Saturday, April 14, 2012

Plan To Improve Your Relationship

A little bit of thoughtful work and planning on a relationship can never hurt, so many people just expect the relationship to take care of itself... a relationship, like an automobile, needs a little maintenance now and then...

A little bit of thought and planning can go a long way toward improving your relationship. Many relationships suffer from what boils down to a shortage of quality time together. Planning your day, week, and year can help you improve your relationship.

This is a time of year when many people choose to set some goals for the year to come. When you are choosing goals, remember to include your relationship as a priority in your plans. Plan for at least two weekend getaways for the two of you. Lack of funds does not mean that you have to opt out. Get creative and find ways to make a getaway at home.

If you have children, find someone who can care for them away from home; you could ask grandparents or trade weekends with family or friends. Whether your getaway is at home or far away, choosing to turn off cell phones, computers and other distraction will make it much more likely that the two of you will reconnect.

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It’s Not The X Factor: Stop Treating Dating Like You’re Auditioning For An Expert Judge

Just because things don't always work out doesn't mean you have to take it personally...

‘Rejection’ within dating and relationships is widely treated like 'auditioning’ for a part and then failing to get the role. Think about this for a moment: It being treated like an audition means that someone always holds the power from the outset and your fate is being put in their hands. You have to interview, perform, demonstrate, convince – handing over all of your power in dating is like telling the other party to kick back and relax because you’re going to make all of the key effort. Based on what? They’re not God, a higher power, or that special!

What kind of expertise or power are you granting people? Which characteristics, qualities, and values are you assigning them that you can immediately or very quickly ascertain that you need to put on your costume? That they go to church? Have been in the same job for a gazillion years or are just very good at their job? They have big breasts or are well hung? Beautiful? Super-intelligent? Ph.d in People Picking? Good with animals and children? Money and status? Chemistry? Common interests? Good sense of humour?

Not one of these are reasons to demote yourself and act like you’re auditioning for a relationship.

Now you’d like to think that people who have the power to decide someone’s fate get it right every time, but yet there are a tonne of actors, authors, dancers, singers, job interviewees, successful entrepreneurs, sports stars and the list goes on, who have been rejected, and many of these have gone on to be more successful than people who they were rejected for, and many of the remainder are still trying...

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Playing For Your Relationship

We tend to think of playing as something that children do. Many adults think that they are past needing to play. But play is fun and necessary for all ages. We don’t get old because of the number of years that we have lived, we get old because we have forgotten how or refuse to play.

Ask yourself: what have I done just for fun lately? If the answer is either I don’t know or nothing, then it is time to reconnect with your inner child and awaken you sense of wonder and curiosity. Stuart Brown of the Institute of Play said, “What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, . . have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives."

Two things have happened recently in our house that got me thinking about play. First we got a new kitten and she loves to play. The whole family is smiling and laughing more, enjoying the antics of the quickly growing fur ball. The second is that we got some kinect games. We are up off the couch, laughing and playing. Playful activity brings couples and families together much more than vegging on the couch ever will.

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Do You HAVE To Feel Instant Attraction? Why It’s Time To Stop Acting Like You’re A Love Psychic

If you are hung up on first impressions you may find yourself chasing your own imagination and not getting to that real relationship stage...

Picture this: You go on a dating website, you start scanning through photos or looking through suggested ‘matches’, and you rule out some or even a lot based on not feeling an instant attraction. You might read through some profiles and even though they appear to have similar values, you don’t feel that ‘spark’ and so dismiss them.

With other profiles, they say stuff about themselves that rings your ‘hook’ bell – they mention being a churchgoer, or that they earn six figures, or that they’re educated at an elite university, or that they have a dog, are a family person, have loads of degrees, are supertastic intelligent, are a green campaigner, or quote from an obscure book that you love too. You fire off an email to them or if they’ve already made contact with you, you eagerly reply, feeling excited at possibly meeting just the type of person you’re looking for.

Out in the real world, you go on first dates and if you don’t feel a ‘spark’ and a ‘connection’, are immediately or by the end of the date, mentally saying “Sayonara” and bracing yourself to continue your quest. Or you feel disheartened that you still haven’t met that ‘someone’ with that ‘spark’…that you can also actually manage to have a relationship with.

It is fascinating that so many people are hung up on instant attraction, instant chemistry, instant spark, and basically this illusion of instant knowledge about a person that they either haven’t even met in the flesh or don’t even know.

