Love Seat

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - Albert Einstein   

Helpful Notes on "Love Seat" at the bottom of document.

Pre-Flight CheckList

Partner “A” is the person bringing the issue.

___ Pre- Breakthrough work (This is your key to success. Don’t come to a Love Seat hot.) 

___ Determination that this issue is, in fact, one specific issue vs. two, three or more, all bunched up. 

___ U.S.A. request planned (Unloaded, Specific, Affirmative). 

___ “Shame filter thinner” prepared and/or planned (i.e. food, a special walk in the forest, back-rub etc.) 

___ "I recognize that this Love Seat is not a tool to assist me in venting. It is also not a tool to assist me in getting my loved one to change.  This Love Seat is to increase accountability and to assist my loved one and me in finding our way back to each other’s hearts."   ___ Yes   ___No   (If "Yes", you're ready).


"Partner A" enrolls partner B i.e. “There’s something I need to talk about.  Could we do a ‘love seat.' ? When would be a good time?” (Note: you'll need 30 minutes at the very least).

Note: If your partner says "What's it about?" you could tell him or her , but this usually doesn't work out.  It's better to say, "If it's O.K. I think I'd rather tell you once we sit down and take some time to talk."

Love-Seat Conversation

"Partner A" does a preliminary “thinning” of partner B’s shame filter i.e. back rub, food, or even just walking and holding hands etc. (Remember, all these pieces are optional.  Be inspired.)

1) "Partner A" owns his or her inner experience.
Note to Partner A: In order to foster unconditional trust please follow this initial script below, allowing the truth of these words to find their way into your heart, to whatever degree is currently possible:

“This is about me.  It’s about my insecurities, my defensiveness, my self-doubt and dependency.  It always is.  My upset is always about me.   It’s about me trying to piece together a sense of security and confidence and a deeper connection to you.  Thank you for helping me.”    

2) "Partner A" describes his or her inner experience & seeks clarification.

Important tips for Partner A before proceeding:
a) Speak tentatively vs. judgmentally.  Focus on only one issue.  
b) Focus on your own inner experience, worry, fear vs. your spouses poor performance or character weakness.
c) Give a brief, objective, description at this point, while remaining open to the possibility of your own misinterpretation. 
d) Describe what objectively happened or was said vs. a description of your partner’s shortcomings. i.e “When you leave the milk out...” vs. “When you only seem to be thinking of yourself." 

“When you _________________ , where I or go with it is that I felt (or feel) _______________." 


"It seems like _______________________" i.e. description of situation from your point of view i.e. It seems like you don't want to play with the kids much." etc.       


"Sometimes my experience of you is that it seems like _______________________" i.e. "It seems like you don't care about my feelings" etc.     

Then, most importantly...

"Could you tell me what was going on (or what’s going on) from your perspective?” 


“I know you love me and want to take care of me.  So help me understand what’s going on, from your point of view." 


"What am I missing about this?" or "What am I not seeing?"  

3) If called for, "Partner B" gives clarification, not defense- just what he or she honestly feels would be healing information i.e. "What's going on in me is that I feel very insecure and threatened in moments like this. I think that's why I tend to act out" or, “What I was trying to say was.... “ or “I know it seemed like _________ but what was really going was (or is)  ________________.” etc. 

or if you’ve just been a butt-head, 

"I know I was really defensive and ranting and raving.  I know this is hard to accept, but I could not be like that unless I completely need you, love and and depend on your love every moment of my life."

4) "Partner A" (if he or she wants) continues to describe his or her inner experience (vs. describing spouse's flaws). 

This step (#4) is helpful  if Partner B's clarification seemed irrelevant or if Partner A simply needs her inner world validated.  In other words, if Partner A has "hit the down button" into some of her deeper feelings and wants you to come with her.  Partner A, please stay close to the heart. According to Dr. Sue Johnson , underneath all conflict and upset is a fear of being disconnected from the love source you have attached to in this life.   

Partner A, consider the following possibilities as you talk about your feelings i.e.   

I feel (or felt)
like I don’t count, 
like I’m not a priority, 
let down, controlled, 
like I’m not good enough, 
like I can’t win, 
like nothing, 
not trusted, 
humiliated etc.

OPTIONAL: Describe the dance
Dr. Sue Johnson (the no. 1 marriage counselor in the world) recommends describing "the dance" i.e. 

"When you ______________  where I go with that is that I feel ____________.  (Click here for a list of feelings.)  When I'm feeling like that, I sometimes act out by ________________. When I act like this, or say or do things like I do, then you tend to ___________________ and this seems to be a downward spiral."    

