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Friday, January 13, 2017

Stay-in-Love Couples

In today’s dating world, most intimate relationships don’t make it into long-term commitments. For many different reasons, many initially loving partners can’t seem to get past the challenges that ultimately end their commitment to each other. Some give up early, not wanting to waste time on something that is already problematic. They just aren’t willing to put energy into a relationship that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Others, determined to make this one work, hold on to the bitter end, hoping that their continued efforts will eventually succeed.

Many of these frustrated relationship seekers come into therapy trying to understand what they might be doing wrong. They’ve made the best efforts they know, and yet, have not been able to make a relationship last. They know that some couples face the same odds, yet stay together. They want to know: “What do these people do differently that keeps their love alive?” “Are they just lucky people who have magically found the right person, or do they make relationships work no matter what?” “And if they do, what is their formula for success, and can I learn it?”
Are they different in some way from most couples? In my four decades of working with couples, I’d have to say, “Yes.” Although they face many of the same problems as other couples do, they approach solving them in unique ways that don’t damage their relationship. It is quite remarkable to watch them face situations that might unravel a typical relationship, and yet consistently come out caring more deeply about each other.   
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it seems timely to examine some of the ways these people relate to each other and how those behaviors keep their love so continuously fresh. This special celebratory day gives many new and committed partners new motivation to love each other more deeply.
Stay-in-love couples each have their own unique style, but they also have much in common in the way they relate. The six following examples are some of the most notable interactions. Hopefully, they can newly inspire others to find their own successful paths to deepening love.
How They Resolve Their Conflicts
Every couple argues. If they are honest and authentic, they accept the fact that they will never see eye-to-eye on everything. They know that differences of opinion can add interest and intrigue to their relationship as long as those disputes are worked through successfully.  They also know that unresolved and repeated conflicts can threaten and ultimately damage relationships, and making it so much harder for them to get back what they’ve lost.
In contrast, stay-in-love couples ache when their disagreements drive them apart. After a conflict, they strive to resolve the situation and to make up as soon as possible. Rather than needing to win, they want to understand why they disagreed and how they could have done it better. Judgement is not an issue; inquiry and learning are. Even when they are hurt or angry, themselves, they still want the other partner to feel heard and supported.
How They Refuse to Assign Blame
During a conflict, so many couples blame the other for whatever is going wrong between them. It’s hard for anyone to look at his or her responsibility in the middle of strong emotions. Perhaps to avoid guilt or feeling righteous, some people try to make the other person into the bad guy, hoping that will win the argument that way. Many people do cave in when they feel badly about themselves, and counter-accusations sometimes successfully win the argument.
The sadness in assigning blame is that it doesn’t work in the long run. There are always two sides to every story, and more than one way to see the truth. Every intimate partner aches to be heard and understood, even if there are conflicting realities. When intimate partners use blame to get their way, they are likely to push their partners into defensiveness, anger, or withdrawal, and risking their capacity to keep their love alive.
Stay-in-love couples know that their partner’s views must be respected and honored, especially if they are different from their own. They strive to understand them to find a truth that allows for both. That doesn’t mean they will always agree, but they know that every connection and every disconnection must be the responsibility of both. It is a “we do this to each other,” and never, “This is your fault because you’re obviously the problem here.” 
How They Respond to Requests for Connection
One of the most important parts of every quality relationship is when both partners authentically agree to honor the other’s feelings and thoughts, especially when they are trying to work through a difficult emotional issue.
So many long-term partners automatically treated each other like that when their relationship was new, but no longer do. As the relationship has matured, they may come to feel burdened or disrupted by continuous requests for connection, and not want to be immediately available anymore. In trying to dismiss their partner’s desires quickly, they may resort to trying to “fix” the situation without taking the time for deeper inquiry. Or perhaps a preoccupied partner will minimize the other partner’s feelings to try to neutralize them. An irritated partner may reply in a sarcastic manner, or even withdraw.
Stay-in-love partners do not ignore each other when either wants to connect for any reason. Even if they are distracted or preoccupied, both partners take the time to understand what the others need is at that time, and decide together how much energy and time how they should handle it. If that cannot happen at the time, both partners make an agreement as to when they will resolve it. They absolutely do not mock, minimize, or disregard the other’s desire to connect.
