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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pull In-Push Away Intimacy

The experience of intimacy is complicated and easily misunderstood, for new lovers as well as those in committed relationships. Most relationship partners have had the experience of misinterpreting the motives and desires of their lovers at times. Every person defines intimacy differently and incorrect assumptions between romantic partners are all too common.   

Those discrepancies can seriously affect expectations and outcomes. Because they tend to happen more often than people realize, many partners innocently assume these misinterpretations on a regular basis and without meaning any harm.
These assumptions of intimacy-readiness often result in a mismatch in the timing of desired connection. For example, at any one moment, one partner may feel pressured, or even overwhelmed, by the other’s needs, while the other partner only meant to express loving affection. Or, one partner may take some personal time away without sharing that decision ahead of time. The other partner can feel disappointed when a connection doesn’t happen as expected.  
What if one partner is seeking intimate connection while the other is focused on more personal issues? That desire for connection might have been perfectly appropriate at another time, but now is perceived as possibly intrusive. The partner who was seeking closeness can feel pushed away because he or she doesn’t understand.
If intimate partners continue to miss one another’s cues, either may begin to mistrust the other’s commitment to the relationship. Confused by what the other wants, they can fall into the trap of waiting too long for the other to return, or disconnect too soon to avoid the embarrassment of rejection.

