Enhancing Your Relationship

Enhancing Your Relationship.  To become acquainted with oneself can be a terrible shock. Emotionally committed relationships bring excitement and passion into our lives, especially when they are new.  Over time, however, we come across roadblocks based on personal issues that can distance us from our partners.  When we first enter into a committed relationship, we may think that we have found the answer to life’s problems, that we have a partner to share in daily turmoil, that we will never be alone again, that it will be smooth sailing from here on out. If we base relationships on these assumptions, however, we may be sorely disappointed when our partners fail to live up to these expectations. There is a strong probability that if we look to another person to provide fulfillment, we will begin to focus on the failings of that person as the cause of our own disappointment. This pattern is the reason for a great deal of discord in committed relationships.

Many people who come in for couples counseling hope that the therapy will change their partner because they are convinced that the partner is the source of the problem.
Over time many relationships enter a stage where the partners feel distant from each other. The initial passion, sexual freedom, intimacy, and feelings of connectedness with the partner fade. Either person may begin to feel that, although they love their partner, they are no longer “in love,” feeling like roommates.  At the same time, both partners may feel that they have lost themselves in the relationship. They have given so much to the relationship in terms of their time, their energies, and their emotions that they have lost what made them feel unique as individuals. They have abandoned old friendships, hobbies, and activities that brought interest and excitement to their own lives in order to devote time and energy to the relationship. When a feeling of distance comes to define the relationship, resentment toward the partner may emerge.

How does a relationship, which may have once shown such promise, end up in a place where the two partners feel distant and may not even like each other very much (even though they feel that love is still there)? The answer lies within. Two people who come together in an emotional commitment carry with them a legacy of their own fears, anxieties, and unresolved problems. It is sometimes uncomfortable for us to come to terms with our own baggage. It is, in fact, so troublesome that we are unable to look within ourselves. When that happens, we tend to attribute the problem to our partners, a process called projection. Rather than accepting the fact that our partners are just being themselves and probably have the best of intentions, we define the source of our own anxiety as lying within the other person. When we feel uncomfortable about something our partners say or do, we may not realize that our discomfort may derive from a source that we have not examined within ourselves like our own control issues, our jealousy, our insecurity, or our fear of dependence or independence.
Our partners may simply be triggering our own unresolved difficulties. The clue is to search within our own lives to see why we have difficulty with these issues.  And this is no small task. To become acquainted with oneself is indeed a terrible shock.
For more information on the topic please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

1st Step In Saving A Marriage

1st Step In Saving A Marriage.  Family pathology rolls from generation to generation like a fire in the woods taking everything down its path until one person has the courage to turn and face the flames. That person brings peace to its ancestors and spares the children that follow. – Terry Real
There’s a way of immediately improving your relationship that passes down to your next generation. It takes awareness of one aspect of your relationship: patterns.
Here’s what I mean. A pattern is a combination of qualities, acts, or tendencies that form a predictable sequence of outcomes in your marriage. The outcomes can be positive or negative.
First, start by becoming aware of recurring actions and reactions.
Here is what a negative pattern would look like.
Jane gets ignored by Jim.
Jane feels hurt and unimportant when ignored by Jim.
Jane reacts by snipping and getting critical of Jim.
Jim reacts by snipping back, getting defensive and then emotionally disengaging (shuts down) from Jane.
Jane feels ignored even more by Jim. Jane grumbles to friends and the friends are supportive of Jane. Janes stops snipping and emotionally withdraws from Jim.
Jim is glad Jane stops snipping. But is puzzled why Jane is distant. All they talk about are kids, work and responsibilities to manage their complex lives. The discussions are important but both partners end up feeling emotionally shallow.
Neither takes an emotional risk to say what they feel and miss.
Wash, rinse, repeat for twenty two years. Kids leave home. Jane and Jim feel like they are strangers or roommates.
And they are.
What can break this pattern?
It starts with awareness.
Here’s what I mean. They each think, “When I feel X what do I do about it? Do I take the risk and speak up directly? Or do I communicate what I feel indirectly? When I communicate indirectly (for example, by snipping), what is the response I get (defensiveness)? When I get a defensive response from my partner, how do I respond (withdrawal after snipping back)?”
And then, “What happens when I stop snipping and withdraw?”
“Oh, we are civil but have no emotional connection.”
Now comes the big question. “Do I choose to break MY pattern?
Basically it is very difficult to break old patterns and sustain new ones when there is no awareness about them.
Being aware is a crucial first step. The vast majority of couples in my practice have total clarity about what their partner does that is dysfunctional. But they have little awareness of the impact of their own dysfunctionality on their partner. They simply keep repeating the dysfunctional pattern and hoping the partner gets the message and responds with new and improved response.
So here is a three step approach to a better relationship.
  1. Be aware of what you both do that keeps getting repeated in a negative way.
  2. Decide you want to break your part of the cycle.
  3. Tell your partner what you have observed and what you are going to do differently and why you are going to do it. Your motivation is going to be for one reason only, which will keep you out of a trap. You are going to be motivated by the desire to become a better person when faced with adversity. You are going to become bigger than the problem instead of the problem being bigger than you are. You are going to do it because you will feel better about yourself and not criticize your partner if they don’t immediately jump on your bandwagon of change.

