Archive for August, 2011
We hear about men cheating and coming back to the marriage but we do not hear quite as often about what it feels like for a man to have his wife cheat and then come back to the marriage. There is a difference in how a man will view his wife after she has cheated that will differ from how a woman may see a husband. The main difference is really coded in our DNA, how we function as a man and a woman in society.
When a woman cheats
Many times when a woman cheats she is not only cheating with her body but on a deeper more intimate level where feelings are involved, psychology and biology. A woman by nature of being a woman is much more emotional than a man and therefore that is part of the reason that she gets involved to begin with, because she is looking for that emotional connection and then it becomes physical. When a woman cheats as opposed to a man “she is allowing someone else to enter into her body” that statement is very powerful.
A man is still part of his DNA, biology, meaning that he wants his woman to be his and the underling factor here is that she allowed another man to enter her body and that was sacred to him that was his woman. This is not an uncommon feeling for a husband that has been cheated on. For many men to have sex with his wife after she had been with another man, he now feels like she is not his anymore, another male has marked his territory, biological. He also feels emasculated, to the point where he is now in competition with this other man on a subliminal level.
What is often asked is how to repair the sexual relationship after his wife’s infidelity. The cheating on her part is a result of a breakdown in her marriage that she was addressing by going outside the marriage to fill the void.
Why a woman cheats in a marriage there are different reasons, but the four most common reasons are:
1. She is lonely
2. She is not longer attracted to her spouse and is looking for some excitement, has fallen out of love
3. Her husband puts her down
4. The woman who needs to escape
5. The woman was the wrong choice to begin with. (not a good person)
Without understanding why the cheating happened in the first place, to even think about having sex with his wife should be put on hold until he has worked through:
1. Why she cheated in the marriage in the first place and resolves it.
2. Has she asked for forgiveness and made it clear that she is not longer involved with that person, emotionally or physically.
3. Can he forgive her and move forward in the marriage.
Can you forgive her? The last question is really important on many levels, if a husband can resolve the first two problems with his wife and they have worked through those two very important questions, can he now forgive her? Can he still see her as his woman?
If the answer is no then the marriage will not work.
If the answer is yes then they can begin to slowly repair the trust between them.
The conclusion is for all married couples’s men and woman, before you think of cheating on your spouse, talk to a professional about your marriage. Cheating is not the answer and it truly only complicates the situation even more and brings pain to the other personRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Many couples at one point or another in their marriage are going to experience some form of sexual problems or dissatisfaction. This may take place shortly after the couple is married, after a child is born, from an illness, hormonal issues, lack of libido, or one partner just does not want to have sex. Solving sexual problems in a marriage can range from complex to quite simple.
The best way to resolve sexual problems in the marriage is to start with each spouse being honest and upfront with one another about how they feel. A good healthy sex life is one that both couples are happy with, that is what defines a good healthy sex life. Many people that are married if they enjoy sex with their spouse and are healthy, active individuals, sex can be enjoyed several times a week if not every day. It really depends on the couple.
When trying to resolve a set amount of time for sex in the marriage sometimes it is best to come up with an agreement between husband and wife on what both feels comfortable with one another. The sex does not always have to involve intercourse; it can be just be pleasing one another through other forms of intimacy. This is important to understand, and that is intimacy and pleasing a spouse can be done in many different ways, hands, mouth, massage ect.
Once kids are part of the marriage, couples do have to set time aside for themselves and their intimate lives, this may not sound so romantic or spontaneous, but if the couple does not make time for the marriage, they may end up not having one!
Having children can change the sexlife in marriage
Having children can be the most wonderful experience in marriage, and also a time of adjustment in the marriage as well. The couple now is no longer just two, they share each other with the child but still have to make time for the marriage. The couples sex life will also change when a child is born. A woman who is a new mom is going to need time to adjust to the situation and learn how to balance out her time between her husband and child. This is also the time when a husband needs to give his wife the support and time to do this and not approach her with sex until she is ready. Many husbands think that when the OBGYN has given their wife the green light that it is time to be sexual with their wife again. This is not the decision of the OBGYN but the woman and how she may feel.
A woman may also experience times when she really wants sex and other times when she can’t even think about it. Many times when a new mom is nursing her child she will experience difficulties wanting to be sexually active with her husband. If this situation goes on for too long and a woman has not found other ways to please her husband within that year period, a high incidence of infidelity can take place on many husbands parts, it just a fact (not all husbands but many will venture out after a year of no sex).
All of this can have a negative impact on the couple’s sex life and need to be addressed. Seeking medical advice first to understand if indeed there is a medical condition is the first step . For many women hormones can have a direct affect on ones libido and some hormone replacement or a good exercise routine can help to level out the hormones. There are also creams that women can use and lubricants for vaginal dryness. For men with any erectile problems this can also stem from a medical condition and needs to be properly addressed.
