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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Risks of Dating a Separated Man

This potential situation is one of the most common inquiries my patients have brought to me over the last four decades. Despite the media’s tendency to define them in simple terms, I am continually surprised as to how many different variations of this dilemma actually exist. The ways in which they are strikingly similar is in the fact that two women are in some kind of relationship with the same man.

Triangles are stable when all three legs are solid. What that means is that each dyad is securely connected. A psychologically floppy triangle exists when the man is at the apex of that triangle and the two women represented by the two legs are not connected to each other. That gamut can run from two women who have known one another in the past, even possibly friends, to total strangers who are now connected to each other by being attached in some way to same man. Floppy triangles are essentially unstable and the outcomes are often unpredictable.
There are many factors that can affect these triangulated relationships and can affect the outcome in different ways.
Time Elapsed
A new separation is clearly more undefined. Committed couples often hit major snags in a relationship and lose each other, sometimes only temporarily. A person in grief, angry, unhinged, or feeling newly free of cumulative stress is a vulnerable target for another, or an unwitting seeker of undiscerning escape. Anyone, who is in an unstable situation, lacking a clear path, can make in-the-moment decisions that have nothing to do with what he or she may need or want as time elapses. If those newly separated partners are searching for validation and support, they often only focus on that aspect of a relationship, blinded to what the eventual problems would be.
If, on the other hand, a separation has been in effect for quite a while, multiple attempts to reconnect have failed, and both partners are coming to the conclusion that divorce may be inevitable, that compulsive hunger to immediately reconnect is not the driver it might have been at the beginning. Those quieter reasons for seeking another relationship can give both people the time to choose another relationship more carefully.
If the separated man is concerned that a new relationship may inflame the other partner, he may choose to keep a new relationship quiet. Many people considering divorce are in the throes of conflict and don’t want another source of trouble adding to what is already a difficult situation. That is especially true if the new relationship can threaten the other partner’s potential access to resources or loss of what they have. If the separated man isn’t sure about reconnecting with his partner and a new relationship would make that option far less likely, he may not want to lose those choices by keeping his two worlds separate.
The heartache that arises if and when those clandestine relationships emerge is never good. A partner who may have understood a one-night stand is much less likely to weather feeling a fool for some period of time. She will likely assume that person was there from the beginning and the reason for the break-up if her partner asked for the separation.
Prior History
Volatile, unstable relationship that have had a history of break-ups and reconnections, are often laden with unresolved issues. Intimate partners, who can’t live with each other and can’t live without each other, often take semi-legitimate breaks from the relationship from time to time, either with or without other partners in between. When they are initially back together, they are in renewed ecstasy and often don’t want to deal with their recurring problems. As they must eventually emerge, they become quickly allergic to those deal-breakers and disconnect. Over time, and especially if they’ve been in disappointing other relationships, they miss each other and valiantly try to “make it work again.” If they don’t see those patterns and correct them, that process will occur until they either wear each other out or find someone they’d rather invest in.
Committed partners who still care deeply for one another, on the other hand, often separate because of external stressors, worn-out interactions, infidelities, or a slow drift-apart that neither realized could have ended up in a separation. They are at a loss when it happens, but still feel attached to their history, friends, children, financial situation, mutual families, and a deeper caring. After a time apart, they realize that they want to make the relationship work and are highly motivated to make that happen.
The man in those unfinished relationships may be unknowingly available to a new partner, but is highly likely to go back to his other relationship.
Time the prior relationship has existed
