Foundation of A Lasting Relationship

Most of us want a fulfilling lifelong partnership with someone to love and be loved by. Those that say they don’t want this have usually been seriously wounded in their important relationships. They are protecting themselves, but underneath their defenses they too long for love.   Old Couple

To be lifelong and fulfilling, a relationship must be healthy. Both persons in the relationship must be fully committed and take responsibility for themselves and the relationship. It requires effort to stay conscious and emotionally present. It takes skill to handle our insecurities without distancing our partner- initiating conflict, escaping in work, kids, friends, family, alcohol, TV, etc.- or drive them away by clinging too tight.

As we grow into adulthood our capability to function effectively in a relationship is developed and challenged. When we graduate college we do not have all the skills to succeed on a job, and when we leave our family of origin we do not have all the skills to succeed in a relationship. We must strive for self-awareness and learn the intimacy skills needed to sustain and grow a life partnership.

The following are 5 Elements of a Great Relationship:

Being Fully Committed: Fulfilling relationships can be hard work (and mostly self-work). Intimacy can be scary, raising fears of suffocation, rejection, engulfment, and abandonment. Intimacy touches our upper limits of how happy and secure we can allow ourselves to be before fear of failure or success causes us to unconsciously sabotage ourselves. A healthy, fulfilling relationship starts with commitment. True intimacy, defined as being fully emotionally present and available for each other, is only possible in this context. Our fears and defenses create the temptation to cling or seek distance. Commitment means choosing to take responsibility, handling our fears, and working to be present and emotionally available in our relationship.

Accepting Personal Responsibility: A child holds the world and the people around him or her responsible for meeting his or her needs. A child’s “experience” (internal state-mainly thoughts and feelings) and behavior are reactive to the world. Typically a young child’s reaction to being hungry is “My stomach is empty and I need you to feed me now!” The responsibility is put on the parent for the unmet need, and a demand is made to meet it. A child does not have the skills, resources, or personal power to take responsibility for his or her own needs, and then take care of them. A baby learns that crying will get his or her needs met; as language develops, speech is used to get needs met. How needs get met at these stages lays the groundwork for the future.As a healthy person develops he or she learns to take responsibility for his or her own needs, and cooperates with others in getting mutual needs met by communicating effectively and being pro-active. This can be called “Mutuality”. People who do not practice mutuality continue to hold others responsible for their needs, often blaming others for their unmet needs and expecting others to take care of them, often responding in anger when others do not see things their way.

There are no victims in the healthy adult world; you are in charge of your life and are in this relationship by choice, nobody made the choice for you. Accept your partner as he or she is. Assume he or she can not and will not change for you. Be responsible for identifying your needs and cooperating with your partner in getting them met. Your partner is not in the relationship to take care of you; his or her role is to be responsive to your needs, your role is to be responsive to his or hers.

Your partner can not make you “happy.” You can not make your partner “happy.” But you join forces and make happiness possible for each other by being emotionally and physically responsive, and by each of you taking full responsibility for creating your own outcomes.

Taking Care of Yourself: You can best take care of yourself by being responsible for getting your own needs met. In addition, you are not taking good care of your partner if you enable him or her to not take care of himself or herself. You can practice mutuality by asking your partner to cooperate in meeting your needs, you by responding cooperatively when your partner asks you. Taking care of yourself means not mindreading your partner or anticipating his or her needs, and not expecting your partner to mindread or anticipate your needs. Do not try make Life “OK” for anyone but yourself, and do not expect anyone to make Life “OK” for you. Realize only you can make yourself happy. In addition, take care of yourself means making it a priority to maintain a balance in your life between your own needs, and the needs of your partner, children, employer, etc.

Telling Your Truth: Communicate your issues, wants, needs, feelings, and boundaries honestly and directly. Do not avoid conflict to protect yourself or your partner’s feelings. It must be OK, indeed it is necessary for you to have issues, needs, boundaries, feelings, and you must tell the truth about them. Communicate your truth firmly, lovingly, pro-actively, effectively. Communicate your truth responsibly so that it neither offends nor results in an unproductive conflict.

