Oh, wow, it's been a year, hasn't it??? And I bet you're ready for something fun and reconnecting with your love. We sure are! Well, you're in for a treat because we are finally LIVE with our weekend retreats--yeah, baby, yeah!
"Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone,
Choose wholehearted today. We will, too.
Marla (and Jami)
It’s the perfect time to get away from it all with your love! We are super excited to offer our fun and refreshing Spicin’ It Up Couple’s Retreat as well as our Advanced Retreats*. If it has been difficult to find time for your coupleship then this retreat weekend is for you! Past participants report getting more during this retreat than two years of conventional counseling (short and sweet!). Space is limited so reserve your spot today! (*We want to make sure that you feel comfortable so it is important to note that all personal exercises are completed privately with your partner. Unless you want to share, there will be no public disclosure of your personal information. We have also instituted extensive COVID-19 requirements and restrictions to keep each participant physically healthy. We are requesting participants have at least one of the following to attend: proof of COVID Vaccine, antibodies present due to having had COVID, and/or 10-14 days quarantined prior to attendance. Thank you for understanding.)
Here’s what you’ll experience:
Is this retreat for you? (If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions then, YES, it’s for you!)
What is the cost?
Space is limited, so grab your spot today!
Here’s what you’ll experience:
What is the cost?
Space is limited, so grab your spot today!
2020 has thrown a lot of curveballs and I’m feeling “curveball fatigue.” Yes, it’s real and, yes, I just made it up.
Can you relate?
About a year ago I had streamlined my journal process due to time constraints caused by, well, the busyness of life. You know, two days watching grandlittles, full-time school, full-time work, and the list goes on.
But recently I’ve really been feeling the need for more. My emotions are all over the place, ya’all—weepy one second, laughing the next...so many feels to feel. Whew.
So I hopped back into the long version of the process I had been using since 1992. And, guys, it was more needed than I thought!
It has helped ease my anxiety and focus my attention on serenity, freedom, and joy.
In case you’d like to join me first let’s talk about how to use the Feeling Wheel (you can find the Wheel it HERE):
Okay, now here are the deets that coincide with the Feeling Wheel you see here (you can see the kid’s version above to reference just in case you’d like to help your kiddos learn to express all the hard feels):
by Marla and Jami
Life is short. Have an affair. ~Ashley Madison Tagline
(Jami) The Ashley Madison client reveal in 2015 hit very close to home…I cheated on Marla for the first 12 years of our marriage, and for another two years after I revealed my incredibly shameful secret I continued to be unfaithful. Getting caught saved my life, and finally exposed why I was doing these crazy, stupid things. Let’s face it; even just the disease risk is not worth sleeping around, but that’s not much of a deterrent when you are looking for approval from anywhere you can find it.
Having 33 years of marriage and being happier than ever together, we have incredible tools and also so much hope to share with those of you who are struggling to put the pieces of your relationship back together. What we realized on a deeper level is that the hook-up culture is more insidious than we even speculated. All you have to do is Google “discrete hook ups” and there are dozens of sites that will provide nude pictures of your neighbors that are willing to have sex tonight, or so they say. But, the amazing news is that it’s all fixable! We have couples tell us that they have gone to counseling for y e a r s and had never experienced the relief and freedom found in just 3 short sessions with us. Wow! What a privilege and honor that is to hear.
The short version...
(Marla) The whole truth came out through a family intervention on Christmas day. Not so fun (understatement of the year!), and very messy. Our daughters were in 3rd and 4th grade, and I had lost every one of my support systems because I chose to stay with Jami…my family except for my mom, all of our friends, our jobs, and our church support. I remember lying on the floor in a heartbroken puddle sobbing to the point of hoping I would not be able to take another breath because death seemed like the only relief from the gut-wrenching pain at that moment. (See Jami’s upcoming book Silhouette of a Man for the full story.)