If you take the conversation in this direction, you could go right from here to section VI (the "Accounting Pool") and then on to creating some agreements.

5) "Partner B" validates Partner A’s experience & offers whatever apology seems appropriate.

Your sole (and soul) objective is to hear what your partner is saying vs. defend, talk about what’s going on inside of you, judge, critique, check out, or bathe in feelings of shame or not-good-enough.

As fun as any of these might be, you only have one goal: listen to hear.  Isn’t this a glorious moment? Think of all of that defensive energy you can conserve and use toward something useful, i.e. love, service, intimacy, fun etc.  

Remember, what you’re hearing isn’t necessarily about you.   Of course you ought to glean as much as you can from the input, but the angst that you’re experiencing- the heartbreak, the upset and disappointment is something that is happening inside of your partner and isn’t necessarily you (other than the opportunity that you now have to heal your partner’s pain in whatever way you can).

Note: Paraphrasing and validation can be facilitated through these kinds of phrases below.  Getting to empathy is a spiritual gift that can be received as you plead with God to release you from your fears and open your heart, mind and soul to the reality of another person.  

  • What I hear you saying is _______.” (paraphrase what you hear)

  • “Have I got it?”

  • "Tell me more about_____."

  • “Is there more?”  

…and as inspired:  

  • “That would make sense etc.”  

  • “I’m so sorry you've had to go through this” etc.  


Go until you Partner A feels complete. However, please do your best to keep 5, 6, 7 and 8 no more than 20 minutes, max!

Note to the ladies, if you think your man is even close to understanding your experience, this needs to be good enough.

Men, be strong. Keep the validation going as long and deep as you can. Your woman is desperate to feel understood, cherished and safe.   

6) Partner A and B do an “Accounting Pool”

Partner A & B (starting with "A"), ping pong style, choosing alternatively and intuitively between;

  • "How I created this was _____________________"  and/or 

  • "What I've contributed to this is (or was) ____________________"  and/or

More possibilities:

  • "My experience of myself in all of this is _______ " e.g. "I've been really closed off, stubborn, unwilling to see your point of view, brittle, impatient, ignoring you, blaming” etc.

  • "Something I'd like to request of myself is that" e.g. "that I start coming to you sooner to find out what your needs are, or, that I start asking clarifying questions before accusing you" etc.  

Go until both partners feel complete with this section. After the first partner says “I'm complete with this section” the other partner either says “I'm complete also” or, keeps going, until both have said “I'm complete with this.”

If you run out of ideas, consider this list:

  • I have been self absorbed.  

  • I have been insensitive.  

  • I have been impatient.  

  • I have been careless.

  • I failed to share my feelings of hurt or vulnerability with you & emotionally withdrew.

  • I’ve been blaming you for my failures.   __ I’ve been blaming you for our  failure.    

  • I’ve been blaming you for my unhappiness.  __I’ve been blaming you for everything.

  • I’ve been pointing my frustrations, fears and unhappiness at you.

  • I failed to create peaceful communication & instead, ambushed, blamed & open fired.

  • I allowed myself to continue to feel uncomfortable with __________.

  • In my unwillingness to make sure things work for me too, I have built up resentment.

  • I’ve wanted your approval more than I wanted my own self respect.

  • I've not been appreciative for you and what you do.  I’ve taken you for granted.

  • I have been committed to my story of how you have wronged me.

  • I disconnected from your love, got defensive and imagined you were out to get me.

  • I’ve been undisciplined in my own personal life, which has put me in a bad mood.

  • I've been inconsistent about doing the things that keep a good feeling between us.

  • Instead of letting you know how proud I am of you, I’ve given you my disappointment.

  • I have failed to put you first, take care of your needs & do my best to make you happy.

  • I’ve been wanting you to see the error of your ways and to apologize to me.

  • I haven’t been clear in what I need from you or encouraging when you try to give it.

  • Through my lack of boundaries, I’ve supported behavior that doesn’t work for me.

  • I have viewed you as the source of my feelings of abandonment, not-enough etc.

  • I’ve set you up to prove what I’m most afraid of- that in the end, I will not be loved.

  • I’ve pushed you into abandoning me, or to concluding that I’ve abandoned you.

7)  Apologies from one or both partners can also fit here- whatever you are inspired to apologize for- whatever you feel sincerely sorry for. 

8) Partner A makes 1 to 2 "U.S.A." requests.  

Unloaded - If you’re still too deep inside your story of victim, distrust or disappointment, stop here and go back to the accounting pool and/or breakthrough. Come back to your request later, when it’s not so loaded.

e.g. "Would you be willing to start attending "Mastery" with me?" vs.  "I just want you to try harder." 

  if possible e.g. "Would you be willing to talk about my Mother only with me vs. family or friends?"