The best advice when trying to solve sexual problems in a marriage is if one spouse is unwilling to talk about it or deal with the situation the other spouse has to talk to a professional about it. One person thorough technique and proper understanding can have the power to change the dynamics in the marriage.
Lack of sex, unfulfilled sex, not getting your needs met, having no intimacy can be a life of misery for many individuals in a marriage and it doesn’t have to be this way and shouldn’t have to be this way. Marriage can work once the problem is understood and finding the right person to help the couple work to become intimate again. Keep the passion alive in the marriage, date your spouse, communicate with your spouse and be honest with your spouse.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As you are reading this article, no less than one in three women you know are experiencing a loss of interest in sex.
“Loss of libido in women, or low sexual desire, is the most common sexual problem for women and the main reason they seek sex therapy,” says Patricia Koch, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health & Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University and Adjunct Professor of Human Sexuality at Widener University. “It affects anywhere from 33% to 67% of women, depending on how sexual desire is defined and reported,” according to Koch, whose research specializes in loss of libido in women.
It can happen to men, too — but because it only affects about half as many men as women, it is not men’s top sex problem. (See Loss of Libido in Men for more on that.) So what exactly does loss of libido mean for women and why does it happen? WebMD consulted the top experts in the field of sexuality for answers on not only the causes, but the treatments as well.
What Does Loss of Libido Mean?
“Sexual desire is one of the most difficult to define because it is more psychological than physiological,” says Koch, who is also President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.
Edward Laumann, lead author of The Social Organization of Sexuality, a compendium of survey data on sexual practices in the United States, offers a simple definition: “It is a lack of interest in sex for several months of the past year.” In short, women know it when they don’t feel it.
Is Loss of Libido in Women Normal?
“Don’t call loss of libido a disorder,” Laumann says. “How can it be a dysfunction if one-third of women, no matter what their age, report that they lose interest?
“This is normal,” he says, and a growing number of researchers concur.
“Low sexual desire is not a disease, it is the understandable result of an imbalance in your life…in your relationship, your life circumstances or your body,” writes Kathryn Hall, Ph.D. in Reclaiming Your Sexual Self: How You Can Bring Desire Back into Your Life.
Just because loss of libido in women is normal and common, however, doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. Many women feel as if they are letting their partners down. They also feel alienated and left out in today’s powerfully sexually-charged world where everyone, from the models in lingerie ads to the doctors on TV, seem to think of little else besides sex. It’s as if “you’re the only one who doesn’t get the joke,” writes Hall.
Even worse, losing interest in sex can mean you miss out on a lot more than simply one of life’s few non-fattening pleasures. It can begin to drain the passion out of the rest of your life, as well.
“I saw this woman [a patient] yesterday — for eight years she had no interest sexually; all she thought about was taking care of her four children and her husband,” says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist in New York City, and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.
“And then slowly, all the other pleasures went, too. Food. Swimming. Everything about pleasing herself went, one after the other. She was numb,” Perel says.
There are things women can do to rekindle desire and bring passion and pleasure back in their lives. But the first step is to understand why you might be losing interest.
Why Does It Happen? The Causes of Loss of Libido in Women
Biology plays a significant role in loss of libido.
For women, sex can have serious consequences — a baby to take care of for the next twenty years. Not surprising that females seem hard-wired to approach sex with slightly less abandon than males.
“It’s a control device — pregnancy is a threatening condition for women — it renders them vulnerable, they can’t run from predators,” says Laumann. Men can afford to have sex at any moment, Laumann says — it doesn’t make them vulnerable. But for women it’s much riskier, which can cause loss of libido.
Socialization in our culture causes loss of libido in women.
If biology doesn’t get you then social standards will.
“We found that the messages women get from society about double standards has a big affect on their sexual desire,” Koch says. “I work with college women, and even though we have Sex and the Cityon TV saying you can be sexual, women still get the message that it is not OK. Men are looked at as studs if they are sexual, but the women are still called sluts.”
The quality of the relationship affects libido.
“For women, desire is elicited in the connection in the relationship. If we don’t talk and connect, we don’t have sex — for men, they connectin the sex,” explains Perel.
Koch agrees. For women, “it’s not what happens in the bedroom — their desire arises when they are interacting with their partner, just touching, talking, when they go on a hike or a picnic, that starts to get them sexually interested,” Koch says. If the quality of those intimate but nonsexual contacts aren’t being attended to, most women just won’t feel “in the mood.”
Hormones influence libido.
“Hormonal fluctuations with pregnancy, breast-feeding [resulting in elevated prolactin levels] — and then with perimenopause later in life all can lessen desire,” says Eva Ritvo, MD, Chair at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Florida, and author of The Concise Guide to Marital and Family Therapy.