Those awkward missteps can lead the partners to see the request for intimacy as something to be avoided, and closeness may begin to feel like entrapment. Or, the need for independence is experienced as a lack of interest. Feeling unsure of where each stands, the partners lose trust in the other’s availability or motives. Both can end up confused and untrusting of the pull-in-push-out maneuvers that could have been easily avoided.
 “He shows me in every way that he needs and wants me and I love that feeling of being that treasured. Then, as if I have done something wrong, he says mean things or just disconnects. I never know whether he really means it now and I feel immobilized, fearful to move in any direction. Then he tells me that I’m not accepting his love and he feels rejected. I’m so confused.”
“She acts like I’m the greatest guy in the world and she wants to spend every minute with me. Yet, after the weekend ends, I don’t hear from her for days. She responds to texts in one word answers, and always has some excuse that’s she’s overloaded at work or something. Thursday comes, and she’s all over me. The next week, it’ll be the same thing. I can tell you, it’s getting old.”
I have often observed one or both partners in a relationship expressing these double messages to each other, often at the same time. First one reaches out and the other hesitates, not trusting that opening for closeness. Then the other pulls back, fearing he or she has acted inappropriately. The first partner, ready now to reach out, meets a pull-back in the other, and then similarly retreats. Both seem confused and sad as the missed opportunities for closeness evolve into a mutually frustrating dance.
Fortunately, those repetitive and destructive misunderstandings can be healed. It just takes the right kind of communication and some effective skills. The first step is for a couple who is experiencing these misunderstands to recognize and agree that they genuinely want more closeness but are losing those opportunities because of a lack of effective communication between them.
Next, the couple must learn what is causing those misunderstandings and how they can experience each other more accurately. The exercise following will help both partners to learn those skills rapidly.
Lastly, after the couple has mastered a better understanding of each other’s needs, rhythms, and availabilities, they must work at staying open and encouraging as they practice their new awareness. Rituals and habits, even those that are destructive, don’t go away easily. It is essential that both partners continue their commitments to keep working on new ways of understanding each other’s thoughts and experiences.
Exercise – Sharing Each Partner’s Definitions of Intimacy
A couple who wants to regain an authentic intimate connection must understand the ways each partner perceives intimacy differently physically, emotionally mentally and spiritually. Not only are those often sensed and acted on differently in most people, they are also just as often experienced in different proportions and with different emphasis.
Some people must begin their intimate connections with touch, whether it is simple affection, deeper nurturing, or sexual interaction. Others are more comfortable sharing their emotions first. They need to know how the other feels about them before they can connect. Others thrive on talking about ideas and dreams before they can comfortably connect in another way. They need to feel secure and comfortable revealing their internal thoughts. For some people, feeling the same humbleness under a greater power connects them in ways that no other interaction can.
All four needs, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, are present in every person, though in different proportions and at different times. For intimate partners to have genuine healing and hope, both must learn how and when the other experiences them.
1)    Physical intimacy
People who prefer to initially connect physically feel wanted when their partners give and receive touch that awakens their senses. Touching that is compatible in rhythm, frequency, and style can bring both partners instantly close if both want the same thing, in the same way.
Because intimacy is so often correlated with physical touch, this area should be the easiest for most to talk about first. Yet, I often find that both new and established partners are not able to honestly share what they want in this domain, especially sexually. Because of the fear of offending or making the other partner feel uncomfortable, many couples develop less than optimum physical connections.
Partners who are comfortable sharing their most intimate and vulnerable physical touch desires often best heal in this area, especially when their relationship may be wavering in other areas.
“He knows exactly how and when to touch me. When I’m sad, he cradles me. When I’m in the mood for sex, he knows how to get me there. When I’m scared, he reassures me with tender caressing. It’s never too much and never too little. I’m so blessed.”
