All posts by Mark Groves

relationship advice, dating advice

This Is Why Religion And Sex Don’t Get Along

Humans are sexual beings. This is a fact that no one can really argue… I mean, it’s what creates us.

Despite the importance of sex to our evolution, we have an interesting, and often dysfunctional relationship with it though, don’t we? It’s something a lot of us fear, especially within our embedded cultural and religious beliefs…which are often synonymous.

And fear is a dangerous motivator, because if not met with curiosity, the things we fear often become the things we shame.

I have been working with (and know) so many people who hold a lot of shame on the subject of sex and sexuality. They (we) were raised to believe that masturbation, heavy petting (the Catholic way of saying second base), sex before marriage, sexual curiosity, sexual desire, sexual orientation… All of it – will send you to hell. 

Have you ever taken a moment to consider the ramifications of such powerful and irrational messages about sexuality being sent to young (and old) minds; that they should fear their sexuality instead of seeking to understand it? It’s such a confusing message to receive as humans when the very thing that makes us is… SEX.  **If you’re not familiar with it, it’s when the penis goes in the vagina. And then out. And then in. Until one (or both…ideally) makes an “O” face… and biology does its job.**

Even this discussion, mentioning penises and vaginas, will trigger many people. The fact that I’m so openly talking about sex and penetration makes many uncomfortable. And to those people, when you get uncomfortable, I invite you to get curious. Because often, underneath that discomfort, is shame around the subject and fear of your own perceivably deviant desires to get a finger in your butt, get spanked, or some nipple clamps… even, God forbid, try doggystyle. (which are all normal curiosities btw…)

The irony to all of this is that sexual conversations are usually labeled as “crass” by the very people who later on in the evening log onto Craigslist seeking “Casual Encounters”, surf porn, or hire a dominatrix… But there’s a consequence to sexual repression that goes far beyond the internet, and it’s not only in deviant sexual behaviour, it’s that we have to abandon ourselves and our own hearts in order to adapt to cultures and belief systems that say sexuality, and being sexual, is the work of the devil.

Sex is human. Desire is human. Curiosity is human. Curiosity around sex/sexuality is human. To embrace any belief that shames any/all of these truths requires abandoning ourselves and our true essence.

Beliefs/cultures/religions are tricky though.. because we want to fit in. That drive to fit in will make us do crazy things. It has us adopting beliefs that aren’t congruent with our hearts and living lives that feel heavy… lives that require us to send an actor in everyday to to play a role that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. *(Religion in its essence is beautiful… I’m talking about the extremes that don’t embrace education surrounding sexuality and curiosity)

As humans we hold our beliefs SO close to our hearts that any threat to those beliefs not being true, makes us go to war, hurt others, and even reject our own family members…. It’s incredible really what we’ll do to praise a God and to keep religious and cultural belief systems alive. We are so terrified to be who we are… isn’t that insane?! We’re terrified to express our sexuality and to maybe accept that we’re meant to want to hump, to caress breasts and to tickle balls (or be the receiver of those things).

When it comes to sexuality and beliefs we have two options:

  1. Abandon the belief system to hold our identity intact, OR;
  2. Abandon ourselves to hold the belief…so we can fit into our community/religion/culture/society.

Choice numero uno leads to freedom, understanding, acceptance, curiosity and responsibility with our sexual energy because we’re not being shamed for it. AND, it allows others to be free too.

Choice number two has mannnnnny costs. What are they?

Let’s use the best case study we can of the consequences of sexual repression:

Utah, which is the state that is centre stage for Mormons, who are generally quite sexually repressive and homophobic (I do love my mormon friends… no insult to you… this data is just too powerful to ignore), has one of the highest rates of subscription porn consumption. ALSO, Utah has the highest use of anti-depressants and pain-killers.

Okay, so we can argue the science and methodologies of the studies, OR, we can just accept what this data infers:

The price of abandoning ourselves is not just a sad life. It’s a painful life.

In contrast, in a 2013 Dutch study on BDSM (aka. Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism) – These kinky sex practitioners, when compared to the general population, we’re less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, and had higher subjective well-being. Wow. Does seeking to understand and express our sexuality lead to happier and healthier humans? Hmmmm. Not a shock really, is it?

Let’s get back to the topic at hand though. Shame and repression have an enormous cost… We need anti-depressants to numb the pain of pretending to be someone else and not embracing our true selves. And because we aren’t free to explore sexually, we’ll just lock the door of our bedroom and watch other people get peed on… when we’re the ones who want to get peed on! Where’s the justice?!?

The truth is…everything in life demands to be felt. We can’t hide feelings and desires, they will always come out in some way. Unexpressed and repressed emotions live in the fabric of our being. If we hate our lives and who we’re pretending to be and we don’t actively change our lives, we will take drugs, form addictions, and either implode or explode.  The soul demands expression. The heart seeks to create peaceful connection. The human spirit doesn’t need to be indoctrinated with values and morality… we can sense on a cellular level if something feels right or wrong.

So, I want you to tap into you. I want you to ask yourself if your beliefs feel congruent with your heart. You don’t need to be a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Buddhist to be a good person, you just need to be you. When you show yourself kindness, love and acceptance, you are inherently kind, loving and accepting of others.

You don’t need to subscribe to any form of relationship that doesn’t feel right to you. You don’t have to be heterosexual if you’re not. You don’t have to believe things that cause you to feel shame and hurt. Adopt beliefs that have you feeling free and loved for who you truly are.

If you have to abandon yourself to believe anything, you never believed it in the first place.


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family, bad childhood, create family, ideal family, mark groves, family advice, createthelove, childhood

You Don’t Have To Come From A Great Family To Create One

We don’t get to choose our families that we’re born into. That’s a truth everyone can understand… and for some people that truth is very painful. The reality is that some of us win the family lottery, and others, not so much. For some of us, family will be the greatest support system and a place where our dreams and aspirations will not only be birthed, but also incredibly encouraged. And for others, family will be the source of pain and struggle, and more of a barrier to success rather than a catalyst to it.

It’s without a doubt that our childhood affects us. It has a strong influence on how we relate to other people, communicate, and often, why we’ll be drawn to different types of partners. Romantic love, to me, is where we go to heal a lot of our wounds; the wounds that were given to us by our parents, and to them by their parents…. and so on. Then, it would seem, that love, and pain, are both hereditary.

Despite the wide array of childhood experiences, we, on average seem to turn out pretty okay don’t we? A lack of love in our childhood can sometimes be the contrast we need to make love our priority as we age. Even a blissful childhood can reinforce the importance and power of sharing an emotionally-healed family tree. Yet we can often shame people with great childhoods… but that’s only because we wanted what they had.

As Carolyn Myss says, “One of the greatest sources of pain for almost all of us, is the giant misconception that we deserved a great childhood.” No one escapes childhood unscathed. We all have scars. We all have pain. And no one owns the copyright on hurt. My level ten of emotional pain might be your level three… but that doesn’t make my pain any less valid than yours, it just makes it different.

Regardless of our childhoods, where we come from doesn’t determine where we go, we do. We decide what our childhood means to us. We decide how to transform our pain into purpose… that is up to us.

To me, us healing as individuals is some of the most powerful work we will ever do because we are literally taking away generations of pain patterns and emotional wounds that have travelled through our DNA as we become  the first person to say, “Never again. Never again will I allow someone to be unloved. Never again will I let the pain of my family be transmuted to the pain of my children. Never again will I allow fear and disconnection to get in the way of love, community, connection, and safe arms to be held and to hold.”

Healing is powerful shit. It’s not just for us… because when we heal ourselves, we heal all of those around us, and most importantly, we heal up. And by up, I mean we shoot healing laser beams up our relatives’ asses and even to all the dead ones that passed on their hurt.

I was working with a client recently who said to me, “But why do my mom & dad deserve my love if they’re the very reason I’m having to process and feel all of this pain, hurt and trauma?” To which I replied, “Imagine if your parents have never felt what it’s like to receive unconditional love? And you get to be the first person to give that to them?” Phewwwwf. That’s some boombastic stuff that hits us right in the feels. When we love unconditionally, for a lot of people, that will be the first time they’ve ever experienced it.

And you know, not all of our parents and relatives are going to respond well to our love and forgiveness… but remember, we’re not giving other people love SO THAT they’ll respond a certain way. That’s conditional love. We’re sending others love and forgiveness simply because that’s the energy we send out into the world.

“I love you no matter what. Whether you choose me. Whether you receive my love. Whether you’re even capable. I love you because love heals. And when I give you love, despite alllllll the reasons I have not to, in doing so, I love myself. I heal me. Through you, I find me.”

