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Category Archives: relationship

5 Tips for Feeling More Secure in Your Relationship

A common issue in couples’ therapy is one person assuming their partner needs too much while the other person feels insecure in the relationship. Let me introduce you to Breanna and Raymond, just such a couple.

Breanna and Raymond came in for therapybecause Breanna was depressed. She saw no hope for the future of the marriagebecause Raymond was always either working or playing golf. During the first session, she described what precipitated her calling for an appointment. She had accidentally locked herself out of the house and called Raymond at work, hoping he would come home and let her in.

Raymond told her that he had an important meeting to attend. In a rather irritable voice, he advised her to call a locksmith. Breanna felt betrayed by Raymond’s refusal to help her and stunned to learn how low she ranked on his list of priorities.

In discussing this incident in the therapy session, Breanna focused on how Raymond had expressed no understanding or empathy for how she felt that day.

She could understand it was impractical for him to rush to her rescue, but couldn’t he at least have offered some moralsupport? Raymond, on the other hand, saw this situation as an example of how she relied too much on him. As the session progressed, he listed other evidence of Breanna’s “overdependence”: every Saturday morning as he prepared to play golf, she would ask if they could do something together later in the day—perhaps go out to dinner.

Raymond then described how controlled he felt by his wife’s “dependency.” It seemed to him that she was trying to force him to give up his one day of relaxation. If only she had more friends or activities to keep her busy, he reasoned, he wouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting some time on his own.

Raymond’s interpretation surprised Breanna. She said, “He’d drive me crazy if he was home all day on Saturday. There’s no way I’d ask him to give up golf.” I learned that Breanna had plenty of friends and activities to fill her time. She was involved in leading a charitable organization and was considering starting her own business. Breanna’s schedule was not the issue.

Although the situation presented by this couple was more complicated than I can condense in a blog post, this is the main point: Breanna’s desire to spend some time with Raymond was not a sign of neediness or dependency, even though Raymond had come to interpret it in this light; Breanna simply enjoyed her husband’s company. Rather than taking this as a compliment, Raymond told himself that if he didn’t keep up his guard, he’d be engulfed by his wife’s needs. In effect, he filtered and perhaps distorted many of Breanna’s requests through his belief that she was dependent and needy.

In the sessions that followed, I helped Raymond recognize the ways in which he contributed to the problem: The more he avoided making a commitment to spend time together, the more she pursued and pressured him. When he eventually made spending time with Breanna a priority, Raymond enjoyed his time alone more. He felt less guilty, and his life was more in balance. Similarly, he also enjoyed his time with Breanna more, because it felt like a choice, rather than an obligation.

So what can you learn from this?

1. Don’t make assumptions about your partner’s motivations or behaviors. You could be way off the mark.

2. Make time to talk about any issues as they arise, and don’t let them fester into a bigger problem.

3. Healthy couples enjoy time together, as well as individual activities and alone time.

4. Remember that a little communication and affection can go a long way. In the example above, Breanna wasn’t really asking for that much. She just wanted to know that Raymond cared about her.

5. If you find yourself in a pattern of miscommunication over many months, consider seekingcouples’ therapy. Here’s how it can work for you.

4 Ways Bad Marriages Are Worse for Kids Than Divorce

When I was a kid, divorced parents were given the evil eye. Heads shook, tongues clicked; divorcees were home wreckers, selfish and unloving, they destroyed children’s lives. Churches banned them from services (even God wasn’t a fan). The message to married couples: Keep your family intact by any means necessary.

Today, with nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, times have changed. Whether divorce hurts or helps children depends on how it is handled by their parents. One thing is certain: staying in a toxic marriage is certain to cause more damage to children than good.

Living in a Combat Zone

Kids forced to endure loveless marriages and tolerate emotional tension day after day, bear the full brunt of their parent’s dysfunctional relationship. They intuitively feel their parents’ unhappiness, sense their coldness and lack of intimacy. In many cases, children blame themselves, feeling their parents’ combative relationship is somehow their fault. In such cases, staying together “for the kids” is a cruel joke.

Here are four ways kids suffer through gloomy and despondent marriages:

1. Chronic Tension

Parents’ relationship leaves an emotional imprint that never fades. A natural part of children’s development is internalizing both their parents. When parents are consistently at odds, their kids internalize their conflicts. Rather than feeling soothed or comforted when they are with both parents, they feel tense around them. Such ongoing tension can produce serious emotional, social, and physical ailments in children such as depression, hopelessness or chronic fatigue.

2. An Unstable Sense of Self

As James Dean cried out to his bickering parents in the movie Rebel Without a Cause,“Stop it! You’re tearing me apart!” the war between parents takes root inside children’s minds. The strain eats away at their security and leaves them with little internal peace, putting them at odds with their own impulses. For example, they long to be loved but reject closeness; they yearn for friends but choose isolation; they will have great intellectual or creative abilities yet sabotage their own efforts. The external conflict between their parents eventually becomes an internal battle with themselves that complicates their life and hinders their emotional development.