All committed relationships go through stages where the partners feel connected and that they wouldn’t want to be with anyone else, and other times where one or both starts to feel that the partnership is on a collision course. Those drifts can come from so many causes: illness, financial strain, too many obligations without reward, personal insecurities, stages in life that produce self-doubt, boredom, neglect, too much hostility without reparation, or just plain growing apart.
Relationships that are new have not had the time for enough negatives to accrue that can outweigh the reasons to stay together. Long-term commitments are filled with attachments to meaningful experiences, people, material goods, and history that may go beyond the loss of personal intimacy. These attachments can bring people back together after a separation in ways that new relationships are less likely to do.
It can also have the opposite effect. If one or both partners in a relationship have drifted too far apart to repair the loss, that separated man may be soured against getting involved long-term again or authentically seeking a new long-term relationship. In the midst of a separation, especially if many other people want that relationship to keep going, he may be overwhelmed with indecision and unable to see clearly what is best.
Prior Infidelities
Men who have had relationships with other women throughout their committed relationship have either had partners who have regularly left and returned, or have been successful in keeping them clandestine. In either case, a relationship they begin while being separated is just another kind of infidelity. Men who do not find themselves ever satisfied with only one woman are clearly not likely candidates to change that behavior in the future. Women who feel they can corral that man because of their specialness often find themselves broken and disillusioned when that man continues his prior behavior.
There is one exception. Some men have had dual relationships for a long time. They are in committed relationships with two women at the same time, most often without their primary partner knowing of the other woman. If their clandestine relationship ends, they find themselves unsatisfied with only that remaining partner, and want out of the relationship. They are earnestly looking for someone new to commit to, but triangles are highly likely to eventually happen again.
Quality men who are truly torn
Lest it appears that all separated men are untrustworthy and unstable, I must mention a sub-group of men who come to me torn apart by their loyalty to the person they have truly loved and the need to move on. They have deep and current needs to be soothed in their conflict but do not want to hurt the person they’ve left or are not over the loss of a woman who has left them. They are the most vulnerable to any predatory woman who, knowingly or unwittingly, seeks the opportunity to be that man’s solace. He may prematurely commit to that relationship, without resolving his internal conflict first. Once he does that, he may find himself feeling trapped by the woman who moved in the situation too quickly.
Here is what to watch out for.
1)      Whether or not that separated man talks well of his established partner. No blame, no attacks on character, and no created rationale for why he had to leave or how bad she was for leaving him.
2)      His indecisive state of whether or not he’s doing the right thing.
3)      Any promises that do not materialize in the time committed.
4)      Hostility, judgment, or invalidation of “women.” You will be next.
5)      How, and in what way, he has tried to make that prior relationship work. Did they go to couple’s therapy?
6)      How clear he is on why the prior relationship didn’t work, his part in it, and how much he wants to, or feels obligated to, stay connected to her.
The last, and perhaps most important, caveat
Women who are trusted by, and trust, other women, do not create triangles where they are in competition, clandestine or out, with other women for the same man. Remember the demise of floppy triangles. If you are going to create a relationship with a separated man, insist that his separated spouse know about it, that she is emotionally done with the relationship, and that she would want to know you were the relationship with her ex to actually end. That is especially true if children are involved and you will eventually become a co-Madre. If you have children of your own, that man must know you are a package, not just an available woman. If he is a father, pay attention to how he feels about his children, especially if you have your own.
Only enter these triangles if you are fine whether or not this relationship works out or doesn’t. Be a friend to both he and his ex in terms of your support for what is right, over what you may legitimately want and need. If you can remain that neutral supportive person, despite your love for him, you will have the best chance of a successful outcome.








