The Benefit Of Deep Listening in Personal Relationships

For the most part, in all relationships there’s one person who speaks and one who listens. But . . . is the listener really listening? Many people think they’re better listeners than studies show they actually are.

The goal of deep listening is to acquire information, understand a person or a situation, and experience pleasure. Active listening is about making a conscious decision to hear what people are saying. It’s about being completely focused on others—their words and their messages—without being distracted.

It’s been said that one of the most common reasons why people see therapists is to have their stories heard. In order to have your story heard, you need to have a listener. Listening and empathy skills are the hallmarks of good communicators, leaders, and therapists. Listening skills can be learned, but the reality is, some people just tend to be better listeners than others.

The importance of listening in interpersonal relationships cannot be overemphasized. One study conducted by Faye Doell (2003) showed that there are two different types of listening: “listening to understand” and “listening to respond.” Those who “listen to understand” have greater satisfaction in their interpersonal relationships than others. While people may think they might be listening to understand, what they’re really doing is waiting to respond.

And, when individuals try to “fix” other people, they are most often responding to their own need to influence. The same study showed that couples who have undergone therapytogether tend to be better listeners than others because they’ve picked up some valuable tips along the way. It’s been said that women usually want to be heard, and men want to fix or respond.

According to psychologist Carl Rogers, active or deep listening is at the heart of every healthy relationship. It’s also the most effective way to bring about growth and change. Those who are heard tend to be more open, more democratic in their ways, and are often less defensive. Good listeners refrain from making judgments, and provide a safe environmentand container for speakers.

By listening carefully when someone speaks, we’re telling them that we care about what they’re saying. It’s also important to remember that listening is contagious. When we listen to others, then chances are they will be more inclined to listen to us.

The good news is that we can learn to be better listeners; however, listening takes practice. The more we do it, the better we get at it, and the more positive our interpersonal relationships will be. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his book Wherever You Go You Are There,everything takes practice. We need to just keep at it.

Here are some tips for becoming a better listener:

  • Put yourself inside the mind of the speaker.
  • Listen for meaning.
  • Pay attention to body language.
  • Cultivate empathy.
  • Avoid making judgments.
  • Look into others’ eyes when they’re speaking.
  • Pay attention to the feelings associated with the words.
  • Notice the speaker’s tone and inflection.
  • Repeat in your own words what someone has told you (empathetic reflection).
  • Acknowledge that you’re listening by nodding or saying “Uh-huh.”
  • Occasionally summarize others’ comments when given the chance

Know More About Dating Is Dead

When I was in my twenties and had a date, this is what I would do. I would wake up early like it was Christmas and wash my car. Hand wash. None of this driving through a machine crap. Then I would hand pick the the songs I wanted to play and load the CDs into my six disc changer in the trunk. Then I would go workout so I felt good about myself. Then I would drive to the movie theater to buy the tickets in advance so we wouldn’t have to wait in line (this was before the Internet). And of course, dinner reservations were already made. After getting ready, I would pick her up from her apartment. I would park my car, walk to the door, and knock. I would compliment her appearance and mean it as we walked to my car. I would open the door for her. And if there was a spark and things went well on the date, she’d get flowers or a note or something she can actually hold in the next few days.

If you’re a male in your twenties, you may read this and think, “Wow, what a loser.” Well, okay. But this process is what made dating fun, exciting, romantic, and fulfilling. It made the date a mini event, something to look forward to. It wasn’t just about the person. It was about the whole date experience. But more importantly, It gave two people a real chance because effort was put into it. Today, a date is a coffee or a drink but not dinner because what if they don’t look like their picture. Today, a date is “I’ll meet you there”. Today, a date is a 30 minute Skype call. Today, a date is a general meeting. Today, a date is not really a date because there’s no such thing anymore.
I get that we meet people online now. I get that there’s false advertising. Yes, I’ve been catfished before and it sucks. Instead of creating a space for romance, curiosity, build up, foreplay, and flirting, we just want the punchline. We want to check the boxes as fast as we can. Because we have options. And no patience. We know we can swipe and find another prospect while our date is in the restroom. So dating just becomes a bunch of lottery balls bouncing in the glass box. Except the lottery balls are faces and the glass box is our phone.

So how do we change this?

I’ll give you a step by step play.

I’m going to speak to men because hopefully, men are still taking the lead these days. If not, this problem is no longer salvageable. I’m not saying women can’t take the lead. But woman generally want to be asked out, and who ever asks the person out takes the initiative, makes the plans, and sets the tone. Or if you’re gay, I’m talking to whoever takes the lead. Because someone has to. Or there is no dance. Only two people stepping on toes. And that’s why dating is dead today. No one’s dancing. We’re all just swiping, crossing fingers, and pissed off the person we met on our phone two hours ago is not our soul mate.

Okay, let’s start with actually using our phones for what they were invented for. Yes, call them. Stop hiding behind your phone. A real conversation is the first step to get to know someone. If someone is asking you out via text, text them to call you and if they won’t, they don’t deserve to go on a date with you. This isn’t junior high. Man the hell up. Call them and exchange voices. Texting is a conversation as much as smoke signals are. Talk. Hear them. Feel their energy, vibe. Discover. Dance.
Once you’ve seen them, and by seen I don’t mean in photos, either in person or Skype or Facetime or any live video platform, ask them out. Literally. Say “Would you like to _____________ with me?” Not, “Hey, me and my friends are going to be ______, wanna meet us?”. I understand you may want to keep it casual. But hiding behind your friends just screams insecurity. Take a chance. Grow a pair. Also, you’ve already seen the person live via webcam / phone and technology is pretty freaking good these days so even if they’re really photogentic, they won’t be that far off. If they look like Drew Barrymore on Skype, Drew Carry won’t show up. Promise. And you’ve already talked to them on the phone so you already have a feel for their personality. If you’re not feeling it, then don’t ask them out. Stop there. That’s fair.
Now the date. Don’t treat it like it’s a business meeting or something that just happened by chance. The intention isn’t to be friends or strike a business deal. You’re looking for a lover, correct? Then act like it. Plan something. Set an intention. Put your best foot forward. Because they are too and it’s your job to set the tone. You don’t have to hand wash your car or put a playlist together. But Jesus, open a door. Engage. Ask questions. Be interested and interesting. Order dessert together. Pick up the check. Effort. Effort. Effort. Put some into it. You get back what you put in. Now if there’s no connection, that’s okay. That’s all just a part of dating. But don’t act like your time was wasted or that you were ripped off. Magic is hard to find. Your parents had to kiss a lot of frogs before they met so why shouldn’t you? The internet doesn’t hack that for you. And if you think it should, you’re entitled and don’t have the tools to build a relationship so stop dating until you grow the hell up.

