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Table of contents
Preparation & Prelude
Pre-Loveseat checklist for "partner a"
Partner “A” is the person bringing the issue. Here’s your checklist:
___ Pre- Breakthrough work (This is your key to success. Don’t come to a Loveseat 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.
Each human being has a built in “shame filter” which prohibits him or her from hearing what you’re actually saying. Instead of hearing you’re feeling, he or she will only hear his or her own shame i.e. “I’m an idiot. I don’t deserve love and I should be taken out back and shot.” In times of low trust (mutually), There are several options for thinning a person’s shame filter so that your content will actually be received.
___ Personal mantra check-in: I recognize that this Loveseat 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 Loveseat 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 for the next step, “Enrollment”).
Note to Partner B (the one receiving the issue): If you’re choosing Option 3 from Managing Incoming (Boarding the plane), this can often be an emergency meeting for your spouse (a meeting you are supporting!). With this in mind, consider abandoning any scrutiny on the “pre-loveseat check-list above and the “Enrollment” below. Just let your spouse know you may need to get a drink (maybe even a protein bar) but that other than that you are ready to go! - Ready to listen, ready to completely be there for him or her.
"Partner A" enrolls partner B i.e. “There’s something I need to talk about. Could we do a ‘Love Seat.' ?” and/or “When would be a good time?” or “Is this a good time to talk without distractions?” (Note: you'll need at least 30 minutes).
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” and/or “If this isn’t a good time we can come back to this. When would be a good time?”
1a) OPTIONAL - "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.
1b) "Partner A" owns his or her inner experience.
Note to Partner A: In order to foster unconditional trust please read the following, allowing the truth of these words to find their way into your heart to whatever degree is 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 and receives validation/clarification
Important tips for Partner A:
a) Speak tentatively vs. judgmentally. Focus on only one issue (though there may be a couple of examples of this issue).
b) Focus on your own inner experience, worry, fear vs. your spouses poor performance or character weakness.
c) Give a brief, indisputably objective description of what “seems” to have happened (or was said) while remaining open to the possibility of your own misinterpretation i.e “When you leave the milk out...” vs. “When you only seem to be thinking of yourself"
d) Emphasize your own subjective experience as much as possible i.e. “When you sitting outside yesterday, it seemed like you were so mad at me. You may not have been. But this is just what I was experiencing, inside my own head.” etc.
Possible sentence starters
— “When you _____________ , where I or go with it (or went with it) is that I feel (or felt) _______________." or...
— "It seems like _____________" (description of situation fro your point of view i.e.) “It seems like you don't want to play with the kids much." etc.
Before going further consider your fork in the road:
Partner A’s fork in the road.
Partner A, please choose clarification, then validation, or validation, then clarification. Go with your instincts or best guess. Sometimes your issue can be easily cleared up with a bit of clarification. Sometimes not. In either event, you’ll need both - clarification and validation to some degree. But you decide which comes first. Guidelines for both, for you and your partner, are below:
— "Could you tell me what was going on (or what’s going on) from your perspective?” or...
— “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." and/or...
— "What am I missing about this?" or "What am I not seeing?"
Please do not give your defense. Only give what you honestly feel could be healing information.
Example 1) i.e. "What's going on in me is that I feel 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.
Example 2) “I know it seemed like I was going to lunch with one of the women from the office. The truth is I forgot to tell you my niece is in from Detroit. She’ll be joining us at the reunion this Saturday.”
Or, if you’ve simply been a butt-head, perhaps something like… “I was really defensive (or rude etc.). I know this is hard to accept, but I could not be like that unless I needed and depended on your love every moment of my life" (or whatever explanation of your behavior you think might actually ease Partner A’s pain).
Even after some clarification, Partner A may still need to completes description of his or her feelings, fears etc. VERSES describing Partner B’s flaws. At this point, Partner A will sometimes "hit the down button" (as Sue Johnson puts it) into some of his or her deepest feelings and may want you to come with her. This will often start with something like - "Sometimes my experience of you is that it seems like _______________________" i.e. "It seems like you don't care about my feelings" etc.