Thursday, August 11, 2016

Selling Out - Giving Too Much Away in Relationships

There may be a few random souls who are not buyable under any circumstances. In my four decades of working with individuals and couples, I have never known one. The majority of us try as hard as we can to hold on to our integrity even when we’re threatened by loss, but it just isn’t that simple. Love requires sacrifice. Trust requires faith. And, getting along in this complicated world of dating and commitments requires believing in the goodness of ourselves and our partners. When we’re in love, we want to believe that bending to the wills of our partners is a noble act.

It is, but only to a point. Unless a relationship partner is threatened with abuse or unable to physically disconnect for whatever reasons, many stay in relationships they should leave because of both conscious and unconscious attachments, compromising their own integrity to hold someone to them or to get to stay. Those sell-outs can be anything from giving up simple desires to letting go of life-long dreams. Or, in some cases, behaving in ways that seal the deal with even more disastrous self-destruction.
Every relationship is different and people are different in different relationships. Time and experience also alter relationship partners as they learn from prior interactions. Yet, many people simply continue to repeat patterns that cumulatively reduce their value and eventually believe they have to give even more to succeed. They continue to adapt, adjust, and accommodate whatever the other partner asks for, sometimes before it is even requested. Others become bitter and withhold love, testing each new partner exhaustingly until he or she leaves, supporting their self-fulfilling prophecies that love can never be trusted.  They have felt so ripped-off in so many encounters, that they have become unwilling to risk anything of themselves, only willing to interact with partners who play their prior martyred part.
Yes, some compromises in intimate relationships are not only necessary, but serve to make our recipient partners feel important and cherished. They are the ways we willingly and voluntarily give up some of our own desires to make room for those of the people we love. If, in the process, we don’t feel used, martyred, or taken advantage of, we not only feel good about doing it, but make our relationships more successful. On the other hand, we’re human beings, not saints, and do need appreciation and gratitude for those sacrifices. If we’re clear about what is easy to give, what we need compensation for, what we can’t do under any circumstances, or what we might need as a return favor, we can help our partners to know what kind of a deal they’re signing at the time.
But are there some things that should never be personally compromised and how would we know when we are accommodating more than we should?
Here is a simple questionnaire that might help.
1)      When you have a conflict as to which of your needs should be served, are you the usual one who compromised? ____
2)      Do you frequently feel as if the relationship works because it is easier for you to adapt to your partner’s needs? ____
3)      Do you often feel unappreciated by your partner? ____
4)      Do you find yourself rationalizing your accommodating behavior at the time, but resenting it later? ____
5)      Are you disappointed that your partner doesn’t recognize your sacrifices to him or her? ­­­­___
6)      Does your partner seem to feel entitled to your sacrificing behaviors? ____
7)      Do you continue to over-give because you are afraid your partner will leave you if you don’t?
8)      Do you keep your feelings to yourself when you feel taken advantage of? ____
9)      Do you feel you would be a bad person if you did not give in to your partner’s needs? ____
10)   Do you keep thinking that your partner will eventually see how much you give and compensate you someday if you just keep giving? ____
Score the test:
The range is 1 – 5.
1 = Not usually
2 = Sometimes
3 – More than not
4 = Often
5 = Most of the time
Add up your scores.
1 – 10    You are a giving person who is comfortable in how you interact with your partner
11 – 20  You like who you are but wish sometimes that your partner would be more reciprocal
21 – 30  You are storing up some resentment that could erupt inappropriately when you need something you don’t get
31 – 40 You are beginning to feel as if it will never be your turn and starting to withhold your affection
41 – 50 You are headed toward martyrdom and will eventually be unable to reinstate your trust in your partner
Fortunately, you can change these scores and have a willing partner who doesn’t realize you are sacrificing so much and doesn’t need you to. Many people establish their own requirements for giving based on insecurity, past trauma, or the need to be good. They are unequally giving to a partner who enjoys their devotion, but perhaps doesn’t feel the need to reciprocate because he or she didn’t realize that partner needed something in return. Martyrs frequently believe they are putting emotional money in a psychological bank they can fairly draw from when they need to. If the other person hasn’t conceded to owe something on that emotional credit card, that storage unit may have a hole in the bottom.
Over-givers are also in grave danger of being patronizing without even realizing it. They have assumed that their partner would not want to give back and take control over their own deprivation by assuming that partner isn’t able to give, thereby supporting their own capacity to give more. It is a self-rationalization that backfires over time.
Successful relationships are, in some way, reciprocal, authentic, and above-board. Yes, there are people who find it easier to give and those who enjoy being overly cared for without guilt or conflict. When they choose each other, they can actually make the relationship work. But those couples are honest about who they are, and grateful to be with each other. The reciprocity may not be actions, but it is clearly in mutual appreciation and comfort. The potential danger in those partnerships is that they can easily slip into symbolic parent-child interactions and ultimately keep the relationship from maturing.
Here are some related articles I’ve written for Psychology Today Blogs that might help.
When Your Partner gives more than you Can Return
When it’s time to let a Relationship Go
How Intimate Partners Manipulate Each Other
Are you Withholding Love?
Is Lying part of Loving?
Couples Alert- Is your Love Dying?
Why Can’t I let Love in?
Are you Controlled by Love?
Bitterness – Love’s Poison
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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Love Me, Love my kids - A Potential Deal Breaker?

 As more people are ending relationships with kids in tow, they are facing increasing dilemmas in how to effectively blend new families. No longer can relationship seekers, entering the dating whirlpool of often confusing and exhausting options, risk their personal choices without considering the small people they have to watch for.