Easy to say, right? I want to share with you a true story about this very subject:

I have a friend who comes from one of those families where everything you hear from his childhood makes your heart cringe. You wonder how parents could ever be like his. You can feel his heart and the pain that has been transplanted into him. You can feel his search for healing. You can see the child who never really felt loved for who he truly is.

He was raised religious… and when he barely turned twenty one, he got married. That’s what they did in his family, community and religion. But he didn’t marry for love…he thought he did back then, but more so he married because he thought he was supposed to… I mean, it’s what you do, right? We follow the stories and narratives of those who surround us.

Despite the obvious space and disconnect between him and his wife, he was receiving the approval of his church and family. Throughout this time he was desperately disconnected from himself. His religion shamed true self-expression and he felt trapped… And when we feel trapped we do desperate things. So, he had an affair.

His marriage would end because of that (and clearly much greater issues)… and so too would be the beginning of the end of his relationship with his family. His father and mother slowly distanced themselves from their son because they felt ashamed of his choices, his failed marriage and disassociation from the church. He was not being a good practitioner of his religion. He was not being an “ideal” son. He was human, flawed, imperfect, like all of us… but he was not given the space to make mistakes and to learn…. but boy, was he learning.

He would go on to marry the woman he had an affair with. No gaps between relationships. No time alone. One day, she said to him, “I don’t trust that if I were unable to work, that you could support us.” This cut deep.

This man had never felt supported. He didn’t know what a safe and secure relationship felt or looked like…. It was never modelled for him. He was terrified that she would leave him…. So he cheated on her too. Hurt her before she hurts him. Prove that he’s not lovable because he does unlovable things and never felt loved by his family… and the pain pattern continues.

So now, we have a vulnerable and lost  man who’s never truly been himself. Who became the type of person and made the type of choices to get the love and inclusion of his family, community and religion. And yet, despite following the path he was taught, has never been more lonely, alone and abandoned…. by his family, community and religion. Shitty deal, right?

He was terrified that he would never achieve financial success to be enough to get the love of a woman. So, what did he do next? He started running drugs to make quick and easy money… and he was quickly and easily caught.

The thing he feared most, loneliness, would be forced upon him as he was sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison. In there, he would finally face his choices, his heart, his soul… and he would come face-to-face with his truth.

Today, that man is a great friend of mine. He’s one of the most giving, loving and community-oriented people I know. He has built a great business, and a wonderful life.

Not so long ago he wrote his parents a letter expressing his experience. He told them about his pain, about how much it has hurt that they haven’t made an effort to speak to him in ten years. That religion and family should always be accepting and loving… and that has not been his experience with them. He told them that, despite all of this, he loves them and forgives them… and yet, he still hasn’t heard back.

But that doesn’t phase him. You know why? Because this man has taught me that we can create our own families. We have a ritual in our community where we have “Framily” (friends+family) dinner every couple of weeks. The host rotates and so does the theme. Friends are encouraged to bring others who don’t know anyone… new transplants to Vancouver or maybe just passing through. People who maybe don’t have a family and may have never known one.

If this sounds amazing to you, create it just like we have. It may sound scary (and super exciting) but I want you to know that, despite where you come from and whatever your past is, you can create what you seek. You can be the architect of the life and family you want. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to give it to you… the healing comes when you give it to yourself and then share that love with all of those around you. I don’t even know you… and I can tell you that I love you.

Friends can be far better brothers, sisters or parents than our own. Our past doesn’t dictate our future. We don’t forgive others so that they may move forward, we forgive them so we can.

We don’t need to be blood to be family, nor do we need church to find God. We are all family, and knowing unconditional love, is knowing God.


My GO TO recipe for family are these amazing tacos

Who doesn’t love tacos?! Try them and change your life…


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relationship advice, dating advice, vancouver relationship coach, positive psychology, nyc relationship coach, love,

If You’re a Valentine’s Day Hater, You’re Missing The Point

The cynicism surrounding Valentine’s Day is enormous. It only takes one peek at our FB newsfeed to see people buying into it or remarking how it’s a “Hallmark Holiday”.

There is tremendous value in the holiday though. For some couples it’s an amazing opportunity to celebrate their love for one another, and for others it’s a necessary reminder as to the importance of expressing our love to the special people in our lives. The reminder is great, but what does it say about the state of love and relationships that we need this reminder?

And for single people, if the pressure they feel every other day of the year wasn’t bad enough, V-Day is that pressure on speed and steroids. Combine that lonely desperation with alcohol at the bar and it’s a recipe for some high pressure loving that will lead nowhere good, unless good is an orgasm.

Why do we need to HAVE to have someone to celebrate this day with, and if we don’t, we’re a failure?

I think V-Day just perpetuates a commonly endorsed misconception and belief about relationships:

Being “in a relationship” is better than being single.

The truth is that being happy has nothing to do with being in a relationship, and everything to do with just being happy, alone.

Research suggests this too. It’s happy people who have great relationships, not people in relationships who are happy.

In other words: Happy single people become happy romantic partners. 

Happy people report greater relationship satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and a lower divorce rate. 

Of course healthy relationships and shared connections are important, but it’s not a romantic relationship that is predictive of our level of happiness, but more so relationships in general. 

People who have great interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and lovers, are happier.

Not surprisingly, they also have a great relationship with themselves. They can sit comfortably in their own thoughts and find peace and fulfillment through spending time alone. 

“My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.” – Warsan Shires

Because truthfully, it’s always been about falling in love with ourselves first. It’s from that place where we choose relationship partners who add to our already amazing life. That way we know we’re picking kick-a*s people who remind us that love comes from a place that’s whole, not empty. If they don’t improve our lives and help us grow, and us do the same for them, then they are not welcome to join us on the ride.

Sure, even when we find someone from that place of fulfillment we can still take each other for granted and the little “wake-up” that V-Day can provide is important to remind us that it’s all about the little things. 

The types of things that are the fuel to continued love and connection. 

“Do what you did at the beginning of the relationship and there won’t be an end.” ~Tony Robbins

Love is born through everything we do. Love is a verb. 

And we need to communicate it on the daily. 

I’m not saying we need to buy our partner chocolate and such each and every day. What I am saying is couples can, and need to, consistently communicate love through how they speak to and interact with one another in each moment. 

Something as simple as buying your lady her favourite coffee on your way home from work, or getting dressed up to look sexy because we want to capture their heart and show each other we’re still trying.

That’s it. People want to know that they matter. 

They want to know that you’ll still fight for them and try to win their love. 

They want to know that you’ll pry their heart open when they’re on the verge of closing it and still wine and dine them to get some loving by earning it, not expecting it. 

They don’t want you to skip foreplay because “it’s just not something we do anymore”. 

All of these things matter, and intimacy and sexual connection need to be a beautiful event and production at times. 

Sometimes candles are nice. Sometimes lingerie is. 

Team that up with some R&B and handcuffs and we have a party. 

Valentine’s Day is just another day, and it’s all about how we use each and every day to improve how we are showing up to the world and to love. 

Although this is the “official” day we celebrate, it should be no different than any other. 

It is a beautiful reminder that we should never forget love requires effort. 

Whether we’re single or taken, being happy and personally fulfilled is the most important thing we can do for not only ourselves, but also for our partner, even if we haven’t met them yet.


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Why I’m Done With Relationships

When I was twenty-seven I was in a five-year long relationship. The woman was (is) beautiful, kind, smart, athletic… she was basically perfect. But yet, despite what I tell you, there was just something in me that was screaming and gnawing at my soul that I wasn’t where I needed to be. This is about my journey through that… and a little more.

This seems shocking to read, right?! Most people thought what you’re thinking right now, “Why the fuck would you potentially question that type of partner? Hot and smart? You idiot.” All I can tell you is that it just didn’t feel right. Knowing what I had (her), and feeling what I felt was a great source of pain for me… because my intellectual mind was saying, “This is what you’re supposed to want”.

And my emotional brain replied, “But it’s not what you want.” That gap made me feel sick.

On the day we got engaged my world imploded. I looked at her as we shared the joys of her reply to my invitation to matrimonial bliss, and all I could think to myself was, “I think I’m supposed to be more excited than this.”

For the next three months my stomach was in knots…

My nights out became later, my beer consumption increased. I would sleep in our spare room and tell her I was feeling sick, when in actual fact I was secretly searching the internet for the answer to:

“How do you know if he/she is the one?”

Not surprisingly I wasn’t the first to search this subject. I stumbled upon many articles and forums with women buzzing about… the odd man would enter the conversation, with his digital head down, shamefully searching for an answer to a question most of us (especially men) are scared to ask.

