Jeffrey Sumber ’92
Jeffrey Sumber ’92 is encouraging couples to take responsibility for their own happiness with his new book, Renew Your Wows: Seven Powerful Tools to Ignite the Spark and Transform Your Relationship.
A licensed psychotherapist, university professor, and relationship consultant, Sumber has a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University and a master’s of transpersonal psychology from Southwestern College. Sumber’s premise for healthy relationships is that we must embrace the power of personal responsibility as the counterbalance to projection. “If we want to be happy, we can’t look across to our partners and blame them for our own lack of engagement, passion, and sense of gratitude,” he said. Here are his tools to transform our relationships with ourselves and shift our relationships with others.
1. Identify and reclaim yourself. If you want your relationship — to anything or anybody — to succeed, you have to do your own work. The first step is looking within and consider: Who am I? What do I want? What will I do about it?
2. Assess your relational landscape. Take a hard look at the ways that you and your partner see the world. Are they the same? How different are they? There are two paradigms that the majority of us inhabit: transactional and process. In a transactional paradigm, somebody wins, somebody loses, someone is right, someone is wrong. As long as two people operate from that paradigm, they are both going to lose. In a paradigm of process, however, the most vital component to success is that both people succeed. In a process landscape, exchanges are conducted through meaningful interpersonal dialogue, appreciation, and gratitude, as well as the ability to hold opposing forces like disparate thoughts and desires without exploding.
3. Respond instead of react. When we slow down our tendency to react, our evolutionary fight-or-flight button protests. Oftentimes, this is a gross overreaction and is based on feeling emotionally vulnerable instead of being physically susceptible to harm. Once you make subtle changes in the ways you think, feel, and believe, you can then take the appropriate actions to manifest your desires through conscious process.
4. Differentiate between needs and expectations. When we know ourselves, what we really want, and what we deeply need, then we can learn how to effectively communicate our needs and get more of those needs met. Many people act as if their partners should read their minds. But unless you’re willing to express what you need, then how can you expect to make a connection with your partner so he or she chooses to meet your needs?
5. Understand and function within an agreed-upon structure for communication. Truly speaking and being heard creates the space for peaceful living. Harmony doesn’t mean always getting along in a relationship; however, it says that even if we disagree, we know how to communicate with each other in a way that is respectful and loving. Every couple must have a safe process that they can rely on to get through the stickier moments of communication. Establish protocols of behavior as well as verbal or physical cues that help you keep your interactions clean and kind. Engage in rules to ensure that you are making decisions based on your higher intentions for the relationship.
6. Separate facts from feelings. “Facts” and “feelings” are separate things like brownies and lawnmowers. So, remember these two things in your relationship, and your life together will be infinitely more wonderful! 1. The only viable response to an expression of an emotion is an emotionally compatible response. 2. The only viable response to a discussion of fact is a response that lives in a world of facts.