9) If humble and inspired, partner B submits a “Please Help Me”.
Examples: 1. “Honey, for sure, from now on I will start taking out the trash every week. Could I ask one thing of you that would make this easier for me?” [wait for answer]. “Would you make sure you don’t park your car where the trash goes?" or...  
2. “If I interrupt you could you please just calmly say, 'Honey, I'd like to finish what I'm saying.'  This would really help me." etc.

10) Respect and Synergy which will also refine top request(s).   
With the requests from partner A and B on the table, it’s time for the most important part: 

Partner A starts the negotiation with: “What would you be willing to do?” or "Here's what I think would be best" etc.  

Respect and Synergy Guidelines 
a) Please allow partner A to lead. 
b) Think in terms of the "Centering Questions" (below). 
c) Respectfully develop a “win/win” solution  
e) Take a recess if necessary.  You have made huge progress to have come this far!  
f) Consider the "Centering Questions":  

  1) What am I willing to do?   
  2) What am I not willing to do? 
  3) What do I think would be best? 
  4) What am I not seeing?
  5) What do I want?  

11) Partners A & B record their agreements, which will sometimes include a request for restitution i.e. “I think I need a foot rub as a way back to my heart.”. 

Secrets of success in making agreements:
 Make a written account of your agreements.  We recommend 
b) Review your agreements at least once a week.  Be conscious of your agreements._
c) Always thank your partner after a "Love Seat" for Job well done! Pour it on! 
d) WARNING!! Usually, no more than 1 “Love Seat” per person, a week. If you need more, do Breakthrough until you can do another Love Seat.  Save the issues with the most charge for your next meeting. 

Extra Notes and Considerations in Understanding the "Love Seat" 

These notes are helpful if you are struggling to understand the "Love Seat."  
Numbers i.e. #3, #4 correspond with the the "Love Seat" steps.  Not all steps are referenced in the notes.

Do not try this at home (until you honestly feel you are ready).  Try this with your coach instead. Much better chance for success.

Notes on #1 "Describe Inner Experience."
Being able and willing to "headline" this issue, or to reduce it to one phrase or sentence 1) makes it easier for your partner to receive what you're talking about, 2) assist you both in staying on one issue (the one you've announced) and 3) assists you in finally landing on a U.S.A request (toward the end of the "Love Seat.")  

Use these notes as inspired.
  Get familiar with them so that you, if you are Partner A, you can guide the conversation along what you feel will be the most effective path.  For instance, you may be inclined to skip to the Accounting Pool and then on to creating a new agreement.  You may feel inspired to take Sue Johnson's approach and go directly to describing the dance and then on to an agreement.  

90% of issues management is created through your own personal breakthrough
 and your Nightly Check In & Chit Chat.   The “Love Seat” is for volatile issues that could easily get out of control.   

The best way to use this tool is word for word- 
like a script, embellishing only as inspired. 

You may be inspired to skip some sections or proceed in a completely different order.  
Use whichever pieces you are inspired to use.  This is particularly true in the possibility of skipping "clearing", "clarification", "accounting"- pretty much everything but going for a synergistic solution to whatever your issue is.  Come to this kind of meeting with as many ideas as you can.

To reduce the chances of igniting your partner’s self-judgement, 
self-shame or defensiveness you could hold hands and walk in a forest or on a beach, give him or her a back rub, or make him or her a special dinner of his favorite food.  The special advantage of the food option is that it’s hard to get too defensive if your mouth is full.  Read more about the “Shame Filter” further in this book. 

Notes for "Partner A" on "Stay Close to the Heart"  
This piece of the ‘Love Seat’ (describing your experience and feelings) is perhaps the most important. According to Dr. Sue Johnson , underneath all conflict and upset is a fear of detachment- fear of being disconnected from or unimportant to the love source you have attached to in this life.   

The good news about romantic love is attachment.  Through kind of an “imprinting” process we hold on to each other as a preeminent source of personal security.  The bad news is about romantic love is attachment.  When this attachment is threatened, all hell can break loose.  Sue Johnson suggests, in her book “Hold Me Tight”, that this is what we need to deal with.  

This is what the flaming red circle is about- our fear, our distrust of someone else’s love, or in other words the fear of our detachment from this person.  This is the real issue. 

When you complete the above sentence, resist the temptation to point anything toward your spouse and stay close to your heart.  For instance, “when you didn’t call me from work yesterday, like you usually do, where I go with this is that I feel like I don’t matter”, then go on to the next level i.e. “So I feel really afraid, lost, alone, like there’s no hope, like I’m dead, traumatized etc.”  Get down to it man! (or woman). This is what it’s about.  