How they Parent Each Other
In every intimate love relationship there is always an underlying “crisscross” interaction between the symbolic parent in one partner and the symbolic child in the other. It is impossible to be open and vulnerable to another human being without those interactions happening from time to time.
People are not ever just the age they are in the current moment. They are a composite of all the ages they’ve ever been. If an adult partner has had heartbreak in childhood and a particular situation causes it to emerge in the present, his or her partner can help ease, and even heal, that past pain by acting as a nurturing symbolic parent.  
Those automatic responses are notable in the early stages of a love relationship. Intimate partners often refer to each other as if they were talking to young children. They call each other love names like, “Baby,” “sweetie-pie,” and “Pooh-bear,” and every couple knows what their unique tender words mean to both of them. It is a normal interaction that every couple does in their own way.
As relationships mature, many partners begin to feel less willing to give that kind of unconditional nurturing, and might not be as automatically available when the other slips into a younger place. No longer loved in that tender way, that needing-partner may feel abandoned or rejected. They may feel they now have to behave more carefully, having lost the confidence that anything they say or do will be automatically supported. The symbolic parent-child automatic safety that was a given at the beginning of the relationship is now in doubt.
Stay-in-love couples understand how important it is to never let those special “sweet spots” die. They know that each will sometimes need to feel that guaranteed comfort and safety, and are more than willing to “act as the good parent” when asked. They know that it is natural for anyone to feel insecure and young at times, and they want to be there for each other when that happens.  
How They Deal With Control
So many romantic relationships fail because one partner attempts to dominate the other, or fears being controlled by the other. So many people have childhood experiences where they felt unimportant and totally expected to submit to whatever was demanded of them. They often bring those trauma-memories into their adult relationships, fearful of being controlled again in that way.
Those fears can lead people to push for the other partner’s automatic compliance to allay that anxiety. Many intimate partners alternately pull a partner close and then push him or her away, fearing that intimacy and commitment will lead to entrapment and being controlled once again.
Stay-in-love partners know that the need to feel in control at times is natural for anyone. It allows a person to be fully respected as the stronger person in the relationship at that moment. The other partner has confidence in his or her own autonomy to not react defensively or take it personally. He or she doesn’t feel the need to either counter-control or to automatically submit. Comfort with the situation allows them to seek understanding as to what may be driving those behaviors instead. They also know that they will need to be the need-to-control partner at other times, and will receive the same understanding and respect.
These couples also know how quickly interactions can deteriorate if both want to be in control at the same time. When those situations arise, they work to stay centered and calm, agreeing to take turns listening to what each needs and feels. When they fully understand what both of their desires for control are about, they then decide how to best help each other get their underlying needs met.
How They Respond to Urgency
Newly-in-love couples are most often each other’s first priorities and respond immediately to their partners distress signals. As life’s requirements intervene and the couple resumes their normal obligations, those requests must be absorbed into other priorities. Even though they may realize that being the center of someone’s life naturally somewhat diminishes over time, many partners feel neglected when that happens. They may become more demanding or feel neglected, and begin to blur the line between truly important requests and less urgent ones, fearful that neither may be met.  
Stay-in-love couples are authentic, open, and self-reliant, but do urgently need one another at times. They trust that the other will never take advantage of that immediate availability, and when an urgent SOS call goes out, that other partner will rapidly respond without question or challenge. They trust that those requests are not expressed fraudulently or without concern for the other’s needs.
 *  *  *  *  *  *
Stay-in-love partners understand the sanctity of personal boundaries, and take pride in their own autonomy. They have learned that one of the most important qualities that any person can have is the ability to love again after loss. That drives them to practice forgiveness and humility when a conflict is over. Their mutual goals are to resolve and to reconnect, leaving distress behind as soon as possible.
They know that love must include always living in each other’s hearts, whether they are together in the same place or temporarily separate. They know that the future is unwritten and that they can be taken from each other at any time. The acceptance of that truth continuously reminds them that their relationship will only be as good as they are able to re-create it in each present moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Do You Hit Below the Belt When you Fight?