It is commonly accepted knowledge that, even in the most successful families, caring for children puts a strain on the intimacy between their parents. Even when both partners have agreed to bring entitled dependents into their lives, they must still sacrifice many tender moments once shared to the legitimate needs of their children. Those partners who don’t make children a part of their relationship have many more options to continue commit only to each other. They do not have to deal with the legitimate interruptions, and often unending, needs of immature beings who cannot function successfully without those sacrifices.
Two parents are often insufficient to meet their own standards. Burdened down by financial and time pressures, they must struggle to balance their own needs with their commitment to family demands. When relationships end, there is a major deficit of time and energy for one parent at a time to keep up the Herculean effort to give their children what they want to. Add to that the seeking of a new relationship, the requirements of more expensive survival needs, and the sting of failure, and reentering the dating world is, at best, scary.
In addition, that newly single parent must also reinvent him or herself as a legitimate and desirable entity in a dating game that may have significantly changed during a long-term relationship. Even people married for less than five years consistently tell me that they don’t recognize the world they left behind when they committed to a relationship they thought would never end.
There are also the issues of who their children are in terms of their own value to another who did not conceive them, and the missing parent who may be angry, vindictive, or possessive of his or her own children.  Little children under the age of five rarely later remember their initial intact family, but must still deal with often very different environments as they are shuttled between two parents who can range from good friends to hateful enemies.
Older kids have their own resentments towards parents who have forced them into a situation they did not choose, and may be reluctant to encourage yet one more family to which they are now forced to accommodate. Their economic lives may have changed dramatically, their single parent overloaded, and their locations and friends rearranged without their desire or support. As a result, many children of divorced parents feel legitimately cheated, possessive of what they have left, and resistant to any new pressures placed upon them.
There are two more crucial variables: the new potential partner’s own children and where they stand on the same variables and how and when to blend two families who have not chosen each other. Literally hundreds of books have been written on blended families but the multiple variables that emerge simply cannot be put into simple rules. I have dealt with hundreds of these blended families, and they are all unique.
As a result of all of these legitimate pressures, newly dating people struggle in the conflict between how to present themselves early on in the dating process. They are ultimately a package that must be contended with as a critical variable in the success or failure of a new relationship, yet, on the other hand, many tell me that they want some separate time to present themselves as a desirable person in their own right who would be “worth it” even if with the larger price required down the line.
In my newest book, “Heroic Love,” I firmly state, and believe, that people should lay the groundwork for everything they know are non-negotiables early in a relationship when the outcome is not so important. That does not imply, in any way, a demanding attitude or a “me” set of expressions. Two people, even under the most desirable conditions, bring a whole different set of values, experiences, and desires to one another.
Even without the added complication of potential deal-breakers such as beliefs or actions that would not be acceptable to a new partner over time, bringing an already established family into the mix cannot be an easy task for anyone. To wonder when and how to bring up non-negotiable parts of a future package is too big a burden to impose on anyone who already is wondering about desirability in so many other areas.
If new daters understand the sanctity of what they hold sacred and what is potentially negotiable, they can offer those values and attachment within a very short time of knowing a new person, without, in any way, perceiving those as put-offs. In addition, many people, fearful of being too deeply known without first securing acceptance, must finally state those positions and then risk the dismay of the other who may feel unfairly duped. Most people, in any other situation, would prefer knowing what they are getting into up front, rather than have to accommodate to unforeseen, and perhaps, unacceptable conditions later on.
Imagine yourself travelling into a new country, unattached to outcome, meeting a stranger on a train. You have, perhaps, a few hours together and would most likely never see each other again. Because you are not bound by fear of loss, you are relaxed, open, and eager to know as much about that other person as you can. You’re driven not by insecurity or the need to be safe, but by a natural and innocent curiosity. You have no need to control, to interrogate, to possess, or to persuade. You’re just two people, experience life from the past and the present, and offering that to your new, and likely temporary friend.
Ideally, that should be no different from the dating world. Security is an illusion that we hold dear to feel safer in the present. In reality, no one can count on anything but the quality of the moment. Saying to a new person, “This would be my ideal life, though I know that a relationship script must be written by two people in order to work. I’ve been kind of through a hard separation and divorce, my kids are having a hard time adjusting, but I’m a survivor and I’m determined to go forward without bitterness and with a lot of hope to take what I’ve learned and do better. I’m working and have the kids half the time. My ex is already in a relationship so the kids are in a constant readjustment mode, but they’re good kids and we’re making it into an adventure. I have a great family and they’re there for me. How about you? What is your ideal life look like? Is there anything about my situation that would make a relationship too hard for you? I’m okay either way, but I want to be completely open, and I’d so appreciate that same kind of honesty in return.”
Sound difficult? Please believe me, it is ultimately the easiest and most successful way for any relationship to begin. The more people practice that un-self-conscious and transparent way of presenting themselves, the more comfortable and easy they get with it. It is the most effective way of separating a truly potential relationship from one that is likely to fail later on.
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trusting Yourself in Intimate Relationships

Many of the people I work with today come in with knowledge and experience just simply unknown even ten years ago. They have read multiple books, watched endless hours of media offerings, subscribed to every relationship expert they have been referred to, and shared their stories of hope and loss with dozens of others in the same boat.

From these fountains of potential “get-better-at-finding-the-one,” they have worked on themselves, formed supposedly successful approach styles, learned better how to discern a potential relationship earlier, and how to overcome unexpected barriers.

