Category Archives: Men

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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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.

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, 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.

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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

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.

she left, breakup, divorce, relationship advice, mark groves vancouver relationship coach, positive psychology

Love Her Before She Leaves You

“I had no idea things were that bad. When she left it was such a shock.”

Was it really? Because I’m sure there were signs lonnnnnng before the bags were packed and a trail of smoke led out your front door. This is a common feeling for men; that we didn’t know she was going to go, till she did. We didn’t hear her all of those times when she cried and didn’t feel heard or understood. We didn’t understand just how unhappy she was, and now we clearly do as she’s no longer in our life.

Don’t shoot the messenger, the research supports what I’m saying; women initiate divorce far more than men do. It’s not like this is a shock right?! A lot of the clients I work with have male partners who aren’t interested in attending coaching with their partner. Women have a more attuned emotional barometer to the relationship. And men, although not happy that their partner is dissatisfied with the relationship, are okay with the relationship just continuing as it is.

I’m guilty of this naive ignorance. I remember when I was in my early twenties talking to my dad once and telling him about my frustrations with my then-girlfriend. She had expressed to me some things that she needed for me to do better and I responded with, “If it’s so bad, why don’t you leave? You have it so good.” Wow. What an arrogant and poor response. It hurts me to even type it because I’m sure, in that moment, I completely devastated her emotional safety and told her that her needs weren’t important. What a message to send.

When I told my dad this story and what I said, he was appalled (for good reason). He said sternly to me, “Wow Mark, she’s telling you how to love her.”

Eff. In that moment my heart descended into my stomach. I needed to be better. That wasn’t how I wanted to love. And that definitely wasn’t how I wanted my partner to feel in being loved by me. There are many moments in relationships where we are being invited to love our partner. We often think these are the big things like the anniversaries, the birthdays, and the holidays. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our invitation to love others is always in the many moments in between the ones we think are important.

John Gottman, who’s a relationship guru that studies marriages, calls our invitations to connect with our partners “bids”. This could be something as mundane as one person reading the paper and declaring out loud, “Hmmmm. That’s interesting!” They’re not just making a remark. In that comment is a request to connect. In that moment we have a choice, to either “turn towards” or “turn away” as Gottman calls it.

Just how important is responding to these bids?

In the research these interactions have an incredibly powerful effect on how our relationships fair and whether or not they will last. Couples who only turned towards bids 33 percent of the time were divorced in a six year follow up. The couples who were still in magical bliss after that same six year period responded to 87% of bids.

Wow. This is profound. Gottman can predict, just by observing a couple’s interactions, whether a couple will divorce with over 94% accuracy. This is regardless of sexual orientation, whether they have children, or their socio-economic status. So, in essence, our words and how they’re delivered, literally do shape our world.

I don’t know about you, but as a man, and a human, knowing just how powerful my words and actions are and how much they can transform the world, I’m not okay with being mediocre. I want to take responsibility for my actions, the words I choose, and how I operate in all relationships, not just romantic. As men (and women), we need to be better. We need to be committed to learning how to communicate how we’re feeling so that we don’t demonstrate those unheard feelings with anger, withdrawing, frustration and words that scathe.

Of course the challenge is that we (men) have been generally cultured and socialized to not share our feelings and frustrations. We’ve been told to not use language to communicate our fears and feelings because only pussies and sissies do that. When we engage in emotional conversations, we don’t have a toolbox filled with as many words and as much emotional fluency that can articulate the range of things we’re feeling. But, the best thing about all of this is, we can learn how to.

It takes admitting that our relationship may not be so good and that we can, in fact, get much better at communicating and understanding how to have our partners feel heard. You know how women generally want to talk about the SAME thing over and over and over and over? That doesn’t happen when they feel loved, appreciated, heard and understood. And the truth is, if you love a woman like that, she will almost always give you that same love right back.