Vaginal dryness, which can result from declining estrogen levels, can make sex painful and cause loss of libido. Testosterone levels also affect libido in men and women — and for women that hormone often peaks in their mid-20s and declines from there until menopause, when levels drop dramatically.
Medical conditions and medications can cause loss of libido.
Depression and the SSRI antidepressants used to treat it can also inhibit desire. So can certain blood-pressure-lowering drugs. Conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and thyroid disorders can also cause loss of libido in women.
Changing life stages — and stress — influence libido.
Life changes — especially the birth of a child — can cause a loss of libido in women. “Among women surveyed in their 20s with a child under five or six — their lack of interest doubled and tripled,” Laumann says. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out — physical stress and tiredness are big factors.” Other life changes, such as losing a job or watching kids leave the nest, can all trigger stress and dampen libido.
10 Tips for Rekindling Sexual Desire
Remember, frequency is not the measure of a healthy sex drive. Your feelings are what count. If you look forward to sex, and feel good about it, before during and after, that is the true measure of libido. Here’s how to help make your love life interesting and satisfying again.
Try selfishness to boost libido. “The thing that most inhibits desire in women is caretaking — taking care of the kids, taking care of the husband,” says Perel. “Caretaking makes a woman think about others. But if you can’t be selfish — in the most positive terms it is the capacity to be focused on the self in the presence of others — you can’t have an orgasm.”
Focus on small, private pleasures. For the woman with four kids who came into Perel’s office, feeling asexual and numb to all pleasure, Perel did not recommend going on a date with her husband. She suggested that the woman focus on her own simple pleasures. Hire a babysitter and go to a movie, enjoy a fragrant, leisurely bath — to remind herself she deserves to feel pleasure. Start small and build.
Reconnect safely and non-sexually to combat loss of libido. For many couples, before you can think about improving the sex, it is important to repair the intimate connection. David Schnarch, director of the Marriage and Family Health Center in Evergreen, CO, and author of Passionate Marriage, recommends the Hug-Until-You-Relax technique. It is simply a long hug, with both partners clothed, lasting 5-to-10 minutes — until you feel relaxed and at peace. This reconnection — “maintaining your sense of self when you are emotionally and physically close to others,” Schnarch says — is the foundation of passion in a relationship.
Changing the scenery fuels libido in women: Passion feeds on a sense of newness and excitement — boredom is the enemy. “When things get routine it hurts the libido,” says Ritvo. “Get a hotel room, even in your own town, for a night, to spice things up.” Or change rooms in the house — who says lovemaking always has to happen in the bedroom?
Try self-stimulation to help loss of libido: “Women who are able to masturbate are more likely to be more satisfied with a partner and experience orgasm more consistently,” says Koch. “It is a myth that if women enjoy masturbation, they won’t want a partner — it’s the reverse. You learn what feels good and you can express that to your partner, and guide your partner,” Koch says.
Talk about what you like and want to boost libido: The worst thing you can do, if you have been avoiding sex together, is to stop talking about it as if the problem will disappear. To keep the distance between you from growing, talk about your willingness to connect. Read sex books together, look at the pictures, laugh — and let your partner know what you’d like him to try with you — next time — to take off any immediate pressure.
Use lubricants to combat loss of libido in women. Vaginal dryness does not have to get in the way of enjoyment. If you go outside the local pharmacy to a sex shop (see Tip 10), you can find a wide variety of lubricants, in different flavors and aromas. Just shopping for them together can be erotic. Estrogen cream, applied directly into the vagina, can help increase vaginal secretions. Unlike oral estrogens that carry some cancer risks, estrogen creams are considered generally safe. Still, talk with your doctor about whether this treatment might be right for you before trying it.
Stop worrying about how you look…naked and otherwise.“Research shows that women are harsher on evaluating their own bodies than men are,” Koch says. “Your partner probably finds you more attractive than you think you are.” So relax and be kinder to yourself — enjoy.
Focus on the whole body to combat loss of libido. Where sexual satisfaction is concerned, paradoxically, the longer, meandering route can be the shortest path to pleasure. Don’t head straight for the genitals — encourage your partner, by example, to tease and take detours. Be pleasure oriented, not goal oriented. Continue to take your time even when you shift gears into a more sexual mode. And remember, it is not only your partner’s job to turn you on, desire should begin with you.