3. Fear of Intimacy

Children raised by battling parents have great difficulty getting close to others. Intimacy triggers the traumas they suffered when witnessing their parents’ dysfunction, so they avoid closeness to steer clear of getting hurt. If they manage to establish an intimate relationship, they remain cautious or guarded. When conflict arises, they’re most likely to flee or reenact their parents’ conflicts with their own partner.

4. Mood Problems

Warring parents produce children who struggle with serious mood problems, such as dysthymia. These problems, left untreated, may fuel personality disorders or substance abuse. At the root of their problems is a profound lack of hope. They learned at an early age to abandon optimism and expect the worst. Sadly, bad marriages cause kids to mature too quickly and lose out on their childhood.

Before You Consider Divorce

Ending a marriage is a brutal undertaking. Divorce should only be an option after all efforts to save a relationship have been exhausted. So before you call your lawyer, here are a few suggestions:

Couples Counseling

Couples counseling works best when it teaches parents how to work through their conflicts without resorting to emotional warfare (see “Hate Me in a More Loving Way: A Couples Guide to Better Arguing”). It also gives ill-tempered parents a place to work through their differences rather than expose their kids to them. The goal of couple’s therapy is to enrich communication and enhance intimacy. But be warned, couples therapy can be treacherous. The wrong therapist can spell doom for your marriage. Gather trustworthy recommendations, take your time, and interview several therapists. Make sure you both agree on the therapist you choose, otherwise the therapy will become just another bone of contention.

Individual therapy

Nothing stirs up unresolved childhood issues like marriage. Too often, couples have unrealistic expectations of marriage, and become disillusioned when they discover that good marriages take work. So before you blame all the problems in your marriage on your partner, get some help for yourself.  A skilled therapist can help you identify problems that stem from your past that are resurfacing in your relationship.

Support Groups

The best outcome of group work comes from sharing your feelings and discovering that you’re not alone.  Hearing about other couples’ struggles, the difficulties they face, and how they work through them, can bring much-needed inspiration and relief. It also provides you with a community of people who can inspire you with new choices in your marriage.

Zoe’s Story

Zoe, a shaggy-haired thirteen-year-old with sad eyes, glares at me, arms folded, and jaw set; a therapy hostage if I ever saw one. Parents exert their executive power when it comes to therapy, so I don’t expect Zoe to cooperate, especially during our first tumultuous session. To kids like Zoe, therapy is an insult.

Zoe, however, offers me a deal: “I’ll be in therapy with you only if you promise one thing. I want you to convince my parents to get divorced.”

I was flabbergasted by her request, but it opened my eyes to something I had never considered: the positive side of divorce

Zoe suffered on-going humiliation in public, in school, and in front of her friends due to her parent’s combative relationship. The verbal abuse she witnessed her mother suffer at the hands of her father never let up.  As a result, Zoe struggled with ongoing headaches, depression, and weight problems.

After meeting with Zoe’s parents and witnessing their sneering contempt for each other, I understood Zoe’s request.  If I could barely stand them for thirty minutes, what must it be like to live with them?

Within a year after her parent’s divorce, her depression lifted; she went from failing school to being on the honor role. She also had her first boyfriend and became socially outgoing. In fact, I was amazed at how much better life became for everyone.

Bad Marriage or Healthy Divorce?

Divorce, like marriage, is something that you should never enter into recklessly. Depending on how a divorce is handled, it can lead to positive or negative outcomes. While separating can reduce tension and conflict in children’s lives, a hostile divorce that drags on for years damages kids even more. Working on your relationship is key to a positive outcome for your kid, whether you stay together or not. You may no longer be husband and wife, but you are parents forever.

Has Your Intimate Relationship Become a Pit Stop?

When a couple comes in to see me for therapy, I often start our first session by asking each of them the following question: “Where are you currently the most alive, the most self-respecting, the most interesting, and the most involved in your life?”

If they are newly in love, the answer is most likely to be when they are together. Sadly, when they have been together for a longer period of time, they are more likely to innocently confess that they feel that way more often outside of their intimate relationship.

Somewhere between the honeymoon stage and the commitment to a long-term partnership, many couples stop being spontaneously intrigued by one another and begin to search outside their relationship for more excitement and discovery.

Some choose infidelity and risk the security of their primary partnership. Just as many others stay sexually faithful but still look outside the relationship to other interests. When one person does this at the expense of the other, that left-behind partner may end up becoming a pit stop for the other.

There are two definitions of a pit stop. The first, better known to most, is the place where racing cars pause for fuel and service in the midst of an auto racing competition. Those pit stops are essential in-and-out sanctuaries that every race-car driver knows can make the difference between winning or losing.

But the broader definition of a pit stop is any brief interruption in a person’s preferred journey where he or she can get basic needs refreshed in order to move on to what is more important. In an intimate relationship, one partner is living an existence outside of the relationship that is richer and more compelling, while the other has become a glorified refueling station.

