Who I am
Hey there, I’m Sven Masterson. I am a master coach with Goodguys2Greatmen. My mission is to repair and restore the hearts of men, help them improve their relationships, and show them the path to intimate, deeply satisfying, emotionally and physically connected relationships.
I’m happily married to Zelda, who I married 28 years ago and with whom I’ve been in a continuous romantic relationship for over 30 years.
What I will share with you and why
I spent about half of our marriage in pain, misery, and frustration before encountering a handful of life-altering perspectives that helped me turn everything around. Today, I have a great relationship: one I often laugh about in sheer surprise, amazement, and gratitude.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been sharing these life-altering perspectives as four “keys” that I once discovered, put an end to my suffering and unlocked a thriving and connected marriage.
Last week, I shared the first key, unconditional high regard, and how it radically ended contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Here’s a link to that newsletter in case you missed it.
Today, I will tell you more about the second key, ownership – the key that resolved a lot of emotional pain within my life and empowered me to heal my marriage.
“You know why we a good partnership, Forrest? ‘Cause we be watchin’ out for one another.”
About the same time I began to experience transformation from unconditional high regard, I ventured to Puerto Vallarta to join several other men from our community for a week-long “Mexican Mojo Retreat” with Steve Horsmon and Tim Wade.
It was a fantastic experience that formed some of the closest bonds of brotherhood in my life today.
Before leaving Mexico, I grabbed a burger at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. with my now-good friend, Matt Epsky. As we ate our burgers, we were each processing the week’s intense experience, puzzling out what it meant for our lives.
The burgers were great, but the soul-satisfying feelings of partnership that come with relating deeply to other men on the same journey were the true joy.
Though my marriage was no longer in the “danger zone,” I still felt unsettled about the future of my life and relationship and like I was waiting for some things to happen before I could be all in on my marriage to Zelda.
I wanted the life I mentioned in my article two weeks ago – the one where I finally experienced that delightful, elusive, and intoxicating fragrance of the feminine that I would get hints of but could never seem to be found and consumed.
As Matt and I talked, he said, “Have you ever read Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink?”
You could practically hear the sound of the epiphany that was taking place within me.
“Ownership… hmmm ownership. What a great word… that’s it… that’s it! That’s what I’ve been missing!”
Ownership is not about blame but responsibility.
Matt went on to explain that the concept of extreme ownership was about owning everything that happens in your life. Everything.
Matt explained, “If you get t-boned in an intersection, own it. Own the steps that led up to it, own that your car is wrecked and that it’s not fixed. Own calling 911, the insurance process, and seeing that the car gets fixed. Own everything, Sven!”
Matt’s words felt empowering and liberating as I tried them on in my mind, and my epiphany grew more potent as my reasons for feeling stuck, and uncertain became clear. I was lacking ownership!
I loved the idea of moving farther from blame for the past while also moving forward into a future where no one else owned the tempo, and no one else’s permission was required.
I went home and bought the book. I didn’t read it for some time because our brief conversation had already set my heart down the ownership path, and I was not going back.
Greasing the skids of stuckness
Ownership, it turned out, would be the key to restoring my sense of direction in my life and increasing my momentum by freeing me to stop waiting for others to make decisions and take actions that impacted my quality of life.
I started asking myself, “what am I not owning here?” and asking, “who is the owner?” whenever I found an area I didn’t own.
I realized I own my thoughts and feelings and, as the owner, have a willful role in them. I realized I owned the meaning I assigned to things.
Ownership has become like WD-40 for me. So many uses! I’ll tell you a few of my favorites in a few minutes.
I didn’t own everything before because I didn’t feel qualified for the role.
Had I not first begun to understand unconditional high regard, I don’t believe this concept of ownership would have hit me with the same amount of clarity and inspiration.
The dictionary defines ownership as “the act, state, or right of possessing something.”
Because of the conditional regard and the resulting shame I’d experienced for most of my life, I often felt disqualified for the life I wanted. I never owned large parts of my life because, deep down, I didn’t know or believe I had the right to hold them.
My low sense of value, self-worth, and unworthiness for love led me to a life of deeding portions of my joy, happiness, and well-being to others, especially Zelda.
I lived in the lie of “happy wife, happy life” and had neither.
When you’re not the owner of what you want, you’re likely to end up resenting whoever is
I remember one of the first apartments Zelda and I had in our marriage. The walls and ceiling were ugly, dull, and in disrepair, and the kitchen floor was a hideous decades-old stained plush carpet.
It was not a pleasant place to live!
We spent Saturday mornings watching home-renovation shows, daydreaming about a home of our own and what we’d do if we ever had one, all while feeling that it was unlikely anytime soon.
We desperately wanted what was broken and uncomfortable to change. Our landlord had different ideas, goals, and interests. Even if we wanted to do something, we could not do it because he held the deed. He was stingy, and the lacking apartment experience he created for us was a constant source of resentment and frustration.
We didn’t know what we didn’t know
You might think, “Sheesh, Sven, you and Zelda sure sound like a bunch of entitled teenagers!” That wouldn’t be an entirely unfair assessment; we were!
It hadn’t yet occurred that our resentment toward our landlord was misplaced. His name was on the deed, not ours. We lived in a narrative where we couldn’t own a home, and our pleasure was only possible if our landlord acted benevolently, which he only did sometimes.
We couldn’t wait to get out of there and purchase a home. Our frustration made us pursue ownership, and we bought our first home, a fixer-upper. It needed a lot of work, but at least it was ours.
