you feel about that one, Erin?

ERIN

Before we even started this discussing polyamory I was not thinking to myself, "Gosh, I wish I could have sex with somebody else." It just wasn't happening. Steve was fulfilling all of my sexual needs, so I wasn't thinking about having sex with other people, except maybe some of the actors I see on some of my favorite shows, should they ever grace me with their presence! [Laughing]

STEVE

We'll spare them the honor of mentioning them.

ERIN

Okay

STEVE

But, I know who that is. And the funny thing is, that my attitude is like, "Hey, if Erin had the opportunity to get in to bed with one of those guys, go for it if it makes you happy." It's like, why would I want to deprive her of that? I'd be like, "Hey, have fun. Go for it." She'll come back to me being all happy and la la la and like, "Steve, would you like a massage?" She'd be really nice to me for a week or two after that I'll tell you.

The second model is swinging. Now, this is honestly one where I have a lot of negative connotations. I just have this sort of creepy feeling about the whole thing. But as I read more about it I was like, wow, this is really fascinating. And Tristan, in her book, she has one chapter on it. Apparently swinging is this really rich culture. There are millions of Americans alone who are apparently in to it regularly. And swinging is basically when a couple that's committed to each other, not necessarily married though, who will team up with other couples and there are these swing clubs apparently where people can meet to find other couples and so you mingle around a little and I guess you talk to other people. I have never been to one, I have never even seen one. And you go there, you talk to other people and you find somebody to hook up with and you have sex. I think basically all four of you are having sex in the same room with each other. Usually what happens is two men won't touch each other at all, sometimes the two women will do something together, but then you do this partner swap thing and, you know…

ERIN

I'm sure there are all kinds of variations. But we haven't really explored this dimension.

STEVE

Now, as I was reading this, I was just like, I don't know, I really don't know how I feel about doing that kind of thing. I talked about it with Erin, what was your reaction?

ERIN

I was a lot more open to this than I thought I would be. I actually think it would be kind of adventurous, interesting, and neat to be with another couple, especially if all four of us are in the same room. So then there is no—how could it possibly be considered cheating or something tawdry if all four of you are together?

STEVE

See, the thing that I like about the swinging model, in general, is that it is very conscious. Everybody is choosing to do it. If you go to a swing club you are choosing to create this lifestyle. There's this huge culture with this etiquette thing that I am really not familiar with, but apparently part of the culture is "No means No". You are never forced to do anything that you would be uncomfortable with if you don't like one of the people you might end up with but your partner does. You don't have to "take one for the team". It is only if it is all four way consensual.

ERIN

Very mutual, very consensual, everybody is happy.

STEVE

Yeah, everybody is happy. I've actually gotten a number of emails from people who are in to swinging, some people doing it for years and they said they absolutely love it. It becomes a part of their lifestyle, it is part of their culture, they really enjoy it. I don't know. I feel kind of like silly about it some ways, because it is just something I hadn't really considered. I don't know if Erin and I will look in to this at some point. Actually, right now our attitude is we want to just learn more about it. We want to read about it or just visit and not do anything, like see if we could just see what the people are like. But who knows? I guess this could even lead to friendship too, because then you are connecting with people who are also in open relationships. You can make new friends this way. At least you have that compatibility there, like you are both in open relationships, you are accepting each other for that. It seems like an interesting model, I have absolutely nothing against it. I just don't have any experience with it to go on.

The next model is polyamory. Now the difference between polyamory and the first two models of partnered non-monogamy and swinging is that in partnered non-monogamy and swinging you are going outside the relationship mainly for sex, to have some kind of extra sexual expression, sexual variety, whatever it is. In polyamory now, you are bringing in an emotional component, or some other component, in to the relationship. So now you are not just going outside your primary relationship for sex, you can also be doing things with, like you know, having activity partners. Generally the way polyamory is defined is that it would include sex, but I really like the idea of broadened this definition to include other things too. In addition to including sex, it would include things like some kind of emotional bonding where you really do have a relationship with other people—this could be a short term relationship, long term relationship, whatever.

