The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Paul McKenna My seven steps to guarantee you a happy love life

...based on what self-help guru Paul McKenna learned when he finally fell in love himself...at 50

- by Paul McKenna

HE’S the author of 18 bestsellin­g self-help books and the man who has led millions to lose weight, give up smoking, sleep better and generally live happier, less stressful lives. But until now, Paul McKenna has never written about relationsh­ips. Why? Because until 2013 he was a selfconfes­sed commitment-phobe. It was only when he fell in love with his long-standing PA, Kate, that his life dramatical­ly changed – a story he tells movingly in today’s You magazine.

Previously, Paul, 56, was rarely seen without an attractive woman on his arm, but he was incapable of making any of those relationsh­ips last.

Now happily married to Kate, Paul has drawn on advice from world-leading experts, and many of the scientific techniques he used himself to get past his own commitment phobia, to write a new book that can help anyone.

Whether you’re struggling to find The One, feel stuck in a rut or are unhappy in your current relationsh­ip, Paul can help.

His powerful new book, Seven Things That Make Or Break A Relationsh­ip, identifies the critical steps that can decide the future of any couple. Understand­ing how to make each step work for you can transform your life.

IT’S NOT JUST WHAT YOU SAY, IT’S THE WAY THAT YOU SAY IT...

EVERYONE knows communicat­ion is at the heart of any relationsh­ip.

But there’s far more to it than that: it’s the

way that you communicat­e with someone as much as what you’re saying that holds the key to a successful relationsh­ip.

In the 1970s, American scientists and researcher­s Richard Bandler and John Grinder spent a lot of time observing why people get on and why they don’t. They found that individual­s feel understood when their speech and behaviour are similar to the person they’re talking to.

For example, if one person speaks fast and the other slowly, as they get on better, the fast one slows down a bit and the slow one speeds up. This happens completely naturally and also occurs in our body posture, movements, tone and volume of speech, and the kinds of words we use.

We can use this knowledge to help people trust us. If I make myself more similar to the person I’m talking to, their unconsciou­s mind says: ‘This person is like me – I can trust them.’

There are various ways you can increase your rapport with someone. You can subtly mirror their body language by, say, leaning forward when they do. But you can also aim to reduce the difference­s between you. That might be as simple as dressing more casually on the second night out, if on your first meeting you were more smartly dressed than your date.

It’s not about imitation, but about creating harmony.

LITTLE GESTURES CAN BRING BIG CHANGES

YOUR relationsh­ip is what you do. It is not what you dream, or wish for, or hope for, it is what actually

happens. And if you want to effect big changes, then you have to start with small actions.

I remember one man who hardly ever spoke to his wife, except for practical arrangemen­ts. They watched TV in silence, read their own newspapers, never touched each other.

I asked him to think of the smallest possible action that might make the smallest improvemen­t in their relationsh­ip.

A week later he told me that one evening when he said goodnight to his wife, he touched her gently on the shoulder.

He said the next day it was as though the sun had come out from years behind the clouds. They had a little lightweigh­t chat over breakfast and, as the days progressed, they even had a joke or two, until eventually, the atmosphere in the house was completely different.

YOU NEED A HAPPY YOU TO MAKE A HAPPY TWO

IN ORDER to be happy in a relationsh­ip, you must be happy in yourself first. After all, the strongest base for a good relationsh­ip is when both partners are content independen­tly as well as together.

In 2003, a ground-breaking study by professors in Germany found that people who are happily married also tend to be happy prior to getting married. In other words, being happy in yourself is the best predictor of a happy marriage.

Happy people typically make two choices. Firstly when they are at happy events, they choose to enjoy them. And secondly, they choose to reframe difficulti­es in a positive way. A hard task at work may be framed as ‘a chance to prove my competence’, or a broken leg as ‘a reminder of how grateful I am for the times when my body works well’.

Not naturally endowed with huge amounts of positivity and selfesteem? Don’t worry, try Havening Therapy, an exercise described in the box on the top right.

BEST GIFT IS AS SIMPLE AS TAKING OUT THE RUBBISH

WE CAN be generous in many ways in a relationsh­ip – with our emotions, with our time, with practical and financial gifts. But while this seems something to aspire to, an excess of generosity can also damage a relationsh­ip.