How Do Pit Stops Develop?

Discovery is the core element that keeps people spontaneously interested in the early stages of a new relationship. New lovers can’t get enough of one another’s taste, smell, thoughts, behaviors, cultures, social connections, family issues, religious and social beliefs, time, energy, and attention. They often put many of their other priorities on the back burner just to keep feeling what they are. There are so many delicious experiences and so much to learn that the partners seem marvelously content just focusing primarily on one another.

As those same partners commit to a long-term relationship, they are more likely to opt for predictability and security over new risks and challenges. Those once-enamored lovers may have become good friends, but do they truly and urgently seek one another out again for new experiences? They can so easily lose the edge that once supported the mystery and curiosity that made their relationship so exciting.

What is likely to happen to an intimate relationship when intimate partners know each other so well that discovery is essentially over? What happens to a lover’s psyche when predictability overshadows the mystery and challenge of the unknown?

The absence of newness, whether intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, or physically, too easily becomes the same-old, same-old harbinger of boredom. No other feeling is as likely to entice a partner to search for those all-too-human desires elsewhere.

Too often, when people have been together for a while, they also stop sharing the experiences they’ve had outside the relationship. When they reconnect, they are more likely to share only limited expressions of logistical requirements or things that are more newsworthy.

What once was a mecca for interesting exchanges and mutual rehabilitation has slowly become a place to just minimally check in, regenerate, and prepare for the more demanding and intriguing challenges outside of the relationship. If one partner is doing that and the other is not, a pit stop has begun.

Those once-enamored lovers may have become good friends, but do they truly and urgently seek one another out again for new experiences?

Why Don’t Intimate Partners See This Coming?

This process can develop so slowly that many couples don’t realize that it is even happening. They have been led to believe that a stable, secure, predictable relationship is a healthy one. But situations are never static, even if they appear so on the surface. Every living system, relationship, or process is always either growing or decaying. Like continuing flowering plants that grow new blooms as the old fall away, they must be connected to deeper roots that can either nurture them into greater growth or diminish their nourishment over time.

That truth applies to politics, families, business, physical health, and love relationships as well. The partners in a stagnant relationship who do not challenge one another into continuing growth and discovery will eventually find themselves bored and apathetic to each other’s deeper needs. As their investment in the relationship lessens, so will their ultimate payoff decrease.

How Can You Tell If You’re Becoming a Pit Stop For Your Partner?

Use this guide to answer the following ten questions.

1 = Never

2 = Occasionally

3 = More often than not

4 = Most of the time

5 = Almost all of the time

  1. When your partner comes home, does he or she try to find you right away? ____
  2. Do you believe your partner looks forward to seeing you after you’ve been away from each other? ____
  3. When you come into the room, does your partner immediately acknowledge your presence? ____
  4. Does your partner tell you that you are important, valuable, and desirable to him or her? ____
  5. Do you feel appreciated for the things you do for your partner? ____
  6. Does your partner anticipate your needs and provide support for them? ____
  7. When you need something, does your partner make those needs a priority? ____
  8. Does your partner seem to enjoy his or her time with you? ____
  9. Does your partner tell you that he or she misses you when you’re not together? ____
  10. Does your partner look forward to doing things with you? ____

Now add up your scores:

41-50: You are still deeply appreciated for who you are and what you have to offer. Your partner looks forward to coming home and staying there.

31-40: You are recognized as an important contributor to your partner’s desires andhappiness. You are a high priority.

21-30: Your presence in the relationship is starting to be taken for granted. You too often feel unimportant and last on the list.

11-20: You are in danger of being used as a launching pad as your partner takes off.

1-10: You have clearly become a pit-stop, a place where your partner just refuels in order to live his or her greater aliveness elsewhere.

Once you understand how important or unimportant you feel in your relationship, it is crucial to let your partner know that you need to rebalance your relationship. Tell him or her that, though you may have contributed to the current situation, you now need to distribute your relationship resources in a more fair and equitable way.

A partner who hasn’t realized that he or she has begun taking advantage will want to re-commit to more exciting adventures together. Sadly, those who like the advantages of a home sanctuary combined with the freedom to seek greater interests outside, are less likely to be receptive to changing the status. In either case, you will at least know where you stand and where your relationship is heading.

Tips to Build a Rewarding Romantic Relationship

Reinforcement in Romantic Relationships

Experimental tests of both reward and punishment in romantic relationships have a fairly long history. For example, in 1975, research by Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent explored such interactions between married couples. The group compared the behaviors of couples who were having problems, to happily married individuals and strangers, in both lab experiments and at home. After observing how the couples related, the researchers found significantly less reward among distressed married couples. In other words, unhappy couples did not reward the appropriate and loving behaviors of their spouses. In contrast, happy couples responded and reinforced loving behaviors in a spouse by agreeing, approving, laughing, smiling, or providing some positive physical contact.