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Now, of course it would be simple if women always communicated effectively and told us what their ACTUAL needs and feelings were. So women, you’re not off the hook. You’re in a relationship with a man. And as Alison Armstrong says, “Men are not hairy women.” You need to learn how to speak his language. You need to learn that men are not broken humans who don’t have any emotional intelligence and aren’t capable of hearing you. We are different, and you also need to understand how the male brain works and that we process emotions differently (due to socialization). It’s actually on you to communicate your needs, fears and thoughts clearly. Your partner doesn’t have a google maps to your brain and heart, or even better yet, your vagina. (Although all of those things would be nice)

So, man or woman, straight, gay, whatever…We all need to begin to realize that behind every tantrum, frustration or complaint, is always an unmet emotional need. So, for example, it’s not about the fact that we left the toilet seat up AGAIN (it is funny when they fall in at 2am), it’s what leaving the toilet seat up means about them (the message they receive): they aren’t important, they’re not a priority, their needs don’t matter… etc. We need to learn how to understand what this need is and see that she (or he) is not just trying to play catch when she throws her shoe at you. She has a hurt, a wound, a fear, and what is happening is triggering that pain point. This is why communication is paramount to successful relationships.

I write this to men mainly because the emotional impact of a breakup/divorce is greater on us. This is clear in the research, as we see that men are generally more emotionally dependent on their partners. When men were asked who they would go to if they were feeling depressed, 71% of men selected their wife whereas only 39% of women selected their husband. When we lose our partners, in a lot of ways we lose our support system. Our happiness and the health benefits of relationships are also larger for us…so when we lose our relationship, often those emotions go out the door with her.

Of course hindsight is 20/20, but it doesn’t have to be.

We don’t see just how important she is, till she no longer is…with us. We don’t see how much love actually matters to us because we’re too busy watching the game. Our needs matter too, but we have to love her always, not just when we’re about to lose her. Not just till we get her back. Not just in the moments we think matter, because all moments matter.

Love and relationships require effort. We might not always understand her, but she just wants to know that we’re trying. She wants to know that our efforts match our words. She wants to know that her well being matters as much as our own. She wants to feel safe in our arms. She wants to feel loved always, not just when it’s convenient.

So love her before she leaves you. (and him too ladies).

dating advice, relationship advice, nyc, vancouver, couple, breakup, relationship coach, keynote speaking

Maybe Life Isn’t About Getting Money And B*tches

When I was nineteen I was so in love. And like it seems to always happen with great relationships at that age, she went away to college. When she was leaving we had that standard conversation about what the relationship was going to look like, but at that point in our lives it almost seemed doomed to fail. Two people in their late teens, both embarking on the initial steps of creating their schooling and careers, in two different countries. A hard time to make promises, especially ones with such a fleeting feeling as love can sometimes be. So we framed the relationship in a way that we would be allowed to “see” other people, we would just communicate when that happened(Great plan right?!).

So, in the car she went, and go she did.

Being that I was still home, everything around me still reminded me of her. It was torturous. And for her the excitement was never-ending: new school, new people, athletic fame. My heart was attached to the familiar, and hers was exploding with novelty.

The days turned into weeks, the communication was less and less. And then finally she came back for Thanksgiving. Except, she brought her “friend”, the handsome running back with the perfect smile.

I had Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family, and that “friend”. And in hindsight I can’t believe I actually sat there as I was being disrespected with each bite.

I’m not sure how naive I really was back then?!? I believed in the best in people, but I also failed to see the truths that were right in front of my eyes. I skipped the red flags to avoid the pain. Pain that was clearly very imminent to any onlooker.

She would (obviously) go on to date this guy, and I would remain in a crumpled heap of resentment. Resenting myself mostly, for not having a backbone to tell her that her way of being didn’t make my heart feel so good. That she was being sh*tty. But I was so afraid to lose her before that moment, that I let sh*t slide. Sh*t that should definitely not have slid… Sh*t that should’ve been picked up, bagged, and tossed.

A lot of what happened was my fault. I didn’t call her to be better. I didn’t have the tools to challenge her to grow.

Not many people know this, but it took me almost two years(more than that actually… you’ll see) for me to get over this experience. And by “get over”, I mean for it not to haunt me. For her face to not appear every time I closed my eyes. I thought I had known heartbreak before this… but I can honestly say that this was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

As heartbreak can often do, this one would change me in more ways than I would ever have imagined.

I began living life as a different man. I hid my heart. I started to drink more. And I became lady crazy. I don’t mean kinda crazy, I mean they were like a drug to me. I wanted all of them.