When intimate couples argue, they often challenge one another in punch and counter-punch attacks. As tempers rise and defenses emerge, both partners rapidly stop listening to each other and instead invalidate the other’s point of view while simultaneously trying to establish their own. After the battle ends, one or both will disconnect until the ritual for reuniting is activated, often without true resolution.

All intimate relationships have both the capacity to scar and to transcend. Scarring occurs when a couple continuously hurts one another without learning or resolving why and how they do that. Transformation happens when partners are able to get past their disagreements and learn to communicate in healthier ways as a result of those resolutions. If scarring lessens and transformation increases, a committed couple will not only protect their love, but will continue to increase its depth and importance. They can witness that their good times are significantly outweighing the bad, and their trust in each other increasing.
But when scarring continues and the relationship is “transformation-stagnant,” the relationship will ultimately decay, often beyond repair. The destruction happens more quickly if the hurled epithets are particularly hurtful, i.e., “below the belt” woundings. Those more insulting, core-damaging behaviors create deeper and more permanent scars. It is crucial for every couple to understand which words or phrases can badly damage, and the consequent damages that may result. For their love and trust to grow more deeply, they must commit to erasing those kinds of trust-breaking insults from their interactions, no matter how angry either may be.
From working with intimate partners for four decades, I’ve created an exercise to help committed couples identify their “below-the-belt” word, phrases, and behaviors and to recognize how they are likely to permanently endanger their relationship. The comfort that results from that commitment can significantly and positively increase the trust level of the relationship. When both partners know they are safe from these anguishing interactions, they begin to open up to one another in a whole new way.
Stopping “Below the Belt” Behaviors between Intimate Couples
Step One – Each partner Identifies and Recognizes His or Her Own Triggers
Not only do all couples have regular disagreements, but in the heat of battle, it’s too easy to blur the boundaries between acceptable and destructive comments. In order to know the difference, they must both know and stay conscious of the effects of their words. A common example of a reasonable response to a presumed attack might be something like “Please stop yelling at me. I get defensive and can’t hear what you’re trying to say.” An alternate and potentially destructive response would be a character assassination like, “You think that raising your voice makes you more powerful? No, it doesn’t. It just makes you a bully.” The first statement tells the other partner that he or she is being offensive in that moment. The last describes a negative personality characteristic and the expected defense is certain to escalate the battle.
Certain words or phrases are more negative than others, and are received differently by different people at different times and in different relationships. Some of those comments are just simply offensive in their own right, while others can evoke memories of deeper heartbreaks from previous relationships. Phrases associated with early trauma, for instance, can evoke more painful reactions than intended.
An angry partner may not realize the depth of pain their words create unless both partners have previously shared those vulnerable places. Many couples have told me that they’ve been so seriously upset when their partner touches upon a heartache from the past that revisits an old wound, yet they have never informed him or her what that trigger was. If you want to help your relationship leave those “below-the-belt” behaviors behind, you must be willing to open up to your new partner and give a head’s up to those unresolved situations from the past.
The first step in changing destructive communication habits is for you to identify those words and phrases from our own past that are examples of those deeper vulnerabilities. Start by thinking of people in your past who have hurt you and in what ways. What words or phrases have left painful scars? When you recall them, put them on a list. It might help for you to also jot down a little about the situation that produced them next to each item. Also write down on that list anything that you might already feel about yourself that makes you uncomfortable. If your partner unknowingly strikes out at you in one of those areas, it will hurt much more because it is your partner and you against you.
List all of these examples in as concise a way as you can. Do not be concerned at this time as to which are the most significant and which are not.
Step Two – Anticipating your Partner’s Responses
Once you have written down every word or phrase that could deeply wound you again were your partner to express it, put a number beside each of those that reflects the following. The numbers below is the way you believe your partner might respond to you with each item on your list:
Vulnerability Levels
1 – My partner will feel compassion and concern for my feelings
2 – My partner might feel that I should be less sensitive and more trusting
3 – My partner might dismiss my feelings
4 – My partner might mock me or make me feel worse about how I feel
5 – My partner could use one of these vulnerable confessions against me in the future
When you have finished, put all the statements that have a 1 by them in a separate list, those that have a 2 in the next list, and so on. You are creating separate categories to help you differentiate those experiences which might be safer to share first, and those which you need to withhold until you feel safer. It is important for both you and your partner to learn trust over time after the less vulnerable statements have been resolved.
Step Three – Sharing With Your Partner
Ask your partner to join you in this exercise. When each of you has completed the first two steps, you are ready to begin the sharing process. Start with only those words or phrases that fall within the first category that you have listed under the number 1. These vulnerable confessions are both awkward and anxiety-producing for anyone. Commit to receiving them in a respectful and honoring manner.
Each of you should alternate sharing only one thing from your first list. Tell your partner which word or phrase is difficult for you, and share any background that would help him or her understand your strong response. It is important for each listener not to judge, invalidate, or defend his or her reason for using that word or phrase. It is also helpful for each partner to write down what is shared for reference later.
Step Four – Signals for Practice
Agree on benign signals to gently let the other partner know if he or she is inadvertently forgetting or breaking your agreement once a fight begins. The signals should be simple and recognizable. Just holding a hand to your heart or crossing your arms may be enough.
When you begin to agree and the words and phrases from your first list seem to have disappeared from your conflicts, you are both ready to do the same from your next, more vulnerable list, those that have the number 2 after them. As you move through each more vulnerable set of items and experiences, you will find that caring for each other through each new level will make the next easier to resolve.
You may have to help each other often as you first begin with these exercises. When painful words or phrases have been used for a long time, many partners become so allergic to them that their responses are trigger-quick, extremely dismissive, and untrusting. Give one another a break and more chances to make mistakes. As long as your hearts are in the right place, you will eventually build trust and more openness.
* * * * * * *
Once you and your partner have been able to share all five levels of vulnerability and now have a conscious awareness of what each means to the other, you will no longer want to justify your words or actions even when you are legitimately and understandably angry. You’ll feel automatically deeply remorseful when you realize how much you’ve hurt the other, and those feelings will help you get back on track again.
When couples achieve this level of awareness and understanding, they find that many other areas of their relationship automatically become more satisfying. The trust they have achieved through letting each other “in” at this level becomes the foundation of future willingness to risk more openness and emotional intimacy between you. Your partner “has your back,” and a much deeper trust will surely follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 
Do You Hit Below the Belt When you Fight?