Have realistic expectations to avoid loss of libido. Be realistic in your expectations. Women can take about three times as long (or longer) to reach orgasm as men and, by some estimates, only “26% of women report that they always have orgasms,” says Laumann. But even without the Big O, women report enjoying the sex and feeling closer to their partner afterwards. So mentally shift gears from Mommy Mode to Sex Goddess Mode. And give yourself permission to try new things — you may surprise yourself. “No absolutes — lingerie, sex toys, pornography — it’s what works and is safe and consensual and pleasing to both partners,” says RitvoRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The main reason that couples will see a marriage counselor, or find a therapist, is because of the traps couples get stuck in. Any relationship counselor is usually asked by a couple “what do we do so we don’t keep arguing?” Another marriage and family therapist might be asked, “how do I get my partner to talk?” In marriage counseling or couples counseling, one of the partners might ask for couples therapy exercises on how to help the couple learn to communicate and spend time together in a comfortable way. When couples get caught in patterns that keep them from enjoying each other and cause them to feel insecure, distant, and angry, it’s like they are in a trap that they can’t get out of. I want to list the main traps that I’ve seen couples get into which causes so much frustration for both partners.
The first trap I call cat and mouse. This is where one partner is less communicative, has activities that will keep him/her busy, and when approached by his/her partner sneaks away. They avoid connection with their significant other because they might be feeling judged, have felt hurt or rejected from the past and are still hurting over that, and have a difficult time talking about those feelings. Instead they will avoid. The other person doesn’t know how their partner is feeling and just knows they are not connected. They will feel insecure about this. This partner will then pick up the pace with trying to connect, get attention, or try to feel recognized by their partner. They will pursue, or they might micro manage, get critical as they get more frustrated. The other partner then becomes more distant, avoids, withdraws and we have a cat and mouse game where one partner is trying to capture the other one, and that partner is trying to get away. It is hard for both of the partners to slow down and talk about what each of them is feeling and wanting. In couples counseling or marriage therapy, couples can learn to talk about this pattern and learn to identify it when it comes up. A marital counselor or relationship counselor can help the couple to slow down and talk to each other about their feelings, what they want, what is important, and release from this pattern so they can feel connected. This is what both partners want. Using emotionally focused couple therapy is highly successful with couples with this pattern.
The next trap that couples will talk to a marriage counselor about, I call the clashing titans. This ocurrs when both partners feel that the other one is angry at them, they feel they are right and rationale, and their partner is not listening to them or acknowledging how they are feeling, so they stay the course and won’t back down. This causes arguments with no resolution, continued feelings of not being heard or even cared about. The only strategy that is going to work is for them to feel protected by keeping up the fight. The result is that there is more frustration, more emotional hardship and pain, that both partners have to endure. The relationship is stuck in this trap of clashing. What the couple really wants is to be connected, be heard by the other person, and to know that they are cared about by their spouse or partner.
Relationship problems always start and end in these traps that couples fall into. Marriage therapy or couple therapy is a way to help the couple get out from under that trap. Couples can learn to lower their intensity, identify their feelings, examine what they really want from their partner, and realize how they are contributing to this pattern that is trapping them. They can then talk to their spouse/partner in a way that makes sense to both. They can then feel understood. They are set free from that trap of the clashing titans.
Couples that take on an avoidant pattern with each other have a way of not talking to each other. The communication is minimal. They are living together but aren’t close. In counseling they call themselves roommates. I see them as being in the trap that I call distant relatives. At one point they were close, intimate, and connected. After a while, the spark started to fade. They got distracted from each other because they were putting energy into jobs, having children, maybe there were demands from their extended families and friends, or other committments. As time went on, conversations became less satisfying, their connection was taken for granted. They started to feel more distant. The relationship becomes convenient. The feelings start to cool. It’s like living with a distant relative. when these couples get into marriage therapy, or couples therapy, the partners ask for couples therapy exercises to help them get that back that spark. What these couples really need is to learn to open up with each other. Each partner has to understand where they became detached. They can then learn through relationship conseling how to take a different route to connect with their partner, rather than stay in that trap of living like a roommate or distant relative. When I see couples that are in this trap we focus on that pattern of avoidance and stopping that. We then learn how to identify what each partner wants their significant other to know, how they can feel important to each other by learning how to talk to each other, and to build up that trusting and fun relationship again.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
What about men and relationships? There is a myth that men are inferior to women when it comes to building and maintaining a relationship. You here about how men are wired differently than women and how their brains are developed in a way that inhibits them from valuing connection and closeness with others. There is an attitude that you don’t expect men to be appreciative and responsive in relationships because closeness, intimacy, and connection aren’t that important to them. When a relationship is in trouble, don’t count on the man to want to change, repair the relationship, or even be aware there is an issue.
I’ve seen men change. I’ve seen men who want to change. I’ve seen men who value relationships. I’ve seen men fight to the very end to salvage their relationships. And yes, I’ve seen men who avoid the connection with their partners, and attach themselves to their work, achievemnents, and how good they look to the rest of the world. Even these guys can learn to realize how important their significant other is to them, and having a secure connection with their partner is paramount to their physical and mental health. It might mean that they have to hit their rock-bottom in order to do so. Then, they realize that human contact, being closely connected with the one they trust and love, who reciprcates that, is more powerful than anything else. They can learn to feel close and intimate with their partner and realize how this connection helps them feel worthy and whole.