More Information About The Irrationality of Marriage

More than 40% of American marriages end in divorce.  The percentages are even higher for second or later marriages.  Surely most of these couples had some idea of the statistics, but believed that they would be amongst those who manage to stay the course.

Perhaps there are some people who walk down the aisle (or into the town hall) with a clear-eyed intention just to give it a good shot.  But this isn’t just unromantic, it seems to undermine the very point of a wedding – to make a sincere, whole-hearted commitment to stay together for life.  The promise we make to our beloved in front of friends and family is not just a promise to try hard to love, honour and cherish.  It’s a promise to succeed.

In more everyday situations, we cut the size of our promises to suit the cloth we have available.  Imagine you are invited to join a group of your friends for dinner, but you know you may have to work late, or might struggle to find a babysitter.  Then the responsible choice is not to promise to be there regardless, but to explain the situation, maybe promising to call ahead, or reschedule.  Promising without taking account of mundane obstacles is a kind of moral recklessness, which can undermine relationships.

So why don’t we advocate that kind of cautious hedging when it comes to marriage?  Philosopher Berislav Marušić, of Brandeis University, has thought long and hard about this question.  He reminds us that a key obstacle to keeping our marriage vows is temptation.  This might include sexual temptation.  But it also includes the temptation to give up our efforts to nurture and prioritise each other through the inevitable vicissitudes of life.  Willpower is not the only thing needed to keep a marriage alive, and sometimes circumstances can be overwhelmingly bad: avoiding divorce is not always a matter of just trying harder.  But trying certainly helps.

In this way, points out Marušić, a marriage promise is a little like a commitment to train for a marathon, or to quit smoking (or social media).  We know there’s a strong chance we’ll be tempted to stray from the plan.  Yet there seems no point making these commitments unless we do so whole-heartedly, believing that we’ll be stronger than those average weaklings who quit when things get tough.  Indeed, he argues, our promises are unethical – insincere – if we don’t believe we’ll be able to buck the statistical trend.

This helps explain why many people can appreciate the sensible logic behind pre-nuptial agreements – but for other people, not themselves.  Agreeing a recipe for divorce whilst planning an unlimited loving commitment is just too much to hold together in our heads.

So how can we reconcile the all-or-nothing nature of big life commitments with the sensible pragmatics of protecting ourselves against risk?  After all, if we completely discount the possibility of temptation, then we may be all the more prone to it – forewarned is forearmed.

There is no formula for deciding whether to marry.  But if we’re lucky enough to have good friends and family around, they can help keep us grounded.  Loyal friends wish us well, and may be able to take a clearer-eyed view of our chances of success.  In the end however, each of us has to decide for ourselves whether to take the plunge, either into marathon training or – more seriously – into marriage.

Deal With Your Partner’s Ex

When you come into a relationship in which your new partner had a family before you, particularly when there are kids involved, it is profoundly important to recognize how jarring it is to bring a new person into this system. Even though it was a dysfunctional system, there are so many emotions swirling around your partner’s previous relationship that it can be a confusing process for your partner and their ex to discover their new roles.

When your partner has responsibilities that preceded you, what is best for you as a couple is to try to put as little pressure or expectation as you can on how your partner handles communication and connection with their ex. It can be uncomfortable and can even feel like you’re being a sucker – especially if your partner spends what feels like long periods of time communicating with their ex – but the best thing you can do for your relationship is to support your partner in however they need to work through their process of separating from this system. By adopting a supportive role, you decrease the tension between your new partner and their ex, and that in turn will create a more comfortable, harmonious environment for you as a couple moving forward.

I know you’re afraid to leave your partner alone or encourage communication between them and their ex. But here’s the thing: If you lose your partner in this process, it was going to happen anyway. As hard as it is to remember this, trust that for them to have reached the point at which they broke up, your contributing to creating more positive communication will not increasing the likelihood of romance again – they have a history before you came along, before you were supervising anything or had any control of any aspect, and that history led to breakup.

Of course, there are times when you may have been a big part of your partner’s reasons for breakup. In this delicate situation in which you are the person your partner left the relationship for, it’s important to make room for their ex to be angry at you, to feel spiteful of you, to even (if they can’t control themselves) badmouth you to the kids. If the kids are old enough, when you have the opportunity, you might say, “I totally understand why you don’t like me, why you’re unhappy with me. Whatever you’re comfortable with, I’ll honor. Please tell your parent that also.” There are so many factors that determine how a child of any age will respond to their parent being in a new relationship. It’s important to try not to make judgements about their process. Again, in this situation, try to be as flexible as you can and empathic as you can towards your partner’s ex and any kids, even when they’re monsters to you. Getting preoccupied about the fairness of these communications will likely lead to adversarial communications between all of you, which does no one any good.

On the other hand, the relationship may have ended because your partner’s ex acted irresponsibly. As easy as it might be to feel angry at the ex on behalf of your partner, giving in to those feelings doesn’t actually end up helping anyone. Instead, to the best of your ability, operate under the assumption that no matter how ugly the end of that relationship got, the likelihood, especially when kids are involved, that their ex intended to cause that kind of pain is very low. Try to validate your partner’s feelings. Whether the breakup was as horrific as catching their ex in bed with someone else or as small as getting sick of how often their partner lost their keys, in any situation try to keep your own personal feelings from spilling over. You can of course be empathic with your partner’s feelings, especially when the cause of their breakup was extreme, but there’s always pieces that you won’t know. Things that were going on for your partner’s ex can make the situation feel very different for them.

