Succulent Wild Love: A Chat with SARK and Dr. John Waddell
By Laurie Sue Brockway
Bestselling author SARK and her beloved Dr. John Waddell are a funny, inspiring, and wise couple. The Hub (Victor “The Voice” Fuhrman) and I really enjoyed chatting with them recently on Love and Romance Radio.
SARK, (an acronym for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), is an artist and bestselling author with 16 books under her belt. She also famously married herself and wrote about it in Succulent Wild Woman. Being single and loving it was huge focus of her work and so it came as quite a shock — to her — when she met the delightful Dr. John Waddell on a cruise three years ago and found herself navigating a romantic relationship!
Dr. John has been helping individuals and couples lead happier lives for over 30 years through his clinical psychology practice and metaphysical teachings. As a widower, he had loved and lost someone close but he says ten years in a loving, happy marriage prepared and inspired him to love again. When they met, he told SARK straight out he was ready and able to adore her.
That of course freaked her out a little, but they worked their way to a “Joyful Solution.” Now they are engaged to be married and they have a new book together, Succulent Wild Love.
Here are some of the things we discussed. You can also listen to the interview here.
SARK, first we have to ask, why don’t you like the word soulmate?
SARK: I always felt tyrannized by the whole idea of “finding a soulmate” because it seemed impossible to me to find a mate for my soul — as vast as unknowable as my soul is. In fact, the whole soulmate thing felt so exhausting that I just wanted to sleep forever and avoid the subject. It felt like everywhere I turned, there was another book or program or radio show about “finding a soulmate.” So I decided that for me, the best plan was to become my own soulmate, or “sole-mate.”
When I embarked on the journey of loving myself, even marrying myself and writing about it, I didn’t realize I was readying myself to create another soulmate to join with, but I was! When I was ready to join souls with another, I met John and found that I was fully qualified to be adored and to adore him. All the ways I became and am my own soulmate apply beautifully to sharing life and love with this person named John.
So tell us your love story. How did you meet …and come to write this book?
SARK: We met on a cruise ship where we were attending the same metaphysical seminar in 2012. When we first met, John said, “I want you to know that I’m qualified to adore you,” and I felt married to him in that instant. We’ve been together ever since and in January of 2014, John proposed and I said yes!
John had no idea who SARK was at first — he thought maybe I wrote mystery novels. I knew he had a PhD in clinical psychology, was a metaphysical teacher, and had self-published two novels. We didn’t plan to work together or write a book, until it became clear to both of us that his three core teachings and my three core teachings merged into six powerful habits that we knew would be profound life-shifting teachings for others, as they are for us.
What exactly is a Succulent Wild Love relationship?
SARK: Succulent as in self-loving and nourishing, the way a succulent plant stores water & nutrients for itself. Wild as in untamed, being utterly oneself while in relationship with another. Love, of course, as the ultimate expander.
Why do you describe the book as “a new philosophy of love and relationships for everyone?”
Dr. John: Most of us have been taught that in a successful intimate relationship we need to be willing to compromise. We have also been taught that in a long-term intimate relationship, such as a marriage, sacrifice is necessary for the sake of the relationship. So a mother may wish to pursue a hobby or a vocation, but feel that she needs to sacrifice in order to take care of her children. A husband may limit his freedom to spend time with his friends because his wife wants his attention. Almost all relationships, even quite successful ones, have these pockets of frustration. We show you how to clear these compromises and sacrifices away and create joyful solutions instead. The idea that you do not have to compromise or sacrifice in a relationship is a whole new concept that we use to show readers how they can have more unconditional love in their lives.
What would you say to someone who is single and longing for love?
SARK: Practice deeply loving yourself and become the partner you think you want. Inhabit your longing for love fully, and do your transformative work with the six habits in the book and let it inform your creation of a new Succulent Wild Love relationship.
Your book offers six habits of people who are in Succulent Wild Love Relationships. The first is that they listen to their Inner Wise Self and take action accordingly. Can you explain?
SARK: Each of us has a wise love mentor inside — it’s the part of us that knows more than our personality self does. You can think of it as your higher self, pure positive energy, or a gut feeling. Your Inner Wise Self is with you constantly and loves you unconditionally. Most people know they have this part of themselves and most people don’t ask it for help or advice. Whenever you ask, you’ll receive wisdom you can use. As you learn to ask more often, you’ll multiply your power in tremendous ways.
