Monthly Archives: May 2016

The reason you should tell everything on your partner

There are a number of components involved in co-creating a highly successful partnership, not the least of which is tobecome consistently emotionally intimate. The process always begins with the self: When we periodically step out of our busy lives to take a reflective pause and see what is occurring in our body, mind, and emotions, we can find the words to describe our feelings and needs. Once we have told ourselves the truth, then we are challenged to dare to risk revealing whatever is there to our partner.

Communicating fully and openly, without withholding, is a key to successful relationships. And yet, many people operate from a commitment to conceal that which they fear could reflect negatively on them. As a result, they tend to be discriminating about what they chose to share about themselves and what they chose to withhold, even with the people with whom they are closest. This practice of concealment can foster feelings of mistrust, inhibit spontaneity, and diminish feelings of intimacy.

So many of us have had negative experiences revealing our feelings and needs. We have been shamed and blamed for feeling the way we do. Those of us who attempted to be authentic were sometime ridiculed for being overly sensitive, making a mountain out of a molehill, or being too needy. We got the message early that it was dangerous to show our tender underbelly. We might be judged and criticized, even humiliated. Many of us have spent our lives studying how to conceal, repress, and close off, thereby arriving at a level of mastery in disguising our true self. It can be a revolutionary thought to reverse this process and dare to try living another way.

Couples with strong, vital relationships use candor characterized by forthrightness or frankness. Candor is truth-telling with tact and reserve. Such couples are generally more committed to revealing all aspects of themselves, including those that may not reflect favorably upon them. They are more committed to authentically sharing themselves than to protecting their image and manipulating another’s impressions. The commitment to reveal is really about authenticity. For people committed to being authentic, self-expression shows up in all relationships, not just those with their romantic partners.

Such a commitment to authenticity promotes a kind of transparency that creates deeply meaningful and fulfilling personal connections. Those of us who trust each other to be accepting and nonjudging feel secure in revealing our feelings and experiences on an ongoing basis. Trust is earned out of a long history of acceptance. By practicing revealing, without being met with judgment, we accumulate evidence that we can be ourselves. The ability to accept another person nonjudgmentally is linked to self-acceptance, and such self-acceptance is a circular process that allows us to be accepting of each other.

People can get nervous when they consider the idea of being more self-revelatory, but they may be intrigued, too. On the one hand, they sense that there is enormous possibility that someone will finally accept them “as is.” They are delighted with the thought of a lover or a friend saying “I love you.” They may imagine resting into that love and the peace of mind that would come with it, without wondering whether they would be loved if the other person knew their whole story. On the other hand, dread and trepidation can surface when their recollections of past painful experiences start showing up.

Learned About Living From Someone Dying

I don’t want to die.

As far as I know, thankfully, I’m not dying.

But if we are being honest with one another, I am not all that comfortable thinking about my death. Imminent or otherwise.

But the fact of the matter is whether sudden or prolonged, we are all dancing our own path to the waterfall. We all eventually die.

I love my life. I love what it was. I love what it has become. I love what it is.

I also love thinking about what is to come.

What’s the next ocean to cross? What’s the next prose to read? What’s the next nuance to discover? What’s the next shadow to outwit? What’s the next concept to learn?

There are many questions I like to ask, like these.

Disentangling tomorrow is what I do.

It’s what I have always done.

I love today. I love each day.

But I am also hardwired to think about the day after today. Tomorrow is not just another day. It is the day of infinite possibility. Of perpetual positivism. What’s wrong can be righted. What’s problematic can be solved. What’s missing can be found. What’s learned can be unlearned.

Ultimately, today is thinking fodder for tomorrow. And I love tomorrow.

But if I know that my tomorrows are time limited, how should I act? Interact? React? If I know that my death is imminent due to a health-related diagnosis, how should I be?

What’s the plan, man?

Him? Here? Now?

No.

This is what you have taught me Gord Downie, poet and lead singer of the Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock band.

It’s the lesson of the grand bounce.

When Downie announced on May 24 he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a type of terminal brain cancer, the entire country of Canada collectively gasped.

“Gord Downie? How could that be?”

But through his perseverance, Downie taught me (and thousands of others) an important lesson.

Whilst our tomorrows may physically cease one day due to a pending health-related death, it will continue for others. I have three children. Better half. Family. Friends. Loyal readers. Maybe there are more.

How I hold my head today—despite the inevitability of tomorrow ending—will be how I am remembered. To act in any less a manner would be selfish. Frankly it might even be wrong.

I have watched, listened and embraced Downie and the Tragically Hip from afar for a quarter of a century. How’d it get this late so early? But the way in which he has handled a recently completed 30-day tour across Canada has nothing on that period. Seven months ago Downie was told he had terminal cancer. Four months ago he had a craniotomy. One month ago he went on tour, performing a two-and-a-half hour concert every other night, fifteen different times.

Some say it’s courage. Of course it’s courageous.

But it’s more than courage.

During those concerts (where I attended several, including the last one in Kingston, Ontario) I came to realize Downie was defining his tomorrow, today.

This is what I learned.

Whether for his family, band mates, friends or fans, Downie has indeed become “involved in a life that passes understanding,” imploring each of us to remember that “our highest business is our daily life.” Thank you John Cage for such inspiring words.

Dating a Man Who Is Separated Tips

This is one of the most common dilemmas my patients have brought to me over the past four decades. Though there are multiple variations on the theme, there is one way in which they all are similar: two women are in a competitive triangle with the same man.

Triangles are stable when all three legs are connected. What that means in a three-way relationship is that each day is securely connected. A floppy relationship triangle exists when the man in question is at the apex of that triangle and the two women are represented by the other two points. Each woman is connected to the man but they are not usually connected to each other.