By supporting however your partner needs to work through their previous relationship, you make things more relaxed within your new system. As a new partner, as difficult as it may be, any ways that you can allow yourself to encourage positive communication between your partner and their ex brings peace to your new home and creates a system that has significantly less hostility than would otherwise be the case.

Know The Reasons Why Doesn’t He/She Listen

Much too often in life, I have come across couples or one person in a couple who complained about the significant other in their life not listening to them. These people often hear, but do not listen. And this single point is what brings about the downfall of a good portion of relationships today.

Listening skills are not automatic. We grow up communicating very differently from one another, depending on a wide range of factors, gender being just one of them. But gender is usually the easiest to focus our attention on because the generalizations made about the genders hold a grain of truth in their words for all of us. “He’d rather watch football than talk to me.” “She’d rather talk on the phone with her girlfriends than go out with me.” “He’d rather go out on a night with the ‘guys’ than go out to dinner with me.” “She’d rather go shopping than go golfing with me.” And so on… Even if not always or true, we look at these examples, and things like them, and realize, “Hey, yeah, there’s a bit of me in there.” That’s why comedians so often use gender-related material to make their jokes — it’s easy, it’s usually clean, and everyone can relate to some degree to what is being made fun of.

But here’s the truth of the matter. In a typical generalization, men and women are brought up and learn completely different ways of communicating with one another. (A good book to read more about these differences and how you can overcome them is, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. by John Gray) It’s not that he or she isn’t listening, it’s that you’re often trying to communicate with each other in incompatible ways!

The sexes up to this point get along well, we believe, until they actually settle into a long-term relationship where these differences become more obvious over time. Men and women simply have different values regarding relationships, as well as vastly different ways of dealing with stress and emotional issues. Men tend to hold their emotions in, letting them simmer, and then sometimes explode in pain or anger. They typically find it more difficult to discuss and express their emotions. Women, on the other hand, can more freely and easily express their emotions and what they’re feeling at any given moment. Men and women alike will turn to outside activities, like working-out or excercise, as a means of dealing with stress or emotions. This is a healthy response. However, the differences men and women have communicating are often glossed over in the beginning stages of a relationship, even during the first few months. But over time, they become more and more apparent.

It would be demeaning and ultimately pointless of me to repeat the stereotypes so often heard about what each sex values in a relationship, since people’s personal preferences vary widely. But I will take a moment to dispel one myth — monogamy is not a more natural preference for either sex. It has often been said that women were more likely to be monogamous than men, but recent research shows this to be an untrue assumption.

The upshot of this information is simple — learning to communicate open and freely with your significant other in a relationship is the key to a happy relationship. Some general tips:

  • Expressing feelings as your own is important. Do not put them onto the other person in an accusatory manner, as in, “I can’t help it I’m angry. You’re the one who forgot to go grocery shopping.”.
  • Listen carefully to what the other person is telling you about how they feel, and learning to respond to and validate their feelings. Many couples see this as a time to argue about whether one’s feelings are right or justified. There are no such things. All feelings are right and justified to the person feeling them and one needs to learn to respect that basic truth. For instance:Wrong:
    • “Bob, I’m very hurt right now. What you said was very mean.”
    • “I’m mean?! What about you!? You’re just being a big baby now.”Better:
    • “Bob, I’m very hurt right now. Your words were very painful for me to hear.”
    • “I understand that you’re hurt… and I’m very angry as well, which is why I may have said what I did. I’m sorry.”
  • Understand that no one wins or loses an argument. Life is not a game and you don’t get a second chance. All you have “won” in an argument is additional resentment on the part of your significant other. Arguments feel better when they are a draw and you both come away from it understanding the other’s position and feelings more fully, with your respect intact.
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes and try and see their perspective. This is extremely difficult for some people to do, because they cannot get away from their own feelings, even for a second. But by learning to do so, one can get a better sense of where that person is coming from and what may be motivating them to say or feel certain things.

In the end, you may each want to ask yourself these kinds of questions to help you get started on the path to better communication:

As a woman, has it occurred to you to…

  • Ask your partner “just to listen” so that you feel better by getting things off your chest?
  • Listen to your partner without suggesting “your solutions” but letting him find his own?

As a man, has it occurred to you to…

  • Stop yourself from interrupting other people, especially your partner?
  • Let your partner know that you are not withdrawing from her when you go into yourself or out with your friends?

Learn More About Modern Love

It’s not long ago that men were expected to do all the chasing and make all the decisions when it comes to dating. But how much has this changed in the 21st century?

A survey by DatingDirect.com suggests a new trend — women are becoming sassy and assertive, while men are remaining more traditional in their approach to courtship.

In the survey of over 2,000 people, women reported being less shy on dates than men (29 per cent versus 44 per cent), and making more effort with their appearance — half choose smart, sexy clothes on a first date, whereas 78 per cent of men go for the casual and relaxed look. Women also like to keep the finances on an equal footing. Seventy per cent prefer to split the expense of a date, or pay for themselves. However, 52 per cent of men believe it’s their time honoured duty to pay.

Darren Richards of DatingDirect.com concludes: “The rules of dating may be changing for some, but the concept is still as popular as ever.”

But what might be stopping you from taking the first step? Sometimes even very intelligent, funny, confident women don’t ask guys out because they believe that “it’s the man’s role”, or they fear rejection, scaring men off, or appearing too keen. But there is a whole generation of men who want women to make the first move, and feel that women should embrace the power and independence they now have. And in fact, some guys are just too shy, or don’t know what to say, or think that you won’t be interested.

But perhaps your lifestyle doesn’t bring you into contact with potential new partners. So consider widening your social circle — take up a new class, try out new clubs, get involved in political or volunteer activities. Also, don’t discount your current social network, because often friends, family and work colleagues are more than willing to help and will set up introductions if asked.

Other possible avenues include personal ads in newspapers and more specialized dating services to cater for your specific hobbies or preferences, guaranteeing that you share at least one common interest.

These days, the internet is increasingly used by modern singles to search for a compatible date. So join in discussion groups, forums and chat groups and put your dating skills into action. And in the arena of internet dating, women can be as forward as they like and either side can make the first move. Men report that they are perfectly happy to be approached by women and their supposed “male pride” isn’t hurt at all — quite the contrary!