The handling of our pain was devastatingly clumsy, and completely humiliating. As a result we had to re-evaluate everything. What we learned is that most people cheat because at their core they feel unworthy and need approval to feel good about themselves. Even if their partner is willing to be more connected and sexual with them, like I was, it feels to the cheater like there are strings attached, and like they can never do enough or be enough. This sounds crazy because there are even more strings and issues with an affair, but this wasn’t about logic, it was about honesty, or the lack of it, between Jami and I. And we have seen this over and over again with our clients who have asked us to come alongside of them to help them recover from infidelity in their relationship. (Note: not all cheating is sex.)
A successful coupleship requires consistent growth and freedom to talk about what goes on in our minds, even if it is not politically, or morally correct. This means building a foundation of honesty with the ability to share and actively listen to feelings without judgment, and with compassion.
The important thing to realize, even if your relationship was not “outed” in the release of Ashley Madison’s client list, is that we live in a disposable culture that says, “I’m not getting what I want, I’m not happy, and all I need to do is disengage from this relationship and find someone who will make me happy.” Relationships cannot be sustained with status-quo. And it’s time to create a culture that says, “We choose to recover this relationship because the healing of this relationship can create a wave of healing around the globe, and heal the world.”
What every couple needs
Forgiveness: Even if there is no infidelity in the relationship, you need to start here. It will open up a new conversation, and you do have things to forgive, we promise, even if those things are simply your unmet expectations or the little resentments that creep in when you least expect them. We teach people how to do this in an easy and fast way (really the shortest short-cut, guys!), and our book How Men Make Women Crazy (and Visa Versa): Ending the Madness sheds some light on the subject.
A new Conversation: There has to be an ongoing intimacy and excitement about the two of you. This means learning how to be present to your partner’s feelings and sharing your own feelings safely. We’re not going to sugar-coat this and say it’s easy, but it is well worth doing. We use a Feeling Wheel to help get the feelings out and train people on its use. The goal is to drain the shame out of the middle of this “compass for your heart,” and learn to filter every difficult feeling through LOVE.
Compassion: The reality is that your partner holds the key to unlocking your heart. We have seen it every time we work with a couple, even with the very small 3-5% who are not able to stay together using our process (we have a better than 95% success rate having only 8 to 12, seventy-five to ninety minute sessions, even if the couple is already separated or divorced). You chose your partner for a reason…help us help you keep that reason alive and healthy and full of passion!
What little thing can you do for your partner today to fan that flame of passion that your relationship started out with? Start with asking them, “What little thing can I do for you today?” And see what happens from there.
*These statistics are from 2018 and I am pretty positive there are more than "one woman in twelve" right now who are considering separation and/or divorce as soon as the holidays are over.
Ah, yes, forgiveness... A tough thing to do when feeling all the hard feels.
But so important!
I can attest to the fact that forgiveness is the best way forward out of pain and onto the healing journey. Been there, did NOT want to do it, but chose to anyway. And now I have the coupleship I’ve always desired.
Don’t let winter come and settle into your heart.
Forgive. It’s more than worth it!
by Jami and Marla
This week we need to start by talking about shame. Yes, this is a really different kind of conversation for some of us. (Jami) Men, we benefit from knowing what shame is so that we are able to deal with it in our hearts and minds and defeat anger which allows us to be open about it with those we love. Sidenote: Anger turned inward is depression and outward is rage. To be clear, rage is NOT a healthy way to express your anger and there is a definite difference in how it’s done. We need to step up and teach our children and our communities to deal with shame in love and kindness. (Don’t worry, men. It’s not all on you but it is so important for you to understand and acknowledge. Marla addresses women below..)
In her book Daring Greatly author and shame researcher Brené Brown says,
“When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation. When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive—it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real questions for parents should be: ‘Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?’ If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.”