Sadly, throughout these sincere and highly committed endeavors, many earnest and well-prepared relationship seekers have ceased to trust one of the most important variables in the equation; their trust in their own intuition, independent of what they’ve been taught to seek.
Any emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual capability withers if it is not utilized. We get better at what we practice every day, even if it is not what we need. So many of my patients are so informed that they could almost run their own talk show on relationships, yet have not been successful in creating one that grows and lasts. They are incredibly well-practiced in what they have learned, but often at the expense of what their inner hearts already knew.
It’s not that what they’ve learned isn’t remarkably valuable, and not to be dismissed, either in their hard work or in their mastery. The problem is that it’s now filling their life-screen, drowning out what they need to reclaim. Because relationships have not worked, they’ve relegated their intuition as a bad source of data, formed by bad experiences that are bearing the burden for their lack of success.
Though it is absolutely true that negative childhood experiences and subsequent relationship failures are often related, they are only a part of the person one has become because of them. The mixtures of core intuitive reactions that are potentially relationship-dooming with those that are self-affirming are often hard to separate out. When people ignore or suppress them, they veritably “throw out the baby with the bath water.”
Reclaiming intuition about how love should feel must happen in order for any kind of learned relationship knowledge to be effective for anyone. Trying to suppress gut reactions that are core to self-understanding will only result in a stilted presentation that cannot be fully authentic or sustainable in the long-term.
Six Steps to Reclaiming Your Healthy Intuition About Love
1)      Go back through all of your intimate relationship. Ask yourself what you really felt at the beginning that you talked yourself out of because you were attracted to other things in the relationship and didn’t want to give up.
2)      Is there a pattern to those thoughts and feelings that you have routinely pushed away?
3)      Are those intuitive, suppressed thoughts and feelings something you were taught to ignore from your caretakers when you were a child?
4)       Are you afraid to share what you intuit early in relationships for fear that it will alienate a potential partner? Has that happened in the past and made you less willing to risk?
5)      When and where have you followed your intuition and it worked out right for you? In which relationships has that been more likely to happen?
6)      What part of your intuition doesn’t fit with what you’ve been told “works?” If there is a discrepancy, why have you suppressed your own voice?
The goal when you delve deeply into these answers is to rediscover where your intuition has been helpful to you and where it has not. As you do, you will be able to recalibrate how and when to use it successfully. In order to do that, you must always listen to that inner voice, incorporate what is healthy about it into your knowledge and presentation of yourself, and hold to it with pride and confidence. The earlier you are willing to do that in a relationship, the more you will be able to differentiate a true love relationship from one that seems promising but will not work out.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How Intimate Partners Manipulate Each Other

 Despite their intent to be as authentic and open, many committed and caring couples use covert behaviors to get their needs met when they don’t trust that direct requests would work. It’s not they intend to take advantage of each other, but simply feel they will be more successful if they use more strategic tactics in certain situations. They don’t feel they are trying to manipulate; they’re just doing what they believe makes their relationship more workable.