Furthermore, distressed couples also punished more. They were quick to criticize, complain, interrupt, disagree, and turn away from their spouse. Overall, by not rewarding loving behaviors and overly punishing their spouses, distressed couples actually created an unhappy marriage.

Similar results were found by Lochman and Allen (1979) in an experiment with datingcouples. The researchers asked 80 dating couples to take part in a role playing experiment. While being explained their various roles, one of the participants of each couple was randomly and secretly asked to be more approving or disapproving of their partner. Therefore, during the role plays, some participants acted in ways that showed their approval, while others were disapproving of their partner. Then, the partner who received the positive or negative treatment was interviewed.

Not surprisingly, partners who received more approval and less disapproval were more satisfied. They also acted more lovingly back to their partner too! Therefore, being rewarding appears to help in dating relationships as well.

Putting these points together, a more recent article by Dermer (2006) carefully articulated the use of reinforcement in motivating loving behavior. Throughout the analysis, Dermer illustrated that reinforcement serves two primarily important functions in building loving behaviors.

  • First, proper rewards conveys that a behavior is attended to, understood, and responded to in a satisfying way by a partner.
  • Second, selective use of rewards also increases the frequency of loving behaviors that are performed.

Taken together, these points indicate that rewarding a partner when they are positive, caring, and loving can motivate them to be more passionate and attracted to you. By this method, loving interactions and relationships are actually “built” one rewarding exchange at a time.

Four Tips for Building a Rewarding Relationship

Given the above research, it appears that rewarding a date or mate is indeed important for relationship satisfaction. In the long run, rewarding relationships thrive, while punishing or neglectful relationships wither and end. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can keep your relationship rewarding…

Gratitude: One of the most important thing both partners can do for one another is to remember to be grateful for each other. Being grateful for a partner’s positive efforts motivates reciprocity and reward in return. In addition, such gestures can make the relationship feel more sacred and committed. Overall then, when your partner does something nice and loving, share your gratitude. When you do something nice and loving, look for gratitude in return as well.

Attention: Partners behave in all kinds of ways to get each other’s attention. When loving gestures are ignored, they may resort to less-positive methods of getting noticed. Therefore, when your partner is being nice and thoughtful, spend a few minutes at least talking to them.Build some rapport and connection. Share some positive conversation. Look for some attention and conversation in return too.

Touch: One of the most fundamental things that distinguishes romantic relationships is the level of affectionate and intimate touch. For many people, that relationship may be their only source of such affection. Therefore, touching your date or mate affectionately can increase attraction and be very rewarding. Touch is also quite persuasive too. Therefore, when your partner is already being loving—or you would like them to be more so—remember to reward them with some affectionate physical contact too.

Forgiveness: On the flip side, as the research above also notes, rewarding relationships are low on punishment (or non-existent). Holding a grudge derails all of the gratitude, conversation, and affection. Therefore, it is important to learn when and how to let your partner make amends for their mistakes—and, if they do, then reward them with forgiveness too. Finding positive ways to resolve arguments and constructive ways to address annoying habits are important as well.

Overall though, it is important to remember that ANY behavior that is rewarded will become more frequent—even bad ones. Therefore, do not be overly “nice” and reward all the time. Nevertheless, be sure to reward your partner in the ways above when their behaviors are positive, affectionate, and they have earned it. Also, in a rewarding relationship, look to be treated the same way yourself. With such reciprocal reward, gratitude, attention, affection, and forgiveness will continue to flourish too.

What Toxic Jealousy Reveals

Love patterns from childhood repeat in adult romantic relationships. When early care meant dismissal, rejection or invalidation, people are more likely to seek the same traits in their adult romantic partners.

Toxic jealousy becomes a dysfunctional way to get the unmet, and very normal, childhood needs for affection and genuine care met in adulthood. Think of toxic jealousy as a giant tantrum, the equivalent of a 4 year old yelling and flailing about on the floor to get what they want and to get it immediately.

If early in life loving one or both of your caretakers left you feeling rejected or undervalued, then these are the feelings you will automatically call up when you reach for love in your adult relationships.  These early experiences mean you are likely attracted to people who are, similar to your parents, unpredictable or unreliable. Toxic love ensues when the patterns that you initially experienced are triggered in your adult relationships.

Toxic relationships at first may unfold like love at first sight. It is incredibly seductive to feel the instant chemistry of meeting a person who triggers old love patterns. Sadly the intrigue and allure that this shiny new partner first emits soon gives way, and you are left once again feeling that you cannot get your needs met. This upset triggers old childhood wounds, which can cause a person to lose footing and tumble into such an extreme emotional headspace that they cannot think clearly. They do things and say things they would never ordinarily do or say. After it is all over, jealousy abates and self-loathing rushes in.