So, in a polyamorous relationship there is all these different kinds of configurations of things you can have. An example of polyamory would be, like let's say I have this relationship with Erin, we are in a committed relationship with each other, and I have a girlfriend on the side and she just fulfills different needs than Erin does. So I'm having sex with this girlfriend on the side at times, and also I'm having some kind of relationship with her. Now the girlfriend may be monogamous with me, she may be polyamorous herself and have other boyfriends or even a husband on the side. Who knows, there's all kinds of things. Then Erin on the side, she may have a boyfriend, or a lover, or an activity partner, or an intimate emotional partner, whatever, and they are doing things too. And there can be more than one of each of these people and all kinds of different connections. So that's the basic idea behind polyamory as I understand it, is that you have other intimate relationships, physical, emotional, otherwise outside of the relationship with your primary partner. To me, this seems like a really good model for people where they are in a relationship with their primary partner where they have a lot of compatibility, but also certain areas where they are just downright completely incompatible and there is no way they can fulfill that, especially in the area of sexual needs. But the incompatibility goes beyond sexual needs. It is like getting sex outside the relationship wouldn't be enough, it is like you need some other emotional aspect that you are not getting.

To be honest, Erin is really good at meeting my emotional needs for the most part. I really don't have too many unmet emotional needs. It's more like if I was going to go outside of the relationship, it could be partly for sex and partly for say, activity partners, or things I want to do with. There are so many activities in my life that I would love to do but I don't do because I would want to do them with somebody I was really feeling intimately connected with. It's like I want to have a shared intimate experience because part of what I really love about life is being able to share growth experiences with people. And so I am always in this situation where I either have to go and do these growth experiences solo, by myself, or just do them with somebody I have a friendship with. But, it would be so great to have, like, an intimate partner where I could share those experiences with and really connect on a deep level about it, emotionally, physically, whatever. That's something that really appeals to me about polyamory. This model, I really do like. I can really see us moving towards something like that. Again, this is a model that Erin has actually been using herself for a long time because she has had these emotional intimate connections outside the relationship, they have just never been physical.

ERIN

Right

STEVE: Solo polyamory—Now that is like polyamory except you don't have a primary partner. So you're, say, a single person, not married and you are not in this committed, primary partner relationship. This is like a model you might have for, say, maybe a guy who considered himself like a pick-up artist. Or this is the model for what you might call a player. So the person is going out, having intimate relationships with lots of different people at the same time, but he is not monogamous with any of them. I say ‘he' for the sake of example, it could be a she doing that too. Either way. So solo polyamory is polyamory just minus the primary partner. You are having multiple relationships with different people. I don't have any problem with that as long as you are open and honest about it because a lot of people are going to assume that if you are only dating them that that is the only person you are dating. So as long as you are open and honest and what you are doing, I don't have any kind of problem with that. As long as your partners know what is going on and that you are having other partners. Otherwise I think it is very dishonest and deceptive to go in to this model where people would naturally assume that if you are doing a relationship with them that they are the primary partner.

ERIN

If you're doing something you feel like you need to lie about, you shouldn't be doing it.

STEVE

Exactly. Okay, so polyfidelity is the fifth model. Polyfidelity is now you're having a polyamorous relationship with multiple people where all of the people are committed to having a relationship with each other. So it would be like, if, let's say Erin is bi-sexual and I'm straight and we invite another woman with us and she's bisexual too. Now we could, all three of us, have a relationship together. Where I am having a relationship with Erin, Erin is having a relationship with the other girl, the other girl is having a relationship with me and all three of us have a relationship with each other. And you can have groups of three, four, five, six—generally these don't go larger than five or six because then you start getting pretty complicated. There are all these different kinds of configurations of polyfidelitous relationships. You could read a whole book just about that, that's a really rich field.

This model initially did not appeal to me because, as a model itself, I can't just jump in to it, it would really depend on the person. However, I could see a polyamorous relationship turning into a polyfidelitous one over time. For example, if Erin or I had a partner on the side or something, and then we begin getting really close. Let's say I have a girlfriend on the side or something, Erin meets her and then Erin really likes her, they really hit it off. And then we all three of start getting in to a relationship together. Maybe we all move in together. I could see something like that evolving over time, but that's not a model I would immediately want to jump in to because whether or not I use that model would depend on the person. And since Erin is so good at meeting my emotional needs, I don't really feel a need for that particular model. That model is really great for some people and could create some really strong relationships. You have, certainly, some challenges in that model because you may have issues with equality, like if you had two people who were a partnership long term and then invite a third person in, the third person might feel like that third wheel. So you have to work on issues like fairness. Open communication is a big deal. People in polyfidelitous relationships who have emailed me, pretty much without exception, they said the number one factor to the success of their relationships is open, honest communication. It is all about communication. See because,iIn that type of relationship you have so much communication, you have all the different two-person communications going back and forth and also the three-way or four-way or five- way. It just gets more complicated the more people you add.