There are many ways that can happen. The gamut can run from two women who have known one another in the past, even possibly friends, to total strangers who are now connected to each other only by being attached in some way to the same man. Floppy relationship triangles are essentially unstable and the outcomes are not only unpredictable, but often dire.

There are many factors that can affect these triangulated relationships, and how they are combined can affect the outcome in different ways.

Time Elapsed

A new separation is clearly more undefined. Committed couples often hit major snags in a relationship and lose each other for a period of time. A man in grief, angry, unhinged, or feeling newly free of cumulative stress can be a vulnerable target for an outside person, or even an unthinking seeker of temporary escape. People in unstable situations often make in-the-moment decisions that have nothing to do with what they may need or want as time elapses. A newly separated partner is often searching for validation and support and cannot see beyond those needs.

If, on the other hand, a couple has been separated for quite a while, have made multiple attempts to reconnect and failed, the partners may have come to the conclusion thatdivorce is inevitable. When that happens, they may not be as susceptible to any new relationship.

How to Reconciling as Parents

unduhan-23People sometimes look at me like I have two heads when I suggest that divorcing partners need to find a way to work together as parents. Their eyes, and often their mouths, say, “We’re getting divorced. Duh!”

I understand that reaction. As I have written in this blog and elsewhere, when we are hurt – and divorce is incredibly painful – our natural impulse is to hurt back.

You stub your toe on a chair. Yeoh! And what do you do? You kick the chair again, this time on purpose!

That’s really dumb if you think about it. Twice the pain for you; none for the chair.

But you don’t think. You react.

In my books for parents, I offer all kinds of advice about what you can do to counter your understandable emotional reactions in divorce, not for your ex, but for your kids (and ultimately, for yourself too).

Can you really do this? Yes, I think you can.

Recently, I have come across three moving personal accounts, all written by women, about their journey from pain and anger to finding a way to work with their ex again. Each woman somehow found her way past her powerful, sometimes overwhelming emotions. They all had problems with their ex as a husband, but they still found a way to reconcile with him as the father of their children.

The first is a column that appeared recently in the Washington Post. Jaimie Seaton tells an emotional story of how she got from the devastation of learning that her husband left her for his pregnant girlfriend to the maternal joy she rediscovered as she gradually decided to welcome him back into her life, eventually allowing him to camp in her backyard with their children.

The second is a “Modern Love” column from the New York Times in 2015. A trial lawyer who admits to being consumed by anger after her divorce, Lara Bazelon writes about how she dreamed of getting her ex on the stand, vindicating herself with a brutal cross-examination. And yet, they had children. And they once loved each other. She goes on to tell a beautiful tale about how their love was transformed.

The third story is by Brandie Weikle, a writer, blogger, and radio host who I met recently when she interviewed me about my new book. Brandie talks about her personal story – how she came to live next door to her ex. She also offers much more information and insights on her extensive website. Her materials include an interview with Jaimie Seaton, who authored the Washington Post column mentioned above.

Avoidance and Negativity of Destroy Love

In my relationship book, Why Can’t You Read My Mind?, I discuss the real source of where most relationships become toxic—your own thoughts! The reader response from my recent post, entitled “9 Toxic Thoughts That Can Destroy Your Relationship,” suggests that masses of couples are in big time emotional pain!

For sure, sadly, there are a lot of walking wounded out there! By “walking wounded,” I mean the tons of people who feel unfulfilled, or worse, emotionally neglected or abused, in their intimate relationships. It seems that everywhere we turn, we unfortunately see and hear about people who are unhappy and emotionally hurting, often severely, in their quest to feel loved. Most of these unfortunate couples fall prey to relationship toxicity overload.

Here are what I consider the top three signs of toxic relationships:

1. Criticism and contempt. According to Dr. John Gottman, criticism and contempt are highly destructive in loving relationships. Signs of criticism and contempt may appear as your partner distastefully making fun of you. One female client of mine would tell her husband he was sexually inadequate in response to him criticizing her excessive spending habits. Quite a toxic mess, for sure! Contempt can also appear as one partner criticizing another in public. Acting superior also conveys a contemptuously, toxic message. To experience the one you love, or once loved, ripping you with incessant fault-finding barrages is highly demoralizing and emotionally unhealthy.

2. Avoidance. Do silent treatment fueled arctic winds whip off her shoulder and knock you over, leaving you breathless and hopeless? Does he deprive you of physical affection but then complain that you are too needy?  Do you feel that every time you try to clear the air, he disappears into it? Does he refuse to go to counseling? Avoidance is a very passive-aggressive form of relationship toxicity and it often gets progressively worse over time.

3. You feel hopelessly lost in negative energy. At the end of the day, and most of the time during it, do you feel increasingly beaten down, emotionally bankrupt and numb? Do you feel that the times you do positively connect with your intimate partner are all in vain, only to just get sucked up by overwhelming negative energy?  Does it unfortunately seem that any initially promising positive changes are unsustainable?

Be honest with yourself

I certainly have seen far too many couples throw in the relationship towel way too early. At the same time, if your relationship is truly toxic, and your partner will not work with you to make changes, than it may be time to leave. Recognizing, and continuing to acknowledge, the persistent signs of a toxic relationship can empower you to get out of it. Above all, know your value! Prolonging the agony of a truly toxic situation will have deleterious effects on both you and your partner. When possible, see a qualified relationship counselor before making significant relationship decisions. Even if you decide to leave, it is important to learn your role in the toxic relationship dance so you don’t do a repeat performance!