The second habit has to do with using feelings as a guide for knowing when the relationship is off track. How does this play out in your relationship?
SARK: We were going out for the evening and I wanted John to compliment me and tell me how nice I looked. When he didn’t, I excused myself and went back into the house to tend to my own feelings first. I stomped around for a few minutes expressing to myself that I wished he was the kind of guy that exuberantly complimented me. I then turned to the mirror and exuberantly complimented myself in great detail. Five minutes later, I met John at the car, feeling beautiful and well loved. John looked up and said, “Hey, you look REALLY nice.” That felt good of course, and it was even more important to give that to myself first.
The third habit of people in Succulent Wild Love relationships is that they recognize their inner critics and don’t put this criticism on their partner. Yikes, that sounds like a tough one.
SARK: You are never fighting with your partner. You are always fighting with an inner critic and projecting it onto them. Here’s an example: we were at the airport, and John commented on how my luggage was much heavier than his. I got very crabby and felt like he was being judgmental and unhelpful. It then led to my thinking that he thought I was too heavy! I accused him of this and he assured me that he didn’t think that. When we talked more about it, we discovered that my inner critic that thinks I’m too heavy had been projected right onto John! I also identified a critical inner thought that thinks I should always travel with a slim, light, overnight bag and that I had failed in this too. Many people are so merged with their inner critics that they’re not aware that the critics are not them. Once you become familiar with your inner critics and the kind of things they say and think, you can avoid most fights and arguments with your partner.
Dr. John: We start by looking for the essence. Beneath the surface of what people say they want there is usually an essence that is somewhat different. For example, a wife might say to her husband, “I want you to pick up the kids after work,” and if you stay with that surface desire, it may be impossible to find a satisfactory solution if the husband doesn’t want to pick them up. Upon further investigation, it may become clear why she wants her husband to pick up the children — she may want to rest or work on a project, and from that vantage point, we go on to the next step of Joyful Solutions, which we call Going Wide — which is looking for alternative solutions. In other words, are there other ways that she can have time to work on her projects or rest, other than by her husband picking up the children?
But can it always work?
Dr. John: Joyful Solutions start with the belief that you can both have everything you want, and that there is no scarcity. Once you agree that you truly want to honor each other’s desires, you can begin envisioning beyond compromise — where one person gives something up for the other or for the relationship —and use your creativity to come up with new solutions that may not have occurred to you otherwise. If you believe you can create Joyful Solutions you will not be willing to stop at compromise. Sometimes it may take several days and support from others, but we have found —for ourselves and for our students — that you can always come up with a Joyful Solution as long as at least one of the partners is fully committed to this.
Can you share an example of a Joyful Solution you created in your own relationship?
SARK: Out of the thousands we have created together, big and small, one of our favorites is something we call the “shower meltdown.” John was visiting me for the first time after we met and encountered my claw foot tub and handheld shower, which had become clogged. He sat in the tub with water dripping on his head and thought, “I can’t live like this.” I asked him how he was and he shared his dismay about there being no shower. I explained that I was more of a bathtub person and that I was open to creating a joyful solution. We arrived at the joyful solution of having a shower installed over the tub, so that we both had what we wanted, and it turns out I absolutely love having a shower!
You write about the importance of boundaries in relationships and use the term SPAR to explain their various aspects. What does it stand for?
Dr. John: SPAR stands for Security, Privacy, Activity, Respect. Security in that you feel safe, Privacy in that your personal ways and habits are honored, Activity in that how you choose to spend your time— solo or with others is supported, Respect in that you are respected in general and in specific. We call this the foundation of “beautiful boundaries” where each person’s boundaries are honored in the relationship. In many relationships, boundary breaking goes on without awareness. In a Succulent Wild Love relationship boundaries are clearly understood and honored.
What advice would you offer to couples for moving through anger and pain?
Dr. John: Know why you are angry. There are three components to anger, each of which needs to be dealt with differently: feeling not cared about, believing someone “should” behave differently, and addressing the practical impact for you of what they are doing. Once you understand why you’re angry, you’ll learn how to deal with your anger consciously.