Doing Your Work: A healthy, fulfilling relationship is mostly self-work. Continously strive to live consciously, push beyond your upper limit, refine your relationship skills, heal your emotional issues, control your knee-jerk reactions and projections, let go of your need to be in control, heal the past, let go of your parents, bring down defenses, handle fears, and increase your capacity for unconditional love.

Following the 5 Elements of a Great Relationship:

Being Fully Committed,
Taking Personal Responsibility,
Taking Care of Yourself,
Telling Your Truth, and
Doing Your Work

…will allow you to experience the love, happiness, joy, and quality of life that you deserve, and is worth your best effort! – David Steele

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Does this sound like Marriage to you?

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Time to take a Good look at your marriage

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“Put Up Your Dukes”

It’s not HOW OFTEN but HOW you fight
fighting

Clients sometimes ask me how often it is OK to fight in their relationship. What is normal? This question can come from someone who rarely fights with their partner – or someone who fights often and loudly.

I believe some conflict is inevitable between partners – unless one partner consistently acquiesces to the other — which I don’t recommend! However according to John Gottman, a leading relationship expert, the problem isn’t so much IF you argue, it’s HOW you argue.

In his excellent book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman points out that couples have many different styles of conflict resolution – the key is whether or not the style works for both people.

Characteristics that lead to divorce

For many years, Dr. Gottman has been studying the behavior of married couples in his “Love Lab” – an apartment in Seattle that is outfitted with cameras and recording equipment. Couples are invited to stay in this apartment and their daily interactions are filmed and then studied. (And no, they don’t film in the bedroom.)

Here’s what I found amazing! From watching and listening to a couple argue for as little as 5 minutes, Gottman can predict (with 91% accuracy in three studies) whether or not that couple will split up.

His predictions are based on the information he has gathered over many years of observing and analyzing how couples interact – and then following which couples stay together and which couples divorce. Gottman doesn’t claim to be psychic – rather he says he has learned (through observation) the key ingredients in the marriages that last and in those that fail.

Gottman goes on to identify characteristic ways that couples argue, which are most likely to lead to divorce. These include such things as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stone-walling (refusing to engage). All four have a corrosive effect on a relationship. However the very first sign that a conversation has gotten off on the wrong foot can be found in what Gottman calls a “harsh start-up.”

Getting off on the wrong foot

The harsh start-up refers to the manner in which you initiate a conversation with your partner about something that concerns or bothers you. Embedded in a harsh start-up is a criticism or negative judgement.

Let’s take this common example: Your partner frequently leaves his/her dirty clothes on the bathroom floor after showering. You are tired of picking up after him/her and you’ve decided it’s time to say something. Imagine the reaction if you start the conversation with this harsh start-up:

“You’re such a slob! I’m sick of you never picking up your dirty clothes!”

Can you visualize how negatively your partner might respond to such an opener? Now imagine if you started the conversation in a more emotionally neutral way:

“Honey, I’d like to talk about these dirty clothes on the floor.”

In this second instance, the ensuing conversation would be much more likely to end well.

Here’s another example of a harsh-start-up, after one partner has been kept waiting by another:

“You’re always so inconsiderate – I’ve been waiting here for over an hour!”

In contrast, a less provocative opener might be:

“I’m exhausted with waiting… What happened?”

If one partner starts off a conversation with accusations and blame, the other partner is likely to react in kind — and the argument is off and running. A positive resolution is unlikely to be found to any argument begun harshly. (And just in case you think it’s all about the words, think again! A critical tone can turn the most innocent sounding words into an blaming accusation.)

How to avoid the “harsh start-up”

If you have a tendency to start conversations in a harsh manner, the following strategies will help:

1. Cool off before you speak.

Harsh start-up’s are most likely to occur in the heat of the moment, when your partner’s behavior has triggered sudden, strong emotions in you, such as anger, hurt or fear. This is the time to take a deep breath and step back from the situation. If you can’t respond in a reasonable manner, then refrain until you can. In the meantime — breathe. That will help your heart rate return to normal.