These people feel spark with a one-dimensional photograph.These people feel spark with words and even promises which in the cold light of day and in hindsight seem ridiculous to be made by someone they hardly knew.These people feel spark with what their sexual organs or their imagination tells them.

These very same people will protest that they ‘can’t’ go on a date with someone and will find it unlikely that their attraction and interest will grow, if they don’t feel it immediately. For them, attraction, love, chemistry and the whole kit and caboodle have a foundation in something of nothing. There seems to be an absence of spark with action.

What you don’t realise if you’re relying on ‘instant’ or very quick attraction, is that you’re saying that you can be attracted to and even fall in love with someone that you don’t know, but that you couldn’t become attracted to and fall in love with someone that you grew to know. Isn’t there something very odd about that? You can fall in love with the promise, but you couldn’t fall for the reality?

And here’s where it becomes very interesting: When you experience that instant/very quick attraction, what follows after is the discovery phase, where you hopefully get to know them in reality. What I’ve seen happen time and again, is that people who rely on this whole ‘instant’ thing, don’t adjust their view of the person, their level of trust, their ideas about a possible relationship, as they get to know them. They stick with their initial perception and they don’t reconcile it with reality.

When the person does things that directly contradict the image you have of them, you keep going back to the initial feelings and perceptions you had, as if this is ‘right’. It then means that aside from not feeling attracted to people who you don’t feel it ‘instantly’ with, you also won’t reduce your attraction to someone you felt it with immediately, even as you get to ‘know’ them and they’re not meeting your vision, hope, and expectations.
This puts you into a bit of a ‘no judgement’ quagmire where you will only rely on the immediate ‘information’ that you think you’ve gleaned, and won’t trust yourself to go through discovery and get to know someone, or to evaluate actions and situations, make a judgement, and ultimately make a decision. This is a very tricky place for you to be in. Don’t you want to have to use your eyes and ears? Don’t you want to have the option to choose healthily? Don’t you want to actually know someone in reality?

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Relationship Myths

Here's a very thoughtful and helpful about things we've always assumed about our relationships that may not always be true in every situation.

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen! - John Godfrey Saxe -

“All is fair in love and war” is a myth that can get us into a lot of trouble. In my years of counseling I have never seen an injury or hurt between individuals in a couple relationship that was deemed fair by either of the two just because they were in love. When I was growing up there used to be a little cartoon couple who were naked and were supposed to represent a loving couple. The caption always started with “Love means…” and ended with some cute little platitude. One of these captions I remember most because even as a teenager it just seemed not quite right was ”Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

I have often wondered as a counselor what else have we been taught by poets, well-minded friends, loving family and caring friends. Some people have been taught to believe that having different opinions as a couple means one of them is wrong, others understand that to have disagreements, fights even, is the sign of a relationship in trouble. On my wedding day my great-grandfather, whom I love and respect dearly, told us that we should never go to bed angry or unhappy with each other.

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When You Believe That You Wouldn’t Feel, Be Or Act A Certain Way Unless It Was Love

How you process a breakup may reflect on your beliefs and how you operate emotionally...

A lot of people have been perplexed by how in spite of the fact that they may have known someone for hours, days, weeks, or a few months, they can’t let go of memories of feeling good or the steadfast belief that the other party meant every word and action, so they persist in rehashing the memories and the beliefs, often making the time spent fantasising and ruminating greatly exceed the length of the actual involvement.
When this happens, you’re stuck on this fundamental belief that what you experienced only happens when you’re experiencing ‘love’. What you feel, see, and do during the involvement isn’t questioned and is assumed to be a response to it. Your mind cannot compute the fact that it wasn’t love, or at least not the beginning of a complete ‘ideal relationship’ forever and ever and ever. You may rationalise that even if it has been a short period of time, it’s because of the deep feelings between you, not Fast Forwarding or the presence of code amber and red behaviour.

When you’re stuck on these memories and beliefs, it can make you wonder:

- How could a Future Faker know what you want to hear?
- In fact, how could anyone who you didn’t know before becoming involved, know how to bring these feelings out of you without even knowing you for any great deal of time? It must mean something, surely?
- How could you feel ‘like this’, whether it’s high on the possibilities when you’re with them or miserable now that it’s over, and it not be symbolic of love? What is it then? You may have always believed that you’d only feel, act, and think a certain way if you were experiencing ‘true love’.

You then get stuck because you over-trust the over-correlation you make between your feelings, experiences, actions, hopes and expectations…and love.