But that’s where I found myself… among the often frequented, but not often spoken about, alleyways of the internet. (maybe a couple porn sites too…)

It was in that darkly lit forum that I would share my story with what I now consider saviours and angels. I would spend hours reading the stories of others and their answered questions. And honestly, I was really searching the depths of my desperate soul to understand why I felt the way I felt.

In the mornings my fiancé and I would have coffee and as she would walk out the door to work I could feel the shame and guilt wash over me… I felt like an awful person to have brought someone down this path while feeling so much trepidation and uncertainty. I would look at her through the mask of contentment I wore… An actor who was playing far too many roles; roles that weigh heavily on the soul.

It would be in the second month of our engagement that I would be asked three questions that would forever change the course of my life (of which I’ll share my answers):

1. Would you be okay if she left you tomorrow? Yes. Yes I would. Actually, I would be more than okay. I would feel like a million pounds lifted off my shoulders and the burden of responsibility to those around me to get married by ____ years old, have kids by __ years old… all of that bullshit would be gone and I could finally scream, “FUCK THE SYSTEM”. I have written before about how in these moments when we’re afraid to leave, we try to force our partners to leave. We drink, we respond sharply, we distance ourselves, we lie, we cheat. We even wish they would cheat on us, and some of my clients/readers have even admitted to having wanted their partner to die.

My gawd the lengths we will go to avoid hurting others and listening to our souls… all to not experience the pain of failing in relationship, and more specifically, being the one who ended it. But alas, I digress to the next…

2. Can you imagine what the altar would be like waiting for her, whatever your “altar” may be? No… I cannot. And even the idea of being at the altar hurts my stomach. It makes me scared, nervous, anxious… The challenging part about these feelings is that I was sold my whole life that “men are just afraid of commitment”, so that’s the message that I used to make this anxiety make sense. But I can tell you today, from my lens of clarity and understanding in looking back at my experience, that some fear related to relationships is healthy and normal, but terrifying anxiety is not. And a fear of commitment, whether you’re male or female, can have many pathologies… but don’t be so quick to dismiss your feelings and anxieties because someone one day shamed someone from leaving by saying they’re “afraid of commitment”. This fucking comment makes my blood boil because it’s so dismissive and lacks any sort of curious inquiry…. But that’s a whole other article.

The third, and most powerful question I have ever been asked:

3. Can someone else love her better? Yes. Absolutely 150% yes. This is the one question that kicked me square in the balls. And I’m not talking the kind of kick that grazes the left nut… I mean the winding up, take a run, field goal in the sacro-illiac.

It hit me. Finally. I saw it all. I was so scared to leave. I had been on a journey searching for an answer that I had always known was there. I was searching for the answer to be anything but what I knew to be true.

I look back now and I can see that I was so terrified of hurting her… I was terrified of letting go of someone so amazing. I was petrified of not meeting the expectations of my community, my friends, my family, and… loosely, deep in my subconscious, my religion/God.

But in order to maintain this facade I was not only hurting myself, I was lying to and hurting her. Sure, I deserved love that made me scream from the rooftops, but more importantly, in that space of my fear and cowardice, she deserved it more. She deserved truth. She deserved to be loved for the fabulous and amazing woman that she was and is today.

(SPOILER ALERT) I ended it. Ok… you knew that was coming.

It was both one of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had to start, and also one of the most beautiful moments of my life, because I finally, despite all of the pressure and all of the reasons I should’ve married her, chose me.

That decision, up until this point in my life, has been one of the most powerful decisions I have ever made. I acknowledged my pain. I acknowledged my heart. I saw the child in me, who was so scared, and I grabbed his hand and told him, “It’s going to be okay, we’ve got this. I’m not sure what the future looks like, but you are finally free of the emotional anvil that has plagued every cell of your body.”

how do I know if I should leave?

I want to tell you what it means to leave. I want to tell you what it means to let down someone you love, hurt them, and also know that it’s the right thing to do, and necessary. I want to be able to answer all of your questions and lead you to the same peace I feel. But I don’t think one can verbalize such an experience. It must be had. But I’ll tell you where it led me:

In the days and months after I left the relationship I was pissed. People I loved, and thought loved me, pushed me away. Some people talked behind my back, some people shamed and threw words that felt like daggers. Many told me I was:

“Afraid of commitment”

“Afraid to grow up”

And that I had “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

Some told me that I would never find anyone like her again.

These types of people will always exist… In a way I think they are a test to see if we’re truly willing to stand in our truth and in our integrity. I see them now as people who were put in my path to test my fortitude and to build my resilience. You must know for yourself too that they are driven by fear because our choices scare them. More specifically, my choice meant they could be left someday. My choice challenged the system that says:

“You work through anything and everything.”

“This generation treats love like it’s disposable”

“You made a commitment”

What I’m most grateful for though is that people loved me. People held me up when I thought I had no future. Even strangers saw the human in me; that I was hurt, confused, and lost… and loved me for it. I will be forever grateful for the friends and family I have…for their love was so much more powerful than the messages of those living in fear. They were the hope I needed to take one step, even if it was small, everyday.

The challenge with our world (among many) is that, unless there’s some form of physical and mental abuse, no one has support for the person who leaves. I’m certainly not a victim of the experience, but we’re so inundated with these messages around relationships and marriage needing to last forever that we treat those who leave as if they’ve murdered someone. As if they’ve failed at something there is no space to fuck up with.

So, needless to say, when I left, I was pissed at the people who lied to me. Because I finally saw that we hold marriage to this ideal that “You marry someone and you stay with them forever. Maybe in love, maybe not. You work through everything…that’s what marriage is.”

The love part didn’t matter though, because our ability to “stay together” is what we’ve made determine our self worth.

Want the evidence? Look at how we celebrate anniversaries instead of the quality of a relationship. When was the last time you heard someone say, “With every passing year we raise our communication game. I have never known her as well as I do now, and I’m so happy to support and love her on her journey and in her dreams.”

Instead we hear, “Oh, you made it to twenty years!! Amazing!!”

Followed by whispers… “I heard she’s banging Ben, her trainer… and he’s been humping Teresa for years.”

We have been lied to about marriage. We have been sold a story that is so filled with holes that I can’t believe the revolt has taken so long.

Want the truth?

  • Most relationships don’t last forever (you already knew this…come on…)
  • Not all people who are married are happy. A lot. Many. More than we’re willing to acknowledge.
  • Most people don’t actually know how to be in healthy, loving, emotionally expansive relationships.
  • If previous generations think we leave too soon, it is equally as safe to say that many people also stay far. too. long. As in, they die, in misery. Married though. So at least they die with jewelry.

This is why I don’t want one of those relationships. They are fake, full of shit, lack emotional connection, and are really just a couple people living together who fart, do laundry, and maybe eat dinner at the same table.

I want more. I think we all do… it’s just that no one has taught us how to even create a deep and fulfilling relationship. There is no education on relationships, and for that reason most of us will follow the path we’ve been sold by our cultures, religions and societies that say we have to marry “this” type of person, who’s “this” gender, “this” colour, and/ or “this” religion. Fuck that. This is why our hearts and souls scream to us at night, we’re all on antidepressants and, as Brene Brown said, injecting our ass fat into our faces. We do drugs, drink, seek fleeting romances, all because we’re terrified of going against a system. We’d rather live completely out of alignment with who we are so that we don’t threaten the lives of those around us.

For just over the last ten years I have studied relationships; What makes them work, why they don’t, and the intricacies of human psychology and why we do the things we do. And I studied all of this from a very selfish place: to understand myself and how the fuck I got engaged when I knew I didn’t want to. Crazy. Expensive. Fucking. Choice.

Your life lessons don’t have to be expensive (although most are). I want you to know that you don’t have to do shit you don’t want to anymore. You are not a prisoner because of a decision you made when you didn’t know what you know today. You can love however the fuck you want. You don’t have to marry in the same religion, culture or colour. You can marry a dude, a chick, or both. You can get peed on in the bedroom, you can lick butts and you can make deep, soulful love. You can be true to yourself.

The response to this by those fearful, scared people I mentioned before is generally a giant reaction that it’s going to make everyone sluts and that it means people will be selfish and destructive… people are destructive when they don’t feel loved and accepted for who they are. When people are unconditionally loved, they don’t need vices and pain outlets. (Antidepressant, sleeping, and diet pill sales are gonna plummet!!) So my only caveat to all of this advice is that you live a life of integrity and with kindness. When you’re kind to others, you’re kind to yourself.

In the thirty-eight years of my life I have been the funny kid, the athlete, the chubby kid, the pretty boy, the heartbroken guy, the player, the man whore, the college bro (I had frosted tips and wore abercrombie….gawwwwd), the pharmaceutical rep, the white picket fence checklist guy, the booty caller, the blackout drinker, the intellectual, the poet… and now, after all of that, I am me.