2)    Emotional Intimacy
The open sharing of emotional states is for many the most important basis for trust and comfort, and must precede any of the other three intimate connections. It is terribly painful to feel more vulnerable that one’s partner, especially in times of need. Knowing that a partner tracks, intuits, understands, and supports the emotional experience of another, allows partner to form the foundation from which all other intimate interactions are safe.
If one or both partners need to be known deeply, understood, and accepted before they can be intimate any other way, it is crucial that the other partners work to make that happen.
“She just gets me. I hardly have to change my expression or sound worried. I don’t know how she understands, but I end up sharing feelings that I sometimes didn’t even know I had. I can’t remember a time when she said anything that made me stop talking.”
3)    Mental intimacy
When partners can share their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and motivations, they can create the melding of minds that make people feel like they live in each other’s minds. When they feel their ideas and opinions truly matter to the other, they automatically share more openly and more vulnerably.
“He is one complicated guy intellectually and incredibly interesting to me. I look forward to how he thinks and where he gets those fascinating ideas. He cares what I think, too, and takes me seriously when I see things differently. We almost always end up melding our thoughts into new ways of looking at things.”
4)    Spiritual Intimacy
Spirituality for most is feeling part of something greater than self that both humbles and enriches the human spirit. Partners who feel as if they are doing that together feel a solidarity and closeness that they cannot achieve any other way. They can do it together in a place of worship, or under a waterfall in a beautiful forest. What is important for them is capture a common sense of wonder, while feeling simultaneously protected and inspired. Some partners have shared with me that they pray or meditate in each other’s presence before seeking intimacy in other ways.
“When she is quiet, I know she’s asking herself deep questions about her life and its purpose. I know she is connecting with a higher being who reminds her of what ethics and values she must live by to give her meaning. I fully respect that relationship. I have my own similar place I go, and we share those insights and inspirations with each other. When we do that, it reminds us of how lucky we are to have each other.”
Deeply engrained habits and rituals are hard to challenge. As people approach an interaction they want to change, they must stay conscious and clear in their intent to do it differently than before. Couples can be lost in confusion when they send each other double messages about when to move closer and when to move away.
Fortunately, a couple who has taken the time to truly understand each other’s ways of expressing intimacy can better understand those behaviors. They can better interpret and more accurately respond to what their partners want from them and create clearer communications. That does not mean that they are automatically obligated to do exactly what is asked, but it does give them guidelines. Even if it is not possible for them to give everything their partners may want, they can improvise and negotiate new possibilities with that knowledge.
As a beginning, the partners can ask each other to simply share the answers to the following questions. The more extensive and complete those answers are, the more they can make decisions about their availability to comply. It is crucial that the partner listening does not invalidate or question the answers. His or her answers may be deeply personal and vulnerable and must be respected.
1)    Physical: How and when do you like to be touched by me?
2)    Mental: What can we talk about that is interesting and fulfilling to you?
3)    Emotional: How can I make you feel safe to talk openly about your feelings?
4)    Spiritual: What gives you meaning in life that you would like to share with me?
When both partners understand the thoughts and feelings of the other, and how they are communicated in intimate interactions, they will be much more likely to respond accurately to each other’s needs and requests. The old patterns of misunderstandings and the frustrations that accompanied them will give way to a new kind of closeness, unhampered by unnecessary misconceptions. 




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

En Guarde - How Defensiveness Can Destroy Love

The French phrase En Guarde means to prepare for battle. The participants are sword fighters who must be ever-ready to attack and defend. Intimate partners who repeatedly engage in attack and defense maneuvers become relationship sword fighters, always on guard in the presence of the other.