It can feel like your mind and body is playing tricks on you. Ever assumed that a great sexual connection equals an emotional connection equals the making of a great relationship? Many readers end up remaining involved with someone to justify the fact that they had sex or a level of interest in the first place – the Justifying Zone. It’s like “There must be a good reason….I just need to find it!”

You take meaning from your actions. The thing is, of course all of our actions have meaning, it’s just that they don’t always have the meanings or weight that we attribute to them.

Some, for example, attribute post breakup pain and being unable to move on as a sign of how deeply the love is felt, but actually, how much pain you feel or how long you immerse yourself in living the breakup life is actually indicative of how you’re handling the situation and how you feel about you, especially if the relationship was unhealthy.

When you’re stuck on certain beliefs, you think and say stuff like:
“I wouldn’t be stuck unless….”
“I wouldn’t have done this unless…”
“I wouldn’t have believed this unless…”
“I wouldn’t have felt this unless…”

The uncomfortable truth is closer to this: These actions or lack thereof, are not a sign of love or even what you’re ‘owed’; they are a sign of your own unavailability. What are you avoiding?

We’re also back to the stubbornness I talked about in the last post – why keep believing something that doesn’t truly serve you and certainly isn’t reflected in results? Rather than admit that you made an error in judgement, or believed too easily, or that it was good while it lasted but it wasn’t meant to be for valid reasons, you want to blame yourself, or feel tricked out of a relationship you feel you’re owed. It’s persisting in holding onto these illusions about the other person, the circumstances, or even yourself that is disappointing you again and again and again.

Sometimes you feel excited, passionate, lustful, loving, caring, adoring, obsessive, jealous, possessive, careless, insecure, sexy, horny, trusting, admiring, and willing to take a chance, or willing to believe, or willing to be, do, and say certain things…and it’s nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘rightness’ of the situation or even the existence of ‘love'.

You are a person under your own command. That’s not to say that sometimes our minds and bodies don’t leap ahead, but it is just too great a leap to decide that what you say, do, and feel is intrinsically tied to the presence of love. When you make these assumptions about you, you’ll make them about others, and then forget to judge the situation or them by the truth of their actions consistently over time.

You feeling what you did or do is your feelings. They are not linked to an ex or current person on an index of believability. “Ooh I feel chemistry again…that’s 99 points on the believability index!”

The payoff of believing that you wouldn’t be being, doing, or feeling certain things ‘unless’ is that you don’t consider other possibilities. You don’t even consider the facts, which is why so many readers who are stuck, do their very best to avoid considering some far more obvious reasons why the relationship wasn’t going to be what they thought it was, regardless.

It’s like “Yeah they had partner already or yeah they lied or yeah I thought they were shady…and what? I felt and did these things so it was love so this stuff doesn’t matter.” Er, yes it frickin’ does. ‘Love’ or ‘lust’ is not some magic eraser. If you think you can feel something and shazam, problems gone, think again.

Contextually, what you feel is what you feel (although you may in time come to realise that what you’ve experienced isn’t the same type of love you’d feel in a healthier situation), but there isn’t the loving, mutual relationship to back up your beliefs, so it’s time to reassess what you believe to be true.

Yes you may well believe that you wouldn’t have said or done certain things ‘unless’, but the fact is that you did, and the unless part doesn’t stand up. You’re talking about a situation and a person in the past, which is only confirmation of the fact that the present and what happened subsequently isn’t reflective of what you’re holding onto.

Fact is, people don’t automatically know what you want to hear, but they soon find out by your receptiveness and then they know which tune to play. It doesn’t mean you’re ‘soul mates’.

Sometimes being high on the possibilities is about grabbing an opportunity to escape a life that you’re not happy with. Sometimes being miserable after the breakup, is about your relationship with you and often being angry at having to return to a life you don’t want.

If you have acted ‘crazy’, busted up your boundaries, turned a blind eye, and eroded your own values, that’s not out of love - that’s out of a lack of self-love and attempting to trade you for a reward.

When you’re ready to have a good, honest conversation with yourself, you will realise that you can feel, be, or act in certain ways and it not be out of love. This is especially the case if you 1) have low self-esteem and 2) have a relationship pattern that has been working against you.

Love is all about action, not just words and thinking. It’s also sustained and consistent action. Talk and the honeymoon period at the start of a relationship is cheap, but being in for the long haul and demonstrating love and commitment day after day, isn’t. If something you claim was love could be over in hours, days, weeks, or months, it didn’t have the legs to stand up to real life or time. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t great while you had it, but if you’re in the market for a genuine, mutually fulfilling relationship that can go the distance, it’s time to let go of memories that really have about as much nutritional value as crumbs...