That journey didn’t come easy. Or free. Or simply. It unfolded and continues to unfold exactly as it should. I didn’t know why I needed to leave my engagement, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave the security of my job to become a writer and a relationship coach… but I had to. I didn’t want to run an annual conference when I didn’t know how, but I had to. I answer the call each time I get it because I now understand that we don’t get to be certain and to be in love with anything; people, jobs, dreams… all of them require vulnerability. They require leaping and letting go of what we know to be true. They require trusting. Yourself. The universe. Your heart.

Today I have a job I love. I have a partner I love. And I have never felt more connected to myself, the people around me, and now, to you. I know you may not have all of the answers today, but I promise you, one day, each leap will make sense, you just have to take it.

Trust. Trust. Trust. And love. A lot. You got this mutha fucka. Now go get it.

Are You Giving The Wrong Kind Of Love?

“Can You Actually Love Someone Knowing They May Leave You?”

I remember when a friend of mine asked me this question…

I thought this was ridiculous. In my first two relationships the women left me… and I was understandably heartbroken.

This pain led to confusion about what love was. I wondered, “How could love hurt this much and be a good thing?” My confusion turned to frustration, which translated into drinking lots of pints and making out on dance floors.

I never really thought about limiting how much I loved until I saw what love can do. Because of the devastation of heartbreak, from that moment forward I abandoned going to the depths with love and relationships (not the “drop it like it’s hot” kinda depths, I could hit tha floor). I had now subconsciously subscribed to the story, “If I love people they’ll leave. If I let people love me they’ll hurt me.” This is a common narrative that most people live by without even knowing it, and they’ve abandoned loving, like, truly loving, because they’ve been hurt. Welcome to the club, right?

What I didn’t see is that the heartbreak is love too. We want the pretty parts of love… but love is ALL the parts.

The “unconditional” part of love is where most of us get confused because most of us weren’t taught it. When our families need us to practice “this” religion, to get “this kind” of job, to marry “this kind” of person, that’s conditional love. When the people around us only love us when we do things that make them happy, that’s conditional love. When our societies and cultures only accept us when we stick to the status quo and don’t challenge their beliefs, that is conditional love.

Our need to be accepted and part of a tribe/group is inherently programmed into our cells, which evolutionarily, if we were kicked out of a tribe, meant almost certain death. Those who followed, survived. Those who didn’t, well, they aren’t on Ancestry.com.

So how do we love unconditionally when we’ve never been taught it? And more importantly, how do we love someone even if our relationship ends?

Relationships are where our  wounds are born, so it’s in relationships our wounds are healed. But in the dance of love, this isn’t so easy to do, right?! Why does healing have to feel so hard?! Gawd. No wonder we would all rather take antidepressants, get hair plugs,  and inject our lips and asses.

This is how most of our relationships play out:

We meet someone and get super excited (or we’ve been with someone for awhile and love them deeply)… and then they either don’t reciprocate our invitations to develop a relationship or they end the one we had. It’s a terrible feeling to want to build love, only to have that desire not reciprocated, and from our perspective, rejected.

When most of us love people, we don’t love them just in the present moment, we love them also because of the story we’ve built in our minds of “how it’s all going to play out.” Loving someone and holding them to a future is, in essence, conditional love. It’s “I love you as long as this story goes the way I have imagined.” Well, it seldom does.

It’s not to say that when people leave and kids are involved it’s not painful. Or when relationships end in any capacity we’re not allowed to be heartbroken – because if we did, that would mean we’re loving people conditionally. It’s not that at all.

As I said before, the painful parts are the love too. They’re the unconditional parts. They’re the parts that say, “I love you so much that I can still love you regardless of what you choose… even if that’s not me (us).”

It can be challenging to understand when our hearts have been broken, but I think most of us have been in the space where we have wished that others would’ve understood when  we wanted to follow a passion that wasn’t in alignment with what our family/culture wants, or even why we didn’t want to go on a second date. Most of us have been in the position where we’ve hoped that someone would be able to offer us compassion when we broke their hearts or left them… We have all wished for unconditional love from those around us.

conditional love, mark groves, createthelove, relationship advice, dating advice,

So what we wish for from others, we must give.

When those women left me when I was younger I didn’t understand how to love them despite their choices. Sure, I wanted what was best for them, if it meant me. And them not choosing me had me resentful. It made me angry and caused me to abandon my own heart because they followed theirs. I fell in love with a story that wasn’t mine (them being part of it), and because of that I put down the pen on my own. I tried to force a love story with those women, not seeing that if I accepted that truth (and let them go) in my heart, I would welcome in the woman who was actually part of the story I dreamt of.

You see, this is where we all get stuck; we don’t offer ourselves the unconditional love for our story to not look exactly how we thought and/or we’re taught it should be. When we do we accept and see that maybe being a doctor, having an arranged marriage, being heterosexual, getting divorced, following a different dream, are all okay paths. Actually, they’re not just okay, they’re perfect, for us… because they’re our story.

What does this have to do with people leaving us or relationships ending? We allow their path to be their path. When we allow their path to be their path, we allow our path to be ours as well. Do you see that? When we love people for being human, we give ourselves permission to be human too. Unconditional begets unconditional.

How do we make this make sense when people abandon families and/or cheat and leave? Firstly, needing to make it make sense is the foundation of building a prison to keep ourselves in. Secondly, if we get stuck in the space of wishing they hadn’t left or wanting our lives to look differently than they do currently, we are fighting against what is true. You fight reality, and when you fight against what’s real, you lose.

You need to accept what’s real, because the only alternative feels like pushing a big rock up a big hill. You look at your life as it is today, and you love yourself unconditionally. You put one foot ahead of the fucking other and you build from where you are. You start. You take care of you (and those around you) and you stay committed to your life, your story. Stop getting stuck on which actor needs to play which role and see that you’re the casting director and the fucking writer, and the lighting person, and the executive producer. You’re all of it. The whole fucking sha-bang (is that a word?!).

If you loved yourself unconditionally, you would love your life as it is. You would express and love all the parts of you, even if you think others won’t. You would put your self-worth in your hands and make you choosing you decide your lovability rather than someone else. The moment you decide whether you’re lovable is the moment you put your worthiness in your hands. When it’s in your hands, no one can ever take it from you.

I see now that it’s not whether I can love people if they stay or go, it’s: Can I stay and love me even in the most painful parts?

can't get hard, cause of ED, cause of erectile dysfunction, men's health, mark groves, createthelove, positive psychology

Why You Really Can’t Get Hard

I was a late bloomer to the sex game. Even the concept of dating a girl scared me so much that I never had to worry about the sex part, I was still working on the “be kinda cool around chicks” part. I didn’t kiss a girl until high school and the first assisted ejaculation didn’t come till shortly thereafter that kiss. Anyone who’s touched a booby knows that once you’ve touched one, you want to either touch those boobies a lot more, and/or all the boobies around you, for pretty much every waking hour. So, stopping at “light petting” wasn’t likely to happen, despite my church’s best effort.

My sexual experiences and education came quick… (the puns are so easy here, right?!?)

When I entered (gawwwwwd it’s killing me) my first relationship I was quick to fall. I was such a romantic and so excited about love that I would celebrate our monthly anniversary… Cheesy right?!? I love cheese.

I was very passionate about building a bond with my girlfriend. Relationships came naturally to me, and I had no problem being committed to the person I loved and seeking purpose in being a great and loving partner… and building and feeding my own life and passions (calm down co-dependent police).

Unfortunately (at the time), that relationship ended. As most are, it was a painful breakup. I took about seven months to myself. I went out with friends, I met new girls, but it wasn’t until I met the next girl I dated, that I got sexual with anyone again.

She would be the fifth girl I’d kissed in my life, and the second I slept with… All this by the ripe age of twenty. Why am I telling you this? You’ll see. Read on.

That relationship would end and it would break my heart wide open. I no longer wanted love, because from my perspective with a freshly broken heart, love meant hurt. I had many friends at that time were hooking up with girls and sampling different goodies. All this time I had stayed in my integrity and it had gotten me what?!? A devastated heart.

So in that moment I would choose to try a different path. A month after my girlfriend and I broke up, for the first time in my life, I brought a girl home from the bar to my parent’s house..to have a one-night-stand with. Well, that was the plan. We were both naked and about to do it, but I couldn’t get it up. For the first time in my life, my wiener was like a noodle. I mean, all systems should’ve been go. Hot girl. Check. Naked. Check. R&B music. Check. Lubricated. Check. Hard…wait. nope. fail.