When intimate couples argue, they often challenge one another in punch and counter-punch attacks. As tempers rise and defenses emerge, both partners rapidly stop listening to each other and instead invalidate the other’s point of view while simultaneously trying to establish their own. After the battle ends, one or both will disconnect until the ritual for reuniting is activated, often without true resolution.
All intimate relationships have both the capacity to scar and to transcend. Scarring occurs when a couple continuously hurts one another without learning or resolving why and how they do that. Transformation happens when partners are able to get past their disagreements and learn to communicate in healthier ways as a result of those resolutions. If scarring lessens and transformation increases, a committed couple will not only protect their love, but will continue to increase its depth and importance. They can witness that their good times are significantly outweighing the bad, and their trust in each other increasing.
But when scarring continues and the relationship is “transformation-stagnant,” the relationship will ultimately decay, often beyond repair. The destruction happens more quickly if the hurled epithets are particularly hurtful, i.e., “below the belt” woundings. Those more insulting, core-damaging behaviors create deeper and more permanent scars. It is crucial for every couple to understand which words or phrases can badly damage, and the consequent damages that may result. For their love and trust to grow more deeply, they must commit to erasing those kinds of trust-breaking insults from their interactions, no matter how angry either may be.
From working with intimate partners for four decades, I’ve created an exercise to help committed couples identify their “below-the-belt” word, phrases, and behaviors and to recognize how they are likely to permanently endanger their relationship. The comfort that results from that commitment can significantly and positively increase the trust level of the relationship. When both partners know they are safe from these anguishing interactions, they begin to open up to one another in a whole new way.
Stopping “Below the Belt” Behaviors between Intimate Couples
Step One – Each partner Identifies and Recognizes His or Her Own Triggers
Not only do all couples have regular disagreements, but in the heat of battle, it’s too easy to blur the boundaries between acceptable and destructive comments. In order to know the difference, they must both know and stay conscious of the effects of their words. A common example of a reasonable response to a presumed attack might be something like “Please stop yelling at me. I get defensive and can’t hear what you’re trying to say.” An alternate and potentially destructive response would be a character assassination like, “You think that raising your voice makes you more powerful? No, it doesn’t. It just makes you a bully.” The first statement tells the other partner that he or she is being offensive in that moment. The last describes a negative personality characteristic and the expected defense is certain to escalate the battle.
Certain words or phrases are more negative than others, and are received differently by different people at different times and in different relationships. Some of those comments are just simply offensive in their own right, while others can evoke memories of deeper heartbreaks from previous relationships. Phrases associated with early trauma, for instance, can evoke more painful reactions than intended.
An angry partner may not realize the depth of pain their words create unless both partners have previously shared those vulnerable places. Many couples have told me that they’ve been so seriously upset when their partner touches upon a heartache from the past that revisits an old wound, yet they have never informed him or her what that trigger was. If you want to help your relationship leave those “below-the-belt” behaviors behind, you must be willing to open up to your new partner and give a head’s up to those unresolved situations from the past.
The first step in changing destructive communication habits is for you to identify those words and phrases from our own past that are examples of those deeper vulnerabilities. Start by thinking of people in your past who have hurt you and in what ways. What words or phrases have left painful scars? When you recall them, put them on a list. It might help for you to also jot down a little about the situation that produced them next to each item. Also write down on that list anything that you might already feel about yourself that makes you uncomfortable. If your partner unknowingly strikes out at you in one of those areas, it will hurt much more because it is your partner and you against you.
List all of these examples in as concise a way as you can. Do not be concerned at this time as to which are the most significant and which are not.
Step Two – Anticipating your Partner’s Responses
Once you have written down every word or phrase that could deeply wound you again were your partner to express it, put a number beside each of those that reflects the following. The numbers below is the way you believe your partner might respond to you with each item on your list:
Vulnerability Levels
1 – My partner will feel compassion and concern for my feelings
2 – My partner might feel that I should be less sensitive and more trusting
3 – My partner might dismiss my feelings
4 – My partner might mock me or make me feel worse about how I feel
5 – My partner could use one of these vulnerable confessions against me in the future
When you have finished, put all the statements that have a 1 by them in a separate list, those that have a 2 in the next list, and so on. You are creating separate categories to help you differentiate those experiences which might be safer to share first, and those which you need to withhold until you feel safer. It is important for both you and your partner to learn trust over time after the less vulnerable statements have been resolved.
Step Three – Sharing With Your Partner
Ask your partner to join you in this exercise. When each of you has completed the first two steps, you are ready to begin the sharing process. Start with only those words or phrases that fall within the first category that you have listed under the number 1. These vulnerable confessions are both awkward and anxiety-producing for anyone. Commit to receiving them in a respectful and honoring manner.
Each of you should alternate sharing only one thing from your first list. Tell your partner which word or phrase is difficult for you, and share any background that would help him or her understand your strong response. It is important for each listener not to judge, invalidate, or defend his or her reason for using that word or phrase. It is also helpful for each partner to write down what is shared for reference later.
Step Four – Signals for Practice
Agree on benign signals to gently let the other partner know if he or she is inadvertently forgetting or breaking your agreement once a fight begins. The signals should be simple and recognizable. Just holding a hand to your heart or crossing your arms may be enough.
When you begin to agree and the words and phrases from your first list seem to have disappeared from your conflicts, you are both ready to do the same from your next, more vulnerable list, those that have the number 2 after them. As you move through each more vulnerable set of items and experiences, you will find that caring for each other through each new level will make the next easier to resolve.
You may have to help each other often as you first begin with these exercises. When painful words or phrases have been used for a long time, many partners become so allergic to them that their responses are trigger-quick, extremely dismissive, and untrusting. Give one another a break and more chances to make mistakes. As long as your hearts are in the right place, you will eventually build trust and more openness.
* * * * * * *
Once you and your partner have been able to share all five levels of vulnerability and now have a conscious awareness of what each means to the other, you will no longer want to justify your words or actions even when you are legitimately and understandably angry. You’ll feel automatically deeply remorseful when you realize how much you’ve hurt the other, and those feelings will help you get back on track again.
When couples achieve this level of awareness and understanding, they find that many other areas of their relationship automatically become more satisfying. The trust they have achieved through letting each other “in” at this level becomes the foundation of future willingness to risk more openness and emotional intimacy between you. Your partner “has your back,” and a much deeper trust will surely follow.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
  