Most intimate relationships don’t start out that way. When people are newly in love, they do everything they can to avoid finding fault with one another. If one partner does or says something that upsets the other, they both try to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Both partner’s upsets are listened to with compassion and distresses are neutralized by loving support.
As intimate relationships mature, some of that automatic resiliency diminishes. Consequently, the partners cannot guarantee anymore that they will always respond to a challenge with the same equanimity they had been able to in the past. A seemingly once-innocent remark can now trigger recollections of past relationship traumas. 
Even the couple’s own history together will have elicited personality conflicts that may have not been evident in the early stages of the relationship. As they get to know each other better, they allow previously suppressed thoughts and feelings to emerge, requiring the couple to adjust to the new dimensions of the relationship.
If the partners are not skilled at rebuilding their relationship when these demands for transformation occur, they can feel threatened by the new challenges and see them as critical evaluations. It is easy from there to develop defensive reactions that activate the other’s knee-jerk counter-attack.
People who care deeply for one another are the most susceptible to falling into this abyss. Because of their mutual attachments to their relationship’s survival, they cannot help but be significantly influenced by each other. Their facial expressions, body language, and tones of voice become mirrors that reflect their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to the other partner. If those mirrors reveal increasing discontent, the partner who is hurt by those reflections will respond in a defensive way.
There are many ways to prevent those upsetting reflections from gaining steam. The most successful game plan is to focus on the defense maneuvers rather than the triggers that may have activated them. Perceived challenges may not have been intentional threats, but the partner on the other end could have heard them as more critical than they were meant. Defenses are easier to identify and to change. Once both partners recognize how they characteristically defend any perceived attack, they can better evaluate what caused their defensive reactions and change those responses.   
There are many defensive responses, some unique to each individual couple. But, six of them are the most familiar to most people. The following examples will illustrate how harmful they can be to intimate partners.
The Six Most Common Defensive Behaviors
1)     Reversing Blame
People who defend this way want to get the heat off of them and on to the other partner. The easiest way to do that is to remind the other partner when he or she did the same thing at another time.  
“You were a real jerk last night at the party. Everyone was embarrassed when you thought that telling the hostess that she should dump her husband was funny. I felt like you were making it look like you were tired of me, or something.”
“Oh, right. You’re playing the never-do-anything-wrong person again, pretending innocence. You get drunk at every party we go to. The guys line up to wait for you to start falling all over them, just like last week. What the hell were you doing?”
2)     Expecting Forgiveness by “Legitimate” Excuses
The goal of this defensive maneuver is to have ready and convincing excuses for the behavior being questioned. There were “unforeseen or “unmanageable events” that just couldn’t be controlled. The person attacked presents him or herself as innocent of any wrongdoing because of the difficulty of the situation. There were extraneous circumstances, so there should not be any negative reaction.
“I texted you five times to pick me up at the airport. I had to wait an hour for you to get there. You are always late no matter how much I stressed that I needed you to be on time today. What was so important that you couldn’t get back to me?”
“I’m so sorry. I forgot to charge my phone because I was helping your mother with her upsetting doctor appointment, and then I was on my way before I realized it. I knew you wouldn’t want me to be any later than I always was, so I just took a chance. And then there was an accident on the freeway. I was so frustrated but I didn’t have any way of reaching you. You’re being so unreasonable to be mad at me. I did everything I could to be on time and it wasn’t my fault.”
3)     Crazy-Making
This maneuver requires that you play the part of an attorney-like prosecutor but is very effective as a defense. When one partner feels attacked, he or she actively and stridently challenges that the event in question never happened, is being distorted, or is coming from unreasonable bias. The goal is to get the presumed attacker to doubt him or herself.