And so we (I) would welcome the first of three causes of ED:

(1). Being out of integrity:

Man… it would take me years and many shots of Jack Daniels to actually own this truth: I was out of integrity for most of the sexual encounters I had outside of relationship. I am not a one-night-stand guy. But yet, for years, I tried to make this my truth. My MO. I got celebrated for hooking up with ladies and I saved myself from heartbreak by never letting anyone truly love me. I lived through and told some great stories though.

I danced in the space of promiscuity to avoid love.  Over time I would recognize that if I drank enough I could drink away my built-in guidance system that wouldn’t allow me to get erect when the sex wasn’t in alignment for me. I was drinking away the very thing that was there to protect me. Sometimes I would even use Viagra or Cialis to curb my values and integrity. Using pills to escape truth seems to be common these days doesn’t it?

The penis is interesting, right? Because it must work in order to have sex. The vagina has an out… It requires lubrication, yes. But women can still allow entry and find things for lubrication in order to have sex. A guy can’t prop his dick on a kick stand or wrap it to a popsicle stick. It has to work in order to have sex. A man doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he wears it on his dick. Our dicks are connected to our hearts, and we can’t avoid that truth. Although, do we ever f*cking try.

Which leads me to point numero dos:

(2). When we begin to actually care:

This one is messed up… because when we care is when our penis is supposed to work. I had a good friend who was a family doctor who told me that one of the number one causes of ED was “new partner anxiety”.

It would be a couple years after that big heartbreak before my walls even started to come down a bit. I hadn’t felt butterflies in years and even the hint of loving someone hadn’t edged its way into my experience. I went on dates, I drank my way through encounters. Then, when I finally met a girl I cared about, I understood this statement wholeheartedly.

I was in integrity, I cared about her. I waited until what felt like the “right” time, and then boom. No boom. Again, all systems should’ve been go. But yet, I couldn’t do it, because I couldn’t get hard.

I didn’t intellectually understand why this was happening in that moment, but now I see that my fear of getting hurt was causing me to have a fear of letting this woman in (ohhhhh the irony). In my experience, relationships had led to heartbreaks and pain. Sex, on a meaningful level, had solidified that truth. And here I was, at the potential for heartbreak’s door, and it was like trying to put a marshmallow in a piggy bank. When I actually needed to perform, I couldn’t.

I realized that I had placed my masculinity and my lovability in sex. And the pressure of having to perform for someone where it actually mattered, mattered a lot. In a way, so much that it scared me and paralyzed my dong.

(3). Health/fitness/nutrition:

In order for the penis to get erect it requires blood flow. It’s no secret that ED is related to cardiovascular disease. I’ll also save the long-winded information about how your physical health is likely directly related to your emotional health.

So, instead, let’s focus on this: Erectile Dysfunction can be a symptom of cardiovascular disease, if you’re at all concerned about the health of your vascular system and you have risk factors associated with it, definitely go to your doctor. In all reality, adhering to a healthy diet, learning how to manage stress and having a good exercise regimen are the likely solutions to this issue. The trick is, you have to want good health more than you want to work 80 hour weeks, eat sh*tty food, and continue to ignore the glaring health signs that you need to pay attention to. That’s about as clear of a PSA (Public Service Announcement) I can provide.

mark groves, positive psychology, createthelove, treat ED, erectile dysfunction

What’s the solution?

Maybe it’s time we saw our dicks as something different than battering rams? Maybe we need to see them as they are: very accurate barometers of our hearts. From emotional health to physical health, it all seems to manifest in the very thing we need in order to procreate. Ironic right? Our bodies and minds attempt to require a certain level of health and congruency in order to pass on our seed. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s time we accept as men that we are emotional creatures. We require connection and love. We desire closeness and intimacy that is safe and secure. When we’re operating from a certain level of awareness, we can’t shut off the truth that whom we choose to share our sexual energy with, is important. Accepting this reality made me finally understand the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” But boy, was it ever blissful to do shots, dance on speakers, and not know the real consequences of those choices, until I knew them.

If you want to stop getting ED the first thing you have to do is stop living out of integrity. How do you know what is in/out of integrity?! The truth is, you already know the answer to that. You know what choices you’re making that don’t feel good. You know when you’re hit by the cloud of guilt that blows over you the moment after you reach coitus. Yep. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Next, you need to make different choices, and in turn, that will change how you feel about yourself (as in you’ll start loving yourself because you’ll start loving your choices… finally!). Personally, I took a vacation from women. I vowed to not have sex or be intimate with anyone where it didn’t feel in integrity and/or who I didn’t have feelings for. This taught me that I could stay committed to my integrity, and I also learned how to live in my aloneness. I invite you to do the same. Its other incredible benefit is that it also rewires our brains by teaching us that we deserve great love and that our worthiness isn’t found in random encounters. It teaches us that we’re a man of integrity. It teaches us that we get to choose. And most importantly, it teaches us that we get to decide what kind of man we want to be.

What about the scenarios where we actually care? Most of the time in these cases it’s the anxiety of love that has us not performing, so we need to talk about it. We need to express that we care and this is why erectile dysfunction is happening. We need to let our partner in on the secret, and then it’s not a secret. ED only has power over us if we let it. Your ED is asking you to be vulnerable and communicate, which is a skill that is necessary to create a loving and wonderful partnership… Your dick is soft so it can teach you to be soft too. F*cked up right? Ohhhhh the lessons in life’s experiences are vast.

New partner anxiety and infidelity aren’t the only ways ED can show up in relationships. It can be that we’re not communicating something that hurts. Perhaps our partner cheated on us and we haven’t stood up for ourselves and dealt with the hurt. Perhaps we’re no longer attracted to our partners.  And maybe, just maybe, we’re holding on to emotions instead of sharing them.

As a partner of someone who is experiencing ED, the worst thing you can do is take it personally and make it about you. Be curious, be understanding. Don’t shame him. Ask questions. Love him. Hear him. And then ask how you can help support him.

My journey has allowed me so much clarity surrounding my relationship to my penis, to sex, and to my partner. I now see that my body always knew what was right.

It’s funny, because often I’ll get asked, “Do you regret or wish you could take any of your choices/mistakes back?” No, I don’t. It sucks that I’ve hurt people and been hurt. It is unfortunate that I had to stray from my path so much to find it… but that’s exactly it; I had to leave my truth to know what it was. Other people were part of my lessons, as I was part of theirs.

When I look back, I look back with clear eyes because I’ve learned from my past. So any hope to change it would be hoping to change the experience that taught me the very things I needed to learn to be the man I am today. So you see, there are no mistakes. Life has a brilliant way of teaching us. And sometimes that lesson is through Jack Daniels and getting some extra exercise from a few walks of shame.

mark groves, feminism, patriarchy, masculinity

Are Women The New Men?

Marry a man who loves you more than you love him. A woman will always give more than what is necessary to her lover. It is ingrained into her, like maternity. But even when a man loves you more, he will still only be able to meet you halfway.”

Halfway?!? Really?! I’m sure I’m not the only man who read this is thought, “F*ck that”. I love like a powerhouse.

I saw this meme posted recently on Instagram and I thought to myself, if a woman subscribes to this she will always be in a victim state, “He didn’t love me as much as I loved him. He could never meet me where I was at. He, he, he _____ (not the laughing hehe).”

But this isn’t the first time I’ve read a quote that condescendingly referred to men and their ability to show up and be human. We are inundated with memes, culture and media which speak to what a “real man” would do or how if a man was “man enough” he would _______ blah, blah, blah.

Imagine how you end up treating the men in your life when you believe he is “less than” you? Even though, when I work with both men and women, they both struggle with communication. Because love and communication aren’t gender problems, they’re human problems. We are all struggling with the same bullshit. None of us have any idea, at the end of the day, what we’re doing. But yet, projecting our confusion and lack of understanding on men curbs responsibility doesn’t it?

Honestly, the language about men is, more often than not, appalling, and the message we send about men to young people, both little boys and little girls, is irresponsible and unnecessary. Because we’re not teaching them love. We’re teaching them to see each other as separate and as if something is “wrong” with men. We teach young men who are scrolling Instagram that they need to become a “real man” by subscribing to what some broken hearted women wrote during their time of pain. Because if the quotes and comments weren’t coming from a place of hurt, do you see how we wouldn’t say them? When we write and/or say things that are demeaning about the other sex, we cause more separation and polarity. We perpetuate the “me vs. you”, the “us vs. them”.

It’s interesting to me, because we’re in this time where what we allow in terms of conversations about men, is like we’re back in the 1950s listening to men talk about women. It’s as though, in all the efforts to move from a patriarchal society to a balanced world, we have caused the pendulum to swing in the other direction… and now men are the new women, and women, are the new men.