 




 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Do You Keep Choosing the Wrong Partners?

Dating is often a fruitless search. Though they are filled with hopes and expectations at the beginning of each relationship, they are too often disappointing and even disillusioning in the long run. Yet, many single people continue to put huge amounts of their time and energy into every possible option for a long-lasting partnership. Despite multiple setbacks, they keep reaching for that elusive needle in a romantic haystack. When they describe their adventures to me, I’m often amazed and so impressed at how they somehow find the resilience and optimism to keep trying. And yet they do.

The media responds by offering a smorgasbord of ready online adventures. From well-established dating sites to the plethora of ever-new ways to explore the dating market, today’s relationship seekers might easily spend many of their waking hours searching for the one person who someday will make it all worth it.
Because life has other demands, it’s becoming more necessary to predict which options are not likely to work out, and to focus in on those that may be more productive. Dating profiles try to help by offering carefully designed first-impression packages that help each hopeful subscriber present the most desirable picture possible. Whether they are prescribed “meet-ups” that try to take care of physical attraction drop-outs, “fix-ups” that minimize ghosting because mutual friends are often able to track someone who disappears, or chance encounters that pretty much work or don’t quite early in the connection, most relationship seekers try to use every possibility.
If so many of these honest and willing attempts to find successful romantic partnerships fail so often, what could be an underlying reason that would help ensure better odds?
In my four decades of working with singles and couples, I believe I understand what it is. My premise may not be an easy to accept, but if you can courageously consider it, I truly believe that you will be much more successful choosing the right partner in the future.
To get started, ask yourself how you would answer the following questions:
1)    Have your past partners turned out to be who you thought they would?
2)    Are you most often attracted to partners who are “out of reach?”
3)    Are the qualities you look initially for in a partner those you need for the long haul?
4)    Is it important to you that your partners impress others?
5)    Is the partner you want available within your current dating options?
6)    Are you being realistic in getting what you want based upon what you have to offer?
7)    Are your choices more often based more on romantic myths rather than pragmatic possibilities?
If your answers to questions 1, 3, 5, and 6 are “no,” and those to 2, 4, and 7, are “yes,” you are much less likely to find success in the dating market if you continue searching the way you have in the past.
Here’s why. Humans are traders by nature. We are programmed to make deals with others. The best of those trades, of course, are those that work well for both. Sometimes they do, but often they do not.
The underlying problem is that many people believe they can make a better deal than they actually are able to. For example, they might think that what they have to offer is worth more over time than it may seem up front, and they want the other deal-maker to trust in the investment. Or, they’ve been more sought out in a different dating market than in their current one, and haven’t accepted that reality. Maybe their well-intended friends have given them the impression that they are more marketable than they really are. Or, perhaps they’re searching in the wrong places, or it’s just the wrong time in their lives. What if they’ve just happened to move from a location where single people were more plentiful to one with sparser options? It’s even likely that some relationship seekers are simply worth more in one market than in another.
If, many single people aren’t successful because they keep searching or investing in relationships that are not likely to work out, wouldn’t that process be more likely to be successful if they were completely realistic in what they have to offer? If they know who are their likely available prospects, are authentically aware of what they need to keep loving and growing, and have done everything they can to improve their marketability, wouldn’t they have a better chance to find what they seek.
To help you understand how easy it is to be diverted from those more successful encounters, here are some common examples of typically off-the-track experiences that are not likely to develop into significant relationships.
Thinking “Hot” is Better
Though it may be more applicable to the younger crowd, external package is often a high priority for many relationship seekers. Taking good care of yourself is always a good idea, but basic attractiveness is a God-given attribute and some are just luckier than others. Because many people put more effort into other valuable characteristics when they are not blessed with the top ten percent of physically desirable traits, they often become more attractive over time. But, if someone is only going to maintain interest if the initial package is hot, that growing appreciation may not have time to happen.  
If relationship seekers realistically value their physical package as a “seven” on a one-to-ten, but keep reaching for a partner who is a clear “ten,” they are going to have to come in to that deal “one-down.” That means they have to constantly compensate with their other assets in order to keep that partner around, and may often find themselves contending with new rivals as others emerge who are “more attractive.”
Avoiding Baggage
