Divorce rates are nearly 50% in our nation and more people than ever are opting to stay single longer in today’s day and age. Men and women all over the US are deciding to breakup when their relationships get tough rather than riding out the waves. Is this the right choice? How can you tell when it’s time to throw in the towel on a partnership that isn’t working?
No one wants to make rash decisions or worse, the wrong decisions when it comes to love. Sure, in the heat of the moment you may want to wring his neck and tell his mother all the terrible things he has said and done, but you also realize those feelings might pass. And when they do, you want to know that you’ve brought your most rational self to the table and made a decision you won’t regret. Granted it’s not always easy to be logical when it comes to matters of the heart but with practice, it can be done.
Make a List, Check it Twice
One thing you can try is a technique logical minded people have been doing for centuries – make a list. Divide a piece of paper in half lengthwise and write “pros” and “cons” at the top of each column. Start with the pros. What do you love about him? What made you attracted to him in the first place? What qualities do you see in him that you know you want and need in a partner? Next, move on to the cons. What bothers you about him? What do you wish you could change about his personality or way of being? What do you most commonly fight about?
Next, rank the importance of each pro and con on a scale of 1-10 and write that number next to each item. This part is important because not every item holds the same weight. One of your cons might be that he has brown eyes instead of blue. While that might be true, it also might not be a determining factor in your relationship. Thus you might rank this a 1 on the scale of importance whereas you might rank “poor communicator” a 10 if it has a big negative effect on your relationship.
Now, add the numbers in each column and take a look at your list. If the score is completely lopsided, your answer might be staring you in the face. If that’s the case listen!
Be honest – Are you willing to do the work?
However, chances are your choices won’t be so cut and dry. In many cases, you may find that there are things about the relationship that need mending but you have hopes that they can change. Get clear about what BOTH you and your partner need to do to address the problems, and ask yourself this very important question: Am I willing to do the work required to improve this relationship? Then ask your partner if they are willing to make the changes and put in the work necessary for you both to be happy. There is no right or wrong answer here as long as you answer honestly. If the answer is “no,” this is a good indication that your heart just isn’t in it.
Still, before you split, consider the fact that there are at least 10 areas of compatibility that exist within every union. These are things like: the importance of sex and romance; financial styles; attitudes toward extended family; and attitudes towards having children. Some of these areas are workable, while others are more difficult – you can’t have 1/2 of a child, for example. So, think about whether the areas where you are incompatible with this partner are truly deal-breakers. Because, chances are, a new partner will come with his own list of incompatibilities and you will undoubtedly be trading one set of problems for another.
Make Sure Your Vision is 20/20
Whether or not you choose to stay with your current partner, one thing that I like to encourage clients to do is create a relationship vision. This is, essentially, a list of things that you would like to see in your ideal relationship. As you can see on the sample relationship vision in this blog post, your vision can include things like: having a date night once per week; spending time with each-other’s families; having sex 3-4 times per week; vacationing twice a year; supporting each-other’s goals and dreams, etc.
Making a vision statement for your relationship can help you decide what is really important to you. It will help you see what kind of partnership you want to engage in and it will empower you to create that for yourself. It’s also important to look at what kind of partner you are being and whether or not you are being the type of person you want to attract.
Hopefully, some of these ideas can help you with your decision. Yet, if all else fails, you can always flip a coin. I’m half kidding but in reality, you can learn a lot about your true desires when you notice which outcome you suddenly hope for when it’s in the air. Hey, the psychology of decision making is not always a scientific process 😉
If you are in the process of deciding whether or not to stay or breakup and really can’t decide, I think contacting a therapist is always a good idea. You may not know exactly what steps you and your partner need to take to improve the relationship but a well trained couples therapist should. If you’d like some help with this or any other relationship issue, I’m here to help!
You met someone. You can’t stop thinking about them. You want to spend every waking minute with them, talking to them, or talking about them to anyone that will listen. You feel high with emotion. This is so exciting! You’ve been waiting so long for this! It all seems too good to be true. Then, the question creeps up on you. Is this love or is this lust? How do you know?