Many people define manipulation as a behavior that intentionally uses another for personal gain. Though it is commonly believed that regularly happens in the outside world, most intimate partners either don’t recognize that they practice it in their relationship, or don’t want to admit that they do. Even the most loving and caring partners regularly use manipulative techniques to get their partners to do things they might not otherwise choose to do. When I ask them if they would rather be open about all of their wishes, they agree that would be more ideal, but are fearful that kind of transparency would create more problems.
Learning to strategize begins early in childhood. Every child quickly learns when and how to ask for something that will get them what they need. They usually start by saying what they want directly, but soon realize that a more strategic move works better. I fondly remember a six-year-old little boy in my office ignoring his mother’s requests to behave. After she made several unsuccessful attempts to control him, she raised her hand to give him a swat on his bottom. He looked at her with a very sweet expression on his face and said, “You’re so beautiful when your mad, mommy.” We both tried to keep a straight face, but it worked. Yes, he copied it from watching his dad.
Many of my patients have told me that their partners could easily see behind their manipulative tactics if they wanted to, but believe that they really would rather not. Or, both partners have accepted that neither is always straight in all areas, but they are usually more honest in the most important ones. They’ve also tell me that a good outcome justifies strategic choices because being direct can cause unnecessary conflicts.
I recall a middle-aged patient many years ago who was determined to stay married to her often-unfaithful husband, showing me her latest “re-entry bracelet.” She loved beautiful jewelry and he had learned to soothe her by the timely acquisition of just the right token at the right time. It was a non-spoken, dual strategy that seemed to work for both of them. Another told me that she crushed Viagra and put it in their husband’s dinner because he would not acknowledge his erectile dysfunction. She knew it worked better if taken without food, but he wasn’t willing to acknowledge his predicament, and she enjoyed intercourse too much to give it up.
Very often those “working the system” behaviors can become so much part of a couple’s habits that they see them as just part of running a successful partnership. And, very often those behaviors are reinforced because they work. Sadly though, major problems can arise when intimate partners unconsciously or consciously use them on each other and the covert behavior is unearthed. If trust is the act of believing that one’s most reliable and intimate friend is always honest, then the discovery of manipulative behavior in any important area to either partner can shake that trust and threaten the relationship.
The use of manipulative techniques will likely continue to be part of every intimate relationship. But caring partners, who want to be as authentic with one another as possible, can recognize when they are being strategically indirect, and learn ways to be more transparent without necessarily risking their intimate connection. The closer both can come to being completely open and honest in what they want from one another, the more they will be able to create a spiritual and emotional sanctuary that sustains love as no other connection can.
There are many ways that people indirectly try to control a situation’s outcome. Most of them are used often, but others are far less obvious. Some are minor indiscretions but others could be more potentially threatening to the relationship if they are inadvertently exposed.
As I share the twelve most common manipulative techniques with you, please do not judge yourself if you recognized that you or your partner practice some of them, or perhaps others that are unique to your own relationship. Try to help each other feel more comfortable sharing them with each other.
The Twelve Most Common Manipulative Behaviors
1)      Using guilt
People feel guilty when they don’t live up to the expectations of people who are important to them. If you know what makes your partner feel badly about him or herself, and use that knowledge to get what you need, you are using emotional blackmail as your manipulative strategy.
2)      Martyrdom
If you over-give on a regular basis, you could be trying to build an emotional credit card balance that your partner may feel obligated to pay when you want something, even if he or she would not have chosen to do that for you otherwise.
3)      Using others to “sell” your idea
This kind of coercion happens when one partner cites biased references to get the other to comply. “Everyone thinks..” “Our best friends always take a least two vacations a year.” “The newest research shows that….” “Lots of happy couples….”
4)       Hiding your errors
If you fear your partner’s criticism or disappointment, you may find yourself hiding something you’ve done wrong and waiting for a time when you’re getting along well, hoping to soften the blow.
5)      Presenting exaggerated, embellished, or untrue reasons for your behaviors to neutralize a potentially bad reaction
If you’re caught doing something that your partner feels upset by, you create a more believable story to sway your partner to your side. If he or she “understands” that your behavior was legitimate under those circumstances, you might be able to neutralize a potentially negative response.
6)      Over-reacting to get your partner to feel wrong about what he or she was feeling
Creating drama is a typical way to getting your partner to back down, if he or she dislikes scenes, emotional turmoil, or exaggerated consequences. Even if you actually feel that intensely, you are consciously or unconsciously counting on the fact that your partner will back down to avoid the intensity of the situation.
7)      Presenting something as a gift to your partner when it was really something you wanted
One example would be telling your partner that a fantastic deal came up that you know he or she would really like but might have not thought of, when it’s really something you want but didn’t think you could get it if you didn’t present it as a “gift.”
8)      Feigning an excuse when you either don’t want to do something, or don’t want to be held responsible for breaking an agreement or disappointing your partner
“I have a headache, honey.” “It’s been a really hard day. Just didn’t expect so much stress. I’ll get to it tomorrow.” “I’m so sorry. I just forgot. I guess too much on mind.” “I can only do so much. I’m only human.”
9)      Passive/Aggressive Behaviors
Agreeing with your partner’s request in the moment to avoid disappointing or upsetting him or her, but somehow never getting around to what you agreed to. If you use this strategy often, your partner will lose trust in you.
10)   Being intentionally accommodating in advance to create compliance when you want something later
This is one of the most common types of manipulation. Most intimate partners know what pleases the other and how to put on momentary charm for a later request the other can’t comfortably refuse.
11)    Padding a request to ensure that what you want will be granted
This strategy requires that you purposefully ask for much more than you know you will get, knowing that your partner will offer less, which is what you really only wanted. “Honey, my dream would be to get that new Tesla. What do you think?” (He really would be very happy with a Lexus.)
12)   Temporarily hiding something you’ve done wrong to fix it before it is discovered
It’s understandable that you don’t want your partner disappointed in something you’ve done and you’re sure you can hide or fix it before he or she finds out. You’re playing against the clock, so you have to get very good at keeping him or her off the trail until you have it covered.
Remember, most intimate partners only resort to manipulative behavior when they truly believe they can’t get what they need by being more open and direct. Very often those fears and subsequent behaviors that began in childhood are not necessary in adult relationships, but people continue using them. If loving couples are willing to share the ways they are fearful of being fully open with their needs and fears, they often end up learning that covert strategies have kept them from a deeper love.









