Category Archives: Relationship
Over the last several years, as an author, educator, and mentor of women, I have analyzed marriage from a multiplicity of angles—that is from material written by professional governmental, educational, and faith-based sociologists, scientists, and psychologists, as well as journalists, philosophers, and novelists. What strikes me overall is how each source (regardless of the author’s personal background, purpose, or professional credentials) assert, or at least assume, these general trends in the Western world:
- There has been a titanic cultural shift in the roles of men and women.
- This social transformation has left many men in a quandary over their identity. The lack of definitive social expectations leaves men at a disadvantage compared to their male progenitors, who knew for thousands of years exactly what was expected of a man.
- This adjustment is affecting men’s personal and professional relationships with women.
- Men are increasingly looking to strong women to help them direct their energy, inspire their dreams, and channel their ambitions in constructive ways.
- This progressive view is allowing more and more men and women to act as true partners in achieving family and professional goals.
- Of all the strengths women bring to partnership, one of the most vital is their natural orientation toward relationships. Women generally, by virtue of biochemistry, social tradition, contemporary cultural developments, or all of the above, are frequently more adept at relationship dynamics than men are.
Thus, in a nutshell, women today, either by design, development, or accident, depending on your belief system, are in a very powerful position when it comes to creating and maintaining truly rewarding relationships with men.
Of course, any relationship is a two-way street, linking two people who share responsibility for its outcome. But the truth of the matter appears to be that women have a disproportionate amount of influence on both the day-to-day and the long-term tenor of their marriage. The feminine energy we bring to the partnership is intuitive, relational, receptive, connective, intimate, and inclusive.
Love is in the air. It’s that time of the year again: Valentine’s Day. Co-workers may be receiving gifts at work, restaurants will be crowded with couples trying to make the night special, and to others it may as well just be another day. But does everyone really celebrate Valentine’s Day and go all out for romance? In one of our latest surveys, we dared to find out.
We asked around 3,000 people if they had plans for Valentine’s Day, and about 64% of them said they did plan on celebrating the holiday with somebody special. Now we were curious, what goes into their Valentine’s Day plans?
Planning the Date
Most people who said they had Valentine’s Day plans had put at least a little bit of thought into it. 17% of people said they had not planned anything yet (and this survey was done 3 days before Valentine’s Day!), and 6% had said they put a lot of planning into the event.
So who’s doing the planning? According to our survey, it seems like chivalry is not dead. Men were more likely to say they had done a fair amount of planning or a lot of planning for their valentine, where as women were more likely to say they had done very little to no planning at all.
What about when you get married? Do the plans for Valentine’s Day slip away over time? Not as much as you may be thinking. When you are dating somebody exclusively, you are the most likely to have plans. 89% of people who are dating somebody exclusively have had made at least some plans, and 82% of married couples also had plans. Couples who are engaged were the least likely to have made any plans despite saying they were celebrating the holiday, with 25% of them saying they had done no planning.
When you consider what domestic violence is, you likely have those scary images in your head of an outraged partner physically attacking his wife or worse, their children, resulting in a frantic 911 emergency call. While – of course – violence is not only terrifying but damaging, the much more common type of abuse has nothing to do with someone using his hands, but rather, his words. In fact, therapists often say that many people (especially women) are emotionally abused every single day without realizing it.
“Emotional abuse can happen in any relationship once in awhile or continuously. I think that most people at one point in their lives have experienced some form of emotional abuse. Berating a person, yelling at them, calling them names, making them feel less than, all of this would constitute emotional abuse. At the base of emotional abuse is that the victim is made to feel bad about themselves. Emotional abuse can be dangerous if the person allows themselves to be abused, and then begins to put themselves down,” explains Dr. Dawn Michael, clinical sexologist and relationship expert.
You’re getting yelled at for nothing.
Every couple – no matter how much of a match you are for one another – has disagreements. Therapists actually say that arguing within a relationship can be healthy, as it helps you better communicate to your partner and can help widen your own perspective. But there’s a difference between bickering over who last walked the dog and your partner screaming at you inappropriately. “We call this the feeling of ‘walking on eggshells’ or in other words, when even the smallest mistakes you make has the person getting mad at you. This in turn can cause a person to become nervous around that person and make even more mistakes,” Michael explains. “This one is particularly insidious because if you do something small that they don’t like, your expectation would be that they either brush it off or say nicely not to do it, but a person who yells at the small stuff is usually a person that is controlling and has very little patience and therefore allows little mistakes to upset them. For instance, one time you don’t put the toothpaste cap on and they scream at you and tell you that you don’t care about them because you left the cap off.”