Men get tripped up in relationships and this is nobody’s fault. They learn as young boys how to avoid being vulnerable and to devalue what they feel. They may be told that big boys don’t cry, you have to be strong, tough it out, and be a man. It would be hard for anybody to acknowledge and respond to their partner’s feelings when they have learned to repress their own feelings, needs and wants. As a result there is a disconnect in the relationship where the man is barely treading water, and his partner is feeling like collateral damage.
It becomes difficult for men who have developed these coping strategies that protect them from having to be vulnerable, to actually be able to express what they feel and really need in their primary relationship. Their learned relationship style can keep them stuck from approaching their partner when they really need to. What men really need, is to learn how to express to their partners when they are feeling insecure or fearful. They get stuck there. Instead they might get reactive and blame, get critical, or go on the attack. Or they might withdraw and get busy doing something as far away from their partner as possible. Men need the tools to learn how to calm themselves down, take a breath, understand their emotional situation, realize what it is that they really want to do or say, then to actually allow themselves to express what they need to say, or do what they need to do. When a man can learn this process that directs him to his partner where he is expressing how he is feeling, then he can achieve that bond, closeness, and security with his partner which is what he really needs. When this occurrs his fear, insecurity, and unhappiness disappears.
Those important relationship tools that men need can be learned in individual or couples therapy. They can begin to see how they defend themselves from getting close and connected with a significant other. Men can explore, talk about, and process where and how they learned to keep themselves protected, and not allow others to know their fears and anxieties. They learn to shut down all emotion because that was safe. Men can learn how that way of relating hurts himself and his partner. He can finally understand that when he constantly self protects it really does the opposite-it hurts himself and his partner more.
Men can train to learn how to live more gratifying and fulfilling lives. They can learn to experience what it is like to connect with their significant other emotionally. When they feel that closeness and bond, then they realize how alive they really are. Men have told me how they value their realtionships and that the other stuff is just “stuff.” They can relax and let their anxieties pass. It is like they get a new lease on life.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Relationship style is the way you connect, respond, react, and relate with your significant other. You develop behaviors, habits, patterns, and ways of being, as you get to know, grow with, and develop as a couple. The relationship style can be predictable and sometimes it isn’t. It depends on how you are feeling in the relationship. The style is affected by how secure, calm, trusting, and confident you are with your partner. If you don’t feel connected and bonded, you might develop a style of relationship that tries to compensate for this lack of connection or insecurity. The behavior might consist of calling your parnter a lot throughout the day. You could have dramatic reactions to situations that come up because you are feeling anxious or alone. If you are feeling insecure or anxious you could get critical , you might need and then demand reassurance from your significant other, you might get agitated easily, or even get accusatory.
What if you feel that what ever you do isn’t good enough? If you do the dishes, or arrange for a date, or if you start a conversation, you still might get criticized, ignored, or not appreciated. A reaction to this is avoiding your partner. You may arrange to get busy a lot of the time so you don’t have to engage with your significant other. Another way to avoid feeling that what you do is not good enough, is to not reply to what is being said to you or to deflect, minimize, or even remain quiet and shut down. This can cause your partner to get frustrated, feel pushed away, or not cared for, and they may in turn give up and go away. The main goal here is to not get rejected or feel like a failure. The sad thing about this is when you avoid, your significant other feels like you don’t care, and then they continue to react. Then you are pretty stuck as a couple.
The third style is being in the moment. This is when you feel your feelings, understand them, and express them to your partner. If you are anxious you can say this in a way that is open and not judgmental. As an example if want to ask your partner to do something but you feel they might reject you, you might say, “I’m nervous about asking you this because you might turn me down, but I would like to go out tonight with you.” The alternative to this is to avoid and not even ask. Then you won’t get rejected. At the same time there is greater distance between you and your partner. Another example at identifying the feeling and then expressing it is when you might feel anxious or nervous about your partner doing an activity or going away, and you feel insecure about it, and need reassurance. Let’s say your partner is going on a business trip for a couple of days and you feel insecure about what could happen. You might even feel that you anticipate being lonely and that you will miss your partner while he/she is gone. You might want to say, “I’m a little scared about that upcoming trip. I don’t know why but I feel nervous about who might be there and what might tempt you. I also feel I might be lonely and will miss you. Do you think you could touch base with me while you’re gone so I know everything will be okay?” The alternative is not to say anything and then when your partner comes back, and these insecure feelings build up, then you can get reactive. The result could be these feelings coming out in anger and resentment like being suspicious and accusatory, getting agitated and maybe even having a sarcastic and blaming attitude towards your partner. The end result is an argument, tension, and conflict. Being in the moment, taking a risk, and telling your partner how you are feeling is how you can connect with each other. Your partner knows how you feel and can respond to you in a way that can help you feel even more secure in the relationship. That is the ultimate goal to feel safe, secure, and happy together.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
One of the most significant underlying assumptions that many people internalize is, “I must avoid conflict at all costs; if I let others know what I think and feel, I might get disappointed and hurt.” However, “sweeping things under the rug” tends to eventually magnify unresolved interactions and events. Resentment, which looms on the other side of our passive behavior, clouds our confidence and judgment.
