It's 1963 and pouring rain outside. I’m sitting in the front room of our little rental house, watching the droplets fall and splash into a puddle on the other side of the window. It’s hard to say how long I’ve been sitting here; it seems like hours. I’m a thinker, a kid who spends a great deal of time in his head. And as I watch the rain, I feel peaceful inside. The rain drowns out my mom and dad arguing in their bedroom. I don’t know how often they do this, but I think it’s very often, and even as a kid, I know this isn’t good. I’m sad, but thankful for the rain. I wonder how I can help Mom and Dad be peaceful, too? What can I be when I grow up to solve the problems that they cannot? This five-year-old kid thinks too much. Looking Back As far back as I can remember, a peaceful environment was important to me. With all the chaos at home, I thought it was my job to be the peacemaker. The funny thing is, you can only be a peacemaker where there is no peace. Mom was barely eighteen years old when I was born, and my xiv RELATIONSHIP REFRESH Dad was not quite twenty. They had a hard time getting along with one another. I never understood it at the time because I was just a kid, but now I realize they were kids, too. I can’t imagine how it must have been for them. Yet even if the environment was emotionally unhealthy, my brothers and I knew we were loved. I also know now, as an adult, how fortunate I was to have them as parents, though hearing them fight was traumatic. Trauma relates to an experience that is unbearable, and for this kid, my parents’ fighting was unbearable. I was a quiet and relatively passive child, thoughtful and loving. When peace was disrupted around me, it felt as though my body was crashing in on itself. I gave up the right to be happy until Mom and Dad could be happy. My brothers and I grew up with the Catholic faith. The church was my first exposure to peace. By the time I was seven years old, I had decided to become a priest. I thought that was the answer. “If I become a priest and a teacher,” I thought, “then I could learn how to bring peace to Mom and Dad, and then they could be happy.” I tried hard to make my parents’ relationship better because I wanted stability for our family. In the end, I didn’t become a priest but rather a student of life and a lifetime learner. Mom and Dad were together for fifty years until my Dad died. As the years went by, they became more committed to peace, too, and I saw some happiness between them. I never gave up, and they were genuinely open to my ideas and input. Over the years, I have pursued and practiced many different methods of bringing peace to myself and others. In the early 1980s, I trained in the work of Zig Ziglar, a well-known motivational speaker at the time. Zig gave me a foundation and a hunger for Prologue xv learning about people and going beneath their exteriors. Tony Robbins and his book Unlimited Power reignited the principles I learned from Zig and gave me some direction. Sales was my game. I managed, trained, and developed groups in engagement selling. But I didn’t see my future until I was introduced to personal transformation techniques, starting with Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Dr. Gerald Jampolsky and doing the self-study program “A Course In Miracles” more times than I can count. I wrote a number of training programs until 1995, when I founded the principles that I have now spent decades establishing: “Partners for Life.” The next seventeen years I spent leading transformational programs for the world’s largest self-development company. Being a thought leader, a student, and a trainer was fulfilling for me at the deepest levels. Nothing prepared me more for what life had in store. I trained, developed, and coached well over ten thousand people, and then “The Stages of Love,” my California-based coaching practice, was born. As an Emotional Health Practitioner and Couples Coach, I’ve applied everything I’ve learned to my coaching practice and to the writing of this book. How to Use This Book This book includes some simple yet essential workbook activities that will serve you well on your journey to having a successful and happy partnership. I also suggest reading Chapters One through Three in one sitting, if you are able. To get the most out of each exercise, stop and complete each one as you go. None of the activities are overly challenging. They require only honesty about your feelings and thoughts at the moment. xvi RELATIONSHIP REFRESH You’ll uncover what I call your Bad Relationship Habit(s), and your Deepest Desire. You will also reveal the reasons why being in a relationship is so essential for you, which I refer to as your Why. When you find these for yourself, the satisfaction you get from all your relationships will increase dramatically. My memory of growing up amid constant chaos is no longer seen through a child’s eyes. I see it now for what it was: a childhood with kids for parents. They were not equipped to raise children, and how could they be? Their parents were hardly equipped themselves. Because they were babies of the Great Depression, survival naturally became their priority. They paid very little attention to happiness and peace of mind. I believe that all people deserve peace of mind and that it is naturally available for everyone. I also think that kids deserve to be happy, to have happy homes, and to have happy parents. I wrote this book for ALL the kids in the world—the little ones growing up and the big ones who never got the chance to really be happy. I also wrote this book for me. Not the writer-me, but the husband-me who needs to keep my relationship as exciting and fulfilling as possible. My spouse Rafael and I met more than twenty years ago, and we married in 2015. It wasn’t a huge priority for us until the legal battles for same sex marriage were settled. He has been a barber for close to fifty years and is now semi-retired. All the stories about the two of us in this book are true, and I am grateful he is a such a good sport, letting me share them with you. I hope you get as much out of reading this book as I have writing it. It will help you develop Good Relationship Habits. I call them “Love Sparks.” Prologue xvii Couples who use Love Sparks in their relationships will eliminate barriers to their ability to express and experience love at any moment. Any moment! They will achieve peace of mind and provide happy homes for their kids. Yes! You can have a supercharged relationship! You can have your relationships work! You can have a life filled with satisfaction, peace, and happiness! Using Love Sparks will evoke higher levels of trust. You and your partner will feel more peace and attain more happiness. Since I have been using Love Sparks successfully in my own life and with my clients since 2010, I have learned how to make them more accessible. Love Sparks supercharged my relationship, and I want you to have a supercharged relationship, too! Love Sparks rock! You, too, can have a Relationship on Fire! I invite you to strike the match!