The sixth and final form of open relationships is monogamous/non-monogamous and mono/polycombinations. That is a pretty long term, but all this really means is that simply you have a committed relationship with a primary partner and only one of you is doing something polyamorous on the side and the other one is not. That would be, let's say, I am doing something polyamorous on the side, I am having a girlfriend on the side and Erin is not. Okay? I don't really see that being a huge distinction, but it is important because if you get yourself in to that situation you have to realize your primary partner is not going out and meeting their needs outside of the relationship. See, the key here is you want to go not for equality because that is just sort of a random standard. While we are all equally born and we may all have equal human rights, we are not equal in our needs and desires. So the key here is just to work intelligently to fulfill each person's desires. If Erin is able to fill desires of mine very easily and I'm having a hard time filling her desires, then she should go outside of the relationship to get those desires met. And I don't need to, so why would I feel resentful of that happening because I am encouraging her to go outside of the relationship to get those needs met. If you get in that kind of relationship where only one of you is polyamorous that's okay too. That's perfectly fine. As far as using that model myself, it is kind of weird, I don't necessarily see me and Erin moving to that type of model because I honestly, once I learned about the way this works, I already see her as being polyamorous. I realize that since we met she has been going outside the relationship to get certain needs met and I hadn't just thought of it in those terms. Because I was raised Catholic, probably, I had this idea of marriage as each of you has to meet each other's needs and all each other's needs.

ERIN

Because that's what your parents tried to do with each other.Your parents didn't have a lot of social outlets and friends and stuff. So you didn't see it.

STEVE

Yes. That's the model I grew up with, I never saw, at least I never saw that happening.

ERIN

I remember my parents were having dinner parties a lot, sometimes every Saturday night they would go out with this group of friends and sometimes they'd be at our house and sometimes they'd be at their house or a restaurant or something. So we used to see couples engaging in intimate emotional and social behaviors all the time. And so as I grew up, I just naturally adopted that model and I've always been very appreciative that Steve doesn't mind my intimate relationships with other people. I don't feel he has ever felt diminished in any way by the relationships I've had with other people. And so I, of course, want him to have the same exact thing. I used to tell him, "Go play poker with the boys," or "Go find somebody to go hiking with or somebody to go dancing with," or whatever.

STEVE

Now, even if it is sexual though

ERIN

Right. Because I want him to get his sexual needs met and if I am not going to meet them he is more than welcome to go get them met somewhere else. That seems only fair.

STEVE

Yes. And I'm very lucky, obviously as a guy. Well, I'm very lucky to be married to a woman who understands that. We really spent a lot of time talking about this and working through this consciously. And we realized that the sexual needs and the emotional needs are really just on the same level. The dichotomy that society put, that line society creates, between the two is really wrong. It is really unnecessary.

ERIN

It is not natural.

STEVE

And really, in some ways, many people will put the slider past the emotional needs to where the emotional needs are now taboo—where a guy will get really jealous if his wife is going out and spending too much time with another guy, even if they are not having sex. You know, they are just becoming really, really good close friends. And so he says, "Oh, you can't be seeing that guy anymore because I'll be jealous." And that is another topic we should get in to now: Jealousy. Okay, so how do you deal with jealousy? There are a few other forms of jealousy. Some of these are pointed out in Tristan's book and I'll just mention a few of them. One form is insecurity. Like you sort of have this low self esteem thing and you are feeling uncomfortable and insecure. Now a polyamorous relationship can really bring that to the forefront because any insecurities you have now are magnified when your partner starts going out with other people because now you have issues of like, "Is he going to leave me? Am I in competition with this other person?" and so on and so forth.

Another issue would be possessiveness. See, there's some people—Erin and I don't have this with each other, but I know a lot of people that do—they have this idea that if you are married to somebody, it is like your wife,or your husband, or your partner is your property. You know, like they are yours: my wife, my husband, my this, my that. Like they are yours and you own them on some level. On some level you have control over them. Erin and I have just never been that way with each other, like to try to control each other like that.

ERIN

That would be weird

STEVE

It would be really weird, to us at least. But we understand that to other people that is considered normal.

ERIN

I was actually in a relationship a long time ago, I was actually in an abusive relationship, where my partner was extremely possessive and controlling and jealous. And unbeknownst to me, he was cheating on me right and left, but he would always accuse me of cheating on him, probably because he had a guilty conscious or he just imagined things that weren't there. And I was never cheating on him, it never even occurred to me to do that. But, he was very insecure, very possessive, jealous and controlling.

STEVE

The problem with possessiveness is that you're likely to be preventing your partner from meeting their needs, because you are clinging to them so tightly. And you know you really need to just get rid of that model entirely that you own another person. You know, we are all connected. All human beings are connected. We have this sense of oneness with each other and it is not a betrayal if your partner is getting needs met outside the relationship. You should be happy for your partner.