I figured that if being a great boyfriend and being kind and loving got me heartbreak, then I was done with it. I decided that I would do everything I could to not let another woman hurt me. I decided that it was time to start accumulating status, money, and ladies. I set the goal to make 100k/year and to have a porsche, a house, and a plethora of female experience.

With my new goals in mind I hit the bar scene eager and naive. Only a couple of weeks after my devastating breakup, on halloween, I did two things I had never done before: I made out with a girl on the dance floor, and brought a different girl home… to my parents’ house. Who was, ironically, dressed as a devil.

I had never done this one night stand thing before. But I did know how to talk shit. So, I talked about all of the crazy sex-fuelled stuff I was going to do to her, and then when I went to have sex with her, I had another first, it was like putting a marshmallow in a piggy bank. One. Night. Stand. Fail.

And I wish I could blame alcohol, but that had never affected my performance. I’ll tell you exactly why: because I was stepping outside my integrity and who I was in my heart.

But that didn’t stop me. I would be committed to this new way of life. My solution to my new found emotional erectile dysfunction would be to drink the anxiety away. To anesthetize my heart, and to win the acclaim of men around me for my skills with the ladies. I would not only get to experience the “love” of many women, but also become an incredible story teller.

It’s interesting to look back at this time, because, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t consciously see why I was doing what I was doing. I just knew it didn’t feel good in my heart. But it definitely felt good in terms of novelty and orgasms.

But it had become part of my identity. To be a ladies man and to be celebrated for the things I saw in rap videos.

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I got asked recently, “Who do you think you need to be to be loved?”

And wow. That floored me. Who I’ve thought I needed to be has shifted for me as I have grown up.

When I was in my teens it was being funny, athletic, kind, and a good man. Striving to help others, and always being sensitive and empathetic to those around me.

After my breakup though it changed. I did something one should never do: I made someone else not choosing me mean that I wasn’t good enough. Since I didn’t feel like I was good enough as I was, I chose to become someone else. I abandoned parts of my true self to ensure I got the love of others. I became who I thought I needed to be to be loved. Because I thought who I was, wasn’t good enough.

In the last seventeen years I have had so many amazing women in my life. Some of them (obviously) shorter experiences than others… Shit, I’ve even had a fiancee. I’ve shared laughs, cries, travel, adventures, heartbreak, and learnings that I would never take back.

Through all of it I see that I have had women who are willing to show up for me. To love me. To choose me.

But I couldn’t see them then. I was so busy running from love that I didn’t see it sitting in front of my eyes at every turn.

It killed me when I realized this recently, but I haven’t let anyone love me in seventeen years. Seventeen effing years. Sure, I’ve been in relationships. But I never  actually let anyone *in*. Mostly, because I thought if I let someone love all of me they would hurt me. They would leave. They would make me heartbroken.

It’s flawed logic isn’t it?

To ask for love and not willing to be heartbroken. Knowing that the depth we love is always met with an equal and opposite potential for heartbreak.

Also, to be in a relationship with the purpose of seeking love and affection, yet never allowing anyone to give it to us. And on top of all of that, expecting others to love us when we haven’t even taken the time to love ourselves.

I now see that the journey is always inside our own hearts first. I see that the amount of love we have for another is limited by the love we have for ourselves.

So I’ve journeyed within. I love hard. I live in the space of absolute authenticity now. I am me. That’s it. I write and speak on the subject of how humans connect because it’s my favourite. To help people find and see their truth so they can then connect better with others. I write about my journey because I’m not afraid of owning my sh*t, and I hope you may see parts of yourself in me so you may learn without making the same mistakes I’ve made.

I do not regret a moment of my past. I do not regret a single relationship or a single decision, and I would take every second, every fleeting romance, and every heartbreak just as they came. They have taught me so much, and any deviation wouldn’t have brought me where I am today. To a place I am extremely proud of.

In the last four years I have been going through an “unbecoming” of sorts. I recognize that no amount of money, ladies, cars, houses, or “stuff” will ever be able to replace authentic connection and showing up as who am in my core. We chase and accumulate these material things to avoid ourselves. To avoid actually showing up unapologetically and saying, “I trust that you’ll love me for me, and if you can’t/won’t, that’s ok, because I’m amazing how I am and if you won’t, I will find someone who will. I am not willing to become someone else to be with you.”