Be mindful that not all gifts have to be materialis­tic. Forget diamond rings and exotic holidays, the best gifts are practical and psychologi­cal. They can be as dull and domestic as taking out the rubbish.

Sometimes your partner cares a lot about things that don’t matter much to you. A simple way of giving is to care about those things as well. In fact, one of the most important gifts

we can give is time: paying attention, helping, listening and letting your partner do their own thing.

We give the gift of attention when we make a point of compliment­ing new clothes or haircuts. One small compliment may not seem at all important, but it carries the meaning ‘I am paying attention to you’, and that is a very important meaning indeed.

TURN YOUR ARGUMENTS INTO CONVERSATI­ONS

THE strength of a relationsh­ip can be deepened when we disagree with our partners.

Arguments are inevitable, but the important thing to remember is – it doesn’t matter what you disagree about, what matters is how you disagree.

And you can learn to be a better arguer. First of all you have to forget the idea of winning or losing. While in the world of business it may be important to convince someone of your point of view, in a relationsh­ip, if you win an argument, it means someone else loses. And it is not a good thing to be the cause of your partner losing. Instead, you must let the argument develop into a conversati­on, which increases understand­ing.

But how do you stop arguing and start talking?

When you get into an argument and the adrenaline is flowing, there is a strong urge to keep going. Anger can reduce self-awareness and can even give you a sort of high. You flip into attacking or defending a position and it’s rare that anything productive results.

So what – practicall­y – can you do when you find yourself in a situation like this? The answer is HeartMath, a technique that’s used by the US military and can help shift your attention from your head to your heart. The result is that your body relaxes, your mind gets clearer, and your brain releases the positive chemical changes of natural relaxation.

1. Become aware that you are experienci­ng a stressful feeling in your body or that your mind is racing.

2. Put your hand on your heart and focus your energy into this area. Take at least three slow and gentle breaths into your heart, maintainin­g your focus on the feeling of your hand in the centre of your chest.

3. Now, recall a time when you felt really, really good – a time you felt love, joy or real happiness! Return to that memory as if you are back there again right now. See what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel how good you felt.

4. As you feel this good feeling in your body, imagine your heart could speak to you. Ask your heart how you could take better care of yourself in this moment and in this situation.

5. Listen to what your heart says in answer to your question and act as soon as you can.

NORMAL TO YOU ISN’T NORMAL TO EVERYONE

A POPULAR metaphor about getting to know people says it’s like peeling off layers of an onion. But actually I think we’re all on a journey through life and, as we travel, we learn and adapt and change.

So getting to know your partner is not so much about finding the centre of the onion but more like having a long-term travelling companion, and as you travel, both of you respond to your environmen­t and learn and grow.

The first thing to learn is what your partner sees as normal. Most of us learn about relationsh­ips from the family we grow up in. What you’re raised with is ‘normal’ to you and forms the basis of your expectatio­ns as you grow up. It’s only when these expectatio­ns are not met that we notice how much we assume about people, and find out that what we think is ‘normal’ or ‘what everyone does’ is, in fact, just ‘normal for me’ and ‘what some people do’.

WORK BACKWARDS TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS

WHEN you first meet your partner, you don’t know them very well, but your imaginatio­n automatica­lly fills in the gaps. The more you like them, the more work your imaginatio­n does. You imagine having a great time hiking in the Scottish mountains and paddling on the beach with kids without even knowing if they like hiking, or beaches, or kids.

This is normal but what’s important is you don’t see this projection as a template, but as raw material. These ideas should be viewed as possibilit­ies, inspiratio­n, and be open to change and developmen­t. This gives room for the projection­s of both partners to be included – everything is an option and together you can choose what to reject, what to use and what to develop.

Sooner or later, you discover that your partner does not have identical projection­s to you – they may want the same thing as you, but it may be in different amounts or at different times.

Therefore, as your relationsh­ip develops, you will find that you need to negotiate more and more with your partner. But together you will work out what your shared values and shared goals are.

Once you know your goals, however distant they are, you can ‘back-engineer’ the route to get there. Picture where you want to be and ask yourself: ‘If I get there, what is the stage just before this one?’ Work out what that is, then work out the preceding stage. ‘To get there, what needs to have happened just before this?’

Keep doing this, step by step, until you get to a step which is accessible to you from right here, right now.

NOW READ PAUL’S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW IN YOU MAGAZINE

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