Tips for Partner A: 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. As you talk it out, consider landing on some of the following possibilities:
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,
OPTIONAL: Partner A, describes 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 ____________. 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 from here to section the "Accounting Pool" (below) and then on to creating some agreements, or, just keep going to the next step.
Partner B validates Partner A’s experience & if inspired, offers an apology. (Note that there is an opening for apologies below)
Tips for Partner B:
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.
Continued guidelines for this section (section 2)
a) Continue with the above until Partner A feels complete. Note to the ladies, if you think your man is even close to understanding your experience, this needs to be good enough! Your man should always get an “A” on this. That he’s a man and is even doing this with you is a miracle!
Ideally, validating Partner A’s feelings and experience should very rarely take more than 10 minutes and is ideal at around 2 to 5 minutes.
Men, be strong. Keep the validation going as long and deep as you can. Your woman is desperate to feel understood and cherished.
b) If inspired Partner B could offer a brief apology here based on this first round of conversation. Bear in mind that you will both have a chance to apologize later. Note to Partner B. Please do not back pedal, minimize or give excuses. Just take your first quick dip into apology.
3) 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
"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.
4) Apologies from both ends- whatever you are inspired to apologize for- whatever you feel sincerely sorry for. Partner B, whatever you want to add to what you’ve already offered.
5) Partner A makes 1 to 3 "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.
Specific e.g. "Would you be willing to start attending ‘Mastery’ with me?" vs. "I just want you to try harder."
Affirmative if possible e.g. "Would you be willing to talk about my Mother only with me vs. family or friends?"
6) 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.
7) Through Respect and Synergy, move toward an agreement.
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?
8) 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.”.
9) Partner A & B review their agreements each week:
a) Make a written account of your agreements. We recommend www.todoist.com
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 in understanding "love seat"
Return to Love Seat TOC / Return to Love Seat Conversation
Loveseat is inspired by many authors, but mainly, Harville Hendrix and Sue Johnson. For a deeper understanding of this kind of conversation, read “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix and/or “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson.
Do not try this at home (until you honestly feel you are ready). Try this with your coach instead. Much better chance for success.
When you do finally do this on your own, bear this in mind: You're not going to get out of this conversation unscathed.
From 0 to 2 years old, we determine to trust or not trust. Most of our "not trust" is in the context of marriage. Marriage brings out the best in us (as we learn to trust), and the worst (as we revel in our distrust).
Compassion comes easier, even in conflict, as you realize that it isn’t your differences that is causing your conflicts, it is your underlying lack of trust- and don’t blame him or her for it! You are mirrors of each others in distrust- a mutual distrust that distorts each other’s weaknesses in each other’s eyes. With this in mind, note that your spouse's opinion of you is not going match your assessment of yourself and this will take some time to work through.
Loveseat and Peace-Talk
The other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you're going to shift and drift between Loveseat and peace talk and that there aren't necessarily any strict formulas. There's elements of both that you can choose from, the main criteria being that unless it is peaceful you need to come back to it.
The peace talk is an invitation into the articles of peace. The love seat is a structured treatment of these articles in the face of a potentially HIGH VOLTAGE conversation. For this reason, if you’re new to Couples GPS, stick to the Loveseat process, line by line.
A Love Seat (vs. a Peace Talk often focuses on just Partner A’s issue and feelings. However, if it’s going well, and if you both feel good about it, it can be done twice in a row (“two way”) - once from Partner A’s perspective and once, with the same issue in mind, from Partner B’s perspective. If you’re doing a two way love seat you probably won’t want or need to cover what you’ve already covered in the first round (A to B). The 2nd time through would be to make sure Partner B also feels heard and understood and to develop more ideas for a win/win agreement.
Doing both ways can take up to an hour or more (about 30 minutes each way). If your first time through was rough, do more breakthrough work and do the other direction when you both feel completely ready.
[Note that if you’re doing a love seat twice, Partner A becomes Partner B and visa versa.]
Notes on "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 can both 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 to simply move forward toward 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.
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.
Having said this, if in doubt, the best way to use this just as it is and word for word - like a script, embellishing only as inspired.
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.
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).
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:
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!
Please Help Me 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 request 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.
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 ____________.
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."