I’m dense, and that lesson of renting a gross apartment didn’t sink in very well. Though our experience led us to home ownership, I was still experiencing the same pattern of “resentful renting .”
This time though, it was in areas like happiness, well-being, passion, romance, self-care, and more.
I had unwittingly been making Zelda and other people landlords of significant parts of my life, like how I felt about value and worth, how I spent my time, the frequency and quality of intimacy, and many more painful ways.
I was effectively a serf in my kingdom instead of the king.
The slow descent into helplessness and hopelessness
It’s a little embarrassing to tell thousands of men I don’t know how much I’d surrendered to my poor wife. Remarkably, she didn’t kill me in my sleep!
For almost twenty years, I lived as a serf, disappointed that my needs never seemed met and exhausted from the constant asking and angling for more respect, appreciation, validation, love, sex, passion, connection, and free time to myself.
“This isn’t fair!”
“This isn’t what partnership was supposed to be about!”
“Isn’t a relationship supposed to be about fulfilling one another needs?!”
“I’m giving evetything I’ve got and taking nothing for my self! Why then aren’t my needs not getting met?!”
I was consistently melancholy, angry, and deeply resentful. I hated my Groundhog Day existence.
I was a first-class actor in the oldest act in the book – blame, and blame is the source of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Like my lack of unconditional high regard, it was sucking the life out of me and my marriage.
Not only was I suffering because of my warped and codependent worldview, but in my blindness and hubris, I thought I was acting noble, virtuous, and even selfless. In my upbringing, this was what it looked like to have a “Christ-like” and “godly” character!
Because I didn’t think “self” was worth anything, I tried living my version of a “selfless existence” for nearly twenty years, and my despair and hopelessness grew daily.
How ownership changed everything
A few minutes ago, I told you that ownership started restoring direction and momentum in my life.
Every time I felt stuck or in limbo, I began looking for what I wasn’t owning. I discovered a pattern that every time I experienced hard emotions, there was always someone to blame for them besides me.
The same pattern also revealed that there was always something I wanted, needed, or desired and that this person outside of me, the one I was blaming, was someone I’d commissioned, the owner of these.
Sometimes it was simple, like resenting that my wife was capitalizing on our free time. My desire was free time, but I constantly forfeited my ownership to my wife and then grew frustrated and would feel disrespected when she’d not make it a priority.
When I started owning my desire for free time, I began to take responsibility for securing it, planning for it, and doing it.
Other times, it was more complex, like our intimacy’s frequency, quality, and intensity. There too, I had placed the ownership for those things in her hands, and I hated how she managed them.
When I started owning what I wanted in intimacy and passion, I began to see it as my role to be passionate, to love better and more skillfully, and to stop hiding what I wanted and waiting for Zelda to know mysteriously.
All these things have improved and continue to do so. There is no area I’ve applied ownership in life that has not improved.
I live a life that refuses to blame Zelda or others for anything.
“Yeah, but… Sven, doesn’t that just mean you have to do everything? What’s the point of a relationship if you have to do everything?”
Friend, this is why I blamed Zelda and didn’t take ownership in the first place; fear of the cost.
What if my needs weren’t met?
I didn’t want to be a servant while she sat around, reading magazines, eating bonbons, and criticizing me while I did everything.
Eventually, I learned this was just scarcity thinking rooted in shame that led me to conclude I was unworthy of the life I wanted.
My worry about my unmet needs was just a masked lack of self-trust.
I don’t feel overworked or tired, and we’ve not had one of those “I do more than you” arguments in many years. Instead, unconditional high regard plus ownership has created so much warmth between us that we tend to try to outdo one another in thoughtfulness, kindness, and appreciation.
What’s that I smell?
Some of you might wonder, “what about that intoxicating aroma, Sven? How did you fix that?!”
That has been the best part of the ownership journey for me.
As I embraced these perspectives, I began to treat the desire for the intoxicating experience of the feminine like all other needs, wants, and desires and as being possible to source within.
Being on a homestead with my hands often in garden dirt showed me a new, life-altering perspective.
I started to see that no matter what may be in a seed, it takes a patient, skilled, and willing cultivator to coax the life hidden within the seed to grow into juicy fruit on the vine.
I’ve learned that to be that kind of cultivator has required transformation first within me, addressing my shame, fear, anxiety, and insecurity so that I’m free to cultivate from an open and loving heart.
Next, thanks to the power of unconditional high regard, I began to live in a story that believed deep within Zelda – hidden in the “DNA,” of her being – was the blueprint for everything I’ve ever longed to behold.
Much to my delight, that’s what has and continues to happen. The more I pursue the most authentic, sincere, and open-hearted experience of my own life, the more fruit I find on the vine, and the more the sweet aroma of what I longed for fills my gaze and nostrils.
How can this be?!
Let me tell you a secret; the whole universe is hidden within us, and the connection, passion, and intimacy that we each want have been hiding within us all along.
Coming up next week
Next week, I will tell you why I’ve always loved duct tape, first-aid kits, and flashlights. You’ll hear how 80’s TV and growing up in an anxiety-laden home set me on the path to discovering the third key, self-reliance, and then how self-reliance granted me the confidence to pursue the life I wanted.
Can’t wait til next week to discover more about the Four Keys?
Click here for my free introductory class on the Four Keys to Masculine Mastery & Thriving Connected Relationships (no email or credit card required)