Many relationship seekers search for a partner who is not burdened down by prior or current obligations. Debt, children, dependent family members, odd-hour jobs, educational demands, personal health problems, angry ex-spouses, on-going divorces, or even a cynical attitude, can be overwhelming for any new relationship, even if that potential partner is personally desirable.
If you are put off by a person’s baggage, you may not stick around long enough to understand and care enough to find out the good stuff that may outweigh those concerns. In the early years of dating, it is much easier to let go of a relationship that is simply too expensive.
When people are relatively confident that a better deal may be on the horizon, they are more likely to focus on the cost of a relationship rather than its assets. As options decrease and time pressures prevail, those burdens often become less ominous and the willingness to work with them may be more intriguing.
There is a caveat: Some innate “rescuers” look to be the one who can alleviate baggage by their enthusiasm and offering of resources. Usually not a good idea.
Equating Financial Success with Personal Value
This often unrealistic equation took root when women were instructed to use their feminine attributes to “hook” a currently or potentially well-to-do provider. In today’s world, many women are more educated and established providers of their own comfort. Now both women and men are equally attracted to partners who are not only able to take care of themselves in the moment, but have even greater potential for financial success in the future.
Unless people are endowed with family money, both women and men have to commit a great deal of time and energy to maximize their financial options. As a result, their “ascension focus” may not leave a lot of time for them to develop relationship-successful skills. If both potential partners are deep into their career development, the lack of a support system for a rising star can produce more of a competitive than a collaborative personal environment.
Couples today are trying to more equally share their resources of time, energy, and availability. Still, it can be a scary delusion if one feels that financial success automatically supersedes the personality characteristics of a great, long-time partner. Those who make financial security a top priority in their search for partners may end up materialistically richer, but emotionally poorer.
Counting on Change
Most relationships start out with more wonderful aspects than worrisome ones. The proportions of more intriguing and satisfying behaviors are clearly greater than those that irritate. That makes “the deal” desirable for both partners. Many new daters believe that their partner’s negative characteristics will never outweigh the positive ones.
Unfortunately, that rarely turns out to be true. The negatives of a relationship may seem proportionately smaller at the beginning of love, but can wear on either partner over time, especially if they increase. Something that seems almost irrelevant in the midst of lust and romance can become a major irritation as time goes by.
Most relationships I’ve seen end with many of the positive aspects of the relationship intact, even if they have been buried by bad experiences. Both partners often can tell me exactly what attracted them to each other when they were first together. They then confess that things they thought would change, became hurdles they could not get by.
Believing that the Perfect Love Exists
If you know what you need to feel deeply loved in the long term, it is crucial that you do not have a rigid template of the perfect love. This is especially true if you have been repeatedly disillusioned by partners who seem to be what you want early in your relationships, but always end up disappointing you in the long run.
Perfect love is imperfect in its uniqueness and its ability to transform as life challenges. There are no pre-templates that guarantee its existence or its sustainability. But there are certain virtues that most all long-term successful intimate partners have in common. They may not have the characteristics of the perfect mate in what that means to you right now, but they wear unbelievably well over time.
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Yes, there has to be some kind of attraction to any partner you choose. Yes, you want to agree on the important aspects of life’s dreams. Yes, you need to be a team, supporting each other’s commitments. And yes, you have to stay connected to your mutual dreams when times are tough.
But great long-time partners don’t only abide by those classic relationship rules. Long-term desirable partners are just good people everywhere in their lives. They are authentic, accountable, resilient, forgiving, focus on solutions rather than problems, treasure what they have, uninterested in time-wasting, repeated, negative interactions, non-possessive, supportive, un-buyable, self-caring, treasuring souls. They rock with unexpected crises, and they build when things are broken. They learn from mistakes, and innovate when they are stuck.
The closer you can become to attaining those characteristics, the better chance you’ll have of attracting someone equally desirable, regardless of the odds. The perfect love does not happen from a pre-written script that someone else has to buy in to. It is created by two people who keep deepening their love for each other as life happens. If you try to make an up-front deal with a finished product, you may be forever limited by its initial presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 2, 2016

What Should you do if Your Partner Doesn't Keep Promises?

Promises are statements of future intent and keeping them is one of the most important components of trust. In intimate relationships they can be widely variable, from something minimally significant like, “We’ll get together soon,” to much more important like, “I’ll text you as soon as I get home,” or “I’m only going to date you now.”