Well, first, what is love? According to the ancient Greeks, there are actually 4 types of love:
- Storge – kinship love
- Philia – friendship love
- Eros – romantic/sexual love
- Agape – divine love
Reading those, it seems crazy that English only has one word that is supposed to encompass it all. Love is such an intricate and complicated emotion with so many different levels.
For the purposes of this article, we are talking about “eros,” or romantic love. Arriving at that state of bliss can take many different paths. Some couples start out as friends and become pleasantly surprised when they catch a spark of desire in each other’s eyes. Other couples meet and instantly feel attracted to one another. Others break up and make up multiple times before truly falling in love.
And some couples think they are in love but over time, find out it wasn’t the kind of love that lasts.
Here are some telltale signs that attraction is turning into love:
- You look forward to being with him or her
- You prioritize your time together
- You give up opportunities to do fun stuff because you’d rather be with him/her
- You genuinely care about his/her thoughts and feelings
- You think about him/her when he’s not around
- You find his/her imperfections cute
- You start thinking about a future together
- You feel like a better person when he/she is around
- You want to see him/her thrive and grow for their own sake rather than for your own benefit
Another thing about love, that many people miss, is that love doesn’t have to be crazy and sudden and full of passion. There is this Hollywood notion that suggests true love is always a roller-coaster ride and you have to be falling over yourself and unable to speak in the presence of “The One.” Sometimes love develops slowly over time and you don’t even realize it’s happened until one day you realize you can’t imagine your life without this person. It doesn’t make for a very exciting movie but the slow and steady love can make for a great life.
However, here’s the rub: Just because you are attracted to someone, or even in love with them, doesn’t make them right for you.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that attraction is an unconscious process, and it stems mostly from unhealed childhood wounds. In other words, sometimes we are attracted to others because of unhealthy family patterns that we were exposed to in early life. Our unconscious mind attracts certain people to us so that we can heal those wounds, but that doesn’t mean that those people are meant to be our life partners!
I mention this because I’ve seen many clients struggle to form healthy relationships because they continually seek out unhealthy partners who they feel strongly attracted to while ignoring possible healthy connections because “the initial spark wasn’t there.” Maybe true love isn’t about the spark at all. Maybe, it’s more about feeling comfortable with that special someone who doesn’t judge you for being you.
That’s the thing about love. It’s really hard to define.
If you would like to ponder more about falling in love, being in love, or simply understanding what love is, contact me. This is my favorite topic!
When I work with couples, I like to give them concrete tools they can use to improve their relationships. One of these tools is the concept of the Emotional Bank Account. This idea was developed by the famous couples’ therapists and researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman whose well-researched techniques have been proven widely successful.
So, what is the Emotional Bank Account (EBA)?
Well, it’s pretty much just as it sounds. The EBA is a bank account for emotional experiences with your partner. In that account you have:
- credits, or times when your partner turns toward you emotionally, and
- debits, or times when your partner turns away from you emotionally
Your EBA balance is a way of monitoring how you feel about your relationship and it largely depends on the number of events of turning towards vs turning away. How you deal with conflict is also largely dependent on how nourished or depleted your EBA is. The more positive deposits into your EBA, the more secure you both will feel in your relationship and the more likely you are to forgive and forget. The more negative debits or turning away events in your relationship, the less secure and happy you will feel about your relationship and the more likely you are to break up when problems arise.
Ok so you might be wondering where you match up in the credit/debit ledger. The best way to find that out is to ask your partner but let’s imagine some typical interactions and see if they would be credits or debits.
Scenario 1: You come home from work and tell your partner that you had a terrible day. She says that she is too tired to listen to your problems. A few minutes later, you hear her on the phone laughing with one of her friends.
You probably guessed that this one is a debit! Your partner has turned away from you by making it clear that she has no energy for you. Now, realistically, in a long-term relationship, this may happen from time to time. However, if it happens more often than not, your Emotional Bank Account is probably in the red.
Okay, let’s tweak the situation just a little bit for scenario 2.