“You promised me that you would be supportive when I decided to go back to work. You said you would help with shopping and cooking. You’ve managed to avoid doing anything you promised. I don’t even believe you anymore.”
“First of all, I never made all of those stupid promises. I said I would help you out if I had the time, remember? You are exaggerating like crazy to make me feel like the bad guy. Just like a woman, you remember only what’s convenient to win the argument. Go ahead and pretend it happened your way. It won’t work. You’re really off the mark.”
4)     Exaggerating Your Partner’s Point
This one is tricky, but extremely effective when used accurately. The presumed attack is hurtful to a point. Instead of defending, the assaulted partner makes the accusation much more intense and meaner than intended, exaggerating it beyond what the accuser intended. The goal is to get the adversary to begin protecting you from the initial assault.
“You’ve promised to save money for months. We can’t even pay our bills. What the hell is up with this credit card? I’ve gone through it and there isn’t anything on this that we really need. You’re supposed to talk to me before you spend extra money. I’m really pissed.”
“Why don’t you just say that I’m not worth it? Just be truthful. You hate to spend money on me because you don’t think I deserve it. You never appreciate the things on there that I buy for you. Every time I buy something for myself, I worry that you’re going to be mad. Not only are you angry at me, but you wipe my self-esteem off the face of the earth by your mean accusations. I might as well just give up and let you run everything yourself. Maybe that would make you stop yelling at me.”
5)     Finding an Exception to the Situation
This defensive maneuver works extremely well if the accuser talks in generalities. When words like “always,” “never,” and “ever,” are used, it is quite easy to find one exception to the accusation that will invalidate the wipe-out evaluation.
“You keep saying you’re going to do something special for me on a weekend, but you never come through. I’ve been waiting forever for any sign that I can trust your promises, but I’m getting tired of believing in someone who obviously offers when he wants something from me but has no intention of following through once he gets it. Just admit it; you’re never going to put me first, no matter how much it hurts me.”
“How can you say that? I took you to your girlfriend’s party last month even when I didn’t want to go. We went to the movies a couple of weeks ago, remember? I even agreed to go to your brother’s bachelor party even though I can’t stand the guy. You only pay attention to what you don’t get. Why don’t you try thinking about what I do for you instead?”
The most devastating and destructive defensive maneuver is intimidation. One partner finds fault or challenges the other and is met with escalated anger on the part of the other, clearly meant to over-rule by force, invalidation, and derision.
Threatening an emotional demise has no positive outcome and will eventually destroy any hope of continued intimacy. People who use emotional force create the fight-flight-freeze response in their victims. The part of the brain that seeks safety compels the person attacked to activate his or her defenses, run away, or play dead.
“You’re never happy with me. No matter what I do, you have a bitchy, critical response. I don’t even want to talk to you anymore. You constantly complain that you want closeness, but you’re covered in barbed wire and porcupine quills. Maybe if you softened up, I’d be interested, but I’m not going to open up if you keep doing what you’re doing.”
“You have got to be the most self-centered, obnoxious, self-serving person on the planet. All I want is a little caring from a man with balls. You’re wimpy and conflict-averse, and it’s easy to blame me, right? You wanted a strong woman who knows her mind. Well, you got one. And now I’m too mean and you’re so victimized. Take some goddamn responsibility for a change.”
* * *
Defensiveness in any form has only one purpose: to invalidate, suppress, or diminish the other partner’s current thoughts, feelings, or actions. It is a dangerous and hurtful game that damages self-worth and the ability to heal from negative encounters. It can turn a mutually loving relationship from one of safety and comfort into a battle for survival.
Fortunately, just stopping using a defensive response to a presumed attack can turn the tide. Once the cycle of reciprocal attack and defend ends, both partners can listen more deeply to whatever is triggering the other’s distress and keep it where it begins.   