They say sly remarks that beat your confidence.
Though your boyfriend might tease you for the way you peel an orange or the crazy way you like to eat your french fries with ranch dressing and ketchup, an abusive partner will carefully say certain things that rub you the wrong way. Not only is it a tactic to always have the upper hand, those remarks overtime beat down your confidence and lead you to rely more solely on him for your own self-worth. “An emotionally abusive partner will put you down, instead of lift you up. Instead of complimenting you, they put you down, which can make you feel bad about yourself. They may say that if you were smarter you would have a better job, or if you lost weight people would like you more. It can even be putting you down to make you feel small so they feel better about themselves. This is not a nice person!”
In your daily life, are you guided by fear or love? What are the fears that block being loving to yourself and others?
How often is the question, “What is loving to myself and others– what is in my highest good and the highest good of another?” the question that guides your actions? Is there something in the way of you asking this question? What is the fear that gets in the way of loving yourself?
Ethan’s fear is that “If I’m open to love, I will be weak and then easily taken advantage of. I might lose my sharpness in business and then lose money. Business people will see that I’m a soft touch and run right over me.”
Alexis is stuck in her cycle of anger at her husband. In her mind, she knows that her controlling, blaming anger is pushing him away, yet she fears that “If I let go of the control, he will end up making a fool of me. The only way I can be safe from him doing something behind my back, like having an affair, is to keep a tight rein on him.” Alexis’s husband, Noah, has been staying away more and more, and coming home later and later. He doesn’t want to be around the anger. The more he stays away, the angrier Alexis gets. She is terrified to let go and see what will happen. Having a huge abandonment issue, and not doing the inner work to take care of herself, she is very afraid he will leave her. Rather than risk this, she keeps doing the very thing that pushes Noah away, while her fears continue to grow.
Each of these people are terrified at losing something – losing themselves, losing the other, losing face, losing money, losing power. None of them have the faith that if they are open to loving themselves and others, they will be supported by the vast power of Spirit. None of them are willing to risk opening to love and seeing what happens. As a result, they cannot create a strong enough connection with their spiritual guidance to know that their fears are not based on truth, but on their false beliefs.
Two things would need to happen for them to change:
They would need to be willing to risk having their worst fears happen. Until they are willing to find out whether or not their fears are based on truth, they will be stuck avoiding them. When they finally say, “Okay, if I’m abandoned, made a fool of, taken advantage of or completely controlled by another, so be it. Living this way isn’t working so I’m willing to see what will happen if I open,” then they will be open to learning and loving.
When they decide that the spiritual journey of becoming a loving human being is more important than whether or not they are hurt, rejected, controlled, or made a fool of, they will open. As long as they believe that the earthly journey of getting and controlling is more important than the spiritual journey of learning and loving, they will stay stuck.
Your soul remembers your spiritual journey. Your soul yearns to love and share love. Your soul yearns for the lightness of being that comes from opening to love. If you diligently practice inner Bonding, you will eventually connect with the deep desires of your soul and open your heart.
Do we know what we are doing when it comes to modern relationships, or are we just being hi-jacked by primitive emotions?
There’s a scene in the 1996 movie ‘Jerry Maguire’, where Tom Cruise famously says to Renée Zellweger, “You Complete Me”. It’s a dry your eyes romantic moment, but it’s at the heart of what goes wrong in relationships.
We are drawn to another person for a sense of completeness. We hope that this relationship will heal or fill an empty space in our life. And for a short time we are wrapped up in a cloud of ‘feel good’ hormones and everything looks and feels better. Then, our brain chemistry normalizes, reality comes crashing in, and we notice that the partner we chose to fill our void, is trying to make changes in us to fill their own. Welcome to codependency!
Modern relationships come in many forms; dating online or in person, cohabiting, marriage, divorce, single-parent dating, remarriage, to name a few.
I’ve experienced all of these and as a researcher and writer on self-leadership, I have a few pieces of advice for those of you who are still looking for ‘the perfect relationship’.
- Would you live with you? Before we can successfully be in a relationship with another person, we need to be comfortable with ourselves. We don’t have to be perfect, that’s not what self-esteem means. We need to be comfortable with our imperfections. We need to know what we want, need, value, and believe or how else will we authentically communicate this to a partner.