The quicker you can face the trauma and fear you’ve got around disconnection, the clearer the path will be to resolution (from both your perspective and your spouses).  

#5 - Validation  

a) This is not about whether you concur with your partner's experience of what happened.  The objective truth is almost entirely irrelevant.  Your job is to simply understand. 
b) It’s easy to go right for offering clarification. Avoid this temptation. 
c) An apology may or may not make sense at this point, depending on the clarification you’re planning (if asked) i.e. “Oh, that wasn’t my secretary, that was my sister Louise.  She’d just flown into town and surprised me.”  
    If you do decide to apologize, take courage!  Remember that through the love and sacrifice of Christ, the humble, repentant heart will always be made whole.  He's got your back (your past), if you're willing to honestly see how you may be showing up.
   Keep in mind, you can always apologize or at least show compassion for what your spouse is feeling, even if you disagree with why he or she is feeling this way i.e. "Honey, I am so sorry that you've been going through this" etc.

Notes to Partner A: Please be encouraging. Validation is hard.  

Notes to Partner A & B:  Having said what I've said above, it's important to be present to the emerging double bind that this process seems to foster if Partner A is a woman.  A woman needs to know that you fully understand what she's feeling.  It is through a man's diligent effort to not only open his mind and heart to her experience and to articulate, the best he can, what she is saying-  it is through this valiant effort that she feels understood.  

It follows that in feeling understood she feels cherished and safe.  Only then is she able to go on to a solution.  For in the larger sense, being understood is the solution she is seeking. 

The double bind comes in that the more a woman describes the horrific nature of her man's behavior- the results, the history, the details, the implications about his character etc., the less able a man is to actually hear what she is saying.   In this, a valiant effort must be made on both sides of this potential double bind: 

Ladies, if you think your man is even close to understanding your experience, this must be good enough, or he will collapse in his effort to get it as good as you need him to get it.  

Men, be strong.  Keep the validation going as long and deep as you can.  Your woman is desperate to feel understood, cherished and safe.  That's why she keeps going.  She will continue to describe your shortcomings until you prove to her that you understand.   It is your understanding that makes her feel safe.  Do you best.  

If all else fails, when the timer goes off, either go on to the next section, or put off the love seat.

#7 - Apology

  • Go deep.  Make no mistake.  You cause your world.

  • Sorrow is about my love for you.  Shame is about my hate for me.

  • Partners can, by the spirit, guide each other in what to apologize for.

  • Whatever apology is offered needs to be good enough.  This is key! 

Note on #9 
Partner B, do NOT let your “please help me” launch another issue.  This must be an unloaded, politely stated, non-triggering “please help me.” If it does seem to be a headline for another "Love Seat" please write it down on your Issues list and don’t bring it up now.

Note: Some agreements are implied by the requests made, so long as there are no objections to the request.

Notes on #10 - "Respect & Synergy"

Respectfully develop a “win/win” solution  
What’s a way you can both have what you need?  Don't get stuck in a specific way to get what you need.  Jump back a little bit.  "What is another way we can create, together, what we both need?  What is a new idea- a new level of thinking- an entirely different approach to this issue that would result in us both having what we need?"  Try not to compromise.  As Covey puts it, compromise is lose/lose.  Keep respectively brainstorming as long as it takes.  This process, and the character it can build is even more important than the personal objectives you're seeking.  

Take a recess if necessary.  You have made huge progress to have come this far!  But if the ideas aren't coming, take a break!  Make an appointment to come back to it.  In the mean time you will be surprised at how ideas or approaches that just didn't seem available flow into your mind.  Kind of a like what they say about trying to get pregnant.  Once you stop fretting about it, it seems to happen.

What I really want is: 
a) What really want is __________ (i.e. more "us time", "less blame" etc.) 
b) What I see for our relationship is ________ (describe your vision) 

I’m willing to:  
a) What I’d be willing to do is ____________.  
b) What feels good to me is ____________.  
c) I’d love to _________.  
d) I think what could really work is ______ 

I’m not willing to:  
a) What I’m uncomfortable with is ____________.   
b) I’m not sure what else to do __________.   
c) I wish I could think of something else.  
d) I don’t think I can _________ any more (or any further). 

What I feel would be best is:  
a) What I feel would be best for everyone is _________.  
b) I know this is hard.  Nevertheless, I think the best solution is _________.  

What I’m not seeing is: 
a) What I am not seeing is that ____________.