Here’s what I know to be true:

Show up for the world. Show up for you. Let go of all of the bullsh*t and just allow yourself to be who you are. No one is going to give you permission. No one is going to make you. If you truly want to love and build partnership, you have to let yourself be you. You have to stand in your truth. You have to remove the layers of who you think you need to be to be loved, so that you can love all out.

I feel like I’ve just been born again. Definitely not as a virgin though. But more so as me. To fall in love. To be given another chance. To actually give another woman a chance. To focus on being the good man I know I am.

dating advice, relationship advice, nyc, vancouver, couple, breakup, relationship coach, keynote speaking

Maybe Life Isn’t About Getting Money And B*tches

When I was nineteen I was so in love. And like it seems to always happen with great relationships at that age, she went away to college. When she was leaving we had that standard conversation about what the relationship was going to look like, but at that point in our lives it almost seemed doomed to fail. Two people in their late teens, both embarking on the initial steps of creating their schooling and careers, in two different countries. A hard time to make promises, especially ones with such a fleeting feeling as love can sometimes be. So we framed the relationship in a way that we would be allowed to “see” other people, we would just communicate when that happened(Great plan right?!).

So, in the car she went, and go she did.

Being that I was still home, everything around me still reminded me of her. It was torturous. And for her the excitement was never-ending: new school, new people, athletic fame. My heart was attached to the familiar, and hers was exploding with novelty.

The days turned into weeks, the communication was less and less. And then finally she came back for Thanksgiving. Except, she brought her “friend”, the handsome running back with the perfect smile.

I had Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family, and that “friend”. And in hindsight I can’t believe I actually sat there as I was being disrespected with each bite.

I’m not sure how naive I really was back then?!? I believed in the best in people, but I also failed to see the truths that were right in front of my eyes. I skipped the red flags to avoid the pain. Pain that was clearly very imminent to any onlooker.

She would (obviously) go on to date this guy, and I would remain in a crumpled heap of resentment. Resenting myself mostly, for not having a backbone to tell her that her way of being didn’t make my heart feel so good. That she was being sh*tty. But I was so afraid to lose her before that moment, that I let sh*t slide. Sh*t that should definitely not have slid… Sh*t that should’ve been picked up, bagged, and tossed.

A lot of what happened was my fault. I didn’t call her to be better. I didn’t have the tools to challenge her to grow.

Not many people know this, but it took me almost two years(more than that actually… you’ll see) for me to get over this experience. And by “get over”, I mean for it not to haunt me. For her face to not appear every time I closed my eyes. I thought I had known heartbreak before this… but I can honestly say that this was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

As heartbreak can often do, this one would change me in more ways than I would ever have imagined.

I began living life as a different man. I hid my heart. I started to drink more. And I became lady crazy. I don’t mean kinda crazy, I mean they were like a drug to me. I wanted all of them.

I figured that if being a great boyfriend and being kind and loving got me heartbreak, then I was done with it. I decided that I would do everything I could to not let another woman hurt me. I decided that it was time to start accumulating status, money, and ladies. I set the goal to make 100k/year and to have a porsche, a house, and a plethora of female experience.

With my new goals in mind I hit the bar scene eager and naive. Only a couple of weeks after my devastating breakup, on halloween, I did two things I had never done before: I made out with a girl on the dance floor, and brought a different girl home… to my parents’ house. Who was, ironically, dressed as a devil.

I had never done this one night stand thing before. But I did know how to talk shit. So, I talked about all of the crazy sex-fuelled stuff I was going to do to her, and then when I went to have sex with her, I had another first, it was like putting a marshmallow in a piggy bank. One. Night. Stand. Fail.

And I wish I could blame alcohol, but that had never affected my performance. I’ll tell you exactly why: because I was stepping outside my integrity and who I was in my heart.

But that didn’t stop me. I would be committed to this new way of life. My solution to my new found emotional erectile dysfunction would be to drink the anxiety away. To anesthetize my heart, and to win the acclaim of men around me for my skills with the ladies. I would not only get to experience the “love” of many women, but also become an incredible story teller.