- Learn from the past, don’t repeat it. Your past relationships are not failures, they are part of the learning process to understand what you want, need, value, and believe. If it didn’t work, be honest with yourself about why that was and avoid repeating the pattern. For example, if you are looking for someone to fix, to make your feel better, and they leave you after being ‘fixed’ – there’s a good chance that will happen again.
- Understand that the only person you can change is you. People to grow and evolve together but only when they accept each other as they are. The fatal mistake in relationships is to try and change something in someone else. You can communicate how a behavior makes you feel, but the choice to change rests firmly with them. And saying, “If you loved me, you’d do this…” is manipulation 101 and never ends well.
- Don’t settle. For a relationship to last, it has to be physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. We often try to settle for 2 or 3 out of 4. If the sex is great but you can’t enjoy a movie together because of a difference in intellect or education, then things are going to turn sour. If you can express your emotions with each other, but spiritually your values clash, then a schism is on the horizon.
- Communicate. This is the most fundamental of relationship advice – and the most powerful. Learn to authentically communicate your wants, needs, values and beliefs and listen openly to your partner without judgment. You are unlikely to be in relationship with your clone, and so there will be differences, but these conflicts can often be resolved by communicating in the following way; a) here’s what’s happening, b) this is what I feel, c) this is what I need, d) and so this I my request. The power of this 4-step communication strategy is that there is no blame. You are not making it your partners fault you have a feeling or an unmet need, but you are giving them an opportunity to adjust their perspective or behavior through a request.
We are all emotionally needy to some degree in relationships — meaning simply that, during a difficult time, we need more emotional support than usual. We all long to be understood, supported, loved, and accepted.
It’s OK to reach out and ask for help — sometimes. And that’s okay. Yet, being overly emotionally needy — too demanding, clingy, annoying, fragile — can spell trouble for your relationship.
A person should be able to stand on their own, tolerate aloneness, and manage their own ‘stuff’ for a healthy relationship to exist. How we go about expressing our needs has a lot to do with our personality and our attachment style — our style based on how we learned to relate to our parents and how emotionally available they were…or not.
There are 3 styles of attachment that help create how secure or insecure we feel in relationships: secure, anxious, and avoidant.
Secure people present themselves as warm and loving and were most likely raised with caregivers that were consistently caring and responsive. Avoidant people often come across as dismissive, often minimize closeness and were raised in an environment that was less emotional and one in which insecurity and neediness were not tolerated.
However, people with an anxious attachment style are the ones that present and who are seen as overly needy. Some of the key characteristics are:
•Minimizing or denying their needs and look to others to fill their emotional gaps and emptiness in a way that often becomes manipulative.
•Worrying about their partner’s love and ‘search out’ for all the mannerisms and nuances that might indicate that their partner doesn’t love them.
•Emotionally overwhelmed and will reach out and ‘need’ their partner more to make them feel secure or constantly remind them of how they feel.
•Insecurity and oversensitivity to any slight.
•Had parents (or a parent) who was inconsistently nurturing. This created inner angst and turmoil and contributed to their anxiety — especially around relationships.
However, this often leaves their partner emotionally tapped out and overwhelmed by their neediness. They are worn out. And yet, anxious people do the very thing they fear the most will happen — they push their partner away. Their behaviors are counterproductive, yet hard to stop doing in the moment.
For the other person, there is nothing they can do to help this person. You cannot encourage growth, compliment them, or reassure them — enough. They have an insatiable and exhausting emotional ‘neediness.’
Are you emotionally needy? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you look at your romantic partner to make you happy?
2. Do you look to your partner to fulfill all your needs in love, sex, and support?
3. Do you look to your partner for constant reassurance and validation? Are you looking for others to make you feel good about yourself — always looking outside ‘self’ for reassurance? And even if you get it, do you depend on it all the time? Do you feel abandoned if your partner is not available? Are you afraid your partner will not be there for you?
4. Do you get upset if your partner doesn’t react in a certain way, doesn’t meet a need?
5. If you are alone, do you do things to fill the void with other distractions? Or when alone, do you go over past conversations or worry that he/she might leave? Is it difficult to be alone?
6. Is your relationship the center of your universe? What about your relationship with other friends or family? Friends or your kids?
7. Does it bother you if you are not included in your partner’s plans?
8. Do you get jealous of things that he/she is doing without you?
Without resolution, awareness, and acceptance, your relationship history may have a strong influence on your current dating life. With a past that feels heavy, heartbreaking or disappointing, dating in the present may feel very draining and trigger anxiety and fear.