Checking in 
Ask things like this during the negotiation
1) What do you think you might be willing to do?  
2) What do you feel the most uncomfortable?  
3) Tell me more about your feelings about ____________.  
4) What do you feel would be best for everyone?
5) Is there another way (other than the 2 options we're discussing)... Is there a "3rd Alternative that would insure us both getting what we need?  
6) Would you be willing to keep brainstorming with me? 

More on "Respect and Synergy" 

Creating a way for both of you to be happy with something

A “Respect and Synergy” conversation can be the final stage of a “Love Seat”, or, can be a process on it’s own (without the “Love Seat”).  If this is an emotionally discharged issue, you may be fine just doing “Respect and Synergy.”  If things have been heating up about the issue, do it as the final stage of your “Love Seat.”

The concept is simple, yet, if achieved, one of the very most powerful elements of a successful marriage.  Your position, should you choose this process, is healing and comforting: “I am willing and would like to take as much time as we need, to talk about this issue until we both feel comfortable with the resolve.”

You must both be willing to 100% respect each other’s feelings, opinions, perspective, beliefs and point of view.  No one is wrong.  No one is right.  Without this, the process is impossible.

With respect as the groundwork, synergy becomes an amazing possibility.  So knock yourself out!  If there are no wrong answers or solutions or proposals you can just keep brainstorming and talking until one of you falls asleep, or you have a solution.  

Betrayal Turnaround
 - Partner A suggests ways that he or she has done or continues to do the same thing. e.g. Betty doesn’t feel like she’s a high enough priority to Jeff. In this step, Betty would suggest how she could made Jeff a higher priority.  [No comments from partner B at this point. NONE. This step is here, not for B to start on his or her issues, but because it can significantly change what Partner A may need in the next 2 steps.]

Boundary - Partner A explains what B can count on the next time this happens.
Examples: “Jim, the next time you insult me in front of your friends, you can count on me disappearing for the rest of the night. You can also count on us not having friends over until I regain some trust.” 

“Betty: if you have lunch with Barry again, I don’t know what else to do other than consider that you may not be serious about our relationship.  At that point it may be best for me to begin considering other relationships myself.” 

Note: Living within boundaries is to help someone you love see how close he or she is to the cliff. This is love- to show someone the distance-- how certain things move him or her closer and how much closer, and how certain things move him further away from the cliff and restore trust. 

Please note though that the best boundary often is “If this happens again, I will do my best to forgive you again.” But in answer to the centering questions, you decide i.e. “If this happens again, what you can count on from me is…. If it happens after that, what you can count on from me is….” etc. Lay out the territory! 

Make a clear world and a clear pathway to your heart. i.e. “The next time you raise your voice with me you can count on me going out that night to a movie with one of my buddies. Unless restitution is made, if it happens again you can count on me leaving for the weekend” etc. (whatever you intuitively come up with as you go through the “centering questions” - “What am I willing to do, What am I unwilling to do and what do I think would be best for everyone involved”

Partner A and/or B suggests some ways that B could restore good will and trust. i.e. take her out to dinner, or a weekend getaway, shopping spree, finish an unfinished project by Saturday, do the dishes every night for a week etc.

The thing that’s so cool about restitution it is that it doesn't need to relate to the original wound. Any deposit into what Stephen Covey calls your “emotional bank account” with someone, creates trust. Your partner sees, in your restitution, that you are serious about wanting to care for him or her. Your partner begins to trust your care and within that trust, love begins to flow again. 

One person's needs for restitution (to find your way back to his or her heart) may be very different than another person.   My wife Narelle, for instance, if I've been impatient (which has happened from time to time), will ask for a foot rub.  If I'm offended by something Narelle has said or done I will ask for a kiss (which she gladly gives). 

Asking for restitution is counter-intuitive for most people.  In coaching a couple recently, I was surprised as this woman turned to her husband, in kind of a disbelief that he would ever be interested in restitution.  It is this disbelief of course that leads to our tendency to verbally draw blood from someone i.e. "If he or she is not willing to find a way back to my heart and back to my trust, I will settle this account the best I can by presenting as much evidence as I can as to how self absorbed, or thoughtless etc. he or she really is."  It's a strange tendency.

I looked at this woman's husband.  Even the thought of giving her a foot rub, vs. facing a multi hour (or even day) stream of disappointment or upset was lighting him up like a Christmas tree.  She looked at him and said something like, "You would do that?... if you talk to me in a disrespectful way, or are rude to me, you'd be willing to give me a foot rub?"   I was so anxious for her to see this new vision for her life that I jumped in.   "Diane" (I'll call her), "There's a big difference between restitution and an execution."  We all laughed about that because it's so simple, so true and yet so over looked.

End of notes.

Enjoy the "Love Seat."