Thursday, May 11, 2017

10 True Gifts of Love

In the magical uncertainty of new romance, every couple creates their own unique emotional language of devotion. Sometimes those treasured connections deepen over time and the relationship becomes a long-term commitment. But too often those wonderful beginnings don’t last.

For the four decades of my therapeutic career, I have listened to the sorrows of many committed partners struggling to regain what they have lost. They have shared their discouragement and confusion watching their initial hopes fade and seemingly unanswerable questions replace them.
How can we have given everything we could to our partners and yet have failed to keep our love alive? Why didn’t our total commitment to each other keep us together? What was missing in the way we treated each other? Is there anything we could have done differently? Can we do anything now to turn things around?
Having dealt with hundreds of these discouraged but still hopeful couples over many years, I have been able to help them refocus in a new way, giving them the answers they seek. I ask them to bring the following ten true gifts of love into their present relationship and watch those changes create new hope.
The 10 True Gifts of Love
1)    Supporting Your Partner’s Perspective even When it is not Yours
One of the most important experiences for all human beings is to believe that what they see, feel, and hear, is both validated and supported by those who matter to them. It is the absolute core of mental and emotional stability.
When couples have disagreements, it is all too common for them to impose their personal beliefs upon the other. Most people do not realize how desperately they fight to hold on to their own sense of reality, even if it means simultaneously erasing the other partner’s.
When couples fully accept that two true but different realities can exist side by side, they feel less need to deny what is real for the other. Instead, they search for a greater truth to encompass both of their realities, or they agree to disagree. True love does not allow one person’s truth to erase the others.
2)    Emergency Responsiveness
When either partner in a love relationship puts out a true SOS, the other is fully committed to help and support their highest priority.
Love deepens when both partners know that, in times of distress, they can absolutely trust that the other will be there, in heart, mind, and action.
As the complications of all relationships evolve, it is far too easy for people to take each other for granted, to let other priorities take precedence, or too ease to assume that calls for help are either not important, will lessen, or will be handled by someone else.
3)    The Forgiveness Haven
No matter how committed anyone is to quality behavior, he or she is bound to make mistakes from time to time. Those moments are deeply fragile and vulnerable for everyone. When intimate partners know they have a safe place in the other’s heart, they are better able to learn from their mistakes.
No partner should be expected to be perfect in their capacity to tolerate actions that hurt, but openness to why or how the other “slips” should always come first when love pervades.
4)    Respecting Each Other’s Inner Worlds
After intimate partners have been together for a while, they affect each other in more and more ways. Those mutual responses show up in several ways. Sometimes they react to experiences that come directly from what is happening between them in the relationship. At other times, something that happens between them triggers memories from the past, and may have little to do with their current relationship. Most often, it is a combination of the two.
When a current interaction activates a prior memory, especially one that is unresolved or traumatic, either partner may think that the reaction is about him or her, when it is not. That interaction creates an interpersonal conflict when it should not.  If people experiencing that triggered response understand that it is not coming from their current relationship, they can resolve it more successfully.
It is never easy for anyone to fully understand another’s internal world. There are multiple memories that drive people’s feelings, thoughts, or needs. It is crucial that both partners do not assume they have experienced life the same way.
5)    Memorizing What is Sacred
There are specific words and actions that can make each person either feel safe in his or her most vulnerable states or can create insecurity, self-doubt, and defensiveness. When people truly love each other, they know the difference between them, and don’t hurt one another by forgetting those that wound.
No matter how angry, hurt, frustrated, upset, irritated, or disappointed either partner gets, people who treasure each other don’t use their partners vulnerabilities irresponsibly. They also know what touches the heart, what soothes the soul, and what inspires the mind of the other.
6)    Shouldering the Load
At any one time, all relationships have access to resources from which to nurture and support each other. They can choose to allocate when they will be available, how much energy they want to put into any interaction, whether or not they want to offer support, and how present they will be when they attend.
When either partner is overloaded or unable to carry his or her fair share of the current load, the other partner willingly steps up to help without questioning the need. Devoted partners don’t keep score or worry that they might be taken advantage of if they have to give more in certain situations. They accept that there will be unexpected challenges that require more commitment and are ready to do that when necessary.
7)    Making Room for Each Other’s Individual Dreams
Even the most loving of couples can forget to encourage their partner’s separate paths to fulfillment. New lovers willingly push aside their individual goals in order to concentrate on those that are mutual. They understandably want their lives to intertwine and to grow stronger as a unit, and do not mind sacrificing personal dreams when necessary to make that happen.
As time passes, those back-burnered desires may re-emerge. Though they may have temporarily become lost in the couple’s commitment to mutual dreams, they begin to beg attention. Partners who respect and support those buried desires want them to happen. They know that some of their relationship priorities may have to be rescheduled, and the resources to make that happen must be willingly reallocated.
8)    Making Room for Each Other’s Broken Places
Whatever happens in life, no one who escapes sorrow. Though some have suffered more than others, everyone has had experiences of terrifying vulnerability, moments of humiliation, and anguishing loss.
When people truly love and respect each other, they are fully present and supportive when their partners express those memories and the emotions that accompany them. The do not challenge, invalidate, or question the reasons they feel that way.
In quality love relationships, partners realize that broken places naturally will emerge for both of them from time to time. They feel grateful that they can be there for each other when that happens.
When a sorrow feels either person’s heart, the other partner attends without judgment, gives support without the need to change the experience, and offers unconditional love during those moments can actually help those damaged places to heal.
9)    Attunement
From the first moments of life, there are specific kinds of interactions between children and their caretakers that create in those children a sense of being deeply understood and known.
Attunement is the ability to listen beyond what is being said, to see what is not being revealed, and to feel what is not being shared. When we feel treasured, we intuitively feel that our partners “get” us. We feel their genuine interest, their loving welcome, and their total devotion.  
People who love each other are deeply attuned to the thoughts and feelings of each other. They welcome the opportunity to pay exquisite attention to what the other needs, often before they are even apparent to the other.
10)                    The Freedom to be Transparent
The level of intimate connection between lovers is directly correlated to how authentic they can be with each other. The more open they can be with what they are thinking and feeling, the more they can know who the other truly is.
Yet, all truths are not always helpful or necessary in every situation. Sometimes the choice to withhold or to be more diplomatic is more caring. Successful partners understand discern how much openness is appropriate to each situation.
Intimacy is positively correlated with the partner’s willingness to share their internal worlds with each other. Those who seek a greater closeness do everything they can to practice resiliency and to reduce defensiveness so that transparency will grow.  
* * * * * * * * *
These ten behaviors are true gifts of love. Those who experience them in their most important relationships enjoy the sacred experience of being deeply known, fully accepted, and authentically beloved. Despite the energy and commitment it takes to achieve this kind of love, those who have made it happen are beacons of hope for those who are seeking the same joy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

"Why Did I Ever Leave You?"

