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The Gottman Institute: The Art & Science of Love
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The Gottman Institute: The Art & Science of Love

The Gottman Institute: The Art & Science of Love

My husband and I had a rude and rough couple of years.

Sabin was briefly ensconced at the antipodes with people who thought they knew him better after 12 minutes than I did after 18 years, and they brought out his worst self. They encouraged him to forget his family–to lose sight of his integrity. I frittered away our months apart with people and pastimes that took me away from my mission in life. I wasn’t my best self, either.

Love brought us back together and our union needed repair.

There were tools that aided us. I’ve blogged about those before. I read several books and used an excellent program developed by a California-based marriage counselor.

In particular, and with some mirth because he’s funny, we watched videos of Dr. John Gottman talking about what makes a marriage work. I bought Gottman’s books and googled The Gottman Institute.

After one fierce fight that ended with me in tears and Sabin apoplectic with hurt and anger, I said, “Enough. We’re going to a Gottman workshop.”

Sabin agreed, if skeptically. He was more amenable when I assured him that there was no public disclosure.

The time came and we flew to Seattle a few days early so we could hike Mt. Rainier. I figured two days of exercise on the mountain would exorcise Sabin’s physical restlessness.

We arrived early at the Seattle Sheraton on the morning of the workshop to secure good seats, close to the front. And there began two days of extraordinary learning.

The first day focused on building the ground of being of love through Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s research-based techniques. We listened to lectures on love maps, fondness and admiration, and bids for connection, and then we practiced the skills through carefully thought out exercises. The exercises were good fun as well as good practicum for a marriage. They deepened the friendship, connection, and trust that are so essential in the union.

It was fun to tell Sabin all the good things I think about him–and even more fun to hear him describe my strengths!

We also practiced a “stress reducing conversation” according to a Gottman script. It was an effective tool. When Sabin spoke about the stresses of his life, he was able to feel my empathy; when it was my turn to confide, I felt his empathy. We finished the exercise feeling heard and cared for. Our hearts opened and we felt close to each other.

But it wasn’t just the exercises and lectures that taught us and moved us. Equally eloquent was the way John and Julie Gottman related to each other. They were at turns playful and somber and they were always palpably connected. They teased each other, finished each other’s sentences, demoed exercises together with zest and relish, touched each other affectionately, listened respectfully when the other was saying something of heightened import, admitted to fighting, owned their own parts in their conflict, apologized for hurting each other, and praised the other.

Julie and John were modeling something critical: a real marriage, hugs and warts and tears and laughs and all. A marriage wherein both spouses are deeply committed and deeply engaged in the ongoing work of building a strong and joyful shared sense of “we.”

This was most evident the second day of the workshop, when the Gottmans addressed conflict.

Around 10 am of the second day, I witnessed one of the most profound human interactions I’ve ever seen–and I attended a 4 years hands-on healing school which included a great deal of deep personal process work. But this was astonishing: Julie and John demonstrated their script for repair after a regrettable incident.

I’ve never seen two people be more real, more vulnerable, more honest, and more sensitive with each other. It was deeply soulful. It showed the power of being real, being vulnerable, being honest, and being sensitive with your mate.

Julie and John worked through an actual fight from a few years earlier, following one of the scripts they’d written.  Julie dissolved into tears, remembering early life traumas that had played a part in her responses. I was in tears watching her. With candor and grace, John also talked about his triggers. I marveled at his insight into himself.

The goal was to understand each other better. It achieved that and so much more. It was a marvelous process.

In class, Sabin and I did the exercise around a recent fight. Since returning home, we’ve done the exercise around the painful episodes from the last two years.

The Gottman Institute weekend ended with presentations and exercises around shared meaning and helping each other attain life dreams. In a real way, Sabin and I are already strong in that area, because we both feel so strongly about arts and letters. He’s been the strongest supporter of my writing, and I’ve always supported his art.

For me, the best part of the weekend was being in the field of the relationship between Julie and John Gottman. So that’s what a good relationship is, I thought. Perhaps the Gottman tools could even have helped my difficult first marriage. It’s possible. It’s for certain they’re a great blessing for Sabin and me.

In his thoughtful way, Sabin voiced the most beautiful, most telling comment about the weekend. “I never before understood about the sacredness of marriage,” he told me. “Now I do.”

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

 

 

Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.

 

 

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love
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Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

(reprise of a Facebook Post I wrote)Marriage and Family are Real Sabin Howard Traci Slatton

 

Marriage

This is our family. We’ve gone to see the Tree at the Met for nearly 2 decades.
It’s love. Family is love, and it is everything. Family is real.
Family radiates from a marriage. Marriage is love, and it is everything. Marriage is real. Imperfect, unglamorous, full of laughter and tears: real.
Sabin and I have been married for 13 years, together for almost 18. We’ve stood beside each other, holding hands and enjoying holiday uplift, for nearly 2 decades.
Marriages are built on such things: trips to the Met and to Italy and to the pediatrician and to the kitchen to cook breakfast; shared jokes and shared Figurative Sculpture books and shared victories and shared burdens and, yes, shared challenges. Every life encounters conflict and obstacle, ache and loss. These are real, too. And they are so much easier to bear with your family, your mate, holding your hand–as Sabin and I have held hands for nearly two decades.
We’ve held hands through lean times and good times, through sickness and health, through the birth of our daughter, when I died twice and was narrowly revived by a doctor who had “never seen so much blood in her life.” We held hands and held each other in a spacious room in Venice while the rain pattered on the canal during our 10th anniversary.
Even though this year, 2017, has been so hard, forcing a lengthy and devastating separation, I affirm our marriage. Marriage is 1000 tiny threads that bind people together, and those threads are shared experiences. I affirm our threads. I affirm our marriage. Sabin Howard, I love you.