Many people make promises at the time that they intend to keep, but haven’t taken into consideration events that might keep them from delivering on them. Others make them to get what they want in the moment, knowing they will never come through. Some feel coerced into guaranteeing behavior in the future they have no way of doing, but are intimidated into making a contract they can’t fulfill. Anyone, at times, can want desperately to deliver a promise they have no capacity to do at the time, but hope they will when the promise comes due.
When feelings are authentic in the present, but wane over time, many intimate partners don’t tell their partners, hoping those prior feelings will return before they have to forfeit a relationship that is still important to them. When time goes by and they do not feel differently, or even worse, they are now in danger of pulling out of a relationship when their partners haven’t had warning. Afraid to hurt, distance, or lose that relationship, they hung in there without sharing their lessening interest. Now they have two problems to face: getting out of a relationship that has lost its meaning, and bearing the brunt of hurting and humiliating someone they truly loved at one time.
Because the majority of intimate partners do care about their significant others, they don’t make promises lightly or without the intent to keep them. They also know the difference between a light-hearted promise and those that would create significant heartbreaks were they not followed through, or at least re-negotiated. Also, the partners of well-intentioned lovers do learn, over time, the differences between well-intended but unlikely commitments to future behaviors, and those that are tossed out but unlikely to happen. People who know and love each other depend strongly on the other’s good intentions and are quick to forgive those slight mishaps that simply define the difference between desire and action.
However, anyone’s trust can wither over time if their partner’s consistently make promises they do not keep. Yes, some are made into jokes: “Don’t expect him to be on time. He really means it, but you have to tell him it’s a half-hour earlier than it is to compensate. He’s worth it when he gets here, so we just allow for it.” Or, “I really love her, but she just can’t seem to prioritize her commitments and she’s always rescheduling her appointments. I feel sorry that she’s so distressed about disappointing people but she truly doesn’t mean it and her friends always forgive her.”
But others are more serious, especially when that promise is important to the other partner. “I promise that I’ll cut back on the spending, honey. I know you’re right and I’ll make it a high priority.” “I know that I’m out of shape and it’s important to you. I’ll sign up at the gym first thing in the morning.” “I’m really undependable about texting you right back. It’s not fair. I’m going to really work on that.” “I won’t respond to my old girlfriend’s texts anymore if it bothers you.” “You can’t count on me to be on time from now on.” “I’ll only watch porn with you in the future, I promise.” “I’ll tell you from now on if you’re doing something that bothering me.” “I won’t yell at you anymore just because I’m angry.”
The more un-kept promises are made, the more difficult it is to trust that they ever will be. The greater sadness is that any trust continually broken in any one area, even those that are relatively unimportant, will eventually bleed out to every other area in the relationship. Relationships usually begin with a lot of forgiveness and accepted excuses but, over time, certain issues can become more prominent and less easily erased. The early relationship is proportional, that is, the good outweighs the bad and the problematic issues take a back seat. As the relationship matures, those issues that seemed innocuous to the future of the relationship can slowly erode away at the core of the relationship. Trust breaking is one of the most susceptible to that increasing damage.
It is natural and expected that most people are not completely able to predict their future feelings and behaviors no matter how phenomenal a new relationship seems to be. Life is meant to challenge as time goes by and intimate relationships are no exception. However, there are ways that devoted couples can predict and influence their future trust in one another.
      1)    Don’t make promises about future thoughts or behaviors that are inconsistent    with anything you’ve ever done before. Let your partner know who you’ve been in those areas before. It’s not that people can’t change, but entrenched actions are hard to change and take enormous amounts of commitment and energy to do so.
2)    Keep your communications open and authentic from the beginning of a relationship. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not nor do things that make your partner believe something that is unlikely to happen. You may lose someone up front who can’t abide long term by those behaviors, but you won’t ever feel like you’ve gotten someone to love you on false pretenses.
3)    If you promise something from a well-intentioned place, then find you cannot deliver, tell your partner immediately, ask for support, and renegotiate that promise as something you can fulfill.
4)    Using all your past relationship experiences, know yourself well enough to predict when you are promising something that you are highly unlikely to deliver.
5)    In any important relationship, understand your partner’s continuum that lets you know the difference between an unbroken promise he or she can laugh about, and one that is less forgivable.
6)    Remember that broken promises of any kind do threaten anyone’s belief in your integrity and your trustworthiness. That loss might affect your future chances to make deals of any kind.
7)    Evaluate how you have felt when a promise made to you doesn’t happen.
These simple rules are not as simple to live by, but they genuinely pay off if you can live by them. Everyone has the right to change desires and commitments, and relationship partners are no exception. If those differences in life views, expectations, dreams, or desires evolve and transform over time, it is crucial that intimate partners keep each other up to date as soon as they realize those differences. It may temporarily challenge the relationship, but it also makes it possible to authentically recommit to that new future for both partners.
Here are some articles I’ve written for Psychology Today Internet Blogs that may give you additional help:
What Causes Boredom in Intimate Relationships
Can a Relationship Survive Betrayal?
How to End a Relationship When Your Partner Still Loves You
Are You Withholding Love?
Couples’ Alert – Is your Love Dying?
Are you Afraid of Falling out of Love?
When is it time to let a Relationship go?
Promise Keepers – The Committed Partners who Stay Faithful
All comments are welcome.

Randigunther.com

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fantasy Partners - Is "Out of Reach" Always More Exciting?

There are a few fascinating observations about many relationship seekers that are so common that they sometime feel like the norm. One of them is when a person is more intrigued by something out of reach than something he or she has, or might be able to attain. That grass-could-be-greener-if-we-could-only-get-to-it-desire can occupy one’s total imagination, wiping out any true contentment in what is at hand. And, though that wishful thinking is not a problem if it is an occasional passing whim, it can be an extremely frustrating and damaging way of being if it persists.