In Couples Counseling this is the first and most effective step to creating a better version of you and a healthier relationship.  In addition, I hear parents say they love their children very much. Yet they continue to exercise unhealthy behavior. We are what we lived.  Unhealthy childhood patterns don’t discriminate. I provide Individual, Couples and Family Counseling in San Diego and its neighboring communities. Please call me at (858) 735-1139 if you would like help with your relationship.  I offer in-person, telephone or internet counseling.

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction. Addictions come in many forms. There is alcohol addiction, drug addiction, eating disorders with food addictions, even addiction to healthy things like exercising. What can be troubling is when a once healthy relationship turns into a toxic one. Relationships are wonderful until you start to put boundaries in place to take care of your needs oppose to others. A healthy partner will respect those boundaries and your need for self-care. An unhealthy partner with unresolved personal issues can take this as a bad thing. Some individuals continue to accept bad behavior and before you know it you’ve become addicted to the vicious cycle of something that is not good for you.
Symptoms of Relationship Addiction
Symptoms of Relationship Addiction:
  • Premature Bonding
    Relationship addicts have an overwhelming need to bond with someone. This goes beyond a healthy need to connect with others. Unfortunately, this need to form an instant attachment tends to overwhelm other people and pushes them away. And it leads to poor decisions about whom to let into one’s life.
  • Excessive Fantasies
  • Throughout the course of the relationship, the addict spends a great deal of time thinking about the other person and how perfect things will be. Even after the relationship has ended, the fantasies about getting together again may continue. Of course, a healthy love relationship also involves fantasies, but addictive fantasies have an obsessive quality about them. These fantasies tend to take over one’s day. The need to fantasize takes precedence over socializing with others, work, taking care of normal daily routines – and they tend to become dreams or expectations that must come true.
  • The Need for Excitement
    Addicts in general crave getting “high.” Relationship addicts base their ideas about a relationship on romance, and this involves creating drama. They might pick fights just to experience a rush of excitement. An ordinary argument becomes a war. They see reality in terms of their own needs, so they easily read between the lines (“No matter what she says, I know she really loves me”). A love addict fails to understand that a normal relationship involves a series of highs and lows – in real life, lows do not mean that the love has ended. They see an ordinary relationship as boring because it lacks a sense of constant excitement.
  • Symptoms of Relationship Addiction
  • Exaggerated Anxiety and Jealousy about the Relationship
    Relationship addicts typically have fears left over from earlier experiences in their lives when they have been neglected, rejected, or abandoned. Their greatest fear in adulthood is feeling lonely because this reminds them of their earlier negative experiences – and they never want to endure that again. They need to feel attached and find it difficult to live independently. So, in their relationships they tend to look constantly for signs that things are not going well. They become possessive of their partner, experiencing anxiety when the partner is not present and frequently accusing or nagging the partner.
  • Ineffective Expression of Emotions
    The relationship addict, because of difficult earlier life experiences, is confused and overwhelmed by emotions. For example, she/he might feel that anger leads to rejection or abandonment, so she/he doesn’t express anger and instead holds in all emotional expression – and when someone expresses anger to the relationship addict, she/he is unable to tolerate it. She might harbor painful feelings that seem unrelated to present circumstances. She/he may become stoic (relationship addicts have a great tolerance for suffering and endure substantial pain rather than face the prospect of a breakup of the relationship). Because she/he suppresses her normal, flexible emotional expression, she/he may revert to polarized expression of feelings (“all or nothing”) – for example, love or hate (but nothing in between), vigilance or complacency, fear or courage.
  • Loose Personal Boundaries
    Because many relationship addicts have issues with self-esteem, they have weak personal boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality and become enmeshed with their partner. They don’t know where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels happy, they feel happy. If their partner feels sad, they feel sad. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way, that is what they become. They have difficulty saying “no.” Unfortunately, this sets the stage for being treated with disrespect. Addictive relationships show a lack of equality between the two partners.