ERIN

If you love them

STEVE

If you love them, if you really love them

ERIN

If you care about their happiness

STEVE

Possessiveness is like the opposite of love

ERIN

Yeah

STEVE

It is a control strategy that arises from fear

ERIN

It is fear based

STEVE:Exactly, it is totally fear based. It has no place in a committed, loving, conscious relationship. No place at all. Abandonment issues: this is something that often arises from challenges with earlier relationships or childhood problems. You feel like if your partner leaves you are going to feel abandoned so you are always feeling threatened that anything outside the relationship is going to make your partner feel like, "Okay, I found somebody better, I can leave you now." I don't feel that way at all with Erin, because she and I are so connected on such a high level. She meets needs that no one I have ever met in my entire life could I imagine them meeting the needs as well as she can. And I'm sure I play the same role in her life too. It is like there are ways we meet each other's needs that we can't even put in to words.

ERIN

It is magical. [Laughing

STEVE

It is. It's like this whole spiritual level, this journey we've been sharing, it is amazing. It's like I never want to end that. And the sad part was when I got myself in to that "Either/Or" mindset—it's like it's either one monogamous relationship or another, that there is no alternative, everything has to be monogamous—that thinking just trapped me. So my choice was always like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And the relationship with Erin and have unfulfilled needs that only she was meeting and then I probably wouldn't be able to find somebody else that could meet in the same way she could or stay with her and have other unmet needs. It was something that came to me from childhood. I didn't really have an issue with abandonment but it was the sense that if I stayed in the relationship with Erin I would always have these unmet needs. If I left the relationship with Erin I would always have these unmet needs, so it was a feeling of being trapped which really stunk. I had something almost like the opposite of jealousy where I felt like I wasn't so much worried about what Erin was doing, it was more like, I was just real confused as to what I should do. So I was the one creating the threats in the relationship, not her. I was always thinking, What do I do? I guess it's time to leave. Should I leave? Should I stay? Should I leave? Should I stay? I was confused.

ERIN

There's that third choice.

STEVE

For years. For years and just not realizing, Duh, there's a third choice. I can actually go meet these needs outside of the relationship and that would actually bring me and Erin closer. Brilliant!

ERIN

Who knew?

STEVE

Yeah, and then of course, you have to get passed the social taboos and all the flack we take for telling people.

ERIN

You have to have that open, honest communication or it is not going to work.

STEVE

Yes, very open, honest communication. A term that I saw in Tristan's book, Opening Up, which she really defines it as the opposite of jealousy is this word called compersion. What this means is essentially taking pleasure in your partner getting their needs met with someone else. Okay? So taking pleasure in your partner getting happiness outside the relationship. What a concept! Now I think the general idea of this term is that it is some kind of sexual need, taking pleasure in your partner having sex with somebody else and enjoying it. Like Erin goes off and has sex with somebody from some favorite TV show of hers... she's shaking her head at me,"Don't say who it is, because I may meet me him some day!" And I would be like, "Great! You had a great time. Wonderful. I'm happy for you."

ERIN

Because I would actually share my joy with Steve over having had this experience because he is my friend, my best friend, my lover, connector. I want to share it with him.

STEVE

Now maybe I don't want to hear all the intimate details, but I'll just be happy for her. What I like is that she can have that same attitude towards me. So instead of jealousy you want to replace that with compersion. Take genuine happiness in your partner's being happy, even when they are meeting their needs outside of the relationship. For one, you could feel relived, like, "Hey, I didn't have to do anything."

ERIN

And he's happy

STEVE

It's not about being lazy. But think about it, if you just keep creating happiness for each other, why would you ever want to break up? Why would you ever want to separate? Where would the threats to the relationship come from? Where would the jealousy arise? It just doesn't. Jealousy is just a very low level of consciousness. Don't put yourself there.Think compersion instead, think happiness for your partner and you will have a lot less relationship problems, believe me.

Okay, moming out publicly: this was a decision a lot of polyamorous people have to make. What's interesting is there was a survey in the back of Tristan's book where it showed something like 22% of polyamorous people came out publicly to everyone, and then there were other percentages for whether they came out to their family, or their friends, or only certain family members, or not. You can look it up in the back of her book if you'd like. It was kind of interesting to see that. So by coming out publicly, like right away before we've even done anything, I guess Erin and I were breaking some taboos and such. We certainly got a lot of flack for it. And one of the reasons we are doing this podcast is we wanted to explain our own voices so we could be more emotionally expressive versus typing plain text where we are just going, "Wow, people are just totally misunderstanding what we are saying here, they think we are threatening each other and stuff." It was weird. What was your reaction to some of that stuff?