I define assertiveness as expressing one’s needs and wants in a way that does not intentionally hurt others’ feelings. Many of us spend an inordinate amount of energy avoiding the process of telling others what we specifically want from them. As a result, we carry around negative energy as we seethe over what we are missing in our relationships. A friend of mine told me that there is nothing admirable about avoiding hurt. Sometimes emotional pain is an inevitable byproduct of making difficult decisions that involve honest emotional expressiveness. I am amused at couples who proudly proclaim that they never argue or fight but nevertheless find their relationship in jeopardy. Insulating themselves from the inevitability of conflict provides partners with refuge from everyday struggles. However, intimacy requires emotional expressiveness, and many couples either lack the skills or desire to confront life’s problems.
Managing conflict is a process that is uncomfortable for most of us. Many of us have had no role models for understanding how to constructively fight or emerge from conflict to closure. We may have watched our parents suffer in silence and witnessed the resentment that characterized their relationship. Our parents may have used sarcasm, nagging, or open hostility when problems got to the boiling point. They may have danced around issues like two stallions circling each other in a corral. We may have learned to thwart our feelings in response to our parents’ passive-aggressive style of relating.
Many of us are able to confront people and issues in our business life appropriately. We often can assert ourselves with our business colleagues, but feel lost in communicating honestly and openly with those closest to us. We wonder why there is a disconnect between our work persona and our way of communicating at home. The difference exists because it is more frightening to be vulnerable with our loved ones than it is with our business associates. There is more “on the line” with those we care about and therefore we may avoid facing the emotional ramifications of being upfront.
In order to be assertive, we must let go of the power of others’ approval or disapproval. At times, all of us may be afraid to share our deepest needs, wants, and feelings because of the negative reaction we might anticipate from others. We may assume that our friends will judge us for being authentic. In the 1970′s, Father John Powell of Loyola University in Chicago reflected on this dilemma in a book, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? None of us are comfortable with the feeling of being vulnerable, although it seems that the most confident people are those who can allow themselves to be fragile when necessary.
I often tell people to think of assertiveness the way television detective Colombo responded during his investigations. Occasionally he would respond by saying, “Help me understand something, sir? By the way, can you run that by me once again?” Assertiveness involves respecting and valuing the promotion of understanding. I like to call it non-evaluative exploration. This process involves learning to create dialogue, with true appreciation for differences in opinion. It may also mean learning to say no or setting boundaries that are acceptable and not being manipulated into changing them. It may mean the possibility of getting a negative counter-reaction from others and learning to accept their disapproval. The courage to confront means respecting oneself enough to stand firm on what you want and think without getting caught up in the burden of others’ feelings.
There is a price to pay for discounting one’s emotional feelings. A number of years ago I heard author M. Scott Peck present to a group of mental health professionals in Chicago. He talked about having chronic neck pain and how troublesome the condition was. After many medical tests, and self-reflection, he came to the conclusion that his problem was primarily a metaphor for his life-long pattern of avoidance. Rather than trying to fix everyone else’s problems, he needed to learn to “stick his neck out” and finally face the courage to confront. Appropriately confronting people and events can be accomplished by promoting understanding through non-evaluative exploration. Through this process, individuals and couples can learn to get closure on issues that affect their everyday livingRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Sam and Rita are multimillionaires. Sam is the president of a multinational corporation and Rita stayed home to raise their three children, whom are now all adults. Having reached this place in life, one would think that Sam and Rita would be really enjoying their life and their financial freedom. Sadly this is not the case. Sam is constantly anxious about money and even envious toward others who have even more than they have. Sam still tries to control how much money Rita spends, even though they have more money than they could possibly spend during the rest of their lives. The control issues around money cause frequent conflicts between Sam and Rita.
Millie and Harold are also struggling with financial issues. Millie and Harold, while not rich, are financially comfortable. But Millie is constantly worrying that there won’t be enough money, and is often angry with Harold for not making more money. The anxiety and power struggles over money keep Millie and Harold from feeling close and intimate with each other.