You may need time to identify your feelings and exactly what you are upset about. Not everything needs to be resolved the moment it occurs. Sometimes it can be most helpful to take some time to cool down and identify what you’re feeling, before you speak.

2. Stick to “I” statements.

If you simply must say something, then stick to statements about yourself. For example:

“I’m feeling really upset!”
“Oooh, I’m so frustrated.”
“Ouch, that hurts.”

When something happens to upset you, it is easy to blame the other person for your upset. It is also tempting to ascribe to the other person an intention to do you harm.

Casting aspersions on the character or intent of your partner will escalate the situation and invite a defensive response. Sticking to “I” statements will give your emotions a name (thereby relieving them) and prevent you from devolving into name-calling and accusations.

3. Translate your complaint into a request.

This is the most effective strategy and most likely to bring favorable results. Rather than criticize or complain about the situation, simply make a request. Don’t assume that your partner knows what bothers you – and don’t punish him/her for breaking a promise which they may never have made.

Returning to our original example, you might simply ask your partner: “Honey, could you put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket after you shower?” You might be amazed at how well a direct request, minus recriminations, can actually work!

Try a kinder, gentler approach

Raise your awareness regarding HOW you initiate conversations when you have an issue or concern. By avoiding a harsh start-up, you will give the conversation a “fighting chance” of resolving well.

Invitation to action

Observe your own tendencies to use criticism or sarcasm, when you have an issue with your partner (or your child or your co-worker). Pick one of the strategies above and try it the next time you have a “beef” with someone. Notice if you get a more receptive response when you refrain from using a harsh start-up.

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The Man is Responsible For…

One of the most vibrant feelings in the world is feeling loved and appreciated by a significant other –which is enough for some people. However, there are always other needs to be taken into consideration. Your first decision should be to decide the greatest priority: being loved and adored by someone who appears to be well suited for you or feeling financially secure as you grow older, an unfortunate concern given today’s economy.

Consider two things: Suppose your beloved had all the money you’d ever need, but the love and the trust were not there. What feelings would you have for him then?

Secondly, try to understand that looking outside one’s self for provision, emotionally or materially, causes you to rely on outside influences for happiness. In relationships — partnerships — there is a joining which allows mutual give and take and connectedness for the betterment of both parties. Only you can decide what is most important.

We have certain basic needs that need to be met in order for us to function. We need food, clothing and shelter. Physical safety as well as financial security are important to our well-being. Once these needs are met the next area we need met is for love and a sense of belonging which is met through our friendships, community, family, and intimacy.
Our need for love and acceptance can often overcome the physical and security needs. Love and security are non-negotiable — never compromised. The man you are considering to spend the rest of your life with should know the importance of these needs if you’re looking for smooth sailing in your relationship.

It is a common expectation for the “man” to be the provider, but such is not always the case. In the past, this expectation even prevented women from being with the man of her heart’s choice. If your love for each other is strong, accept that it is important for you to have a relationship that is built on love first. How would you feel about changing your perspective from financial dependence to financial interdependence?

What is possible if you would seize this opportunity to step into your own power? Unless the man is financially dependent on the woman, or if the woman is incapacitated in one form or another, the two should explore together how they can improve their financial situation, instead of allowing this issue to drive them apart. Who knows what creative solutions two minds can find when joining forces!

Instead of focusing on a limiting belief that there is “not enough,” support each other in being at your fullest potential and attract the finances you need! Sometimes we get so caught up worrying about the future, we forget to enjoy what we have right now, right here, in front of us. We all have the need to feel secure, but that need that keeps bringing you back to the other person, is obviously very special and is just as much of a need.

As women, we are taught to look towards men to “take care of us.” Men, on the other hand, basically have to sell their souls to be the provider, and some of them have chosen to follow their passion instead. At the same time, love is not enough for a long term relationship. Money is important. How important you make it, whether it supersedes love and trust, is up to you.