A wound that never heals is easily re-injured. Take the example of Monica—growing up she never had full access to her father. He was aloof and uninterested, traveling a great deal for work. But every now and again, the family would go on a vacation and she would get his undivided attention—she lived for those moments. Now in adulthood, she is attracted to aloof and noncommittal types who cannot reliably be there for her. When they blow her off by avoiding or ignoring her, Monica goes into the toxic jealousy spiral. She stalks the offender onFacebook, leaves messages accusing him of having sex with other women and on one occasion, even showed up to his place of employment and publicly yelled that he wassleeping with his coworker. She is in overdrive to somehow possess what she could not have as a child.

If you see some of yourself in this story, ask the following 3 questions as a first step toward escape from the jealousy spiral.

1. What is your attachment history? Examine how you were loved in childhood and how your needs went met and unmet. What went well and what went poorly? Was one of your caregivers in some way absent or unavailable to you?

2. What “types” are you habitually drawn to romantically? Pull off the rose-colored glasses and take a hard cold look at the people to whom you are romantically attracted. Are they honest, emotionally available, and reliable? Or, are they unpredictable, send mix messages or demonstrate an unwillingness to fully commit to you?

3. What is the “love wound” you can identify in #1 and the choices you make in #2 from above? Identify the hurt that started in childhood and now gets reactivated in your adult romantic choices.  It is important for you to be honest with your self here. If you have a history of toxic love then there is something in your background that needs to be processed and worked through. Instead of continually looking for others to heal you, consider talking with a therapist or working through it on your own.

Is Age an Issue in Online Dating?

Are people less inclined to use online dating as they get older?  Do older people think there may be a stigma attached to this method of securing a date, or are they put off by having to use a computer or Smartphone?  Do older people find the idea of using a dating site or dating app to be an unconventional method for seeking a date?

The answers to these questions may not be as straightforward as you think, so let’s start by considering two possible viewpoints.  If younger individuals judge online dating to be an additional and extensive part of their dating repertoire and view it as more acceptable than older individuals, it may be the case that engagement with online dating will decrease as people age.  On the other hand, the process of ageing may change the way people think about their lives and Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST) developed by Laura Carstensen proposes that as people age, the realisation that they are mortal becomes more apparent and they become more focused on their current rather than their longer term goals(Carstensen, 1992).  Consequently, they will cease to be concerned about the possible stigma associated with online dating and will engage with it more as they age.

In order to investigate the issue of online dating engagement and age, Stephure, Boon, MacKinnon and Deveau (2009) looked at three different issues associated with online dating and how this related to age:

  • Involvement with online dating
  • Satisfaction with other methods of meeting people
  • The stigma of online dating

One hundred and seventy five respondents who ranged in age from 18 to 64 were asked about:

Demographic Factors such as age, gender and the number of hours they spent in chat rooms, or responding to personal ads.
Online Dating Activity such as asking whether respondents had posted or responded to an online personal ad and if so whether they had met someone face-to-face as a result of this.
Offline Dating Activity, with items such as ‘how satisfied are you with the traditional means of meeting people?’
Disclosure to their social networks such as having told family or friends that they use the internet as a means of meeting people, and the reactions of their friends and family to knowing that they use the internet to meet people.

1.  Involvement

The researchers firstly found that older individuals were more likely to respond to online personal ads, and also to report that they had met someone face-to-face who they had originally met online.  Furthermore, the number of messages people reported sending increased with age, along with the time they spent involved in online dating.  Finally, they also found a very modest relationship between age and the types of relationship people reported looking for in online dating, with older individuals being more likely to report using online dating to find marital and sexual partners.  Overall, their findings suggest that not only are older adults more involved in online dating, but they are also more earnest in their endeavors.

2.  Satisfaction

Secondly, the researchers found age to be negatively related to satisfaction with face-to-face methods of meeting people, suggesting that as people age they become less satisfied with meeting people in person.  Age was also negatively related to the number of offline methods people used to meet potential dates, again suggesting that as they get older people employ fewer face-to-face methods as a means for meeting.  Furthermore, older people in this study were less likely than younger ones to say that they had met potential dates in clubs, bars or even via friends, but were more likely to say that they used newspaper ads in their dating endeavors.  All of this is explained by the fact that older individuals find it more difficult to meet people through conventional means and therefore use online dating and personal ads in order to increase the number of chances they have of finding a date.

3.  Stigma

Finally it was found that over 70% of those who took part had told their friends and family that they were using online dating, indicating that the majority of people did not feel embarrassed by using online dating.  However, there was no relationship between age and people’s decision to tell others.

Overall

The findings from this study reveal that overall, general involvement and satisfaction with online dating increases with age.  But despite this, the prevalence of older age groups using online dating is much lower than for younger people. According to Pew Internet Research in 2016, this was 12% in the age group 55-64 and 3% in the age group over 65, compared with 27% of people in the age group 18-24.  Therefore it seems that older individuals who use it tend to be satisfied, but utilize it less.  It is entirely likely that older adults may be more likely to be divorced, separated or widowed than those who are younger, and this being the case, they may be likely to be more selective in who they choose as a romantic partner, perhaps because of adverse previous experiences.  Where online dating is useful at an older age, is that it gives people the chance to eliminate those to whom they are not attracted early on, before meeting up.