Rebecca and Jack are also in conflict over money. Rebecca works hard in her home-based business yet barely brings in enough money to support them and their two children. She is frequently very resentful that Jack, who also has a home-based business, is not motivated to work hard. Rebecca ends up feeling anxious, put-upon and angry in the face of Jack’s resistance to working. In fact, Rebecca is thinking of leaving Jack because of her frustration with his lack of motivation. Without him around, she would have fewer mouths to feed.
There are two types of concerns regarding money that cause relationship problems:
Actual money concerns, such as in Rebecca’s situation, where there really isn’t enough money and one of the partners is not pulling his or her weight. In this case, the problem centers on resistance and lack of personal responsibility on the part of one partner.
Fabricated money concerns, such as with Sam and Rita and Millie and Harold. In these situations, the anxiety and conflicts are coming from fear that is not based on reality. The obsession with money is causing power struggles and control issues to undermine the intimacy in the relationship. Money is more important than caring.
Money is certainly a concern in relationships where both people are working hard yet there is not enough money. However, this is not the situation that generally causes relationship problems. In this situation, both partners are on the same side, each supporting the other in dealing with the problems. There are no power struggles, just actual money concerns.
Conflicts Based On ControlIn relationships such as Sam and Rita’s, the problems in the relationship are not really about money — they about believing that money is more important than caring and compassion. Sam is a person who defines his worth by how much money he has, rather than by how caring a person he is. Like Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, money has become his God. His anxiety and resulting controlling behavior with Rita is not based on reality, but on his ego’s desire for power and control.
If Sam shifted his thinking from fear to love, he would start to give his money away and receive great satisfaction from using his money to help others. He would receive great joy from supporting Rita in doing the things that bring her joy. If love and compassion became more important than power and control, Sam and Rita would not have relationship problems.
While Millie and Harold are not loaded with money, the problems are similar. Millie fabricates money scenarios that cause her great anxiety and then wants control over getting Harold to relieve her fears. In reality, their money situation is fine. If Millie learned to stay in the present instead of obsessing about the future, she and Harold could enjoy each other. Her focus on controlling the future is causing constant conflict in their relationship.
Conflicts Based On ResistanceIn Rebecca and Jack’s situation, Jack’s resistance to taking financial responsibility is causing Rebecca to have to work too hard. Jack is the kind of person who wants to be taken care of rather than be a responsible adult. Jack’s deepest motivation is to not be controlled – by Rebecca, by himself, or by society. His resistance keeps him immobilized in irresponsible behavior. Until caring about himself and others is more important to Jack than not being controlled, he will stay stuck in resistance. Unless Jack decides to become a caring and responsible person, Rebecca either has to accept him the way he is or leave relationship. She cannot make Jack change, and the conflicts in the relationship are because she has not accepted her helplessness over making Jack be different.
Relationship conflicts over money get resolved when both people move out of control or resistance and into caring about themselves and each other. Partnerships based on caring and compassion bring intimacy and joy, even when money is limited.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You promised (or assumed) you would be together forever. But now your relationship is broken, your partner feels like your enemy and you’re on the path to breakup. You’re not alone: about half of marriages end in divorce and the numbers are even higher for couples who live together.
But knowing that other relationships have failed isn’t very helpful, is it? It doesn’t make your pain any easier.
If you accept your breakup as an opportunity to learn, over time it will provide you with huge potential for personal growth. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or quick or even follow a direct path. There will be ups and downs, reversals and false hopes. But if you stay with your commitment to growth and health, one day you will be able to look back and see how far you’ve come. Let’s consider some of the more common patterns we see among couples who break up.
Who starts it. Some couples reach a point in their relationship, sometimes after they’ve had some counseling, when they agree mutually that it’s time to break up. Although still painful, the split will be easier for them than for other couples in which one partner plans and initiates the breakup while the other resists or is taken by surprise. The lines are not always clearly drawn, but knowing where you fit may help you recognize yourself in the emotions that follow.
Denial. Denial is a natural reaction. Your emotions say, “this can’t be happening to me,” even as your relationship is crumbling around you. Denial can last days, months or even years, depending on your willingness to cope with the uncomfortable reality.
Surprise. If one partner initiates the breakup “out of the blue,” the other partner may be taken by surprise. Over time, as you learn about yourself and your relationship, the feeling of surprise may be replaced by the questions, “How could I miss the signs? Why didn’t I see that coming?”
Rejection. No matter how many wonderful things your partner said about you during the best days of your relationship, breakup often brings a sense of personal failure and rejection. Guilt. Both partners may experience guilt in a breakup. The partner who initiates the split may feel especially guilty, but couples may also feel guilt about personal weaknesses that contributed to the relationship problem, or about breaking up their family or failing to keep a religious commitment.