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It Takes Effort

"Anything in life worth having is worth working for." Andrew Carnegie

When we first enter into our relationship we have these dreams and hopes about how it is going to be. We see the future as bright and sunny with nary a cloud on the horizon. It takes only a few years, if things are going well, to find that perhaps our dream is not happening. There are clouds and more than a few and they are not on the horizon, they are here and guess what it's raining. Now what? Is our relationship over, are we done? Unfortunately in today's disposable world many people think so and end their relationship at the first sign of storm clouds.

Any relationship will have days when there is no sunshine, when the clouds threaten to overpower us. No relationship is easy all the time, every relationship needs some effort, needs some TLC. As the Carnegie quote above teaches us any relationship worth having is worth working for. When talking about our marriage it seems somewhat daunting or awkward to say it needs work. Work usually means doing hard things, things we "have" to do, sometimes things we really don't want to do.

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You Just Don’t Have That Kind Of Power: You Haven’t ‘Made’ Someone Be Or Do Something

If your relationship is stalling, and you are wondering how to fix things, it may be time to first evaluate how you are feeling about yourself, how you feel about your man, because how you feel will influence what you say and do and that will eventually impact your relationship...

When you experience problems, but are sidetracked with your own issues regarding how you feel about you or are clinging hard to beliefs that you’re stuck on, not only do you fail to compute the rather compelling topline data, but how you respond to the situation, emotionally and then physically through action, ends up being way off base.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t believe, for example, that you’re “good enough” and possibly have, for example, the other party on a pedestal, and then you experience a problem, what do you focus on?
The actual issue at hand viewed objectively and respecting each of you as individuals? Or, how the situation relates to your feelings of inadequacy? It might even be that it immediately triggers memories of another experience that left you feeling the same way, so you’ve already raced ahead and drawn a conclusion.
What are you actually responding to? The issue, or the bell tolling “Aha! See, I’m not good enough”?
How do you respond to the latter? Do you feel angry? Defensive? Rejected? Frustrated? Desperate? Scared? Vulnerable? Powerless? Helpless? Sad? Hurt? Ashamed? Rage? Victimised? Do you lose hope? Do you expect doom? Do you start objection handling?

But if you’re responding to how you feel about you or a distorted belief, what you’re not doing is responding to the situation at hand, which makes it very difficult to handle issues in reality or distinguish between your behaviour and theirs.
It’s not about you.

Your actions are about you as they’re what’s under your control. Their actions are about them. You make your choices and are influenced by various factors, just as they do. In a mutual relationship, you each tend to have more influencing factors in common because you have shared values.

Yet people love making Other People’s Behaviour about them, which is actually inverted ego issues, like some sort of whacked out reverse narcissism.

We can be very quick to spot behaviour like ego stroking, collecting attention, being self-serving or at the extreme end being a narcissist, for the ego issues that they are, but so is persisting in identifying with “I’m not good enough”. It is very simply having a way of life that makes ‘everything’ about you, when it’s not.
You view life through a low self-esteem lens that makes as much as possible into confirmation of your lack of value, plus you see an opportunity to think the worst of you, and ‘everything’ seems to point to the ‘fact’ that you’re not being and doing ‘enough’.

If I’d believed I was a worthwhile and valuable person, I wouldn’t have given most of my exes the time of day, never mind the steam off my pee, or at the very least, these ‘relationships’ would have been over within a few days to 3 months.

Whenever I finally left, it’s because I clawed back whatever self-respect I had left and suddenly, albeit temporarily, stopped making everything about me. I saw the situation clearly enough to recognise that there were issues in existence, that would exist whether I had The Highest Self-Esteem In The Universe...

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How Attempting To Get The Wedding Dress I Paid For Gave Me A Crash Course In Shady Relationships

Another Wedding Dress rant... but a good one.

I was so focused on getting the dress and not being ripped off, I didn’t see it, just like many readers are focused on getting the validation or the commitment, while not recognising they have no foundation in the present. Hot tip – keep a list and a Feelings Diary.
Also avoiding conflict by using texts to ‘communicate’ is immature. Put on your big girls/boys pants and pick up the phone at least...

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How to Improve Communication

Clear communication is vital for any healthy relationship. The most frequent concern that I hear as a marriage counselor is that couples are struggling with communication. One or both of them is not feeling heard or understood. Frustration and resentment builds. Poor communication can be taxing on any relationship.

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