Sunday, December 18, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #87-"I Love You but I am not in Love"-Part 1

One of the phrases i often hear in my office from one of the partners who have come for marital help is "I love you but i am not in love with you". Understandably, this is a very distressing experience for both members of a couple. There is fear that the feeling of "being in love" will never return and this means that the relationship is over. It is often puzzling as to how this happened. It is also confusing as to what can be done to restore the feelings of love and sexual attraction that bring most couples together.

While relationships are complex and there do not appear to be simple answers to the challenge of partnering in this day and age, i believe that this phenomena is most easily explained by understanding how we protect ourselves from feelings of hurt and woundedness that take place on a daily basis: our partner disappoints us; forgets a request; does not understand what we are saying; acts rejecting; is insensitive to our needs; acts in ways we experiece as selfish; calls us derogatory names; is impatient; speaks in a patronizing manner; rejects our requests for affection or sexual intimacy, to name just a few.

Naturally, any of the above at the very least sting and sometimes are experienced as a deep wound in our heart or psyche. If there are many acts of love or tenderness to counterbalance the inevitable hurts that take place, we recover, repair and reconcile. If the pain becomes too frequent, we become cautious around our partner, lose trust in their good will, love and caring for us and begin to see them as "the enemy". In order to protect ourselves, we begin to close our heart and mind to our partner. While this does indeed miminmize the hurt that we experience, it does not allow any love that is coming our way to be felt and also does not allow any love we feel in our hearts to be expressed.

Thus we may have a place in our mind of connectedness from earlier days in the relationship that we remember and ways in which our partner still is helpful which allow us to say we love our partner, but we are now cut off from our own feelings of tenderness and vulnerability and we become isolated in our relationship.

Next Week-What can be done to re-awaken our "feelings of love".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #86-The Conversation-the challenge of gender

In order to help facilitate "The Couple's Conversation", i am listing below some of the gender differences that contribute to making this process more challenging. Of course, not all men and women are alike and there are always exceptions to prove the rule; however, most of the elements listed below will be recognized by most couples.

1) Women are more comfortable having longer conversations which makes it frustrating for them when men want to end the discussion prematurely.

2) Men have less interest in many of the details that women want to share and want to get to the point or solve the problem.

3) Since men are not as comfortable with "our relationship" talks as women, they will often avoid or put off the discussions which feels very uncaring and unloving to women.

4) Men will respond more quickly with anger when hurt or cornered which makes it difficult for women to not become fearful.

5) Women will often respond with hurt and tears to conflict or accusations which cause men to shut down and withdraw as they are uncomfortable with sadness and feel guilty for causing their partner's pain.

6) It generally takes men longer to calm themselves down when their anger is activated making relationship repair more difficult for women as they usually want to re-establish the connection more quickly.

7) Men will focus on logic and women will zero in on emotion which leads both to feel frustrated when trying to have what each considers a resonable conversation.

Obviously, these differences have been present for a long time and will not likley disappear in the near future.

So what can you do?

I believe the simple recognition of these differences by each partner can help to minimize taking certain gender communication styles personally. Keeping these differences in the back of your mind will also allow you to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and utilize softer and more caring approaches when holding "The Conversation".

Next Week: Individuation