Anger. As the reality of the breakup sinks in, you may be surprised by the intensity of your anger. Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion that can help to heal some of the open wounds of the breakup. But misdirected anger can cause further problems. Blaming and revenge are unproductive. No matter how justified you feel, avoid targeting your anger at your partner; look for a way to release your anger by talking with a therapist or trusted friend.
Fear. Breaking up may introduce situations and challenges you didn’t have to face during your relationship, for example, being alone, handling finances, making important decisions and even dealing with the emotional chaos of the breakup. You may feel confident to cope with some and fearful about others. Facing the fear, dealing with the challenges one small step at a time, is the best way to keep yourself from becoming a victim of your fear. Bargaining. At some point, one of the partners may try to negotiate his or her way out of the breakup: “If I promise never to [fill in the blank], can we get back together?” Bargaining may be part of denial or it may signal an opportunity to seek counseling for the individual and the relationship.
Loneliness. Even if you have been unhappy in your relationship for a long time, you may be surprised by the profound sense of emptiness when you break up. The habits of being together – sharing day-to-day activities, sharing a bed, sharing friends – are suddenly shattered. If instead of feeling deprived and longing for your lost partner you see this as an opportunity to strengthen your Self, the loneliness will slowly diminish. Trust. You need friends you can trust, especially during this difficult period. But friends you saw as a couple may “take sides” or see your breakup as a threat to their own relationship. Take it slow and seek activities that will allow you to expand your circle of trusted friends.
Grieving / despair / depression. The grief that follows the loss of a relationship is normal. The sense of loss can affect your energy levels, your appetite, your productivity and your sleep patterns. You may feel depressed and unable to enjoy the things that used to give you pleasure. Eventually, your grief will subside, but if you begin to think about harming yourself or someone else, talk with a therapist. Relief. As impossible as it may seem today, one day you may be able to look back and feel relief, not only that you survived the breakup but that you found your way out of a difficult situation into a happier and more productive time in your life.
New relationship. All of the emotional turmoil of breaking up may make you especially vulnerable to a rebound relationship – one that seems to fulfill all of your needs and hungers and be the opposite of everything that was wrong with your partner. This is unfair to you and it’s unfair to your new partner. It will take at least a year, and possibly longer, before you are ready to embark on a new relationship.
Meanwhile, take this opportunity to spend time with friends and to develop your self-esteem, your interests, your confidence and your independence. When you are ready for a new relationship, these will serve you well. If you think your relationship may be worth saving, this is a good time to seek counseling. But even if you’re already into your breakup, a skilled relationship coach may be able to make the process easier for you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Control can be a difficult subject to understand. In part, that’s because we use the word in so many ways. When we say that someone is controlling, the word has a negative connotation. But the same is true when we say that someone is out of control. So, what is control? Is there good control as well as bad?
Control is basically the management of behavior and it is extremely valuable for our ability to function in relationships and in society. We learn control in childhood by following the example of the adults around us and by learning and following the rules of our home and culture. We learn to control our impulses – to ask instead of grabbing, to use words instead of fists, and so on. Shared control is valuable in a relationship. Knowing our personal boundaries and our expectations and talking about them with our partner can be very helpful.
But sometimes people have a hard time managing control of themselves or of others. For example, someone who was abused as a child might try to eliminate the behavior that they believe caused the abuse, such as having emotions, being smart or being attractive. Such people control their behavior so tightly that that they seem rigid, closed or unemotional and they may have a hard time connecting with others or finding meaningful relationships.
Children who grow up with iron-clad rules and no opportunity to make mistakes or discoveries for themselves may seek controlling partners or grow up without the confidence to make decisions for themselves.
In relationships, people often use control tactics to try to keep the other person from rejecting or abandoning them. This happens both in couples and in families. Sometimes the controller doesn’t even realize that his or her behavior is controlling or oppressive – until the partner or child gets fed up and leaves.
Abusive behavior, including physical, verbal and emotional abuse, is an attempt to control someone else, whether it’s a child or another adult. Such control is exerted in many different ways and to varying degrees, from subtle to extremely violent. Whether they recognize it or not, the controlling person weakens the controlled person; rather than offering a lesson that will make the other person stronger in the world, the controller undermines the controlled person’s confidence, self-esteem and ability to make decisions or take action.
Controllers tend to isolate their victim, to figure out reasons why their child or partner should not be spending time with anyone else. Controllers pass judgment, call names, tell the other person what they’re thinking or doing, demean, criticize, trivialize, threaten, blame, accuse and withhold praise. In the extreme, controllers use violence and stalking to gain control. If you are being physically abused or stalked, get help immediately. Call 911 or go to a safe place where you will be protected from your abuser.
Control issues can benefit from both individual and relationship counseling. Slowly and safely looking at the behavior of both parties and gradually developing tools to build trust can help to put control back into balance.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
« Previous Entries