Many think that those fantasy desires only happen when a current relationship has matured and lost its novelty. Actually, many people are “relationship-table-hoppers” all their lives, wanting their current relationship to stay in place while constantly thinking or actually looking for something that might be better. They may not act on it or betray an existing relationship, but they are constantly fantasizing on how they could be happier with someone else. And, because they don’t necessarily want to risk what they have, that someone else is usually an unavailable partner.
At the foundation of all intimate relationships most all humans need a balance of both security versus adventure, and safety versus risk, to be genuinely content. Relationships that maintain their discovery and novelty are less prone to hidden desires to experience impulsive experience somewhere else. And, people who opt for more security than risk are going to be more likely to fantasize what they are missing to keep the balance, at least internally.
But there are those, in a cherished partnership, who continue to see life as a series of “relationship islands,” each with their unique characteristics. Are these symbolic beautiful palm trees as important as a warm-water lagoon? Will the plush environment of this island be bettered by a sandy beach on another? What lies in the unknown for me, if I’m just brave enough to let go of where I am? Would it truly be worth the risk to go for it?
And, who are those people who often are the objects of those fantasies. Do they have a generic tone to them? Are they elusive by desire, high up on the “hot” list, unavailable because they are already taken, or so mystical that people never tire of them? Do many people hunger for certain types of looks, behaviors, situations, or experiences that they covet simply because they are out of reach? There are the “bad boys” and “fatal attraction women” who seem to seduce at will, only to dump when done? Do they love and leave because they can? Or, are they more interested in the chase than in the maintenance of a relationship? Is it because they do not seem to need, but have the capacity to capture, that makes them desirable because the very temporary-ness of the passion cannot bear the test of time? Do they feel responsible for the broken hearts they leave behind, or advertise clearly up front and still command connection?
The people who so leave their comfort zone and go for the elusive knight or sequestered princess, fantasize that they will be the one who will capture him or her forever. Harlequin romances are made up of this duo of the quality, lonely woman who has given up on true, passionate love, who falls in love with the tall dark stranger who enters the town with a hit-and-run agenda. Because of her rare combination of not needing to possess him while giving totally of herself, she feels that she might be “the one” for whom he will give up his renegade ways. He, of course, takes advantage and then skips town, only to finally return because she was, in fact the one. (See the classic stage play and movie, “The Music Man”).
And what about Scherazade, the famed young woman who won over the heart of the murderous sultan? Reportedly, his first wife was unfaithful to him. In retribution he sequentially married 1,000 virgins for one night each, and then had them beheaded the next day. Scherazade was the most beautiful, learned, and fascinating woman in his realm and daughter of the Vizier. Deciding to stop the massacres, she agreed to marry the Sultan and, on their wedding night, asked to see her sister one more time. He agreed, and then listened with fascination as Scherazade told her sister an intriguing and magical story. When the Sultan asked her to finish it, she said she would the next night because it was so late. So, of course, he spared her. She continued to tell only half a story for 1,000 nights, keeping the Sultan engrossed in the beautiful fantasies. When she told him there were no more, he had become so enraptured by her that he spared her and stopped his revenge on women. Women ever since, have attempted to master how to give enough to maintain interest, but not so much as to give away the mystery.
The common ironic belief is that most men want a beautiful elusive woman in public, hopefully desired by many other men, but who is only theirs when the bedroom door is closed, and that most women want a chivalrous, giving man whose sexual and emotional hunger for them is visible but not ever forced. And most people would agree that they have felt that at times. Sadly, the fact that beautiful, elusive, hot women are rarely sacrificial, giving, and unselfish, and that sexy, unavailable men hunger to stick around when things aren’t easy and fun, tends to throw a monkey wrench in the hope that both traits can exist in any one gender. As a result, many relationship seekers go from one to the other, trying to end up fulfilling all of their needs, albeit sequentially. (See my Psychology Today Article, “Why Great Husbands are Being Abandoned.”)
Your fantasies about creating a great relationship with an elusive, self-protective and self-serving partner are probably, at best, a waste of time. Better to work on blending your own autonomy with your availability in a great package that neither over-sacrifices nor is over-elusive. Don’t play games with yourself or with potential partners. Hot, passionate relationships can be their own reward, even without any guarantees for the future. (See my Psychology Today article, “Touch and Go Relationships – Do they have to be Superficial?”) Trying to make a comfy, secure, loving relationship compete with the hot passion of a new relationship with an out-of-reach partner rarely works, and is not fair to either.
Generally, it is more hopeful to pick a partner who is closer to the middle, someone who knows how to love, but isn’t so attached to you that he or she will give up integrity and personal growth just to hold on to you. Great, authentic intimate partners who recognize the need for both comfort and challenge, keep their hearts and souls open to that continued discovery. They know how to balance their own risk versus safety ratios internally and they want the same for their partners. They recognize that both will always fantasy about another at some point in time, but that they are highly unlikely to leave a relationship that is in the top ten percent already.
Here are some related articles I’ve written on Psychology Today Blogs that might provide more interesting perspectives:
Is this True Love?
10 Important Questions You Should ask a Potential Partner
Promise Keepers
Should I date this Person Again? – First date behaviors that predict relationship success
Selling Out – Compromising Integrity