Scenario 2: You come home from work and tell your partner that you had a terrible day. She says that she is very sorry that you had a bad day. Then, she says that she is exhausted, and needs a bath, but really wants to hear about your day when she finishes with her bath.
So, what do you think? Is this a debit because your partner is not immediately ready to hear about your day? Or, is it a credit because she is making an effort by telling you what she needs to do in order to be a good listener? If you guessed the second answer, you are right!
In this scenario, while your partner is not immediately ready to talk, she lets you know that she is sorry for what happened to you and she details how she will take care of herself in order to be there for you. Here, your partner is turning toward you. She is acknowledging your hurt and letting you know she cares.
Let’s look at another:
Scenario 1: Your partner texts you while out of town on business and says that he can’t sleep, he misses you and wishes he was holding you in his arms right now. You didn’t see the message until you woke up the next morning but you know he’s coming home today. You respond “Good morning! I hope you got some sleep. I’ll see you later today!”
Is this an example of turning toward or turning away? The correct answer is turning away. This may seem nuanced to you but there are a few things to look at here. 1) your partner was getting vulnerable with you by saying he missed you. Even if you’re not the mushy texting type, it’s important to acknowledge and validate this vulnerability, especially if you want to keep seeing it. 2) he was reaching out for connection and to hear that you felt the same and this feeling was left unrequited.
Scenario 2: Your partner sends you the exact same text and you respond (still the next morning) with “awww I appreciate the text! I was sleeping last night when you sent this but I’m excited to see you tonight!”
If you guessed that this is an example of turning towards, you are correct. You acknowledged that your partner sent something sweet and you thanked him for it. You also reciprocated the feeling by saying you were looking forward to seeing him too. Lastly, you let him know the reason you didn’t answer (you were sleeping) so that he didn’t conclude that his text was unimportant to you. Even though this is not as romantic as the text your partner sent, nor was it a timely response, it still hits all the points of turning towards vs turning away.
All couples go through dozens of moments like this in a day; moments that can easily be forgotten or ignored and seem like they aren’t really a big deal. However, when added up, these moments truly are a big deal. Couples who increase the number of emotional credits being stored and pay attention to these positive events have a much bigger buffer to draw upon when conflict arises. These couples are more likely to be happy and more likely to stay together when times get tough.
Think about it, if you view your partner as generally loving and kind, wouldn’t you be more likely to forgive a negative response here and there? So start making deposits in that EBA and watch your relationship thrive!
If you would like to learn more about the Emotional Bank Account, or other inspiring tools, contact me. I’m here to help.
At some point or another, the topic of sex always (ahem) comes up when I work with couples. Sex is a very important part of a healthy relationship and when it isn’t working right for both partners, problems can… arise. Interestingly, some studies even suggest that, regardless of the kinds of emotional problems troubling a couple, having good sex can increase their level of satisfaction with the relationship. So, in the interest of increasing satisfaction everywhere, here are my top ten tips for a better sex life.
Your body is a temple. Love it and treat it right. Talk positively about your body. Don’t focus on your perceived flaws. Instead, focus on what you love about the skin that you’re in. Need some help in this department? My friend Lauren McAulay is an amazing self love and body love coach. Check her out!
Learn about your body. Discover what turns you on and be willing to communicate that to your partner. Explore your likes and dislikes by touching every part of your body and seeing what feels good. You may be surprised at how sensitive different areas of your body can be.
Nothing ruins good sex like judgments. Leave the old beliefs in the past and see sex for what it is; a beautiful way for two people to connect with one another. Look at it this way; the better sex you have, the happier you will be. And the happier you are, the nicer you will be to others. So, really, having great sex is an act of service to humanity! Who could judge that?
Using porn as a measure of good sex is unrealistic, as is the idea that the absence of multiple orgasms means trouble. In fact, porn can be really detrimental to a relationship if used in the wrong way. Check out this presentation by my friend Greg Woodhill, MFT to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of porn. It’s important to know that good sex can mean anything from a satisfying quickie to a full night of romance. Don’t get too hung up on how things “should” be. Instead, focus on what feels right to you and your partner.