Marriage and Family are Real

Marriage and Family are Real

Amazing Review of Broken by Seacoast Online’s Rebecca Skane
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Amazing Review of Broken by Seacoast Online’s Rebecca Skane

I’ve been blessed with some lovely, thoughtful reviews of BROKEN.  Writer Rebecca Skane of SEACOAST ONLINE has written a truly wondrous review.

I have written in other posts about how dazzling, and ultimately humbling, it is when a reader GETS IT about what I am trying to do with a novel. Skane GOT IT, in the fullest way possible. It’s more than simply gratifying when a book is well and thoughtfully reviewed; it is a core affirmation of an author’s existence. Sorry to put it in such dramatic terms, but a writer works in solitude at a desk, pouring her soul, her heart, her brain, her blood, sweat and tears, and everything else she’s got, into her writing. To have her book received with appreciation is an existential validation.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Skane’s review:

Traci L. Slatton is back with another novel of fantasy, romance, and danger.  In Broken, angel Alia falls from grace, giving up her wings to live the life of a Parisian woman at the start of World War II.  Beautifully written and devilishly portrayed, Alia is a not your typical fallen angel archetype.  She is more human than anything else….

Alia is consumed with pain but enjoys life as a human by taking advantage of pleasures of the flesh…

Lush and poignant prose and a beautifully rendered time period and locale, elevate Broken from the traditional novels of fantasy into something of its own element.  With the first section of the book doubling as mild erotica, it’s refreshing to find well-written verse to accompany such wickedly scandalous boudoir moments.  This isn’t 50 Shades – this is thought-provoking literature that explores female sexual equality and the nefarious act of unwanted dominance in every form.

I am more than grateful for such a deeply thoughtful review.

Read the review here, and enjoy. I did!!

Amazing Review of Broken

Writing Eros in BROKEN
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Writing Eros in BROKEN

[This short article originally appeared on If These Books Could Talk Blog. ]

I’ve been married with children for my entire adult life, so, technically, I don’t know anything about sex. (Or, perhaps, birth control….) It’s true, I’ve had two different husbands, but I think it’s fair to say that I fall under the vanilla category.

As smooth, satisfying, and delicious as vanilla is, sometimes, as an author, I need something more tangerine, or more pungent. Luckily I have a good imagination, and a husband who’s willing to experiment with me. In the name of art, of course.

Broken, set in occupied Paris from 1939-1942, is the story of a fallen angel who struggles to save her friends and lovers as the Nazis exert ever more lethal control over the city. The angel Alia falls from heaven because of a personal loss which shocks her out of unity thinking. As soon as she falls, she is beset with sensual desire, with temptation, with the lust that is embedded in flesh. She throws herself into the cornucopia of carnal delights offered by Paris on the eve of the second world war. Paris in 1938-1939 was a feast of entertainment, parties, and revelry, with many intellectuals, writers, and artists openly living a licentious lifestyle.

But I imagined that Alia didn’t start out completely human. Broken is also the story of her journey into her own humanity. So the sex scenes in this novel document her incarnation. They aren’t just gratuitous titillation. Alia begins the novel with a free-wheeling, casual attitude about sex and lovers because she hasn’t yet fully identified with her body. It’s a plaything for her, it’s not herself. So I thought of these early sex scenes in the vein of sex-as-frivolous-fun.

Sex changes as she begins to care for the bullfighter Pedro and the musician-mathematician Josef. Her heart is part of her body, too—her heart goes along with what her body embraces.

Alia also has a horrifying experience of sex used against her. She is manipulated into gratifying a Gestapo agent, and it sickens her. But sex as a power play is part of the human condition, so as an author, I chose to include it.

Finally she comes to be a partner with one man, and she experiences deep intimacy with him. The eroticism they share ripens. It’s based on a heart-connection as well as sensual pleasure. It’s not just about ecstasy anymore, it’s also about love; Alia has become fully human, fully identified with her physical being. She has experienced the full range of sexuality as she has evolved into the woman who would make the ultimate sacrifice for her beloveds.

Eros in BROKEN

BROKEN: Available in September
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BROKEN: Available in September

This novel is dark, gritty, and smutty. It’s also about the power of love and the fact that spirit informs everything.

An early reviewer, one of my favorite readers, got back to me yesterday, writing, “Beautiful and heart-wrenching. I cried like I did at the end of Immortal. I will write my review this week. Thanks for sharing Alia’s story with me early.” I’ll post the review when it goes live.

BROKEN

Thanks again to brilliant Italian painter ROBERTO FERRI for giving me permission to use his gorgeous painting LIBERACE DAL MALE for the cover. Thanks to talented designer Gwyn Snider for turning the image into a breath-taking cover.