It’s kind of funny really, because the usual reaction to this (and you’re likely feeling it) is to say “but men have done this to women since the dawn of time!” And to be fair, you’re mostly right. But do you see what that does? It justifies continuing the separation of genders. It takes the “Men held down women” truth, which we are still trying to resolve, and justifies the same actions. In trying to eradicate inequality, we create inequality.

That’s why war can never be fought with war. Hurt begets hurt. Pain patterns continue.

As a man, I want to say this:

I’m sorry for what we did, but we didn’t know. Just like you we were taught what was right and wrong and what roles our gender was supposed to play. We were raised to be bread winners and to continue the pain patterns of the men who came before us. But, please see, a lot of us recognize that. We are trying to change that. But when you speak of our whole gender being “broken” or “not emotional”, or perpetuating messages about “a real man”, you hurt the ones who are helping create the world you dream of. You have to understand that in order for us to meet you where you’re at and love you from our depths we must go against the very programming which did anything but prepare us to do so. We wanted to love deeply but at the same time, we were told we’re not emotional. We were told “real men don’t have feelings”. We were told that we couldn’t show weakness. We were taught, just like you, to abandon ourselves to continue to satisfy a system.

You blame men, but men have hurt men too, and so have women. The truth is, we’ve all been hurt, and if we continue to keep the hurt alive, no one can ever heal.

We’re all in pain and upset about some parts of the world we were handed. We’ve all inherited hurt. We’ve all been given this planet and these feelings… and we can either fight over who’s to blame, or put our hearts and heads together to fix it.

We all need hugs. We all need understanding and love. We all want to be connected and to feel safe to be ourselves and pursue our dreams. But we also have a responsibility over what messages and narratives we’re not only sending to the world, but also the ones inheriting it.

Be the one who chooses to spread the message of wholeness and unity. See gender issues as human issues. Be the one creating a message, not perpetuating it.

mark groves, createthelove, relationship advice, dating advice, nyc couples therapy, motivational speaker

Did Your Parents Make You Bad At Relationships?

I spent a lot of my life chasing women who would never let me catch them. And the ones who wanted to catch me? Wasn’t interested. There was no…. challenge.

As I woke up to the realities of my patterns I began to see the same stories playing out in all of the relationships around me. The same frustration that incessantly coursed through my veins was running rampant and infecting the masses.

Wait, was there a plague that caused the love of the unavailable?!

And who were these unavailable people? Why did they seem to never care as much as I did? Why did I feel like I was loving all out and they were just chilled out, not at all concerned about what was going on between us, drinking Mai Tais by the pool, never afraid to lose anyone? And, on top of that, why did I feel like I was taking crazy pills and they seemed liked they could give two shits?

Well, if you’re like I was, don’t worry, you’re not crazy, but your emotional brain is. The good news is I’m about to make all of your irrational behaviour make sense AND give you some actionable tips on how to actually choose relationships where we choose each other.

Wait… those exist?!

In relationships we generally take one of two roles… The Pursuer and The Runner. To put it more simply, we’ll either be the one always running after and chasing love (pursuer), or we’ll be the one always fleeing from it and feeling controlled and smothered by love (runner).

So you may be reading this thinking, “No way, I’ve been both”. And while you are likely right, you will be one more than the other the majority of the time… and I would put money on the fact that you became the other when you got really hurt. (I went from pursuer to runner… smooth move. This comes from the belief that love hurt us so we just won’t entertain love anymore).

“So what does this mean about me if I’m the pursuer?”

Here’s the deal, the pursuer is often someone who’s greatest fear is being left. Ironically, the very behaviours we choose when we’re a pursuer; being clingy, needy, jealous and feeling desperately fearful, are the very things that make our greatest fear (being left) realized. Add to that the fact that we tend to pick people who never really want to be caught, makes this painful reality a regular. We live in a state of fear, and we often see love and anxiety as being synonymous.

This is why when someone truly wants to love and choose us, we can often not feel excited. We mistake the safety of a secure partner with a lack of connection and there’s no spark. Know that we can change this though. Once we reduce the anxiety and live in a space of security, we begin to choose partners from a place of authentic connection, and not just because we’re repeating patterns.

Where does this behaviour begin? Why would anyone want to be in a relationship like this?! Welllll… let’s get in a time machine and go back to childhood.

Pursuers usually have a parent (caregiver) who wasn’t around. Maybe that person worked a lot. Maybe they left. Maybe they were an alcoholic. Maybe we never knew them. Maybe we had a great childhood, yet we just didn’t feel acknowledged. Maybe we were in a large family and didn’t feel noticed or heard. Maybe we felt like we weren’t told enough we were loved and shown general affection.

Having this experience as a child usually has us believing that we were never enough. That no matter how much we achieve or how much drama and trouble we cause, we will never be noticed and loved for who we truly are. Pursuers tend to act out and/or be high achievers. Pursuers are often in a constant state of anxiety because they’ve always been waiting to be chosen. They’ve been waiting to receive the love and affirmation they never got as a child. Stay tuned for the way out of this perceived insanity. (Hint: We’ll never fully choose someone who loves us for who we are till we do. We must model the love we seek.)

Runners:

Ohhhhhhh runners. Why can’t we just find someone we want to be with? Why does love scare us so much? Why does everyone get so crazy and smothering in relationships? People are so needy right?!

The runner is usually afraid of intimacy. It’s what love brings that scares the crap out of them. The runner usually has a parent (caregiver) who was controlling and all over them. They maybe grew up in a very religious and/or culturally restrictive environment. Maybe they were not rewarded for self-expression. Maybe their parents got divorced and they saw the devastation that relationship can bring. Maybe one parent abused the other (or both). Maybe they were abused by the people who were supposed to love them. Maybe they’ve had their heart broken by a romantic partner. Maybe they were bullied or picked on.

No matter the reason, runners are often afraid of what comes along with loving people and letting them in. Runners are afraid of being caught, because being caught means being loved, and their association with love is likely hurt, trauma, heartbreak, and even the loss of themselves and their own identity.

mark groves, vancouver relationship, relationship advice, couple's therapy,

Ok, so we’ve roughly broken down where these behaviours begin and how they often manifest, but now that we know that, how the eff do we change these patterns? How do we stop running after and running from love? Why the hell does our emotional brain do such crazy things?!? Gawwwwwd. Someone pass me a tequila shot.

I’m going to get real serious on you here. Our fear of being excluded from groups, tribes, communities, and most importantly, relationships, is so great that we become who we need to be to be loved. We become a identity which we create so that we get to maintain our inclusion in the group. In that moment when we begin to become an “actor” and wear a mask, we separate from ourselves…. Woahhhhh, right? That’s some deep sh*t right there. We’re not born this way though… we’re born with an open heart and a soul that longs to express who we are at our core.

So when do we begin this formation of a false identity?!

Well, the very people who welcome us into this world were taught that they had to become something else to be loved. So, just like we hand down our DNA which provides our hair and eye colour, we are also handed down the emotional wounds of our parents. So, our parents usually impart onto us the same cultural and religious expectations which were imparted onto them. They pass down the same emotional wounds their parents gave them.

It’s only fair right?!? “You need to change and become this perfect ideal like I had to, otherwise it makes my choices not make sense. You need to give up you and abandon your heart, because I had to. That’s just how life is.” (Don’t be mad at them, they were/are doing the best they can with what they have/know.)

This is why in arguments and relational experiences, we will only ever be able to go as deeply as our parents (caregivers) have gone. They can only teach us what they know. All of this is proven untrue if our parents have done the work and healed their pasts. If they’ve broken free of the mold and blazed a trail of truth.

The good thing is, even if our parents haven’t transformed themselves, we can. We can learn how to go deeper. We can learn why we do what we do and heal our childhood experience. We can look at the ways in which we’ve changed who we are, our self expression, and what parts we let the world see, and what parts we have hidden in order to be loved. We can learn.

The way out is simple, but it requires courage:

  1. Accept who you are currently being: If we can take ownership for how we’re currently showing up to love, we can make different choices, because we can’t change where we’re going if we don’t consciously know and accept where we are.
  2. Begin to lean into the uncomfortable. Patterns change by changing them. There is no escape from this truth. So, embrace your power to change your life and how you love. For pursuers it means giving love room to breath and asking for what we need from relationships. Feel unsafe and like the relationship isn’t secure? Ask for what is required in order to calm your anxiety. For runners it’s about slowing down. It’s about letting yourself get caught. It’s about communicating the fears you have and asking for the space you need to breath… and then returning once your partner gives you that space.
  3. Let love in. Decide to finally let love in, and by doing that we not only heal ourselves, we also invite those around us to heal as well. We go deeper. We see that love is meant to feel free.