The truth is that I let my shame issues get in the way of my relationship with Marla in the ’90s, and recently I nearly lost it all. I thought I was above it. The truth is without a connected group of accountable and authentic men consistently in my life, I again let fear and isolation take me down an ugly road. It is so easy to believe the lie that if I share with even my best friends that I will lose something. Credibility? My career? My wife (a very real fear)? And maybe even my life? Yes, when we are accountable and connected in honest ways we only lose isolation, depression, fear, and hate. Sadly there is so much fear and hate coming from men these days and we must band together and find better ways! Please do not let the fear of being honest keep you down as I did. I got lucky and didn’t end up losing everything I love, especially the love of my life, Marla. She has stuck with me through thick and thin and I am forever grateful and a much better man because of her.
(Marla) I am certainly not without my own shame web, and it has been a nasty, sticky web indeed. It was in 1995 that I began to realize that I had been living a life based on my shame. Everything I said and did I carefully adjusted to make sure that I would not be disapproved of (can you relate, girlfriends?). My core shame created this belief in me that I was not enough, therefore I needed to perform, be perfect in all areas, and do it with such finesse that I would never be “found out” for the fraud I was. This was all very unconscious at the time, but as I began to embark on the journey of healing, I came face to face with my addictions. No, I was not addicted to drugs, alcohol, medications, sex, work or rage. I was addicted to approval. Ughh. I was addicted to perfectionism (creating the façade that everything around me was “perfect”). I was addicted to being right. More ugghhh. And I literally felt unsafe whenever I was wrong. These are the things I did to keep from being vulnerable; to keep from letting anyone know who I really was:
Ladies (and maybe most of you reading this) can you relate to any of these statements? If so, you are also struggling with your core shame. (And for those of you who can’t relate at all, you may need to read the definition of “denial” because, from what Brené Brown’s research says, we ALL have shame at our core. Men, as Jami mentioned above it may look a little differently for you. Something like “I should never be weak…I should always be strong…I should be a good provider…”) The cool, and hopeful, thing is that you can have healing and relief from this dangerous place. I have. I’m certainly not completely rid of my shame, but it continues to get better and better. I am more full of joy and peace today than anything else, but to be honest Jami’s struggle that he gives a nod to above just about killed me and sent me straight back to this core shame for a time. It was horrible, earthshattering, paradigm-shifting, heart-crushing and also allowed me another run at cleaning out this very deeply-seeded shame. For this I am grateful.
(Jami) Marla and I have developed the Feeling Wheel 5.0 to help all of us learn better strategies for relationships. Because…well…shame.
The core of the wheel has three feelings: Shame, Forgiveness, and Love. This is the center of all our conflicts. All our behaviors are related to how we deal with these three feelings. Think of Shame as the giant lie that you are not worthy of love. This is why Marla and I put Shame across from Love. It is because it is the only toxic feeling on the wheel, and it is, in fact, based on a lie; the lie when any person believes that they are a bad person. And because of the nature of Shame, it sticks to other feelings like Fear, Anger, Jealousy and even Peace (worry much?) and Joy (have sexual shame?). All feelings free from shame are healthy feelings. Feelings are raw information. Our brains are highly efficient at making connections with how events in our life make us feel. We then develop strategies and we repeat what gets us what we expect, which is not necessarily the best outcome.
Just outside the core of the wheel are six feelings that we reference as ”modes.” A mode is a pattern of behavior solidified to help us function and communicate. Think of it as an autopilot program that gets activated in certain situations, designed to protect your heart. Most often we don’t think much about doing these things, we just do them often without much conscious thought. These are often packages of behaviors that once served us well and helped us survive, but are now needing to be updated to serve us better.
The question this week is where does your life hurt? What do you avoid? Why? Can you find a pattern of your behavior that is contributing to the pain? Let’s talk about how we can help each other and get better results for our families and communities. Schedule your Free Discovery Session today HERE.
#1 Rule of Coupleships: Your partner is not responsible for your feelings (neither are your parents--holidays much?)!
When Jami and I first learned this "rule" twenty years ago I was pissed (to say the least)! Jami had cheated* on me and I was terribly hurt, angry, and betrayed and it was most definitely HIS FAULT. Fast forward a few counseling sessions and this is what I discovered...