In many ways, online dating is the ideal way to meet someone suitable, as you can quickly get to know a great deal about a person at no risk to yourself. It’s no small thing to be aware of the other person’s outlook on life, religion, sense of humor etc. before meeting up in person. Chatting in a safe environment encourages honesty and therefore compatibility, so may prevent a wide range of problems occurring further down the line.

Internet dating also avoids the potential problems of dating work colleagues or other people you will inevitable continue to see socially, and it puts you in control of your future without even leaving your front door!

Experts recommend getting to know the other person well via email or over the phone before actually going on a date. The more you know about each other, the easier the conversation will flow. They also suggest remaining anonymous until you feel confident enough to share your contact details (the dating service will have its own internal messaging system). And don’t cast your net too wide geographically or you’ll run up against practical difficulties later.

When setting up a first date, choose a public place such as a restaurant, cinema or museum. If you’re concerned about seeming too ‘forward’, you could invite the guy to something you are going to anyway, like a concert, so it’s like you are asking them to come along.

Tell a trusted friend your plans and arrange your own transport. Then it’s a case of picking up on the cues to your compatibility, so trust your instincts and don’t drink too much. Remember there will always be other dates so there’s no need to settle for second best.

If the date goes well, don’t wait for the guy to call you – let them know you had a good time. This doesn’t have to be a plea to see them again right away. It’s simply a courtesy. If your date had an enjoyable time too, it will be icing on the cake!
Too often, life is a case of “what ifs” and maybes, so if you really like someone, then you have to do something about it. Ultimately, what is there to lose? A bit of pride that can be replaced with a cheap bottle of wine. The answer is easy — take the initiative. You have nothing to gain by waiting, and if it doesn’t work out then you’ll know they weren’t right for you, with no regrets.

Learn More About Love And Infatuation

Finally, you have met him or her. You know what I mean, the one. All your life, or so it seems, you have been waiting for the person who made your heart pound, made the stars bright, and taken over all reasonable thought processes with ideas of making love on every beach from here to Tahiti.

You have a weird expression on your face, food suddenly seems like a mere inconvenience and sleep is just something you used to do. Your friends tease you about being in love. Your mother WARNS you about being in love.

Of course, you’re not stupid. You’ve been around (more than Mom knows about), and you have spent time in meditation/therapy having explored your own needs in the world. You want a soulmate but this guy or gal is just so sexy that it’s hard to imagine introducing him or her to your parents at all.

Going Public

So, things are going well and you are looking toward the next step, becoming an item. Going public. Everyone knows and invites you as a couple. People you know speculate about the future of your relationship. But the future means forever when it comes to commitment, so how do you know if this is really a good thing?

Are people whispering about how happy they are for you, or are they wondering if you should be committed yourself (like in a secure mental health facility)? And how about yourself? Do you feel comfortable with your newest love interest or do you just want to feel comfortable with someone? Is this the person that you want to spend your life with or are you just afraid to march into the future alone?

These very large questions deserve great considerations. The passions of new love are so entwined in our own emotional makeup that it seems impossible to find objective considerations when proceeding along love’s thorny paths. So, for the purposes of this discussion, let us define love and infatuation so each can be thought about in a more organized manner.

Love is Forever Changing

Love as a dynamic process. For me, that means that there is a relationship that flexes, changes and grows as people mature, experience happens upon them, priorities and dreams are built and goals are met. Love brings out the best in people as individuals. The relationship between them becomes the way they define their lives. As jobs, careers, and family concerns change, people are able to work as a team to be understanding and flexible so the relationship (their lives) will flourish.

Dynamic process of love equals a sharing of emotion, trust, and growth of relationship. Growth is increasing ability of a couple to live symbiotically, enjoy each other’s company, trust each other with more secrets, depend on each other in more crises over the years, in raising children and taking care of aging relatives. It’s about growing old together, and long-term investments like real estate and children.

Is it Just Infatuation?

So what about infatuation? That’s when you think of someone all the time, you go out of your way to be around him or her, and you begin to center your priorities around him or her as well. There is history with this person: Maybe a short history, but maybe quite a while. You both enjoy being together. You both daydream about each other and get all crawly in your underwear. But is it love? I mean, you hate to be wrong about this kind of thing, especially if you have in mind perhaps reproducing together (or maybe if you forget to think about it just once).

Infatuation as we are defining it here is a static process characterized by an unrealistic expectation of blissful passion without positive growth and development. Characterized by a lack of trust, lack of loyalty, lack of commitment, lack of reciprocity, an infatuation is not necessarily foreplay for a love scenario. People, however, have many reasons for making commitments.

Most people are infatuated with their love partners to a certain degree. People who are in love think of their partners periodically when they are apart (some more than others). Men seem to be better, in general, in compartmentalizing their lives, thereby putting thoughts of loved ones aside until the mind is free to dwell on life. And yes, there are many exceptions and many ranges within the genders.

Knowing the Difference?

So how do you know? The question, actually, is simple; the answer, however, is not easy to own or accept. And here it is: Does this relationship bring out the best in both of you?

This is the part where you get to assess and evaluate yourself and your partner, and your relationship honestly.

Though difficult, evaluating how things are going at regular intervals can help to give some direction (and redirect misdirection) to people who are self-guided toward happiness and success. For those who are on a negative course, people who are unhappy, confused and perhaps self-sabotaging, regular evaluation can point out some hard truths about oneself, or about the person you want to take the next step with.

While you try to evaluate whether it is the real thing, here are some things to consider:

Are you happy? That would be a yes or no. When you wake up, are you glad to be alive? Are you grateful for the blessings that you receive daily, like being alive and loved? Are you loved and treated as a person of value? Does his or her mother know about you?

Is your life on a positive track? Do you have hope for the future? Do you have dreams and work toward them all the time? Is your life better because your boy- or girlfriend is in it? Really?