ERIN

I was surprised, but not surprised. I was surprised by what I was hearing, but I wasn't surprised that people were having multiple and adverse reactions.

STEVE

Yeah. I mean, we were just like, "Wow." Often these were people who had never even met us, so it was—I guess it was more coming from them than from us because the stuff that they were writing wasn't even about us. It didn't make sense.

ERIN

It didn't make sense.

STEVE

We were reading it and we felt they didn't even have a clue about our relationship. It didn't make sense.

ERIN

We understood why peopled cared and we understood why people were concerned, certainly. And maybe Steve didn't explain it as well as he could have, initially, but that's why we wanted to explain.

STEVE

Yeah, I guess 10,000 words wasn't enough. [laughing]

ERIN

Sometimes it is the right words. Right?

STEVE

This is one of the reasons we wanted to use audio, because the challenge is when you use plain text, like I was writing articles, to try to explain something that is of such an emotional nature it is just not expressive enough.

ERIN

Especially something that challenges social norms

STEVE

I realize people were taking sentences I wrote and they were quoting it back and then commenting on it and I realized that they were totally, totally misinterpreting what I was saying. I was like, "Wow, that was not in the context in which I meant that." And then they went off and wrote this long diatribe about it, they emailed me, or posted on the forums, or wrote it on somebody else's blog, and I'm like, "Whoa, you don't even know what our situation is."

ERIN

But that is partially our fault because we didn't explain it completely. So that is what we are doing now.

STEVE

Hopefully this will shed some more light on it and you will realize that we are not fighting about this and stuff. It is more of like a realization we had about the nature of intimate relationships. So, let's talk now, finally, about the big picture of this. What is the why? Why run your relationships like this? Why open relationships? Why less restrictions? Why a looser definition of what would be considered cheating? Why, in general, work to meet your partners needs even if those needs have to get met outside the relationship? When your needs are being met and your partners needs are being met it opens you up to higher goals. You can focus at the level of your mission in life, your life purpose, helping other people meet their needs. You can do that too. We are really hoping this podcasts opens your mind in some ways and helps you realize that there are other ways to meet your relationship needs that you might not have considered.

ERIN

And that it is important that your needs get met in life. It is like having a job that you hate. Yeah, you need the money, but if you hate your job then that is not a win-win situation for you. Find a way to get yourself some happiness.

STEVE

And again, if you don't like the word needs because you associate it with the word needy or neediness, then don't use that word. Use a word instead like, your goals, your desires, your aspirations, what inspires you.

ERIN

What brings you in to vibrational harmony

STEVE

What you love, what connects with you. Exactly, what you feel a vibrational match for. What you want to experience in your life, the experiences you want to have. The thing is that when you have your emotional needs met, your physical needs met, your partnership needs met, your social needs, financial needs, companionship needs—whether you meet them within your primary relationships or from outside of your primary relationship—once you've got all those checkboxes checked, now you're so fulfilled you are just overflowing with love to give. So you don't have to live your life from the state of trying to compensate for unmet needs or feeling driven down to the state of resentfulness because your partner is not everything you wanted him or her to be.

ERIN

...Or constantly trying to get something. You're in a position where you can give.

STEVE

It is like trying to get, get, get. "I need to get this. I need to get that." And then turning to things, other sources like pornography, or prostitution, or whatever else.

ERIN

Or losing yourself in World of Warcraft

STEVE

Or cheating, having an affair and lying about it, and covering it up—really driving your consciousness lower, and lower, and lower. And then it all blows up in your face, of course, in the end. Or it just keeps you at a low state of consciousness for a long time to come.

Now, the second part of the big picture here, this why you want to think about living your relationships at this level is that it will raise the consciousness of your relationship itself. See, initially you might connect with somebody on the level of compatible activities you might do together, like common interests that we talked about earlier. Say you are both in to Star Trek or you both like seeing movies, but in the long run, that's not that much of a basis on which to build a relationship on because you can always find somebody else who is more compatible with you in these areas. But if you build a life where it's based on like a compatible life mission and purpose, you don't have to think so much about like, "Oh, I'm going to replace my partner at some point and at some point I'll find an upgrade and I'll move on to somebody else." If you can continue to raise the consciousness of your relationship with your partner, so now you are connecting on levels like, "Hey, I want your happiness and fulfillment, they mean a lot to me and beyond that if I can make you happy and fulfilled then I am doing a lot for the planet too because you are going to be in a state where you can go and give even more." If I can help Erin to stay happy and to make sure her needs are being met, whether I am meeting them or not, then she can really do what she came here to do. She can live her life at this level of creative self expression. Another thing is moving in to an abundance mentality versus a scarcity mentality. When your needs are met you are not thinking of this scarcity mindset like, I'm deficient, I'm inadequate, my relationship is defective or malfunctioning or broken or we need counseling or things like that. Marital counseling I don't think is necessary if you simply can just open yourself up to this idea of understanding that you have needs and desires to meet.