New love is entrancing and brings out the best in most people. Sadly, those initial blessings often wear off, leaving many needing to end a relationship. When partners are in agreement that they both want to move on, those endings are just part of life and both people are willing to try again with someone else.

It is different when that decision is one-sided. If only one partner wants the relationship to continue while the other is ready to end it, the person left behind is often saddened and heartbroken, while the other must bear the guilt of leaving a once-beloved partner.
Most people who leave a relationship are ready to move on. But some, after time passes, begin to regret their decision. Once they have put the negative aspects of that past relationship behind, they begin to miss the good times left behind. Haunted by having left someone they perhaps truly loved, they wonder if they should have tried harder to make the relationship work, and begin to search for that lost love.   
They may find that their past partners are no longer available and that they’ve missed their chance. But sometimes they find out that a past love is currently unattached. The possibility that they might have another chance awakens a compelling desire to try again. Even if their feelings may no longer be reciprocated, they cannot walk away without finding out.  
I have personally observed many patients as they attempted to retrieve a past love relationship. Their journeys are hopeful and fragile. There have been multiple experiences for both people during the time they have been apart that may have changed their feelings for what they want in a relationship.  
But some actually do connect and flourish. If they are willing and ready to remember what prompted them to leave the first time, what could be different now, and how they must change to be successful, they actually can make it work, often more wonderfully than they were able to in the past.  
Over the years, I have made note of the most common reasons someone may leave a relationship prematurely. Partners who want to reconnect to an old love they’ve once left must make certain they understand what went wrong between them. Knowing whether their own characteristic behaviors were the problem can make the difference between succeeding or failing the second time around.
The Most Common Reasons People Leave Relationships Too Soon
1)     Fear of Commitment
The fear of premature commitment is one of the most common reasons that people state for leaving relationships. Those partners have difficulty understanding the difference between commitment and entrapment. They often feel pressure to make promises they may not be able to keep, especially on the other end of someone who is ready for a long-term relationship.
If one partner feels that the other wants a commitment and isn’t ready, he or she will sense that desire as a potential trap. Feeling locked into a relationship that might lose its allure feels too scary.
When a relationship no longer has new discoveries to experience, has continual conflict, or loses its attraction, most people pull back their energy and resources. The fear of commitment will logically become a fear of entrapment when relationships stop evolving and regenerating.
People who see commitment as entrapment may not be able to imagine a long-term relationship that doesn’t feel potentially confining or obligated. If they go back to a relationship they once left behind, they must redefine and resolve that fear, or the same behavior will likely recur.
2)     Lack of Readiness for a Long-Term Relationship
Many people feel unable to stay in a permanent relationship because they don’t feel wise or experienced enough to promise a future they cannot foresee.  They don’t know themselves deeply enough to predict what they might want someday, and are not ready to stop exploring other alternatives that might be better.
This inability and unwillingness to foresee what might happen is natural in young adults, but older people can also feel unable to predict who they might yet become. It is not wrong or necessarily immature to continually opt for pleasure, to choose a life of continuing adventure, to embrace constant new discoveries, and to enjoy novel situations.
There are quality people who should never be in a long-term relationship. Though those intertwinements offer security, shared memories, and mutual dreams for the future, they require that both partners maintain their devotion and continue to regenerate their love.
When people want that security but cannot give up their freedom, they must ultimately make a choice if they want to stay in a relationship. They may leave relationships that feel wonderfully satisfying, but anticipate they will need to move on someday.
3)     Going Back to an Unfinished Relationship
It is totally possible to love more than one person at a time. Many people leave relationships even though they still have strong feelings for the other person, and recommit to a new partner. They rationalize the leaving of their prior relationship because there were just too many problems, or they felt unfulfilled.  
After time elapses, the partner who is now in a new relationship begins to face its own problems. He or she begins to remember the magical moments of the past love. Negatively comparing the present relationship to the one gone, memories pervade consciousness and the present relationship dims in importance. The desire to go back to the old love intensifies and the present relationship becomes a casualty.
4)     Lack of Faith in Long-Term Successful Relationships
Childhood experiences compounded with sequential adult interactions heavily impact the trust anyone has in whether or not a long-term, quality relationship is even possible. Many people have had parents who have failed to stay together, often through disastrous interactions and painful outcomes.
When people allow their past experiences to determine their future options, they will love the romantic phases of new relationships but become easily discouraged when the lust/discovery/ honeymoon period wears off. Instead of energetically embracing that next emerging state of deeper friendship and commitment, they begin to focus on what isn’t going right.
People become what they anticipate and get better at those choices as they practice. If they are looking for problems, they will find them and assume they are unfixable. Their basic, underlying unconscious mind tells them continuously that all relationships are eventually doomed, and they begin to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In order to make an old relationship work, those naysayers must change their ways of thinking by understanding where their attitudes came from and how those limitations have affected the outcomes of their relationships. Otherwise, going back to a lost love will not work any better than it did the first time.
5)     Choosing Easy over Challenge
Long-lasting, successful relationships take work and the partners within them don’t shirk that commitment. They know that their continuing regeneration is absolutely dependent on continuing to care deeply about each other and the relationship.
When relationship seekers don’t understand that basic principle or aren’t willing to put in the effort, they often pick partners who don’t ask for much of them. The relationship doesn’t need much, but also doesn’t offer much in the long run.
Boredom is often the result of a too-easy, too predictable relationship. All human beings seek security but also need novelty and challenge to be at their best. When relationship seekers opt for easy, they risk becoming involved in a relationship that will cease to hold their attention.
As boredom increases, most relationship partners seek novelty and excitement outside the relationship. The couple begins to spend less time and energy on the relationship, and the distance between them increases.
6)     Lacking the Skills to Transform Romantic Feelings to Deeper Love
When love is new, it is often spectacularly intense, and magically seductive. New lovers are spellbound. They are enraptured and captured by the experience of each other. Both put their best feet forward, keep their liabilities hidden, and devote themselves selflessly to the needs and desires of their new partners. They willingly put all other involvements on a back-burner, offering all of their resources first to each another.
People who have not learned the skills to transform their romantic duo into deep love and conviction come to a halt when the love/lust part of the relationship naturally wanes. They have had either unrealistic expectation that those feelings should always be there throughout the length of a relationship, or have never known the wonder of deeper love. When they are no longer enamored and caught up in the seductive process of new connection, they fear that they will never experience those feelings again.
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Before anyone tries to go back to a prior love, they must look deeply into their own reasons for why they chose to leave before. Do they pick the same kind of partners that will never work no matter how hard they try? Do they feel that any permanent decision in their lives is doomed to end in entrapment? Are they just not long-term relationship material? Do they always regret their past decisions? Do they have faith that any long-term relationship will work? Do they pick people who don’t challenge them so they don’t have to think about long-term decisions? Have they never learned the skills to transform new love into mutually committed treasuring?
There are reconnections that do work, beautifully, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. The chances of success are much greater if people know why they left, have changed their behaviors, have learned the skills to do it better the next time around and have a willing partner at their side. When a person is ready to do those things and has a welcoming accepting partner, I have personally observed the heart-warming sweetness of these rekindled loves.