Are you in this relationship alone? Having someone on your arm makes life less complicated. You get a built in-escort and date. Most people seem to think and feel better as part of a pair. There is a sense of social relief as well, meaning family and friends stop trying to fix you up. Are you thinking and planning as a pair? Do you automatically consider both of your plans for the weekend, or merely anticipate maybe meeting up sometime? Have you postponed or given up your hopes and dreams for the relationship or have you restructured your dreams together?

Determining the Difference

The answers, and the courage to face the facts is the key to making the determination. In infatuation, your gaze, your thoughts and maybe your world revolves around someone. You have blinders on. It seems that all the world pales in comparison to this person’s looks, talents, intelligence, creativity, etc. What you might not see by keeping the blinders on, what can be serious flaws in any relationship, are the destructive traits and behaviors that degrade self-esteem and cause some pretty negative effects on one’s choices and decisions.

Many have had the experience of looking back at some early romance, in middle or high school perhaps, when we were “in love” with a special teacher or camp counselor. It can be easier to see in retrospect what you weren’t ready to see at the time. Your thoughts of
romance were simply an innocent fantasy: An infatuation that felt like love at the time.

Aside from your age, what was it about you that made you make that mistake. Innocence? Loneliness? A longing to grow up, maybe. But those were things going on in your head. In fact, these feelings had little to do with the actual object of your infatuation (crush). It could be that some of those same feelings and needs exist for you today. Beware of your own vulnerability, and your own desire to “get rescued” from that solitary life of the unpaired.

In time, the faults that you refuse to see will begin to come to the foreground. You may be infatuated with a rich and powerful person, but as you come to know that person on a more intimate basis, the qualities that intrigued you will begin to fade into the background.

In the case of love, your focus is on your special someone, and that someone exists in the real world. Give and take, compromise and cooperation are characteristics of love relationships. Working toward common goals, sharing dreams and values define the dynamics of a good love relationship. People know each other on a separate and private level than the world at large.

Bringing it Into Reality

Infatuation can even be thought of as love with only two dimensions. With love, that third dimension is reality. So, it is actually your ability to tell what is real in a relationship, versus what is imagined. You love being part of a couple, but is this the person you want to be in a couple with?

Look at the reality of who this person is, not who she or he wants to be. Do you always interact over dinner and drinks? Meet under different circumstances. Become part of each other’s lives. If that is not happening, why not? Are you spending and enjoying time together? What happens when you’re apart? Are you sure?

Trying to differentiate your love interest from your lust interest is requires a level head and the courage to face the unpleasant. It also requires maturity and the ability to take a step back and survey the big picture. The result is more control and confidence as you stride your way in love’s direction.

 

Information About The Sex Lives of Teenagers

Rory’s parents had discovered that Rory was sexually active and wanted to know how to handle his request to have Jen (his girlfriend) “sleep over” when they were planning to be out of town. They decided to talk it over with someone because they had different opinions. When Rory, who was now seventeen, had posed the question, he had told his parents that he had seen me and suggested that they call me.

Waiting between sessions, I could hear Susan’s and Mike’s raised voices on the path to my office as I sat working at my desk.

“This is the door to her office.”

“No, this way, over there!”

After a few minutes of this I decided to stand at my entryway to guide them.

Mike was a tall man with the same broad shoulders as his son, the football player. He looked like he knew where he was going, but he had already passed my office and was opening the door to the toolshed. Susan was still at the very top of the path. She was on her hands and knees, admiring an English ivy pushing its way out between two rocks. I thought she might be trying to take a cutting. I waved them both in.

Hurrying around my largest tree, Mike arrived first and shook my hand vigorously. “You need to post a map out there just to get around your backyard!”

“Good idea, it can be pretty confusing,” I said.

As we sat down inside, I could see what Rory meant when he said that his parents were in different places. Mike coughed and complained loudly for several minutes while Susan cleaned off her ivy cutting in the bathroom. She seemed oblivious to her husband’s frustration with the delay.

“That’s an unknown ivy, Dr. Ponton, very unusual. Thanks for letting me take some.”

Although Mike appeared eager to begin, I sensed that it would take some work with this set of parents to move into the topic of their son’s sexual behavior. And I was right. Nearly half the session went by before we were even close to the subject.

Then Mike let me know exactly what he was thinking. “It’s against my values to ever have this kid sleeping with some girl at our house. He says he’s not going to have sex, but you can’t trust him, Susan.”

“Mike, it’s his choice, his body. You can’t control everyone,” said Susan in a frosty voice that hid more than anger.

“I know I can’t control everyone, but it’s my house.”

“It’s our house, Mike.” I heard the tenor of her voice rise to meet his.

“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Mike, it is against your values for Rory to have a girlfriend sleep at your house. Susan, you have a different opinion. You think it might be okay under some circumstances. Mike, help me get the full picture here. What values does this violate?”

Taken aback by my question, Mike paused and stroked his beard. Susan smiled sweetly, seeing her husband on the spot. “Yes, dear, what values?”

“He’s a kid. He’s irresponsible, well, some of the time. And, simply put, I own the house. I can decide what goes on there.”

“That’s a value, all right,” snorted Susan.

“Susan, we probably wouldn’t even be here if you hadn’t encouraged him to sleep over at Jen’s house. Then he gets caught, and the Ludtmanns are not speaking to us.”

“Mike, you’ve got that wrong. I knew about it, but I did not encourage it.”

“Well, you didn’t tell me it was going on. I thought he was at some football camp until Jen’s dad calls me at the office, threatening to sue. I was left looking pretty stupid—sports camp, huh?”

Here Susan blushed and started fumbling in her oversize carryall.

“Susan, Mike, what was your communication like before this happened?”

Drying her eyes with a bunched-up Kleenex, Susan said, “Usually a lot better than this. After this situation with the Ludtmanns, everything has fallen apart.”

“Exactly what was the situation with the Ludtmanns?”

“Well, in all fairness, we’re still not sure. Jen had Rory and two other kids sleep over at her house when her parents were out of town. Then Mr. Ludtmann got sick, and he and his wife returned early to find four teens asleep on their living room floor. Apparently he went over the top and started shouting that he was going to have Rory arrested for statutory rape.” Here Mike’s tenseness relaxed, and he smiled. “The way Rory tells it, he had said, ‘Mr. Ludtmann, there’s nothing going on here, but I would like to remind you that if we had been having sex, your daughter is older than me. She’s eighteen, sir.’ The kid’s got your sense of humor for sure, Susan. He’s a winner.”