7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship After 50

Whether you’ve been with the same person for 30 years or you’re finding new love half a century into your life, it’s always the right time to brush up on your relationship skills or learn new ones. Maybe things have gotten stagnant with your spouse, or maybe you’ve found that dating has changed since you last tried it.

It’s never too late to learn these seven secrets to a successful relationship after fifty.

1. Open your heart fearlessly

To be successful in a relationship, you can’t be afraid to be yourself and share yourself. Real love requires honesty. Honesty about who you are, what you believe, how you feel, and what you want. Total commitment to reality and honesty supports the integrity of a relationship. You must be open and willing to share, listen, and understand. A happy relationship and a full life require the intention to learn about your partner and yourself and to continue to grow.

2. Create emotional safety

Healthy relationships depend on both parties feeling safe with each other, trusting that you are there for each other. Your circle of trust gets more important as you get older and as you must cope with the changes and anxieties that aging involves. For emotional safety to exist, you need to feel that your partner truly hears you, sees you, and accepts you as you are and that he or she wants the best for you. And you must be this way for your partner, too.

3. Address conflict in a spirit of love

A successful relationship requires successful conflict. Approach every disagreement with your partner with the intention to listen fully and respond in a spirit of love. Instead of responding in a knee-jerk way when your partner says or does something that upsets you, examine your feelings and mindfully consider what the other person said. It may surprise you how big a gulf there can be between what you think you heard—what you feel you heard—and what your partner actually said. Listen as much or maybe more than you talk, focus on common threads rather than differences and look for a solution that pleases both of you.

4. Practice positive communication

The way you communicate with your partner is vital because what you say—and how you say it—affects how your significant other feels, and emotions drive behavior. Some key principles of positive communication:

Avoid negative language. When you use words like no and don’t, you invoke your partner’s natural resistance to being controlled. Instead, tell your partner what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Avoid criticism. Remember: Success builds success. Instead of focusing on the things you dislike about your partner, focus first on what he or she does well and connect that to the behavior you’d like to see him or her change.

Give your undivided attention. One of the biggest mistakes I see couples make is that even when they both have the best intentions and follow all the advice they’ve read online about communication (“I” statements, etc.), they’ll answer their cell phone or glance at a text message while talking to their partner. This seemingly small behavior has a big impact on how you make your partner feel. As a marriage and family therapist, the advice I give to all my patients is this: Give someone the focus they deserve.

Tell them what they mean to you. Sometimes you may start to think that your partner can read your heart and you don’t need words. Totally not true. Words are still necessary.Consciously choose to actively show appreciation—finding things to appreciate in your partner to enhance the good feelings between you.

5. Support your partner’s independence.

No matter how close you are to your significant other, you remain individuals with your own needs and interests. Spending time alone doing your own thing, shows mutual respects, not relationship strain. Advocate for your partner’s goals, and accept and support each other’s life goals.

6. Enjoy special time together.

Don’t forget to have fun together! It’s important to go on new adventures and try new things. Don’t have a typical “date night.” Instead of dinner and a movie, take a class together or go on a day trip somewhere. As you grow older and face mortality, your relationship with your significant other provides an opportunity to explore your humanity and seek a better and deeper understanding of life.

7. Build a relationship with yourself

The relationship we have with ourselves is the key to success for all the relationships we build with others. When you are happy and fulfilled independent of others, you are most attractive to the kind of healthy, happy people you want in your life.

If you’re dating for the first time in a long time, don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s the only way people will know what you want and what you’re about. If you’re celebrating your golden wedding anniversary, remember that even though it may feel you and your partner are one person, you still need to say, “I love you” and show your appreciation. Show affection. Have fun. Have sex! Love with the intensity of a teenager and thewisdom that your years on this earth have given you.

Why You Should Never Try to Change Your Behavior

It was then that I realized that I’d been scratching my right thumb on the top of the steering wheel by rubbing it vigorously backwards and forwards. As I was doing that, my extended right index finger was moving quickly in what looked like a pointing motion.

Someone’s scratching is another person’s pointing.

This is a fairly innocuous example of what can sometimes be dramatic differences between the insider’s, first-person perspective of behavior, and an observer’s, third-person perspective of behavior. Have you ever been asked “Why did you do that?” only to reply “Do what? I wasn’t doing anything.”?

We can never fully appreciate how our behavior appears to others just as others can never know the experience our behavior has for us. When I go through a stretching routine after having been on a run, I move my arms and legs in particular ways. Stretching for me, though, is creating particular feelings in my muscles. I definitely need to move my limbs to create those feelings but it’s the feelings that are important to me, not the configurations I place my body in to create those feelings.