Pursuer or runner, we’re both afraid of the same thing: receiving the love we so desperately crave.

The difference is we’re just going about protecting ourselves from being hurt in different ways. At the baseline of these relationship patterns is always fear. When we acknowledge and communicate these fears, we begin to dissolve them. The walls between us and other lower, and we slowly (or quickly) begin to form the belief that we are lovable and worthy of a great partnership. We change the stories we were taught. We finally get to see into our partner’s hearts and be seen in return.

So, I ask you to turn within. If you don’t do the work, no one will. And you will always hit the same emotional limit with every partner you choose. Different name, same patterns. If we’re willing to look, we’ll see that our partners are our path to healing our childhood, we just need to choose one who’s willing to heal with us.

Originally published on Thought Catalog

unworthy, mark groves, createthelove, relationship advice, not lovable, worthiness, positive psychology

If You’ve Ever Felt Like You’re Not Enough, Read This

I was born into a wonderful and loving family. I am the youngest of three children, with both an older brother and sister. When I was younger I often felt like my brother and sister related better to one another than I did to them. I sometimes felt left out on their jokes and their adventures.

For me, this was the first time I can consciously remember not feeling like I was enough. That who I was, wasn’t good enough to be included in all of the fun and the secrets that my brother and sister shared.

Next would be the time in grade eight when I was called a porker (pleasantly plump would’ve been a little nicer). Following that would be being cheated on by a girlfriend… and then by another one.

I share these experiences with you so that you can see that, time after time, we all have these moments of feeling excluded and not lovable.

Those are some of mine. What are yours?

Now the challenge with understanding our childhood experiences, such as mine, is that we look back with the eyes and mind of an adult. I can rationally process the way I felt was silly. With my siblings it was just a phase of our childhood. My brother and sister meant no harm and I have wonderful relationships with them today. My girlfriends were young and I made decisions and choices that led to their choices… we’ve since reconciled so everything is ok now, right?

What you can see from all of this, is that I can make my feelings make sense.

But here’s the issue that happens when we do this to our past stories, especially from our childhoods:

We dismiss our wounds and don’t acknowledge that when we were four, eight, or twelve years old (whatever the age), those were real and valid emotional experiences. By rationalizing these experiences, we invalidate our childhood feelings.

We often don’t think our past experiences influence our lives today because we understand them logically, but that doesn’t heal them and stop them from being the main program running in our subconscious and guiding our decisions. Our emotional brain still remembers the impact of not feeling like we’re lovable… And the pain of the fear of isolation for a human is far greater than any other psychological pain (or physical pain) we can experience. To protect ourselves and prevent this pain we often react defensively, we cling so tightly to the people we love, and, in some cases, it causes us to never let people in…because if we do, we believe they’ll just hurt us.. and often, in our pasts, we’ve been proven right.

Here’s the deal… 99.9% of us live with the underlying belief that we’re not enough. For some of us we may intellectualize it as a “fear of rejection” and/or a “fear of abandonment”. But even at the base of those fears is the underlying belief that we’re not lovable. Because of this underlying belief of unworthiness, most of us send our representatives out into the world to be the ones who are seen. The version of us who acts like everything is wonderful and then goes home and suffers from GI issues, weight issues, depression, drinks Jack Daniels for breakfast, and for some reason, has crippling anxiety and just can’t sleep.

The majority of the time, the underlying pathology is that being someone else is f*cking exhausting. Pretending like everything is ok, f*cking sucks. Acting like we believe we’re good enough by buying more shit and getting more affluence works for a bit… till it doesn’t. And then we just go into hyperdrive and pretend “everything is fine” so as to hide the scared child who lives underneath. And the truth is that we can never get enough surgeries, lip injections, botoxes  (is there a plural for this?), do enough drugs, eat enough food, become successful enough, take enough steroids, or buy enough sh*t to hide the fact that we’re afraid. The fact that we don’t believe we’re lovable.

Based on this definition most of us are frauds aren’t we?! Sh*tty deal right?! At least we’re all playing the same tricks. Really we’re just a bunch of actors and representatives running around pretending we love sh*t we don’t love and living lives composed of things we’re “supposed to” want… It’s insane isn’t it?! This is the greatest joke of awareness… that if none of us played the game, it wouldn’t exist. Welcome to the conundrum of humanity.

Freedom begins the moment we quit the game. When we begin to shed the bullsh*t stories we’ve been taught and actually decide we’re going to choose a life that reflects what we want, that we actually love ourselves, and we’re worthy of being loved for who we truly are. The trick is, we have to give it to ourselves first… and that means finally letting people see us. The real us.

How do you know if you’re kinda/sorta wearing a mask and pretending to be someone you’re not? It’s not that hard to diagnose… 

Let’s try it:

Does your partner know everything about your past? Are you both open to talking about the greatest fears and the times you felt rejected and didn’t feel like enough?

Do you persecute your partner for their pasts? Do you get hung up on how many sexual partners they’ve had and the mistakes they’ve made?

Do you hold back your real feelings and don’t tell your partner that you’re upset out of fear of being seen as “needy” and/or “too emotional”?

Do you have stories and situations that you’re holding onto in your relationship from years ago that you are afraid to talk about? (If so, it’s not in the past… it’s a giant elephant in the fucking room… it’s operating in your underlying behaviour and unconscious in every moment.)

Do you avoid telling your partner about things you’ve done because you don’t believe they can handle the truth and/or they’ll get upset?

If you’re single, do you choose people who treat you poorly? Do you keep breaking up and getting back together? Do you keep dating “a*sholes” or “b*tches”?

Do you suffer from GI disorders or skin outbreaks? Do you have pain in your body that is there despite all your efforts to understand it and treat it?

Do you subscribe to a religious/spiritual practice and hold others to a standard while you have secret indiscretions that don’t align with that practice? Do you operate with an actual set of beliefs that are different than the ones you say matter so much to you?

Do you harbour any racism and/or dislike any group that doesn’t believe what you believe?

Do you have issues with your weight, drugs, alcohol, gambling, debt, food, sex, partying… and just in general anything that seems to be an escape from the pain?

Are you currently living a life that feels out of control, and your soul is calling to you with every ounce of its power?

lonely, sad, createthelove, mark groves, unworthiness, relationship advice, dating advice,

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there’s also an incredibly high chance you’re a human being.

Every single question above indicates that  we would rather be loved for who we pretend to be as it’s safer, than be loved for who we really are… because we’re afraid that no one will love the real us. The core belief at play here… guess?!? DING DING DING. We’re unlovable.

So what’s the way out?  Awareness. Truth (getting real with ourselves). And then a sh*t ton of courage.

I wish I could sugarcoat this sh*t, but if I ask you to pursue truth I need to give it to you straight. Look, it sucked that I had to admit I was chasing love through flings. It sucked when I saw that I used alcohol as an excuse to numb my values and integrity. It really sucked when I saw that I made protecting my feeling of unworthiness – a core part of my former identity – more important than my desire to love deeply. It monumentally blew (not the good kind) when I saw that I hadn’t actually let anyone love me… like, truly love me, in sixteen years.

But I had to face all of my sh*t to change my life. I had to admit that I didn’t have it all figured out and that I’d been hiding myself and my heart because I didn’t want to get hurt. I let go of a religion that caused more separation than unity. I let go of any beliefs that made it so I didn’t meet others with love and acceptance.

It sucked but it was also the most freeing and transformative moment in my life when I decided to stop changing myself to accommodate the world, and instead said…

“This is who I am Universe. What do you got for me?”

For the first time, I let the world adjust to me.

When we finally see that everyone is full of sh*t and no one actually knows what the hell they’re doing, we begin to understand that under everyone’s representative and “perfect” life is a child who desperately craves to be loved. A child that craves a voice, and the birth of an amazing life is through giving that child words and self-expression.

How do we even begin to do that? Grab a piece of paper and a pen and take an inventory of the things in your life that are out of alignment. What do I mean by that? Anything that feels forced, heavy, and not a celebration of who you are in your heart. What relationships (family and friends included) are weighing you down? Is your job what you really want to do? Do you live in a city/place that feels good? Geez… does your home feel good?! What are the habits in your life that hurt you more than they help you?

Start there. Start with an audit of your life… and then get ready to be courageous. Because all of this stuff is easy to understand with our brains… and a whole other story to face and change. Why? Changing parts of our identity, especially a core belief (that we’re unlovable), can be challenging because of the neural pathways we’ve built and the foundations of our life (jobs, religion & relationships) have been constructed upon our identity in order to reinforce it. We’ll even fight wars and kill others to preserve our beliefs.