Thursday, July 21, 2016

Should You Rush Into a Relationship?

Relationship seekers have more options to meet people now than ever before. Yet, they seem more discouraged and weary as they still find themselves unable to meet the right person, no matter how hard they try. The patients I see today are more sophisticated, more knowledgeable, more seasoned, more aware, and more cynical. They want the same things as people have always wanted but multiple choices are not necessarily better odds.

The questions they ask me are consistent: should I wait longer in between relationships and take the time to reflect on all the reasons my last interaction went wrong? Perhaps the way I should go is to start the next new relationship more cautiously? Or, should I just stop looking for the veritable needle in romantic haystacks and just accept that serial connections are going to be a way of life for me? Do you think that dating several people at the same time is the right way to go? Or, should I just plunge in to a new relationship whenever it presents itself and damn the consequences?
They are not just young people. I’ve been asked those questions from today’s daters at all ages and in all circumstances. The new media options that give us practically no background on whomever crosses our path have driven people into an array of choices that may seem like a positive smorgasbord of possibilities, but more often end up with superficial, time-limited experiences that don’t help people understand themselves or others any better. Many of my relationship-seeking patients feel powerless and adrift in a sea of uncontrollable variables that will dictate their futures outside of their control. Because they see potential intimate connections as likely-to-end-badly, they either avoid risking themselves or rush into interactions without maintaining their personal integrity or value.
And, there are still terrible gender biases out there. Women who have had many sexual partners just don’t get the same support as men who have. There is literally no equivalent word in the English language for “slut” that describes men who have had an equal amount of experience, unless that man gets paid for a career in prostitution. That reality leads many women to either hold back the desire to sample impulsively or to hide prior experiences from new potential partners. Instead, they are supposed to present each new sexual relationships have some substance or potential, when they have little way of knowing in advance.
When there have been many relationship disillusionments and disappointments, it is natural for anyone to feel pre-defeated in finding “the one.” Yet, just waiting without fully living adventure, love, and experience in the present can make people less willing to risk and less open to possibilities. We become what we practice, both negative and positive. That means behaving and thinking as the person we want to become, no matter what present circumstances dictate, keeps us more valuable when the next possibility emerges. (See my article on Psychology Today, “Touch and Go Relationships – Do They Need to be Superficial?”)
So, what is the answer?
If you regularly practice how to be the best, most authentic, most self-respecting and alive person you can be, no matter how many relationships you enter and leave, you will be the most likely to eventually end up in a quality relationship.
If you know who you are at your best, what you want, what you have to give, and what your odds are in the open marketplace, the timing of how soon you become intimate and connected is not the issue. Entering a new relationship with clarity and self-confidence, you will automatically be able to discern early-on whether a potential partner is worth your investment. When you and that new person are chosen candidates, you both are in for an adventure that should feel as if you are mutually entering a new adventure that cannot have a pre-decide attachment to outcome. Your reasons for entering that unknown culture are the desire to fully experience, to learn, and to grow. You are not as concerned as to the future of the relationship, whether temporary or permanent, but more committed to being closer to the person you were born to be whenever it ends.
Please feel free to go to Psychology Today Blogs and read some of my related articles.
“14 Secrets to Having a Great Relationship” “Text Alert – Is Your Intimate Communication Inadequate?” “Should I Date This Person Again?” “How Can Romantic Love Transform Into Long-Term Intimacy?” “What is Your Relationship Approach Style?” “Ten Important Questions you should ask a Potential Partner” “How can I be More Popular?” “The Myth of Romantic Expectations” “10 Questions to help you tell if you’re Ready to Commit” “Too Many Choices” “What Keeps Me From Changing?”
I’d love your comments. or








Thursday, July 14, 2016

Are you Realistic About Love?

Dating is in the middle of a cultural transformation. There are no longer reliable maps or manuals that can help relationship seekers successfully know how to approach a potential partner, how to know whether or not he or she will turn out to be what you initially experience, and whether or not you will continue to feel the way you do. The people you meet on line can present themselves as anyone they want you to believe and you often have no way of checking out the veracity of their profile. Potential partners can show up and disappear without you having any way of even knowing where they came from or why they have disappeared. Even with sites that can help you search, you may have been given a false name, a self-created background, or a relationship status that is not true.