A couple of days ago I wasn’t getting the feeling in my hip flexors that I had been able to create previously so I googled “hip flexor stretches” and found a couple of pictures of different body positions that looked like they might be suitable. Then I went through a Goldilocks routine of “too much,” “too little,” “Ah, just right” until I found a new way of creating the samefeeling of stretched hip flexors that I had previously experienced.

My description here seems to make a mockery of the title of this article because I definitely changed my behavior. Well, uh-huh. OK, sort of. What I changed, from my perspective, was the feeling I was getting in my hip flexors. It was what I wanted, not how I acted, that was crucial here. The positioning of my arms and legs was definitely affected by what I wanted but it was what I wanted that was paramount.

When you drive your car to work in the morning and then back home again in the afternoon, you’re consuming fuel and helping out with the global devouring of the world’s natural energy resources. But is that really what you’re doing from your perspective? Of course not. You’re just transporting yourself to the place you want to be. Other things are affected by that but, for the most part, you’re only aware of what it is you want.

In essence, we are want-satisfying, or goal-achieving, or state-maintaining creatures. Those times when you think you want (ah, there’s another want!) to change your behavior are usually the times when two wants are engaged in an evenly matched arm-wrestle. You really want to shed those last few pounds but you also want to go out with your friends and not draw attention to yourself. Or you really want to leave your sneaky, dishonest partner but you also want the security and companionship of a relationship. Or you know you should get out for some exercise but you really want to finish this report before the rest of the house wakes up.

It’s never behavior we need to change. We don’t even know our behavior except for the feelings, sounds, and sights it creates for us. So what does need to change when things aren’t going the way we want? Well, wants are always satisfied relative to other wants and also in particular contexts. If you want to eat pizza, you better make sure you’ve booked a table at an Italian, rather than a Vietnamese, restaurant. Taking yourself off to a Vietnamese restaurant when your pizza-want requires placating is never a happy event.

Perhaps most importantly though, if you’re not getting what you want at any point in time, first check that all of your wants are playing nicely together in the sandpit! Maybe you’re becoming increasingly irritated at this insufferably, but superficially, polite Sunday lunch you’re having with your partner’s family. Right at this moment you’d rather be anywhere else on the planet – or even off the planet. Could it be that the rage you’re keeping a lid on is the steam that’s coming out of the brawl between you wanting to support your partner but also wanting to tell her family how ashamed they should be of the way they’ve treated her all these years?

For any particular want or set of wants there are always wants in the background that are using the wants at the front of your mind to make sure the background remains calm, well-ordered, exemplary (just like in the Mary Poppins’ song). Finding out what these wants are, and focussing on them for a time, will help to restore harmony to the warring wants.

So when you’re feeling an intense “Grrr,” think about what you want, then why you want it. What do you really want? No, really!

When things need changing, it’s the wants that need attention not the behavior. Getting to know all that you want could be the most important learning you ever make.

When and What Do I Tell My New Boyfriend About My ADD?

“How do I explain my ADD to my new boyfriend?” the transfer student asks.  “At my other school,” she continues, “all my friends had something so we never really had to explain.  And when I told my best friend that I had already told Michael about my issues, Lacy said that I never should have told him so soon.”

This conversation captures the tension of self-disclosure.  My student, who I shall call Becca, preferred that her dates and her friends be aware of her disabilities from the get-go, which helped reduce her worries about when to reveal.  Her best friend Lacy, I believe, was worried that Becca’s challenges would become an early “deal-breaker” in her new romantic relationship.  However, neither Becca or Lacy were sure about what exactly to reveal, about what information was appropriate yet true to Becca’s experiences.  As a psychologist and researcher, I had to tell her, unfortunately, that there seems to be no research to support recommendations about the best time or manner to divulge one’s disability during dating.

Disclosure of cognitive and learning disabilities such as ADHD often unleashes a peculiar problem; after the disclosure, it is not unusual for people to remark – as the boyfriend, Michael, actually did –  that they, too, are “a little ADD” or “sometimes dyslexic” themselves because, for example, every once in a while they cannot concentrate or reverse their letters while spelling (an incorrect understanding of dyslexia, by the way).

Similarly, friends, relatives, and potential romantic partners will sympathize with persons with psychiatricdiagnoses, nodding their heads that they, too, occasionally feel nervous or depressed.  But my student knows enough about ADHD to know that it comprises more than occasional problems with sustained attention, that she has weaknesses in executive function that her boyfriend does not, as well as poor working memory that often baffles her when trying to carry out basic tasks of daily life, and that her comorbid diagnoses require additional treatments.

I also want to note, though I did not say this to Becca, that declaring that someone – even oneself – “is a little ADD” instead of “diagnosed with ADD” is “a grossly misleading, meat-cleaver way of reducing a person to a highly variable facet of his or her personality” (Hinshaw & Ellison, 2016, p. xxiii).