It’s interesting to look back at this time, because, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t consciously see why I was doing what I was doing. I just knew it didn’t feel good in my heart. But it definitely felt good in terms of novelty and orgasms.

But it had become part of my identity. To be a ladies man and to be celebrated for the things I saw in rap videos.

relationship advice, dating advice, couple, vancouver, nyc, mark groves, positive psychology

I got asked recently, “Who do you think you need to be to be loved?”

And wow. That floored me. Who I’ve thought I needed to be has shifted for me as I have grown up.

When I was in my teens it was being funny, athletic, kind, and a good man. Striving to help others, and always being sensitive and empathetic to those around me.

After my breakup though it changed. I did something one should never do: I made someone else not choosing me mean that I wasn’t good enough. Since I didn’t feel like I was good enough as I was, I chose to become someone else. I abandoned parts of my true self to ensure I got the love of others. I became who I thought I needed to be to be loved. Because I thought who I was, wasn’t good enough.

In the last seventeen years I have had so many amazing women in my life. Some of them (obviously) shorter experiences than others… Shit, I’ve even had a fiancee. I’ve shared laughs, cries, travel, adventures, heartbreak, and learnings that I would never take back.

Through all of it I see that I have had women who are willing to show up for me. To love me. To choose me.

But I couldn’t see them then. I was so busy running from love that I didn’t see it sitting in front of my eyes at every turn.

It killed me when I realized this recently, but I haven’t let anyone love me in seventeen years. Seventeen effing years. Sure, I’ve been in relationships. But I never  actually let anyone *in*. Mostly, because I thought if I let someone love all of me they would hurt me. They would leave. They would make me heartbroken.

It’s flawed logic isn’t it?

To ask for love and not willing to be heartbroken. Knowing that the depth we love is always met with an equal and opposite potential for heartbreak.

Also, to be in a relationship with the purpose of seeking love and affection, yet never allowing anyone to give it to us. And on top of all of that, expecting others to love us when we haven’t even taken the time to love ourselves.

I now see that the journey is always inside our own hearts first. I see that the amount of love we have for another is limited by the love we have for ourselves.

So I’ve journeyed within. I love hard. I live in the space of absolute authenticity now. I am me. That’s it. I write and speak on the subject of how humans connect because it’s my favourite. To help people find and see their truth so they can then connect better with others. I write about my journey because I’m not afraid of owning my sh*t, and I hope you may see parts of yourself in me so you may learn without making the same mistakes I’ve made.

I do not regret a moment of my past. I do not regret a single relationship or a single decision, and I would take every second, every fleeting romance, and every heartbreak just as they came. They have taught me so much, and any deviation wouldn’t have brought me where I am today. To a place I am extremely proud of.

In the last four years I have been going through an “unbecoming” of sorts. I recognize that no amount of money, ladies, cars, houses, or “stuff” will ever be able to replace authentic connection and showing up as who am in my core. We chase and accumulate these material things to avoid ourselves. To avoid actually showing up unapologetically and saying, “I trust that you’ll love me for me, and if you can’t/won’t, that’s ok, because I’m amazing how I am and if you won’t, I will find someone who will. I am not willing to become someone else to be with you.”

Here’s what I know to be true:

Show up for the world. Show up for you. Let go of all of the bullsh*t and just allow yourself to be who you are. No one is going to give you permission. No one is going to make you. If you truly want to love and build partnership, you have to let yourself be you. You have to stand in your truth. You have to remove the layers of who you think you need to be to be loved, so that you can love all out.

I feel like I’ve just been born again. Definitely not as a virgin though. But more so as me. To fall in love. To be given another chance. To actually give another woman a chance. To focus on being the good man I know I am.

love, dating advice, relationship advice, couples, feminism,

Maybe You Don’t Have A Man Because You Don’t Need One

“I don’t need a man.”

I have always found this statement rather disheartening. It’s a phrase that is often expelled from the lips of a spiteful woman.

Its roots are in the wake of a feminist movement that saw many women left abandoned. Wives and mothers who dedicated their lives to family, only to be left without a career, their own money, and their husbands often withholding child support in order to control and manipulate.