Your past has a lot of influence if one of your greatest fears is having it be repeated. Therefore, you utilize behaviors designed to protect yourself, which makes it difficult to trust others and take chances toward intimacy and connection.
If the end of a previous relationship came as a shock or devastation to you, you may struggle to get close to someone new and approach dating with walls of emotional protection. If an ex betrayed you, you might be hesitant to trust a new partner and become fixated on determining if certain behaviors (for example, not responding to a text quickly) is a sign of cheating or future rejection. You might find yourself debating over giving into urges to check a potential partner’s email or phone for other clues.
If your past isn’t resolved, you may assume that the person you’re dating now will abandon you or break your trust just as your ex did, even if everything is going well in your current relationship. You may doubt if you are lovable, wonder what you have to offer, and beat yourself up about your relationship history and current singlehood. While these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are understandable as they can be protective in nature, they represent the past remaining unresolved and dictating each moment.
Here are five ways to approach dating when you have had difficult relationship experiences in the past:
Reconstruct and modify the narrative in your mind for healthy closure
It is true that you can’t erase the past, but you can take control of how you think about it, which is what matters most and drives your behavior in the present. Spend time thinking about the story you tell yourself about your previous relationships, your ex’s, and breakups. What is the feeling that accompanies these thoughts and relationship stories? If your narrative feels very negative, is filled with anger, blame, resentment or fear, see if you can modify it to feel more neutral or positive. For example, can you find the silver lining? Can you focus on what you learned about yourself, your needs, and relationships instead of staying stuck? Can you find some space to create a new and improved version of an unhealthy or uncomfortable narrative by making modifications to the story you tell yourself? Rewrite your story and change any scripts that are not serving you well.
Watch your assumptions about the past
Most of what happens to us in life is not personal. This concept can be especially tricky to believe in the relationship world because relationships involve vulnerability and breakups can by nature feel personal. Also, unfortunately not all relationship endings involve healthy closure or communication. This can cause your mind to run wild with false ideas about what happened and believe stories that may or may not be true. Your brain may naturally want certainty and closure so badly that it will create answers to unresolved questions regardless of how factual they actually are. Therefore, it is important to watch your assumptions about why an ex treated you the way he or she did or why your relationship ended, as well as how your ex is doing now, especially if you are bothered by their current relationship status. Always remember that thoughts are not facts no matter how believable they may seem.
There is a literal pain that comes with the loss of a relationship: a sharp, palpable pain that most people feel at the point that their lower ribs connect. It’s a pulsing, weepy pain that digs into your diaphragm, and takes your breath away. It’s a pain that defies distraction, repels food, and throbs even through sleep.
For many broken-hearted people, this physical pain is one of the worst parts of going through a bad break up or divorce. For one thing, it scares them. They can’t make it go away, so they wonder when it will ever stop, or whether they will ever feel better.
Furthermore, maddeningly, it feels like contact with their ex is like the only thing that will stop the hurting. This is true even if they know intellectually that the relationship with their ex is toxic, and any contact will only bring more pain in the end. They still crave the temporary relief it might bring.
If you are in this aching, confusing place here are some tips to help you get through it:
1. Stop beating yourself up.
Most people who are going through this experience believe that there is something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. This is because there is a powerful, and false, myth circulating in our culture that you should just be able to “get over” a relationship without such massive pain and devastation.
Not true. Everyone who has lost a deeply cherished relationship goes through what you are going through. The people for whom breakups were easy simply weren’t bonded to that particular person as deeply as you were to your ex. You hurt so badly because you loved so deeply.
But ironically, the people who experience this sort of devastation often feel ashamed and like there is something wrong with them. So they hide / numb / suppress the pain, and try to get through it alone. You are not alone. And there is nothing wrong with you. On the contrary — you are good at bonding and attaching to others. That is a wonderful thing, in the context of a healthy relationship.
2. Reframe this as withdrawal.
Human beings are built to bond, and form extremely powerful attachments. There are physical systems in your brain and in your body that emotionally weld you to other people. These systems have a great deal in common with the physical systems of addiction. When your attachment bonds are broken, you go into withdrawal.
Heroin addicts, deprived of their fix, writhe sweating on their beds in physical pain, craving the only thing that will make it stop — even though they know, intellectually, it could kill them. They often literally trade their lives for the hope of a few more hours of peace in the arms of Morpheus.