ERIN

I am actually feeling a tremendous sense of relief that Steve is now willing to go get his needs met outside of the relationships. I've been waiting for that for years. [Laughing] It makes me feel like I am off the hook now. I don't have to try so hard in certain areas where we weren't as compatible. Now he has the opportunity to go find that compatibility with somebody else. That takes a lot of pressure off of me so I am feeling great.

STEVE

Absolutely. It's like, if I am getting some need met outside of the relationship then it is like I'm not clawing at her to meet that need in this needy way. I'm coming from the state of abundance. I am happy and fulfilled and in our relationship now we don't have to worry about that need. Let's focus on this level of life purpose and mission. Let's do something cool together. Let's make a podcast!

ERIN

And we can spend our time connecting in the areas where we love our compatibility.

STEVE

Would we be creating this podcast if we were feeling in the state of neediness and going around fighting with each other? Why would we possibly come together to do a podcast like this? No, never. We would just be like, "You didn't meet my need and so I'm not going to meet yours."

ERIN

Right. Why should I meet your need if you are not going to meet mine?

STEVE

Exactly. Okay, so what makes for a strong, loving, intimate relationship? There's a really simple way, I'll explain this: If you have a relationship that is rooted in three principles: Truth, Love, and Power. These are the principles I wrote about extensively in my book, Personal Development for Smart People. If you have a relationship rooted in these three principles where both people are committed to these principles you will have a strong, loving, intimate relationship and it is going to be awesome. Let's talk about each of these in turn just briefly. Principle of Truth: This means you have honest, open communication about each other's needs and expectations. And when you have truth in your relationship, when you are both open and honest it builds trust and you learn to really trust each other and this really connects you.

ERIN

You trust yourself too, because you know that you are safe expressing your needs to your partner.

STEVE

Yes. Now this has been a really important part of my relationship with Erin since the beginning. We really had a strong truth alignment in our relationship. We've had some issues early on especially where we had to resolve that, but we really got ourselves, within the first year of our relationship to a point of really strong, open, honest communication.

ERIN

Because we both felt better when we could be honest with each other. We both recognized that as a need and we just both really wanted to have that, so we did.

STEVE

Yes. Not hiding stuff. It doesn't mean sharing every little detail of your life with your partner, because that is going to get pretty tedious over time. But it means that the important things to you, especially in the area of meeting your needs, are openly discussed and you just say, "Look, here's the truth… " Now in terms of honesty, I don't believe in totally radical honesty where you just say absolutely everything and as bluntly as possible. Really, that just gets a little bit, for the most part, insulting.

ERIN

And abrasive

STEVE

...Abrasive and annoying for the most part. You don't really need to go that far with it. But what you really need to do is to make sure that the big issues are out in the open and that you are aware of them. But if your partner smells bad one day you don't necessarily have to point that out or embarrass him or her in public, whatever, stuff like that. That's not necessary of course, that's just going to violate trust, not build it.

The second principle here is love. Now, love means that each person is experiencing and enjoying what they want whether those needs are being met inside or outside the relationship. The model Erin and I often think about here is teamwork. We are on the same team here. Our goal is to meet each other's needs, whether inside the relationship together or outside the relationship by helping to identify how those needs could be met by one or both of us. So you work together as a team to make sure your needs are being met. Each person individually is responsible for meeting their needs, but as a couple really, you do want to take on some of the responsibility of helping to meet your partners needs too.

ERIN

You want to see areas where you can help them achieve their needs if you can.

STEVE

This is an area where our relationship works really, really well. We are always thinking about how to help each other grow and improve. What's interesting is that one of the ways where you can really help each other grow is the area where puzzle pieces don't really connect together, initially, but then you find that that you can create another connection here. It is like your puzzle piece can connect a little bit more on this other side that we didn't think it could connect. Like when I first met Erin and she had certain interests and I had certain interests, it is like we came together and taught each other different things. Like she taught me this whole thing about lucid dreaming and that was an area not of incompatibility in our relationship in the beginning, it was just an area where we didn't have any connection at all. So by teaching that to me she created a whole new areas where we connected.