I get it, the “breadwinner” marriages of the mid-twentieth century had few winners. Patriarchal relationship structures communicated the role of women to be one of servitude. “Dedicate your life to your man and your family, and he’ll take care of you, meanwhile you’ll compromise everything, including your own identity.” Sounds like a crap deal to me.

So, here we are, in the wake of a necessary feminist movement, with messages that swung the pendulum in a totally different direction. Men and women, who experienced and/or observed the devastation from relationships of the past, communicate to their daughters messages of strength:

“Never depend on a man.”

“Be independent.”

“Never need a man.”

“Take care of yo’self”

It’s important to honour that these messages are absolutely necessary and important. However, when these messages are not clarified, they are left to be interpreted by the receiver… unfortunately that receiver is often a child who lacks the intellectual maturity to ask questions and look for more direction.

Left unexplained, what we often hear are messages like:

“Never open up to a man.”

“Never depend on anyone.”

“If you ever feel like you ‘need’ someone, you’re giving too much.”

And of course, with these messages comes the conundrum:

We are all human, so, inevitably, we fall in love.

And, in turn, we want to give ourselves to the relationship, but there is just something holding us back and we begin to feel the devastating consequence of a message of strength gone wrong.

We live our relationships from the place of:

“Never let your man feel like you need him.”

And that’s where we are today, in a space where often (not always) women are taught to not need a man and when they’re in relationships, they are incredibly scared to do or say anything that could communicate they are vulnerable and want to depend on their partner.

Although that fierce independence is brilliant and inspiring, taken to the extreme it has negative effects on an essential component for relationships:

If our partners don’t feel like we need them, why would they stay? Why would they want to feel vulnerable and give themselves to the relationship?

Men are creatures of purpose. We want to provide and have a role in a woman’s life. We want to be able to love our woman. And when that woman communicates either directly or indirectly that she doesn’t need us, it hurts.

What we hear is that we don’t fit. We have no purpose in her life.

In addition to that, a large percentage of women are out-earning their partners. The role of man’s purpose as a provider in the relationship has shifted. A man’s success and identity have been evolutionarily rooted in being the provider, and when that role is no longer available, men seek to find another role in the relationship and/or in other areas of life.

Let’s be clear, it does not rest on the shoulders of a woman to create purpose for a man. However, it is important that each person create the space for their partner to find and experience purpose, even if that is within the relationship. The challenge is that we need to develop the awareness to step past all of the messages and identities we’ve been taught of what it means to be a “man” and an “independent woman”. 

When we adopt these identities we often have an incredibly hard time gaining deep and connected long term relationships… because most men are still driven and rewarded based on archaic ideals, and most women have moved past old roles and into the role of the masculine… leaving no space for a man to love and appreciate his partner, because she’s now the provider, the parent, and she doesn’t need no man to take care of her.

There’s no space for a man, because women are being that man. 

breakup, relationship advice, dating advice, couple, love, inspiration, positive psychology, positive relationships

So what do we do? Women are the new men, and men have no clue what the hell to do. Where does that leave relationships?

This isn’t about just women. This is about what messages, identities and roles we’re creating and subscribing to as humans. It is our responsibility to take control of our own hearts, and together, regardless of the combination of gender, we need to create relationships that work for us.

We need to step outside of what society, culture and religion have taught us, and create relationships and identities that align with who we are as individuals, and how we want show up to the relationship.

We need to stop trying to be so tough and actually let people in. Men and women need to create space in their lives for each other. And although it is so empowering and beautiful to observe women so rooted in their purpose and taking over the world, women can do that and still be loving and maternal. Falling and being in love doesn’t give a woman’s power away, it actually makes women more powerful. 

We need to see our relationships in the same way we see businesses. Much like a corporate culture, we design our relationship environment, including how we want to feel and who we want to be within that partnership. Relationships today are partnerships, and partnerships require shared agreements and intentions. By discussing and coming up with these agreements and intentions together, we allow ourselves to create the relationship we want. We become the creators of our reality. 