Stay in the moment and enjoy each sensation. Hold eye-contact and focus on your breath as a tool to help you stay in your body. If outside thoughts interrupt you, just watch them pass, and then get back to the action. If you are having trouble staying in the moment, pretend you are an announcer at a sports game and run the play by play of what is happening in your mind. “And now he is kissing my neck…oh that feels so good. And now he is moving lower with his mouth…” You get the idea 😉
Share your fantasies with your partner. Do you have a thing for guys dressed as Elvis? Tell him! Whatever it is, allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your desires. Have fun with it!
Pretend that you are his new professor or he is your waiter. Pick new roles to try and watch the sparks fly. Having a chance to play and pretend can do wonders for your creative-self.
Try a new position or a new destination. Or add in a new toy that you both will enjoy. Shake things up to avoid falling into a rut. Drive out to a scenic point and do it in the car. Or go camping and make love under the stars. Google different positions and try them out. You may even find a new favorite.
Try Having Your Eyes Wide Shut
Experiment with a blindfold. This will not only increase the alertness of your other senses but it will also be a trust building exercise. Plus, it’s a great way to play into the art of anticipation.
Get Your Game On
What better way is there to remember that sex is supposed to be fun than to make a game out of it? Try incorporating strip poker or twister into your sexual repertoire. That way, no matter who loses, you both win!
If you would like to learn more about ways to improve your sexual relationship, contact me. I’m here to help!
With all of the wonderful self-help books and resources available today, sometimes it’s hard to know whether you really need therapy. Maybe the problem that you are experiencing is something that you could take care of on your own. That certainly would be cheaper!
However, there are some instances in which self-help may not be enough. Here’s a list of some of those instances where you might want to seek professional help, especially if you’ve tried the self-help route and it’s not working.
It’s Hard To Smile
If this is happening to you, you know what I mean. Funny things just don’t seem funny anymore. Activities that you once enjoyed don’t seem enticing. You find yourself feeling more like an observer than a participant in life. These are signs that you may be experiencing Depression, which is a real illness. As much as you may want to, you cannot just snap out of depression; it actually requires treatment.
Your Body Is Talking To You
You get frequent, unexplained headaches, stomach-aches, insomnia, or colds that you just can’t shake. If you’ve been to a medical doctor and there doesn’t seem to be a physical explanation for your symptoms, it could be that stress is causing your discomfort. Often, your body will act as a messenger, letting you know that something just isn’t right. At times, the thing that is bothering you may be in your subconscious mind so you may not even be aware of it yet. Even though your conscious mind doesn’t know what’s wrong, your body knows that there is something that needs to be addressed. Listen to your body! It knows more than you may think.
You’ve Been Through A Traumatic Event
Whether you’ve had a car accident, been assaulted, or lost a loved one, experiencing a trauma can do a number on your psyche. Even if you don’t develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you may still experience symptoms such as being unable to stop thinking or dreaming about whatever happened to you. Healing from a trauma is not something that you should do alone. Without professional help, you might repress the emotions associated with the event and avoid thinking about and processing them, which can cause big problems down the road.
You’re Using Substances To Get You Through The Day
I know, I know, lots of people have a drink or a smoke now and again to unwind. But if you can’t get through a day without a couple of drinks or a few hits off the bong, chances are, your usage isn’t purely social. Recreational drug use is supposed to be fun, not mandatory. Often, people with mental illness use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and that’s when it becomes a problem. Going to therapy can help you learn alternative coping skills so that you aren’t left feeling stressed and anxious without a drink or your drug of choice.
Your Friends And/Or Family Are Concerned
If others have commented that you don’t seem to be doing well, or if your relationships are taking a turn for the worse, it’s probably time to see a professional. Sometimes, the people around you are your best chance at seeing yourself honestly. On the other hand, it might be the people around you who are driving you crazy! Either way, getting an objective view from a qualified therapist can help you see clearly, once again.
If you’d like to schedule a free consultation to discuss whether therapy is right for you, contact me. I’m here to help!