So, if we want to feel like we’re enough we have to make choices that reflect that. In each moment where you’re feeling stuck and/or wondering what you should do, ask yourself:

“If I was enough, would I tolerate this situation? If I was enough, would this matter? If I was enough, what would I do in this moment?”

On a final note, I want you to truly understand, like to truly feel, to awaken to the truth… that the loneliness you fear, the paralyzing concern that if people met the real you, you won’t be loved… is happening right before you’re eyes. Because if you don’t share your deepest truths with the world, you’re sending the message to yourself that you’re not lovable. The thing you fear most you’re already living in… so it can’t get worse. It can only get better. And the people who are meant to love you for the real you, will. That’s a fact. But they can’t find you till you find you.

genital mutilation, mutilation of men, mark groves, createthelove, relationship advice, dating advice

We’ve Failed Men: Here’s How

Did you know that the foreskin is the same skin that forms the clitoral hood on a woman? Crazy right?!

When I became aware of this it made me want to explore the history of circumcision. Wow, seek and you shall find. And boy, did I find a boatload of history that didn’t match the modern day stories we tell and are led to believe.

Religious rituals, rites of passage, and sexual control, all sneakily squeezed into what we’ll call a procedure that has “health benefits.” God, even writing that makes me feel like a liar.  I’ve always found evolution to be rather efficient… One would have to be VERY naive not to believe Mother Nature would remove the foreskin if having it meant death and disease…. but we as humans probably know better, right? Seems to have worked in every other area we’ve tried to shortcut (sarcasm). Good…

Let me elaborate.

Recently I was reading a controversial post on Facebook about male circumcision and a man commented saying “there are many health benefits, that’s why it’s been part of Judaic law for thousands of years.” *cough cough. The cynic in me prayed for a “you’re delusional” button on FB. I’m not attacking Jewish law, but I am challenging a clearly historical religious and tribal ritual that has manipulated modern thoughts on a procedure that is about as grounded as the idea that women were created from a man’s rib…even though men have the same amount of ribs and people are born from vaginas. Not sure who was in charge of the math there.

Alas, I digress, and instead of attacking my naive FB friend, who only wanted to protect a choice he was never given about his own penis, let’s look at what it would require of him to accept the truth about this ritual.

First, if he chose to believe anything different about circumcision, what would that mean about his religion? Secondly, what would that mean about his trust of all of the religious leaders, and even more importantly, the people he loved (and loved him) most, who put him on the chopping block?

I’ll tell you what it would mean… a ton of cognitive dissonance because what he has been taught and led to believe, which helped found and form his identity (religions are a pillar of our beliefs and how we identify), are BS. He would have to understand and accept that the people who “love” him hurt him and didn’t ask questions, questions which could’ve prevented the desecration of his nether regions. (They were doing the best they could with what they knew, but it’s still a reality one must face to accept truth.)

So, in order to prevent inquiry and a backlash, we’ve shifted the most common surgery in the world to be rooted in….ummmm…science…sure, let’s go with that. 

In light of the story we’ve chosen to tell about circumcision, I decided to dive into the extensive history and medical evidence surrounding male circumcision. Which we’ll just start calling it what it is, Male Genital Mutilation (MGM).

So let’s  explore this topic and pull the proverbial wool from over our eyes in a not so dissimilar way as the foreskin retracts from the penis head.

I’ll just summarize all the stuff you can read here.

1. It’s not rooted in science. Duh.

It didn’t take long before I stumbled on this wonderful statement:

“While studies show there is a modest epidemiological benefit to circumcision, critics argue that the number of circumcisions that would have be performed would yield an overall negative public health outcome due to the resulting number of complications or other negative effects (such as pain).”

So basically, its loosely supported medical benefit is largely outweighed by the potential negative effects of the procedure. Wow. Mind-Blown (insert sarcasm font).

We are cutting the tip of a penis. Are you kidding me?! This needs science to prove the pain of the procedure has a significant impact on the child?! The logic here is so sound… we should circumcise all males to prevent the often treatable potential health risks that can happen with an uncircumcised penis? To which the final treatment of those health risks is potentially circumcision? Hmmm. So in order to save some tips from being amputated we should just remove them all? Seems practical to me.

I’m not a scientist but I want to apply the same logic: Did you know that having an arm means you can potentially break it as a child and an adult? We should remove people’s arms. It’s rooted in as practical scientific knowledge (more sarcasm).

Also, the most compelling evidence (still weak) to support circumcision is in the reduction of the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections… So, I say, keep amputating arms… Because having two arms increases one’s likelihood to be involved in light petting (grabbing a breast), which would in turn be correlated with more penetration. No arms, less foreplay, less sexual interaction, less STIs. Perfect.

I know this analogy is ridiculous but that’s how ridiculous the circumcision argument is. Because we all know circumcision is not rooted in science. The main historical foundations of male circumcision, mostly based on rites of passage and religion, were never originally founded on being a necessary medical procedure in order to prevent health outcomes. Ironically, these are the very same foundational pillars of Female Genital Mutilation. Which leads me to my next point…

2. It’s no different than Female Genital Mutilation. 

When I first started reading about this subject I was fired up (can you tell I still am?!?). With my new found knowledge and my desire to wake up the world to the common practice of MGM, I entered a discussion with a good friend of mine who is by her own definition a feminist, and she told me to “be careful comparing the two. They are not the same and it will get a huge backlash from those who oppose female genital mutilation (FGM)”.

Wow. Faced with this feedback, I was afraid. I didn’t want to ruffle feathers or take away from the clearly destructive and appalling practice of FGM. But then it struck me:

Why are the people fighting for the ending of FGM not also super supportive of fighting for the ending of male genital mutilation?!?

I’ll say  it again, the foreskin and the clitoral hood are the same skin. Knowing this, how different we would react if when our beautiful new baby daughter is born we’re told by the doctor, “Just give me a second while I remove her clitoral hood.”

There would be OUTRAGE.

FGM and MGM are the same cause. We’re fighting for the same thing as they both share the same ridiculous nonsense. They are rooted in tribal rites of passage, sexual control, religion and, oddly enough, scientific myth (male circumcision needed this to continue happening).

3. We are violating human rights.

We are taking away a man’s ability to choose. We decide for him that he gets to lose a part of himself for no reason other than we’re afraid to challenge the status quo.

We reduce the sensitivity of the penis. We inflict trauma on a child. We cause potentially deeply traumatic emotional wounds to a boy as he is first being welcomed into the world. On a psychological note, I would love to see a medical researcher look at the attachment styles (how we connect with our mother) of circumcised vs. non-circumcised males. I bet we would find some interesting stuff there. I would also love for us to admit and acknowledge how devastating it would be to a child who was just welcomed into this world that they now will experience a severely traumatic event… all within days of breaching the safe space of the uterus.

circumcision, debate, mark groves, createthelove, positive psychology

I’m still in such awe about this subject. I feel like as a society we’ve decided to turn a blind eye to the harming of children. If we’re not standing up against it, are we not passively promoting violence against young male babies? It sounds so dramatic and controversial to say this, but based on the available literature and science, how can we not say this?!?  I was reading that “the physician is bound under the ethical principles of beneficence (promoting well-being) and non-maleficence (“first, do no harm”).” And I thought to myself, how is this not a violation of non-maleficence?! Cutting the tip of a penis off in the name of nothing, is harm. 

All of what I’ve said will likely cause a lot of resistance from people who have chosen to circumcise their child and/or are circumcised themselves. And to you all I say, sorry. To the parents who chose circumcision and didn’t know all of this, I’m sorry that you weren’t better informed. I’m sorry that you were mislead. To the poor men who didn’t have a choice in what would happen to your foreskin, let me apologize on behalf of our world. Your son’s penis doesn’t need to look like yours. He’ll understand. He’ll get it. You have the language and skills to explain it.

Neither the parents who chose circumcision nor the men who experienced it can change what happened and you also can’t get a foreskin installed, but you can stand for change.

We need to start being curiously critical of why we believe certain things. We need to challenge traditional thinking. We need to be mindful of why we do the things we do. We must question those who don’t want to be questioned. We need to have the important conversations because not having them is passively saying “yes” to a world living in fear and tradition. This is the type of world where we’re afraid to speak our minds for fear of disrupting the status quo.

For too long we have allowed people to do as they wish for whatever reason in the name of tradition, religion, science…and profit. We’ve allowed these people to destroy our food, our environment and, in the end, us.

We’re quicker to abolish peanuts from schools than we are to abolish a deeply traumatic and invasive procedure. What. The. Eff.

I guess this is something I should expect since we’ve made the Kardashians more important than global health.

I’m not ok with that, and neither should you be.

Playing “Just the tip” is a completely different game when you keep it.