And at the end of the day, if we want great love and great relationships, we have to let people love us. Again, we have to let people in. Till we do that we’ll always be loving with half our hearts. And I don’t know about you, but I’m too full of life and love to waste it settling for “safe” and “comfortable”. I want to be able to depend on my partner, and her feel needed as well.

Let’s get better, together. 

relationship advice, dating advice, positive psychology, marriage, wedding, vows, communication, divorce, breakup, relationships, love, dating

Why The Promise Of Forever Can Mean The Death Of Your Relationship

It’s really interesting that we go from relationships of varying quality and length in our teens and twenties and then leap into a “serious” relationship or marriage and expect it to last forever.

Often, we haven’t learned from our past relationships or taken the time to ask ourselves how we contributed to those relationship outcomes. When a relationship ends, it’s easy to blame the other person but sometimes we neglect to explore what our role was.

How do we learn how to “be” in a relationship? Are we ever really ready for marriage and lifelong monogamy?

Most of our relationship knowledge and skills come from our parents and various other mentors.

This can be a good thing. But it can also be an extremely bad thing.

Our parents might have left a path of destruction and then we wonder why we have blocks to love. Seldom is it true that they loved perfectly and are models of monogamistic bliss. They are human after all.

By the time we finally “commit”, most of us have not actively sought out what makes relationships work.  We haven’t done an inventory of the behaviours we have and don’t have, that influence how we merge hearts and how to build and maintain love.

On top of that, we might never have learned how to pick great partners or to explore and honour what connection truly is.

Relationships don’t generally last a lifetime. I’m not trying to be a negative dick. This is a fact. One that we usually choose to ignore.

People get fired up over divorce and breakups. As a society, we frown upon the divorced. Their story reflects one of our greatest fears; that our relationships might one day end too.

And that fear makes sense. Breakups are hard and it’s easy to get caught up in the dream of soulmates and having one lover for our lifetime. We all want to believe that life and love is always puppy dogs and ice cream. (I love both).

It’s not. Love can be hard. Love can hurt. Love sometimes feels as though it fails us. And ironically, love is often one of our greatest sources of pain.

And if love wasn’t already hard enough, let’s throw in the fact that sometimes we make bad choices and end up down a path that is no longer where we want to be. After all, this is real life. Not a fairy tale or perfect love story.

In this real life, relationships don’t “fail” per se. We tend to outgrow them, or don’t have the skills necessary to navigate them. We often don’t know or understand how to grow together. And at times, we exist in relationships where we were never really invested in the first place.

Relationship longevity is only ONE marker of relationship success.

Certainly not the only one.

But it is BY FAR the one we place the most emphasis on.

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This is ridiculous. If “staying together” is our gauge of success, then almost everyone on this planet is/will be, or has been a failure at some point in their life. And all of us have this human relationship game all wrong.

The truth is that anyone can make the worst relationship last forever. Because “staying together” tells us nothing about the juice of the relationship. It’s not a marker of the quality of the relationship.

I believe we should define relationship success in a way that holds us accountable.

Are you doing the best you can? Are you being the best possible partner you know you’re capable of being? Are you making the choices and living in a way that you expect from your partner?

Yes? Amazing.

No? Why not?

Do you love who you are and bring that back to the relationship?

If not, why? What’s holding you back?

Instead of being driven and focused by needing the relationship to last forever, set it as an intention that guides your behaviour in each moment.

Relationship success is about living in the now and showing up each day. It’s about being the best possible version of you in each moment. And choosing your partner – moment by moment.

We can only take responsibility for our side of the relationship. It’s up to us to set the benchmark for the type of relationship we want. Those that can’t keep up, won’t. But instead of holding onto someone and dating their potential, let them go and find someone who’s ready and wants to love like you do.

By living and loving this way, we reframe what the end of a relationship means for us. We do everything we can and if a relationship ends, we let it go because we’ve done our best. We’ve given it our all. 

You are accountable to your potential. How you choose to live and love is up to you! Don’t wait until shit hits the fan to figure out how to be a great partner.

Choose to be amazing today.

Strive to be and do the best you can. Embrace the adventure. Accept and appreciate your learnings. And always move forward. Even if it’s just a small step.

When we live and love like this, moments add up into days, the days into years, and maybe even the years into your forever.