Friday, April 14, 2017

Relationship Alert - When Givers Become Takers

Newly romantic partners want to care for each other in every way they can. Ever watchful for any overt or covert expression of desire, they are attuned to their lover’s needs without resentment or obligation.

As they become committed to a long-term relationship, many of those same partners tend to give each other less of the exquisite attentiveness they had experienced when their love was new. The priorities that they put aside to make one another center stage gradually emerge.
Initially devoted relationship partners don’t intend to lose the focused caring they once so easily gave to each other. They anticipated that their initial levels of passion and romantic connection would understandably somewhat diminish as the relationship matured, but they welcomed the comfort and security that came with creating mutual experiences and significant memories.
Sadly, as most people feel more secure in a future together, many intimate partners forget that level of treasuring must be maintained. Those sacred and intimate moments that were central to their new love require recognition and regeneration to stay available. But, too often, as intimate partners relax into the comfort of a committed relationship, they can too easily forget how they once were the most important center of each other’s lives.
That process is further complicated when each partner doesn’t experience the lessened availability in the same way. What is important to one may not be as much so for the other. There are countless examples. Many men, for example, feel that their long-term partners are not as sexually interested as they continue to be and many women equally miss the emotional connection they once could count upon. Or, if both partners have careers, they may need to resurrect work obligations they’ve put aside when the relationship was new. Family obligations, kept submerged while the partners were focused on each other, now raise demands to pay tribute.
Whatever the causes, one or both partners have actually become less automatically available to one another. They were once each other’s first priority, easily entitled to ask for whatever was desired. Now, they may have to ask for what once was offered freely. Time, affection, attention, support, interest, energy, and priority, once bountiful, now often must be negotiated.  
These changes can happen very slowly and may go unnoticed by even the most devoted of partners. They still love cherish their relationship and are readily available during a crisis. That assumption can lure a couple into believing that they can still count on those sweet spots of automatic and complete availability whenever they might need to resurrect it.
Sadly, that is not true. Unless that depth of devotion and caring is continually regenerated, it can quietly diminish, leaving one or both partners and bereft at a time of need.
What do Couples Need to do to Keep Their Sweet Spots Alive?
1)    Stay Current
Many people who leave relationships regret their decision later, wishing they had tried harder before quitting. In the heat of battles that seemed unavoidable and unending or unable to regenerate discovery, they could not stop the disintegration in time. 
Life’s requirements intervene in all relationships. Legitimate unexpected challenges, chosen obligations, unresolved differences, and postponement of important interpersonal issues, can easily combine to keep a couple too busy to focus on each other’s needs.
As a couple moves from intertwined to parallel, many intimate partners begin to do the relationship in their own heads and forget to check out whether or not their other partners still think and feel the same way. They have forgotten who they were when every detail of their lives was mutually experienced and all their resources were combined and mutually allocated. It doesn’t take long before their initial deep connection can become a past memory, replaced by a pretense of intimacy that they believe is more alive and available than it is.
2)    Balancing Resources With Demands
All long-term relationships are subject to changing requirements and the subsequent need to redistribute resources. Some of those resources are subjective and others are objective, but both are important. Subjective resources include time, energy, compassion, availability, or emotional support. Objective resources might be allocation of finances, shifting of responsibilities, new means to increase resources, more efficiency in resolving problems, or sacrificing personal needs.
In spontaneously generous relationships, couples decide which partner’s needs should claim the relationship’s resources at any one time, and how that decision best benefits the relationship, both in the short and long run.
What is essential is that both partners feel hear, see, appreciated, and cared for because those decisions are made together. They have a clear sense of what their mutual values and ethics are and they talk openly about what each needs to make things work. They also understand that desires and needs will not always feel justified to either in the moment, but that both completely trust the fairness of the other to compensate when time allows.
3)    Agreement on Priorities - In Everyday Life and During Crises
When lovers are new to each other, they diligently search for the ways to agree on the major aspects of life. That includes how they behave with each other and also how they see the world the same way.
As relationship partners share this journey, some thoughts and feelings will be consciously or unconsciously suppressed to ensure that harmony prevails. Understandably, as the relationship matures, those previously submerged thoughts and feelings will emerge and create frictions that were not previously part of the relationship.
Successful couples are ever-ready to face those new disagreements and to remold their relationship in the process experiences together. They are well aware of the current emotional, physical, financial, and life crisis demands on their combined resource, and maintain flexibility to rearrange them in the most relationship-effective way they can.
Often, one partner may want some of those unexpected or chosen new demands more than the other or at different times. The commitment to fairness, to openness, to negotiation, and to compromise is clearly evident in couples who love each other want to keep it alive and regenerating. They trust that an imbalance is some situations or at some times, will be generously compensated in another. They know how to rate priorities and do everything they can to find agreement in those decisions.
4)    Special Availability During Crises
New lovers are each other’s first priorities whenever and however they can be. Whenever either reaches out for help, for sustenance, for reassurance, or for support, the other does everything he or she can to provide what is asked.
As the partners re-enter the world outside of their treasured intimacy, they realize that other priorities will limit the automatic availability they had. In quality relationships, both partners consistently re-evaluate their needs and availabilities to make sure they stay close to each other along the way.
A couple’s ability to update one another as changes in their individual needs emerge is crucial for this agreement to work. They also know that there might be situations where one may inadvertently let the other down. Both are committed to understand that there will be unexpected events, and some that cannot be changed.
In short, couples who stay in mutually generous relationships have each other’s backs. They are careful to not take advantage of one another and trust the other partner’s good intentions even if he or she cannot give what is asked.
5)    Remembering Their Automatic Love and Generosity
New love is a sacred and beautiful time in the lives of all lovers. The sweetness and non-judgmental acceptance both feel creates a sanctuary of comfort and confidence. Though it cannot last per se in exactly the same way, it can be remembered and saved as the treasure it was, and brought back when times are hard.
Couples who don’t want to slip into the trap of apathy and parallel lives feel the alarm of losing each other early in the game. When that emotional trumpet sounds, one or both call the other back to remember and recreate those original “sweet spots” where irritation and impatience were slow to come and compassion and forgiveness were abundant. They search for the place in themselves where they recognize how empty life would be without each other and how important it is to forever protect their connection.
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No person can be generous, available, caring, and willing to sacrifice for the other at all times, and all intimate partners, no matter how devoted, must choose self over the other at points in time.
Successful partners forgive each other during stressful times and trust that their partner will do the same for them. They trust each other’s thoughts, feelings, and reasons when those times happen. That helps them to return as soon as possible to their shared commitment of generosity and devotion.