Similarly, heartbroken people lay curled on their beds like shrimp, in the grips of pain that feels like being slowly impaled through their solar plexus. In their agony, they crave the temporary peace of contact with their ex, even though they know it will almost certainly only lead to more disappointment, rejection, and shame.
The difference is that heroin addicts know that they’re in withdrawal. And they know that if they can make it through a few days, it will get better. People suffering through the pain of a breakup have no such assurances, and just feel scared and helpless.
When a relationship comes to an end, the process of healing and moving on hopefully begins. The person you’re trying to let go of may be a recent part of your love life or an old flame. Now comes the task of wiping the slate clean, so you’ll be ready when a new partner enters your life.
Here are 15 practices that will help you leave the past behind:
1. Keep a realistic perspective of the person. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and every relationship has good and bad times. Acknowledging both assures you that your old love was not, in fact, ideal.
2. Clean your emotional house. Honestly inventory the strong feelings left over–pain, anger, regret–and then take time to heal. Proven techniques for doing that abound. Find the ones that make sense to you and get to work.
3. Clean your physical house. You might still have reminders of the relationship you’re trying to leave behind — photographs, mementos, and letters. Boxing them up can have a cleansing effect, a signal to your subconscious mind that a new beginning is underway.
4. Burn the bridge completely. If you know the relationship with your ex is truly over, then there’s nothing to gain from trying to be “just friends” or other variations. The best break is a clean break.
5. Watch your language. Meaning, watch how much you talk about your old relationship. The more your ex’s name comes out of your mouth, the more that person stays in your thoughts.
6. Close anything left open-ended. Whether they left your life weeks ago or years ago, you might have things you still need to say, amends you need to make, items you should have returned, or feelings you want to convey. Bring closure by taking care of what you need to.
Technology has exploded our dating options and put dating effectively on amphetamines. The sheer quantity of choices gives us the feeling that we can and will meet someone through technology. How could we not?
And yet, precisely because there is so much choice, we often don’t give the person we’ve met a real chance. If anything isn’t to our immediate liking, we dive back into our device, back into the land of possibility. Sometimes we do this even when we like the person we’ve met, because we can, and there still could be someone better.
Technology creates a climate of always chasing better—something else.
Rather than focusing on the relationship in front of us—giving it our full attention, we look outside for what we might be missing out on. Consequently, it can feel like no one is ever good enough to stop searching for better. As a result, relationships that, before technology, might have turned into successful partnerships, never get the chance. It was difficult enough for a relationship to get out of the starting gate before technology, but now, despite or maybe because of all the possibilities, it can feel nearly impossible. There’s more potential but the potential remains unrealized.
These days, when a relationship does start, the primary form of communication is often texting. This can create a host of challenges that didn’t exist before technology. When we begin dating, we don’t know someone well and yet we text as if we do, sometimes communicating dozens of times in a day, sharing banter, minutia, and whatever else comes to mind. We communicate as if we are integrated players in each other’s lives, which we are not, at least not yet. So too, we now text with a flirtatious confidence, sometimes sexual, that does not match the actual level of intimacy we’ve achieved. Then, when we meet our person in the flesh or even on the phone, we have to play a game of emotional catch up, to try and bring the real relationship into sync with the virtual. We feel embarrassed and awkward, overexposed. We are building a relationship between two avatars, but not these two humans. But we can’t turn back, we’ve gone too far down the virtual road, and so are frequently left to continue in the virtual relationship, or nothing at all.
Dating in the age of technology presents challenges that can be difficult even for the most confident of daters. It is now possible to know if and when someone has read our text, which means that if our recipient has indeed read our words but not responded, or chosen not to read it at all, to leave it in the dreaded unopened, we are forced into the often unkind and frequently brutal hands of our inner dating critic.
With the help of modern technology, we are left to live a good portion of our dating life inside the maze of our own personal narrative. While we naturally craft our own story about what is happening within the relationship, technology exacerbates the storyteller within us by providing just enough information to send our mind into a tailspin, but not enough to set us free.
Technology is remarkable for many tasks, but if what we really want is to find meaningful connection with another human being, then technology is probably not the right means to achieve that end. Online dating allows us to meet people we would never get to meet, it provides options and inventory, but after we meet, we still have to be willing to do the real life work that real life relationships require. If we’re over the age of three, getting close to another person takes time and effort, but when we put in that time and effort, the infinitely possible can become infinitely real.