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

The healthy love relationship can be viewed in terms of two independent people who come together and make a commitment to each other. They each have the freedom to live as they choose within the boundaries of the commitment, and they are loved by their partner for showing integrity in how they live. Their partner encourages them to follow the beat of their own drum. The commitment enhances each partner’s ability to experience a full life – with love, security, and support.

If you believe you or someone you know can relate to any of the above symptoms it would be good to seek the help of a counselor or therapist who can make an assessment to determine whether or not there could be a relationship addiction in the making.
I work with individuals and couples in San Diego and its neighboring communities.  I also provide telephone and internet counseling so please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

The Dumpers and The Dumpees

The Dumpers and The Dumpees. A breakup seems easiest for couples who decide mutually to end the relationship. In most cases, however, as suggested by Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti, in their book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, a breakup involves a dumper, the party who takes the initiative to end the relationship, and a dumpee, the one who wants the relationship to continue.  Sometimes, when one analyzes the nature of the relationship, it may be difficult to decide just who is the dumper and the dumpee. In general, however, the dumper is the one who says it is all over, and the dumpee is the one in shock who begs the other not to leave. Dumpees often say they were taken completely by surprise by their partner’s announcement.

The Dumpers and The Dumpees

The breakup experience is often very different for each of the two parties. The dumper usually began preparing for the end well before the final announcement, and the actual parting often comes as a relief for the dumper. The primary emotion experienced by the dumper is guilt. The dumpee, on the other hand, is usually hit by surprise and with a great deal of pain. The turmoil of the breakup itself is usually much more intense for the dumpee, but it is this pain that can motivate more personal growth. The main task of the dumpee is to work through feelings of rejection. Both parties usually experience a great deal of pain as their relationship comes to an end, although the pain of guilt is different from the pain of rejection. For a healthy adjustment, it is important to recognize which role has been assumed, dumper or dumpee, and to work on the issues appropriate to that role.
The Dumpers and The Dumpees

How Long Do I Wait Until I Get Into Another Relationship? Expect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again. For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality, this is a wonderful and precious opportunity to find out who you are as an unattached individual. A word of warning is in order – don’t expect to involve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You must deal with important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end.

Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be painful – and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain.  If you enter the dating scene too quickly and before you have a chance to explore the issues which led to your breakup, the other person becomes a replacement object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will probably carry into this replacement relationship the same issues that helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship – and similar events may very well happen again. Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened. When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should involve yourself in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready. I help individuals and couples who have broken up, with this process in therapy.

The Dumpers and The Dumpees

If you would like to know more about working on personal issues as they do effect relationship issues, please call me at (858) 735-1139 and I can help you sort out what you need to know about what is contributing to your relationship.

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