He may never make enough to meet your financial security needs. That is something that is a very real possibility in this economy. If that’s the case, and you do not see yourself sharing the financial responsibility, lovemoney ask yourself, “If this is what it will be forever, can I love and accept him as he is, or will I always want something else?”

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Help! I attract the wrong sort of people

Congratulations! You have jumped back into the dating pool. Doing so takes guts and vision and a joyful, optimistic heart. In fact, your optimistic confidence that you will find Mr. or Ms. Right is totally justified. But maybe you are losing that optimistic outlook because you notice a recurring theme – as you attempt to enter serious relationships, you find that they all seem to go down the same rabbit hole.  Image

For instance, do you seem to be attracted to emotionally needy people who demand so much of your attention that you lose sight of yourself? Or do you repeatedly become involved with emotionally unavailable people who shut you out no matter what you do? These and other repeated scenarios inevitably result in your unhappiness and eventually a break up. You wonder, “Why does this keep happening?” It’s always the same game, just a different player.

The answer: you’re attracting the wrong type of person through a familiar habit. That habit was likely formed because it confirmed something you believe about yourself.

Maybe you are a rescuer. You think you can save someone, or help him or her in some way. Your nurturing personality fits perfectly with the lost puppy syndrome. If every person you are drawn to becomes a project a habit is formed. You become the “only one who can save him or her.”

Or, if you keep finding yourself linked to someone who is emotionally distant, and you feel inadequate as a result, how do you behave? You no doubt do anything in your power to get that person to respond to you, to care for you or show the caring you know is there deep down. Here, too, your needs are not being met. But your belief in yourself as unlovable or undeserving may be confirmed in such a relationship, without your even knowing that is what’s happening.

First of all, realize that it is not okay for your needs and desires to be shelved. Realizing that this is what has been happening and recognizing the recurring themes in your love life are huge steps to getting you back on the path to finding true love.

Changing your beliefs about yourself and thus your relationship habits is not necessarily easy to do, but it can be done! There are steps you can take to empower yourself as you reframe your relationship strategies, beliefs and, finally, outcomes. Below are some strategies for getting off that merry-go-round.

Develop self-awareness. Know who you are and be that authentic self. I don’t mean to sound glib. We are all on a path of self-awareness. Perhaps you do know yourself but have not been paying attention. Maybe you are too busy focusing on the other people in your life! Time to focus on you.

So sit down with yourself and outline what is important to you:

Identify your core values. Your values, whether conscious or unconscious, determine the decisions you make. You have values for all aspects of your life-family, health, career, and relationships. When you live your life aligned with your core values you will feel on track and fulfill one of your highest needs: for your life to have meaning. Write your values down in order of importance. Doing so will help you understand your priorities and recognize a partner who shares those key values.

Identify your limiting beliefs about yourself and decide not to accept them anymore. For instance, if you believe you have to be the caretaker, and never nurtured in return, know that about yourself so you can release that belief and find a life partner who aligns with a new belief that you are worthy of attention and love.

Be your authentic self. If you are able to identify your core values and limiting beliefs, you’ve taken the first step towards being your authentic self. Embrace your core values and overcome your limiting beliefs and voila! You will find that you are attracting like-minded people and automatically deterring those who do not belong in your life. You will have created space for the right person to show up.

Knowing what makes you “you” will help you recognize when you are acting to maintain a relationship in a way that goes against your grain. That self-knowledge will warn you when you act in opposition of your core values. It will also alert you when you are reacting according to limiting beliefs. When you notice either of these things happening, stop and remind yourself of your end goal a committed long term relationship that supports, enriches and warms you- and act accordingly.

Identify your needs in a relationship. First of all, not only is it okay to have needs, it is normal, and thus vital that they be recognized and acknowledged in order for you to be happy in love! You may have needs for affection, openness, communication, consideration, commitment, and trust, to name a few. Think of a time when one of your needs wasn’t met in a relationship. Did you feel hurt, angry, frustrated, unappreciated or something similar? Being aware of your needs and that they are legitimate will help you to know when they are not being met. Awareness will help you quickly recognize when and if you are slipping into your old familiar pattern of not caring for your own needs first. Changing the automatic response patterns you’ve developed over the years requires mental intervention and physical action.