Both of Rory’s parents chuckled at the imagined picture of their son and Mr. Ludtmann. Hearing her husband’s laugh, Susan relaxed too. “Mike, I feel like you’re blaming me for this whole thing, and that’s unfair.”

Sweet Memories Neutralize Conflict

When intimate partners fight to win, their conflicts can deteriorate into accusations, invalidations, and character assassination. Repeated such disagreements will both increase negativity and endanger the very foundation partners rely on to keep their love secure.

Many couples come into counselingembattled in this way. The level of disrespect and disregard displayed during their fighting shows how far they have slipped into dangerous waters. If they consistently express these adversarial and uncaring needs to win an argument at any cost, their chances of saving their relationship will significantly decrease.

Most of these couples did not treat each other like this when their love was new. They somehow understood then that crossing certain lines of respect for one another during a fight could be too dangerous. They made sure that their responses to each other during conflict did not cross the lines of decency.

Over time, sadly, those commitments can lessen. As couples lose them, they can become repeatedly embattled and lose the ability to feel safe with each other when either is angry. They no longer believe that vulnerability or openness is safe during an altercation, as winning becomes more important than preserving their love. When their love was new, they could argue and care at the same time. Now, once they begin to disagree, they become instant adversaries.

By the time they go for professional help, many such couples have exhausted their capacity to pull out of these negative spirals. No longer able to maintain caring and support for each other once an argument begins, they are cast astray in a sea of unresolvable distress.

These negative spirals are heartbreaking to observe. Yet, even in the midst of what appears to be dooming interactions, I often see fleeting moments of how these same people must have been with one another when their love was new. Sadly, they seem unable to notice them anymore.

When they become aggressive, I ask them to pause their conflict for just a moment to focus on each other’s underlying feelings of vulnerability. I may even ask them to look into each other’s eyes and silently hold hands for a few minutes. Almost invariably, they cannot continue their attacks and begin to soften towards each other. I ask them if this is the way they were during conflicts when they were newly in love.

As they share the differences between then and now, I ask them if they could recall those early interactions when they are in conflict today, to help them neutralize the damaging aspects of their disagreements. Initially, understandably, they wonder how they can do that when their conflicts have become so aggressive and painful. I assure them that it is totally possible, with enough commitment and practice.

The way I start to illustrate the process is to provide five common conflict reactions that many couples regularly experience, and ask them to describe the way they respond when either of them reacts in the same ways. Then, I ask them how they might have responded to those same behaviors when their love was new. When they recall those more caring responses, and keep them in mind when they begin to disagree, they are often both surprised and encouraged at how rapidly that simple concept can change the nature of their conflicts.

1. When Your Partner Turns Away

When couples disagree and no longer hear the other, one partner sometimes stops and turns his or her body away. If you experience your partner doing that, but you continue to challenge or blame, he or she will eventually either discontinue interacting with you, or come back heated and ready to retaliate.

When your partner turns away from you during an argument, ask yourself if you would typically continue to attack. Instead, try to remember a time when you loved him or her so deeply that your first response would instead have been concern. Were you able at one time to put yourself aside and let your partner know how much you wanted him or her to stay connected, rather than further pressing your point?

Would you have said something more like this in the past?: “You just turned away from me. Are you feeling overwhelmed by what I’m saying or how I’m coming across? I don’t want you to disconnect. I’d rather have you here in the room with me. Please tell me what just happened that made you stop; I promise I’ll let you share how you feel.”

Would employing that behavior today make your partner feel cared for and re-invited into safety and intimacy?

2. When Your Partner Seems Hurt

Most hurt comes from feeling unfairly or uncompassionately attacked. A partner who senses a cold and uncaring challenge might feel defeated or powerless, or even experience grief.

Now consider this: When your love was new, would you have seen it the same way? Would you have noticed that moment when your partner reacted as if hit in the gut, and were you able to put your own needs aside and offer compassion instead?

In the past, when your love was new, would you have said something more like this?: “You look like I just really hurt you. I know I was coming on strong and wanted to make my point, but I didn’t want to cause you this kind of pain. I felt cornered and scared of losing, but that was no reason to go after you like that. I just wanted you to hear me. Do you need to tell me what you’re feeling?”

When you’ve done something like this in your past, has your partner been more likely to feel loved and allow him or herself to be vulnerable again?

3. When Your Partner Begins to Lose Control

If you are not consumed by your own distress, you can easily pick up the signs that your partner is losing control and becoming more rapidly upset. He or she will no longer seem rational, and may begin bringing up multiple additional issues, physically flail, or become louder in a desperate attempt to feel sane. More women than men begin to cry when losing control. More men than women escalate and raise their voices. But both enter into behaviors outside their normal ways of being.

Do you remember a time in the past when your partner began to spin out of control during an argument? Would you have been able then to set aside your own agenda to make your concern his or her increasing distress? Would you have recognized the signs of that escalating pain and done whatever you could to help your partner calm down?

When your love was new, might you have said something like this?: “Hey, I’m doing something that is obviously really upsetting you and making you feel like I’m out to get you. Let me stop and help you calm down. What I need to say can wait until you are okay. I was probably coming across like your enemy. I’m sorry. I just want you to feel better.”

If you were able to do that, did your partner feel grateful?

4. When Your Partner Becomes Oppositional

You’re in an argument, and your partner flips your position against you, tells you you’re crazy, or totally invalidates your reasoning. He or she is cornered and trying desperately to throw you off guard. The remarks are exaggerated or irrational, and feel urgent and desperate. Your understandable response is to counter-defend by challenging both the statements and your partner’s right to say them. The more you fight back, the more he or she escalates.

Can you recall an earlier time in your relationship when you didn’t need to immediately erase your partner’s thoughts or feelings and instead tried patience and inquiry first? You wanted to make sure he or she felt understood and listened to, even if you didn’t see things the same way.