ERIN

And you taught me how to defeat bosses in computer games [Laughing]

STEVE

Yes. But then we could play computer games together and that was an area of connection for us. Not the deepest level of connection, but still it was a shared interest.

ERIN

It was fun

STEVE

The third principle here for building a strong, loving, intimate relationship is power—which means that you and your partner empower each other, you help each other live more consciously, not less consciously. So I'm trying to make Erin in to a stronger, more powerful person and she's trying to do the same thing for me in a certain way. We each have different ways of expressing that. She has different ways of helping me. In our particular relationship, you want to talk about this?

ERIN

Okay

STEVE

In our particular relationship, I have helped Erin a lot in the area of courage and she has helped me a lot in the area of compassion for other people. So she has really helped me in the area of reaching out and connecting to people and being able to build connections. I'll tell you, I would not be a communicator today if not for Erin. And she would not be a psychic medium today, especially as successful as she's been if not for me. She would not have had the courage to do that. And I would not have had the compassion to do what I am doing. It is really interesting how we came together and empowered each other. As the empowerment happened, we each helped each other align more with truth, love, and power. It is like we both helped each other become more honest and open. We both helped each other connect more with what we want, become more love centered, happier and more joyful and we both helped to empower each other. We both helped each other grow stronger.

ERIN

It is like being with Steve helped me complete this triangle. When he first found me I was very in to love and truth and oneness which is one side of the triangle. But I really didn't have much experience with power and courage and authority, hardly any at all. And he really helped me develop those areas. I definitely, I would probably be in a job today working for somebody, I might be in a field that I enjoy but I wouldn't be doing something that was as purpose based as I feel that I am doing now. I wouldn't be really serving my life's mission if I hadn't run across Steve and this power and this courage that he helped me find.

STEVE

What does it mean to make a commitment? What is a committed relationship mean? A committed relationship means that you are committed to your's and your partner's highest self expression and fulfillment. It means you are committed to helping your partner align with truth, be more open, be more honest, trusting of you too, more connected with love that your partner is getting more of what they want in their life, not less and more empowered. More power is flowing through your partner's life, more energy. That's the commitment. That's what it means to make a commitment, that you are trying to make your partner as fulfilled as possible and in so doing you are actually helping everyone. If your partner is fulfilled then they don't have to worry about, "Oh Gosh, how am I going to pay the bills?" "I have this unmet sexual need on the side and all I can do is think about sex. I'm so distracted and I feel like my needs just aren't being met." Instead, you allow your partner to focus on living their lives highest purpose and highest mission. You are raising your partner's consciousness. That is what it means to make a commitment. It doesn't mean you are going to be perfect. You are not going to run out of the gate and like BOOM this higher level of consciousness, working on life's mission. You may have a lot of challenges to work through. But the idea of commitment means that two or more people are coming together, two or more monogamous or more with the polyamorous-style relationships, are coming together to really work towards each other's highest expression and fulfillment.

This is one of the things that led me to realize that polyamory was really the logical next step for our relationship. I thought, you know, all that you and I have done for each other, we can also do for others. Not just through the one to many medium of blogging, but like how you do this very naturally through readings. You will spend an hour on the phone with somebody and you get to really make a big difference in their life in a short period of time. However, I haven't had an outlet for that so much. There are different ways that I want to be able to express that. I love this idea of being able to connect with people more intimately. Even if it involves a sexual component too, because it is a way for me and the other person I am connected with to meet our needs on some level mutually. But that we are doing that not because we are coming from this place of neediness or manipulation or control or anything like that, but because it is a way for us to both come together, meet our needs so we can both focus on a higher level of existence.

ERIN

Right. Because until your needs are met you can't help anyone else achieve theirs.

STEVE

Exactly, exactly

ERIN

It is very hard

STEVE

But the funny thing is, that through the process of meeting your needs openly, honestly, lovingly, you can help other people meet their needs too. Because as human beings we share very similar needs. We can help each other. The last concept we want to talk about here is when to break up. How do you know when a relationship cannot go from monogamous to polyamorous to say—I don't want to say fix it, but to expand it, to make it more fulfilling—if you can't go there and that won't work for you, then when should you and your partner break up? Whether the break up is mutual or not, if you're just saying, "It is time for me to leave this relationship." Now the answer is that you should break up when you and your partner cannot make this mutual commitment to truth, love, and power. To quickly review that, it means that you and your partner cannot communicate honestly. You do not trust each other or you have a trust violation that cannot be repaired and healed.