Know your relationship requirements and settle for nothing less. Those non-negotiable, black or white deal breakers. Perhaps you fooled yourself into thinking there is a limited number of possible partners, and that you have to take what you can get or be alone. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is a limiting belief and a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you expect less, you get less. So define what you want. The whole package. Figure that out and then persevere. Trust that if you apply yourself you can get what you really want in your life. Remember, you must be able to say NO to what you DON’T want, to be able to say YES to what you DO want. Be aware. Don’t let limiting beliefs keep you from your relationship requirements. You have the power to choose who, what, where, when and how, and get the relationship you really want.

Develop a dating strategy and act upon it. Set your dating GPS to get to the relationship you deserve, and then follow the steps until you arrive safely. When you catch yourself veering off course and falling into your old familiar patterns, recalculate and get back on track. Going against the innate response of a learned pattern will feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first because it’s been well practiced and is all too familiar. Do it anyway. You can consciously decide to break that nasty habit.

Getting off the merry-go-round of failed relationships with the wrong people takes some reframing, some stubbornness and a strong belief that you can find the right person. And you can. That much I know for sure!

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My Helpmate, My Companion

We date to find a helpmate in life and choose to marry.  We start with mutual affection for each other and we enjoy the blindness of first love and intense attraction. Once it peels from our eyes we begin to notice the irritables and unpleasantries of coexisting within an intimate environment, whether married or not.

Keeping our relationship strong is so simple. Ever read “All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? There is a reason we are constantly told to return to the basics. You cannot accomplish anything without understanding and, here’s the kicker, remembering the basics. Here is your refresher course on relationships 101. Take notes and keep them handy.

Have a clear idea of your individual expectations.  Understand that this must be accomplished BEFORE marriage. Lasting relationships need stronger foundations or there is nothing to kindle when the physical quiets. It is true opposites attract, but only when a few common interests, comfortable companionship, as well as physical drives are present. Once the drive cools, the interests and companionship remain to deepen into a lasting love. 

Don’t let disagreement fester. There is the oft used phrase of “never go to bed angry” that we tend to view more as an old wives tale. Bring it back into the present where it belongs and leave it there to remind you to let go of your grudges.

Forgive freely and, yes, forget. Forgetting is as important as forgiving. Resurrecting old wounds are as swift a death as a bullet to the heart of your relationship.

Treat your partner with the utmost respect. Respect is essential in any relationship whether intimate, work related, or familial. Without respect there is no love, no joy, and lets not forget how quickly the physical attraction turns to disgust.

Build trust in your partner and be trustworthy. Allow yourself to trust your partner to keep your skeletons secret and safe. Trust them to love you without restraint and thoughts of other possibilities. Be trusted to speak of your partner with kindness and love. Be trusted to refrain from gossiping of shortcomings.

Don’t keep secrets. Partnerships with trust will be honest in all matters. What once may have begun as an innocent omission will quickly become deceit.

Talk about your wants and needs within the relationship. Men often complain of women expecting their partners to know them so well they magically and instantly are aware and understanding. So many men hide their emotions with misguided thoughts that sharing is not masculine. If you can’t open your mouth and say what needs to be said it will never be known to the other and your relationship will start to tear.

Don’t stop dating just because you are married or live together. Dating is not a process of elimination. It is supposed to be fun. If you aren’t having fun you will find yourself looking for it elsewhere. In the same breath, don’t stop being romantic. Just because the physical quiets does not mean it should disappear. Cheating happens when “couple” becomes nothing more than “roommates”.

Never take your partner for granted. They won’t always be there. They won’t always feel the same for you if you ignore them. They won’t always have the same capabilities or desires. Start every day with the understanding that your relationship could deepen or crumble and spend everyday exercising the little things that feed your love.love

 

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