When you were deeply in love, might you have sounded more like this?: “Hey, sweetheart, you’re invalidating everything I’m saying. Do you feel like I’m not listening? There’s plenty of time here for you to say whatever you need to before I answer. We don’t have to feel exactly the same way about everything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect your point of view. Let me stay quiet for a while and just hear you out. Would that help?”

If you responded like this in the past, did your partner relax and appreciate your willingness to back off in the moment?

5. When Your Partner’s Anger Begins to Escalate

It is common for fighting partners’ anger to rise when they feel attacked or feel like they need to win. When your partner starts yelling at you in threatening tones, he or she may be unable to stay connected to what you have to say, or even to see any other way. Anger is a “puffer fish” phenomenon. It is the way people make themselves feel bigger and more powerful, and hide any underlying vulnerability that might be exposed if they were to suppress their angry reactions.

When your partner’s anger sharply increases, do you normally move into a more adversarial position, protecting yourself at their expense? When you felt safer and more loved, were you able to diminish your partner’s anger with a more compassionate response?

You might have sounded something like this: “Whoa, babe, you are really getting worked up. Am I saying things that make you want to push me away? Tell me what’s under that anger if you can. Are you just frustrated, or scared that I’ll hurt you? I’m sorry if I did or said anything that got you going like this. I’m sure that your feelings are understandable, but I could hear you better if you said them without being angry.”

Toxic Individuals and Toxic Relationships

Lately I have been reflecting on some past and present toxic relationships I have associated with. From friends and boyfriends to co-workers and even relatives, I have witnessed a lot of toxic and hurtful behaviors among a few individuals in my life who, at one time or another, have professed that they truly cared about me. Over this past weekend, I saw some spiteful behaviors and heard some very hurtful words that made me take a step back and question some individuals who are in my life. Throughout my medical training and journey through life, I have learned how to easily recognize red flags, cut ties with toxic people, and most importantly forgive those who have hurt me, even if they are not aware of their actions. Letting go, loving yourself and moving on is sometimes the best recipe to exit these toxic relationships. For those who are wondering if they are surrounded by toxicity, I offer lessons in psychology about recognizing toxic individuals and toxic behaviors:

The term toxic is defined as “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The word is often used to describe chemicals, but it is also commonly used to describe people and relationships.

Most of us have been involved in a toxic relationship at one time or another in our lifetimes. We all have been in the company of others who did not act for the greater good of anyone besides themselves. Toxicity comes in all forms: name-calling, physical abuse, lying, gossip and all the internal turmoil that results from being in an unhealthy relationship. Whether it is a personal relationship involving a family member, lover or a friend, or a professional relationship involving a co-worker or a boss, toxic relationships can damage and leave long-lasting effects on the person involved in one.

Why it matters

Relationships are two-way streets that involve helping each other throughout the journey without any expectation of gaining anything in return except for a lending hand when the tables are turned. Many people assume the word “relationship” refers to a romantic relationship between two people. This assumption is false as relationships can be between any two people and toxicity can be presented between siblings, co-workers, friends, or lovers.

As humans, we are social beings who thrive on companionship and deteriorate on loneliness, according to psychological studies. Entering into a toxic relationship can result in severe inner conflict that can potentially lead to anger, depression or anxiety. It is important to recognize the red flags associated with toxic individuals and toxic relationships, in order to prevent any unnecessary emotional and mental turmoil.

How does this individual treat others?

Look at how the person treats the people closest to him or her. Does he or she speak badly about family members, or display signs of aggression toward parents, friends or co-workers? Is the person in constant conflict with other people? You may feel as though this person is always coming to you complaining about others, whether it’s a constant fight with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or an inability to get along with his or her mother. Is this person using you as an emotional punching bag to take out his or her frustrations and conflicts with others on you? If so, then you may want to take a step back to gain insight into this situation and re-evaluate the purpose of this relationship. The best decision may be to walk away if the person lacks insight and is unwilling to change.

How does this individual deal with conflict?

In general, most people do not enjoy dealing with conflict. It can be difficult to communicate your feelings and make yourself vulnerable in a relationship when you have disagreements. However, relationships do grow as you learn to deal with and resolve conflict. If a person refuses to address issues or refuses to communicate or apologize for his or her actions, then the individual may be portraying toxic behavior. Additionally, if this person acts spiteful after the conflict and spreads rumors or speaks poorly about you, then that is a major red flag. A person who truly cares for you will try to make amends and not sever the relationship. You can learn a lot about someone’s character by observing how he or she deals with conflict.

How does this individual make you feel when you are together?

When you are together, does this person talk about himself or herself the whole time? Does he or she verbally put down others or gossip? Does the person make you feel happy about spending time together, or do you feel burdened? Are you walking on egg shells because you are scared to upset this other person? Take a moment to reflect on the time you spend with this person to determine how you feel after each experience. If you feel more miserable than happy when you spend time together, then you may need to set personal boundaries and take a step back from this person in order to protect yourself. This is not selfish, but rather an act of self-love.

Does this individual make you feel important?

Does this person go out of his or her way to cause you grief, or does the individual hurt you when you are already down? Does the person trivialize things that are important to you? Does he or she ignore your requests and needs? If you are having more stressful and bad moments than good moments when you are with someone, this may be a sign of a toxic relationship

Know More About Reviving Your Marriage

Is your marriage alive and well, or is it time to dial 911? Chances are the health of your relationship falls somewhere in the middle — slightly out of shape and tired. Unfortunately most of us tend to take the health of a marriage for granted. And we don’t realize how important a happy, healthy relationship is until it’s time for marital CPR.

Maintaining personal health requires work — exercise, good nutrition, rest and regular checkups. No one teaches us that the same kind of maintenance is also necessary in order to keep a marriage alive. Love between a parent and child is unconditional. Love between a husband and wife is not. As divorce statistics would indicate, an untended marriage falls apart too easily. The good news is that there are ways to make a marriage survive, and better yet, thrive.

Your Marital Diagnosis

There are warning signs or “symptoms” when your marriage is “under the weather.” Here are some key symptoms:

  • feelings of chronic resentment toward your spouse
  • lack of laughter between the two of you
  • desire to spend free time with someone other than your mate
  • too much time spent playing the “blame game”
  • conversations between you are laced with bitterness and sarcasm

Relationship Revival Program

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? If so, it’s time to revive your marriage by following this program.