I have the key to the prison I've locked my heart inside. It's when I choose how I feel that I unlock it. Yes, it's true even when somebody has done something that hurts us. Ughhhh. I agree. I discovered that nobody could "make me feel" anything because it is always a choice what emotion I am experiencing. I can shift how I feel at any time.
"So, how is that possible? When someone betrays me they made me feel betrayed because of what they did," you respond.
Yes, and... Let me explain. We have such deep-seated trauma (and by trauma I mean anything that has caused us pain throughout our lives such as emotional abuse or, as crazy as it sounds, the birth of a younger sibling--really!) that we get triggered by someone else's feelings, actions, behaviors and have learned to blame them even though the feeling I'm experiencing originated with me.
The most powerful gift you can give yourself is the gift of feeling your emotions and embracing them as your own. I am a recovering codependent which is a pysch word that just means that I cared about other people's feelings so that I could "make" them feel better which "made" me feel better. See all that blame, there?
When Jami does something that elicits a feeling of hurt in me I now know that I have to dig deep and discover where that emotion originated from. If it's old (like when my much older brother and sister didn't want me around) then recognized it is not Jami hurting me but touching that old hurt of which I have already forgiven. If it's new then I need to feel it, forgive, and shift to feeling "free" (which is the opposite feeling on our Feeling Wheel (posted in the comments). Here are the steps:
Be free, friends!
We are sending you virtual hugs and want you to know that we are here for you in these exceptionally stressful times. Here are some things you can do to replace anxiety with contentment right now:
🧡 Write out the things that you are t r u l y passionate about. Create a vision board (or simply a list for those of you who are more left-brained 😉). Then frame it and hang it on your wall where you will see it every day. As you leave the house keep your framed passions in mind throughout the day.
🧡 Find a vulnerable and safe friend to share your true and authentic self with. Meet up for coffee or wine or beers in a safe and private location.
🧡 Pray, meditate and/or journal.
🧡 Be present to your emotions and express them healthfully (using r e a l feeling words like lonely, disappointed, hurt or peaceful, confident, and free; good, bad, find, and okay are NOT real feeling words…I know, I know what the??? Check out our Feeling Wheel HERE so you can figure out what you're r e a l l y feeling.).
🧡 And finally, share your deepest feelings and desires with your partner. When you start expressing real feelings you are beginning the process of sharing your deepest feelings and desires with your partner in a shame-free connection that develops a flow of love between the two of you that really is unstoppable that doesn’t have to be shrouded in fear.
You are incredible, worthy, valuable and your youiest you is needed in our world today that feels so uncertain! Embrace YOU and see what wonderful things come from it.
If you, or anyone you know, could use help embracing peace, power, and joy right now we a FREE Discovery Session so you can hear more about it!
Powerful and crucial conversations have recently been taking place on the tragedy of suicide. Although the topic is (by nature) depressing, I am grateful that it is welcomed to the table of hard topics.
As with most hard things to understand, it requires much more education in our current culture.
I took some pills when I was thirteen. It was the rest of the Bayer aspirin we had in the cupboard. There were about 13 pills left, which I don’t think is enough to do the job. My plan was to lay down on my bed and die. I decided that my best friend deserved a good-bye, so I called Tom and told him good-bye and I would not be going to school with him anymore. He asked what I had done, and when I said “I took some pills”. I heard a thud on the other end of the line and by the time I hung up he had run the block to my front door.
Tom was angry (scared) and demanding “What are you doing?” as his parents were a minute or so behind him. Apparently he had yelled something to the effect that “Jami was dying,” as he ran past them.
Fast forward to the year after I got married. I felt terrible about myself and what was going on with me and I spent the next ten years excelling at everything I did: school, work, fatherhood, and being the picture of a good husband. I was all of these things while at the same time being passively suicidal.
I was successful beyond my wildest dreams, and surpassed everyone's expectations. But the money, public approval and the beautiful family that I had did not cover the pain and self doubt that lead to more and more destructive behavior. It was like for every success I had to prove that I was not worth it by shaming myself. Risk-taking behavior went from adrenaline sports and ended with what ought to have torn my family completely apart. I was too busy upping the ante to feel like a hypocrite. So I would hand out the family of the year award in our town and then go have an affair that next week. Sick and wrong. And with each cycle around the chaos addiction merry-go-round I would get closer to getting purposeful about dying.