The question of the timing of disability disclosure is actually an issue about whether to confront or to dodge the stigma of disability.  I would argue that being upfront about one’s strengths and limitations is the honest way and the one that might feel least stressful in the long term.  I acknowledge its difficulty, though, because most people with disabilities state that people without disabilities typically ascribe far more importance and limitations to their disability than they do (Smart, 2011).

The stigma is especially strong if the illness is related to psychosis, such as schizophrenia, disfigurement, such as oral cancer, excretion, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or potentially transmissible, such as HIV/AIDS.

I responded to Becca’s question of how to explain ADD to her new boyfriend by suggesting that she might talk with Michael about her own lived experiences with ADD.  Also, I offered that the discussion should not be a one-time explanation but rather many conversations and even humor, lasting anywhere from seconds to hours as she and Michael spent time with each other

In some ways, disability disclosure can be like recommended sex educationbetween parent and child; all parties should feel comfortable with an “open-door” policy as issues or questions arise, even those that might be embarrassing to ask or to answer.  The important point for daters with disabilities is that they do not need to be experts on their disability; they are, however, authorities on their personal experiences and that is what is important to convey.

5 Essential Steps to Save Your Relationship

Recall those early days of your relationship when your partner could not get enough of you. He or she would call constantly, stay on the phone for hours, talk with you all night. Now time has passed, and you no longer get butterflies in your tummy when you think of your sweetheart. The spark is gone. You still have romantic feelings for him or her. But you sense that he or she no longer cares about the relationship—or at least doesn’t care as much as you do. You no longer have the upper hand.

It is natural to feel anxious and sad when this happens. Your anguish may lead you to attempt to use various mind-manipulating tactics to get the upper hand in your relationship.

Playing games to gain or regain the power in a relationship is bound to lead to the demise of the relationship, however. There are many relationships where one person holds more power than his or her other but these types of relationships tend to be extremely unhealthy. Physically or verbally abusive relationships, relationships where one partner is cheating, relationships where one partner has a lot more assets than the other (assets that are not common property) are bound to fail or lead to heartbreak and unhappiness.

If you feel your partner is pulling away, the way to go is not attempting to gain or regain the power in your relationship. Power doesn’t give you what you want. What you really want is to be loved, not to have the upper hand. You want your love to be reciprocated. You want praise, admiration, respect and love. Your negative feelings about your relationship stem from a perceived lack of those features.

How do you get all that back? How do you act in ways that can make you win back your partner’s love? Here are five things you can do to help repair your broken relationship.

1. Make up for your past sins. If you cheated on your partner, you do not have the upper hand, nor should you try to gain power on those grounds. If you cheated on your partner, you need to act genuinely apologetic and accept that your partner may not trust your or love you the way he or she used to trust you and love you. The only thing you can do in this situation (assuming you have cut the connection with the other person and have sincerely expressed your regrets to your partner) is to show how much you love your partner every single day. Assuming you don’t commit other acts of infidelities and that you are still with your partner, he or she will likely eventually return to normal and start loving and trusting you.

2. Let go a little. If you feel you lost power in your relationship, it may be because you have been too eager to spend time with your significant other or to push the relationship forward. You can’t rush things, and hopefully, your relationship is not the only passion in your life. Spend more time on your other interests (for instance, sports, hobbies, school, work). Give your partner the space he or she needs.

3. Stop playing games. Many relationship experts on the web will tell you to play power games to win back the love in your relationship, or to reignite the spark. Don’t! If you purposely ignore your partner or intentionally act cold and distant, you are playing a game. While this sort of behavior may lead to increased attention from your partner for a short while, it will not have a long-lasting effect on your relationship. If you frequently act rude or mean, ignore your your partner or act cold and distant, your partner will eventually lose interest in you,

4. Respect your partner’s wishes. It goes without saying that not all wishes should be granted. For example, your partner may wish to do a threesome, while you absolutely do not want to do that. In cases like these, you should not grant your partner’s wishes. But not granting your partner’s wishes does not imply disrespecting him or her for having the particular desires he or she has. Respect is the single most important factor in a relationship. If you lose respect for your significant other, or they lose respect for you, your relationship is doomed. To show respect for your partner, stop focusing on the negative in your relationship and comment on the positive aspects. Be generous with compliments and caring behavior. To regain respect (if you think you lost it), learn to set boundaries.

5. Set boundaries. Make fully clear to your partner what kinds of behavior you will or will not put up with. Don’t do this in the midst of a fight or while drinking alcoholic beverages. If, however, your partner acts in a way you won’t put up with or makes a hurtful remark, and you are not fighting or drinking, point out that the comment or action was hurtful and that you don’t want him or her to repeat it. Keep the volume of your voice low and use a kind tone. If your partner is a “bad drunk,” that is, if he or she becomes aggressive or hurtful when drinking, then your partner has a serious problem, which needs to be corrected. You can help correct it. But don’t bring up your concerns while your significant other is drinking and being rude. Wait until he or she is sober and calm. Then express your concern as calmly as possible.