  • Make the marriage your priority, not an afterthought. Set aside regular time to be alone with your partner. If kids are in the picture, hunt for a “network” of trusted babysitters. If money is a concern, compare the cost of a night out with that of marital therapy or a divorce attorney! Get the drift? Start doing some of the things that used to bring you joy, and helped you to feel more connected. There are plenty of activities that you can do for free — a long walk, star gazing or window-shopping are all simple pleasures that can bring you closer together.
  • Resuscitate your romance. Remember how the sparks flew when you first met? It’s probably not too late to rekindle the embers. Surprise your spouse with a homemade Valentine (any day of the year!) and a bottle of champagne. Light up the bedroom with candles, or put a love note in his briefcase. Last but not least, initiate lovemaking. Passion is the glue in a marriage — it helps you feel close to your mate, and makes getting through rough times a lot easier.
  • Accept what you can’t change. Much marital strife is caused by the belief that you cannot be happy in your marriage as long as you must live with your partner’s bad habits or imperfections. Have you noticed that no matter how much you gripe and moan, these things don’t change? Rather than trying to control what you can’t, work around his quirks and focus on the positive. We all respond much better to praise than to criticism. And here’s the paradox: Sometimes when we stop fighting the way things are, they actually do change. No guarantees, but it’s worth a try.
  • Be attractive, inside and out. “Married” doesn’t have to mean complacent. Continue to learn and experience new things, and share these with your partner. Eat right, exercise, rest and make the most of your appearance. Doing these things is taking good care of yourself, but it’s also a way of showing your mate that you want to be your best and share yourself with him.
  • Improve communication and negotiation skills. Being a good listener is key to healthy communication. Even if you don’t agree with what he’s had to say, empathize with his position. This will open the door to more effective conflict resolution. If you must be critical, convert criticism into a request for behavioral change by stating it positively. Most important, apologize when you are wrong.

There are no marriages made in heaven. But by devoting time and energy to reviving your marriage, you’ll once again feel your relationship pulse beating strong and steady.

Best Secrets of Happy Couples

They might be 30, or 75. They come in all colors, shapes, sizes and income brackets. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been together. Whatever the demographics, when you see a happy couple, you just know it!

How do these couples stay in love, in good times and in bad? Fortunately, the answer isn’t through luck or chance. As a result of hard work and commitment, they figure out the importance of the following relationship “musts.” Because few couples know about all of the musts, I think of them as the relationship “secrets.”

Happy Couples and Their Secrets

1. Develop a realistic view of committed relationships.

Recognize that the crazy infatuation you experienced when your romance was new won’t last. A deeper, richer relationship, and one that should still include romance, will replace it. A long-term relationship has ups and downs, and expecting it will be all sunny and roses all the time is unrealistic.

2. Work on the relationship.

An untended garden develops weeds that can ultimately kill even the heartiest plants. And so it is with relationships. It is important to address problems and misunderstandings immediately. Some people believe good relationships just happen naturally. The truth is that a good relationship, like anything you want to succeed in life, must be worked on and tended to on a regular basis. Neglect the relationship, and it will often go downhill.

3. Spend time together.

There is no substitute for shared quality time. When you make a point of being together, without kids, pets and other interruptions, you will form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots. Time spent together should be doing a shared activity, not just watching television.

4. Make room for “separateness.”

Perhaps going against conventional wisdom, spending time apart is also an important component of a happy relationship. It is healthy to have some separate interests and activities and to come back to the relationship refreshed and ready to share your experiences. Missing your partner helps remind you how important he or she is to you.

5. Make the most of your differences.

Stop and think: What most attracted you to your partner at the beginning? I’ll almost guarantee that it was exactly the thing that drives you most insane today. Take a fresh look at these differences. Try to focus on their positive aspects and find an appreciation for those exact things that make the two of you different from one another. It’s likely that your differences balance one another out and make you a great team.

6. Don’t expect your partner to change; but at the same time give them more of what they want.

If both you and your partner stop trying to change each other, you will eliminate the source of most of your arguments. At the same time, each of you should focus on giving one another more of what you know the other person wants, even if it doesn’t come naturally. For instance, instead of complaining how your partner never cleans out the dishwasher, try just doing it yourself once in awhile without complaint. Your partner will likely notice your effort and make more of an effort themselves around the house. If you do both of these things at once you’ve got a winning plan!

7. Accept that some problems can’t be solved.

There may be issues upon which you cannot agree. Rather than expending wasted energy, agree to disagree, and attempt to compromise or to work around the issue. Two people cannot spend years together without having legitimate areas of disagreement. The test of a happy relationship is how they choose to work through such issues — through compromise, change, or finding it’s just not that important to stew over.

8. Communicate!

Lack of communication is the number one reason even good relationships fail. And here is a useful format for doing so, especially when dealing with incendiary topics: Listen to your partner’s position, without interrupting him or her. Just listen. When he or she is finished, summarize what you heard him or her say. If you can, empathize with your significant other even though you don’t agree. This will take your partner off of the defensive, and make it easier for them to hear your thoughts and feelings. It’s hard to argue when you use this format, and best of all, you may come up with an understanding or a solution.

9. Honesty is essential.

You may share with your partner the things he or she doesn’t want to hear. Better this than to have him or her doubt your honesty. Mistrust is one of the key deal breakers in relationships. And once trust is lost or broken, it can take a very long time to re-establish it in the relationship.The happiest couples are the ones where honesty is as natural and every day as breathing.

10. Respect your partner, and don’t take him or her for granted.

Treating your sweetheart with respect is likely to get you the same in return. And regularly reminding them how much they mean to you will enrich your relationship in indescribable ways. When you say, “I love you,” pause for a moment to really mean it. And don’t be afraid to express your feelings of appreciation with your partner — he or she will be thankful that you did.

Making these secrets an integral part of your relationship won’t be easy. In fact, your efforts may initially seem like planted seeds that never come up. If you maintain your efforts, however, you will likely reap what you sow.