ERIN

...Or you are unwilling to share something with your partner that is very important to you

STEVE

Absolutely. If you are not aligned with truth it is time to go. And by the way, you should break up if you are not living with truth and love and power, which means if either any one of those things you cannot create an alignment there it is time to go. It is time to look for a relationship elsewhere, otherwise you are going to be stuck in a conscious lowering situation. So if you can't get a solid basis of truth going where you can communicate opening and honestly with each other it is time to go. You are never going to have that potential for growth. An example of a situation of that would be like your partner just stonewalls you every time you try to communicate about something important to you.

ERIN

...Or is unwilling to discuss it

STEVE

There is nothing in my relationship with Erin that we are unwilling to discuss. There are a lot of times that we have to work through a good deal of defensiveness.

ERIN

...Or resistance

STEVE

But we are willing to discuss it. And sometimes we have conversations where it takes us two hours of talking just to get through that first layer of defensive and resistance where we can finally get to where we are having more soulful communication. Like, okay, finally now we are getting to the core issue here.

ERIN

Right. It is always worth it.

STEVE

It is always worth it. It has always been worth it. There have been some amazing conversations, very long conversations but really amazing ones. Another example of when you can't get that alignment is in the area of love. So this is where you basically can't get your needs met or your partner cannot get your needs met. Usually this happens because you are putting up—one of you or both of you or your social conditioning that you are not willing to let go of yet or you don't recognize—is putting up some kind of barrier that says, "This is cheating" or "This is immoral" or "This is wrong."

ERIN

"You are not allowed to have this."

STEVE

"This is illegal" "You are not allowed to meet these needs, you are not allowed to have this fulfillment." Okay? If you get in a relationship where you want to fulfill some need, even if it is a need you feel is fairly low-level, like the need for somebody to do some common things with—a partner to go to the movies with, you know that is something that you just really want to have in your life, or it is a sexual need—don't consider that unimportant. If it is important to you, that's enough. If it matters to you, that's enough. If you are thinking about it, that's enough. If you cannot get that need met in your relationship, your partner is either unwilling or unable to help you provide that need, or your partner is threatening the relationship and saying it would be a cause for breaking up if you were to meet your need, then basically go. It is time to go. It is time to leave. That relationship is not going to help you. It is not going to fulfill you. You need to find someone else who is willing to help you fulfill that need or at least unwilling to block you from getting it fulfilled.

And the third area where it signals it is time to break up is that you and your partner are disempowering each other. The power area, you are not helping each other live more consciously, you are actually driving each other's consciousness down. So if you are not empowering each other, then it is time to go.

ERIN

Like if you are making your partner feel shame or guilt over things that they want and desire.

STEVE

Disempowering the person. Another person might be you are in a situation where it is just sucking you down. It is just draining you, or whatever it is, if you are feeling drained, if you are not feeling empowered by the relationship and it is disempowering you, it is robbing you of power, if you would feel more capable on your own or with somebody else, then leave. I wouldn't feel more capable with somebody else right now in our relationship, I would actually feel—one of the tough things for me is if I left our relationship, I would feel very disempowered. I would feel like I lost something very important to me and it would be hard to replace that, something that mattered to me. Making your relationships empowering are very important. In a committed relationship, you want to look for truth, having open and honest communication, you want a loving connection such that you are both helping each other fulfill each other's needs, whether inside or outside the relationship, and you want to empower each other. Having a sense of power and energy brought to your relationship so that you are stronger together than you are apart. This applies whether we are talking about monogamous relationships, polyamorous relationships, whatever—even friendships. Now, we want to just close by reading a passage from Kahlil Gibran's book, The Prophet. This is one of my all time favorite books and this is a passage he wrote about marriage:

Then Almitra spoke again and said...
"And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:

You were born together,
and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings
of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.

Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together.
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress
grow not in each other's shadow.

I think that is just wonderful way to basically explain what a loving, intimate relationship is like. You are like two pillars of the same temple but you are not the same pillar. So there must be spaces in your togetherness.

ERIN

And if you stand too close together the temple collapses

STEVE

Yeah, you become controlling and that's where that possessiveness comes in to play. If you try to squeeze your partner so tightly, you are pulling them in to you and controlling them and trying to get all your needs met from this one person you are draining the other person, you are disempowering them and you are doing the same thing to yourself. It is best to allow some space for your partner to breathe, to grow, to learn, to love, to share, to do what he or she came here to do.

ERIN

I think truly loving relationships are the ones where you allow your partner to be who they need to be and it doesn't diminish you to let them be that way.

STEVE

Absolutely. We hope you enjoyed this very long podcast. And until next time, live consciously.