I was depressed and no one would have ever known. I did not know how to ask for help and the hypocrisy kept getting worse. I was screaming for help but only in my pillow. The pain of admitting that I was not perfect was killing me. I needed help and as ridiculous as it sounds I could not figure out how to do it healthfully.
I went into two counselors offices, I took a diagnostic test that said my most likely diagnosis would be alcoholism, but I had not had a drink for two years and probably had a total of ten drinks in that decade, and the last time I started to ask for help and at the last second made it about some professional referrals that I could make. I remember the look in her eye, like she saw that there was more.
By the time I finally got help, I had already caused massive pain to myself, to my family, to my friends, and to the community I had built around me.
How could anyone have understood my depression? How could anyone have helped me? How do you understand anyone's ongoing illness? To do that, you first have to understand what depression is.
Depression is anger turned inward. It is, of course, a serious problem and a medical consultation is vital. Any prolonged sadness or lack of interest in the things that used to keep you occupied is a good cause for a deeper look, especially relationships, sex, and work. The causes vary and can and do reach back to habits formed from very early on, often times in early childhood development.
What we have come to realize is that all of us build strategies to make ourselves okay. They are all customized, and often a pattern before we get to be two years old (Yes, this is shocking but is well documented, see Origins: The First Nine Months by Anna Paul Murphy). Mine was a common strategy. It was not to feel my own feelings and take care of everyone else’s. The other main strategy is to control and use anxiety and fear.
Taking care of everyone else works great until it doesn’t. We adopt strategies because they work. The problem is that these strategies are habits that become completely run by our subconscious process. This means that often we do these old strategies when they no longer are really working for us. Eventually, if left unchecked, they become destructive.
There are three keys to dismantling these old habits and bring them into the consciousness. These three ideas are for both those who are chronically depressed and for those who care about someone who is:
To understand depression we must first educate ourselves on what that means. The clinical diagnosis has many symptoms listed that are contradictory. So, we understand depression by having compassion and patience for ourselves and our loved ones. We understand depression by listening to those non-verbal asks for help. If I would have been able to get the help I needed at an earlier age, I would have been able to prevent so much heartache.
My hope is provide a prevention to heartache, but to also assist those who feel like they have already created it. Allow for things to move slowly at first, and know that new habits are rarely formed perfectly. Celebrate the progress and keep moving, life is a long journey. Let's talk!
by Jami and Marla Keller
Body shaming often makes front page news. Remember that time in 2017 when there was a little Kim Kardashian drama about cellulite and disgust and a lot of “How dare she mislead us???” Friends, do you realize that the pic of her on the beach lost her one hundred THOUSAND followers on Instagram??? What the what? But don’t worry too much about her dynasty; at the time she still had 98.8 million followers on Insta… But please do worry about the fact that she was shamed in the most vicious way.
We see it in our coaching practice all the time. One client who has done a lot of work to get past body shame recently said, “I was not a wanted baby. My mom couldn’t handle another child and I always felt like my body was not welcome, and I was ashamed, especially of my female parts.” And don’t make the mistake that guys are immune to it. They get it, too, now more than ever.
We were recently reminded that body shaming is one of the oldest stories. In the ancient writings of Genesis Adam and Eve, “felt ashamed and covered their nakedness.” No matter what you believe about the bible, it is interesting that the first story recorded has body shame in it. And so from body shame there is sex shame (slut-shaming comes to mind), and from sex shame there are secrets and lies that have built a cloud of fear, loneliness and being either controlled by the shame or feeling desperately out of control. Our deepest hurts can be about how we look. Our culture desperately needs new language and skills to drain the shame out of our beliefs about our bodies!