As people go through sequential investments of time, energy, hopes, and disappointments, it is natural for them to become wary and untrusting, protecting themselves from more loss. They create their own safe presentation, careful to put out only what they can afford to lose, and secretly holding on to what they truly want, for fear it will push another away. Relationships too often become cardboard cut-outs, two dimensional representations of carefully crafted performances, designed to maximize potential and minimize disillusionment.
This split being careful and hidden hopes can not only wreak havoc in new relationships, but is very hard to reconcile as the connection develops. If people fall in love with the fantasy of who they think the other is, they are more often likely to be disappointed when the true people emerge. They are also worried that their own submerged authenticity will keep them entrapped, continuing to hide who they really are and what they need.
So many of my patients ask me how they can resolve this dilemma.  “I don’t even know if he is who he says he is.” “She seems so sincere, but I don’t know any of her friends or even if I’m just falling for a fantasy.” “If I’m being careful, he probably is as well.” “What should I even tell a complete stranger when I don’t even know what she will do with the information?” “How do you know if someone is being honest or not?” “I want to be myself, but I’m really scared of rejection. It makes me just want to risk what I’m not scared of losing.” “How do you know early on if this is worth pursuing?” “What are the signs that someone genuinely is interested in you, or just putting on an act?”
The core of all of these questions is driven by understandable fears; of loss, of embarrassment, of hopes, of rejection, of becoming cynical, and of disillusionment. Those fears can make people immobilized in their capability of breaking through seemingly unassailable barriers to true intimacy. And, subsequent losses can create more scars and less willingness to risk. Then, each new relationship must pass the test of expected defeat, struggling to be more trustable in ways that are not even well defined.
The enemy of sustaining and deepening love is starting from outcome and working backwards. If people are attached to what they think a relationship should be, but don’t practice the behaviors that those kinds of connections have until that interaction magically happens, the difference between how they are behaving from the beginning and how they want to emerge just gets bigger. That is especially true when each new partner has a sense of what they want in a relationship but doesn’t make that clear from the get-go. The attachment to an outcome that is not clearly communicated from the beginning of a relationship can only result in failure when the present is defining a future that is not the future a person truly wants.
So, if the present must be a true representative of who the truth of an individual authentically is, how can people beginning a new relationship put their fears aside and risk being rejected for who they really are, rather than the greater comfort of being rejected as a carefully crafted performance? What kind of courage does it take to practice authenticity in the presence of the unknown?
Believe it or not, everyone already knows how to do that when they are not attached to a non-shared, fantasy outcome. Imagine yourself sitting in a cafĂ© you’ve never been to in a place that is new. You begin a conversation with a complete stranger, knowing that both of you are waiting for someone else, or have an appointment looming that you intend to go to. You are relaxed, open to the limited adventure, and authentically curious and interested in the person you’re talking to. You don’t talk about personal data, like how many past partners you’ve had, where you messed up in past relationships, what your sexual preferences are, or your childhood traumas. You’re in the moment, interested in what the two of you are presently sharing in common, where you’re going, what you are doing in your current life, or what may be going on around you in the world you’re exploring together. You’re not trying to make something happen, or worrying about whether or not this person is going to continue liking you, or what the future will bring. You may even ask very interesting and intimate questions, from a place of genuine curiosity, without any agenda. The relationship is spontaneous and doesn’t have artificial requirements to insure a specific outcome.
When you go out with a person you’ve never met before, that sense of openness to adventure, a lack of attachment to outcome, and a genuine desire to be authentic and in the moment is the most attractive way a person can be. Without an agenda for where the relationship is going, people are very free to express who they are, what they know brings out the best in them, what they search for and have known in the people they treasure, a genuine curiosity about what that other person values and needs, and a willingness to know and be known without fear of loss.
You can even talk about your fantasies from a place of self-love and humor, sharing what you’ve learned about yourself and relationships and what you admire in others. Your tone is open, current, honest, courageous, and up for whatever happens. You know that, when the date is over, you may never see each other again, even if you wanted to because security is an illusion and the best laid plans often go astray. You also know that the sanctity and realness of the moment is what will define what the future will be, not the other way around.
As I help people adopt this new way of being, they quickly find that, though risking, is easier and easier to practice. Not only do they realistically get whether a new relationship is worth pursuing, they also can readily see whether that desire is mutual. And, if the relationship does start to generate a deeper connection, they are able to build on that reality and take it to a new level. The new partners have written their life together, not based upon the fantasies that each had before.
Here are some related articles that may help. You can find them on my Psychology Today Blogs.
“Match Who? – Crucial Aspects of a Potential Partner” “When Should I have Told You?” “What is Your Relationship Approach Style?” “How Can Romantic Love Transform in to Long-Term Intimacy?” “The Myth of Romantic Expectations” “Is This True Love?” “Touch and Go Relationships – Do They Have to be Superficial?” “10 Important Questions You Should Ask a Potential Partner”
I’d love your comments.