(Marla) I recently posted an abbreviated version of this on Facebook right after we finished binge-watching a very powerful Netflix show:
13 Reasons Why…I can’t even imagine being in high school right now. The bullying was bad enough (devastating really) in the mid 80’s where there were no cell phones and social media platforms to accentuate and broadcast our/my shame. I remember clearly the day that five or so other Freshman followed me from a distance from PE to English class and yelled things like, “You’re as ugly as a mutt, you’ve got freckles on your butt,” and “Too bad your butt’s so big. You’d be cute if you were skinner.” Wow. Really? I was 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighed a whopping 110!
The body and slut-shaming in 13 hit way too close to home, in a still very hidden place in my heart that I’ve realized needs another layer of exposure, forgiveness and healing. I was in a Christian boarding school and was categorized as a “slut” because I dated a lot of guys and made out with them. Did I make stupid decisions because of my deep desire to be approved of and loved? Of course. But that’s NEVER. An. Excuse. For. Shaming. My anorexia and bulimia raged an internal war against me, striving for control, perfection and some kind of absolution for that shameful 5 year old little girl, me, that had been sexually abused. I teared up at some point in almost every episode, my heart aching for Hannah’s devastating journey. Really for all of their heartbreaking journeys…
What’s probably the most heartbreaking is that we girls/women don’t build up and support each other. Is it our “not enoughness” that compels us to make each other small so that we can feel “enough”? In a crazy twist in my adulthood (over the past 16 years), when I was a pastor in three different churches in three different states, it was women who shunned me the most for being a female in a “male’s role,” for wearing a blouse too low, or pants too tight, or too much make up, and the list goes on and on and on. Sadly they were so absorbed in what I was wearing that they missed out on what I was saying. But actually the very worst of it was the shaming those ladies cast out onto our teen daughters. No wonder they don’t want anything to do with organized religion.
It is like being human is a crime. We’re here to tell you that it does not have to be. The awareness of your beauty (male or female), and the power to be beautiful, is inside of you. Know that you can make a difference, and the path to feeling empowered is right here.
After a few visits with one of our eighteen-year-old clients, an absolutely beautiful cheerleader, she said to us, “I feel like I get to choose how I feel instead of how shameful [the mean girls] try to make me feel.” These were girls who had shamed her for no reason other than the fact that they could. What is the point anyway of gossiping about someone’s flaws or their decisions, right or wrong. (By the way, it is the beautiful that get the worst of this. One clinician we know works with pro-basketball player’s wives and she says it is the most body-shamed group she has ever seen.)
Let’s all take a stand and not tolerate any body shaming, for yourself and anyone else. For us, it is absolutely not okay to hear someone say any disparaging thing about what someone is wearing, or any body issue, or how they are behaving sexually according to another person’s judgmental position. And we say it out loud when it happens in our hearing. It is fixable, we just all need to do the work to be fully present and express our feelings healthfully, all the while draining the shame out of the dark places.
Let’s get it together, ladies! WE NEED EACH OTHER. Let’s stop this madness and create a tsunami of love, connection, empathy, and compassion and change this story and change this world. And it starts with me. I love and support you, ALL of you, ladies in my life!
We’d love to hear your experiences. You are not alone. Let’s help others realize that they are not alone either.
Are you ready to be free of shame? We’d love to help you move beyond your shame into love and peace and empowerment and joy! Contact us today at email@example.com and give us your three difficult feelings about your experience and we’ll email you a free gift.
Marla and Jami
Cofounders of JamiAndMarla.LOVE (fka Passion Provokers and Keller Coaching) Jami and Marla are proud to bring a new level of success to coupleships worldwide with their unique coaching, mentoring, and consulting process. Their blogs are not only informative for coupleships they are personal. For over 25 years they have been helping people create emotionally and physically intimate coupleships.
Ariel is a freelance blogger, web designer, and SEO consultant. She is 23 years young, married to her soulmate, and a proud “mother” to boxer Bruce and Yorkie Dexter. She focuses on writing content that is raw and relatable. (Info relevant at the time of writing, circa 2013-2015)