With the Holiday season under way and 2014 right around the corner, I wanted to take the next 30 days to discuss ideas of self-awareness to gain a better understanding of you and the role you take in your relationships. This series will lead up to possible goals for the upcoming New Year; whether you will be finding a new love, rekindling an old love, working on a broken love, or even falling in love with your new you.
Unlearning Yourself by Learning You is a new series I have been working on to help you understand your relationship and more importantly yourself. I look forward to the next 30 days to help in many ways and to create a dialogue in my readers with themselves or their significant others.
The idea of unlearning yourself is breaking some of the negative reactions or patterns that we have to other people and ourselves. Learning you will be a journey through the past, to work on the present, and to help build more positive outcomes in your future.
Although this is a 30- day series, constant awareness of one’s self and strive for improvement are daily tasks. A one-time New Year’s epiphany will not facilitate real change, but an understanding of oneself can begin the growth process.
I hope you find this series helpful and humbling as we journey through it together.
I was listening to Loveline with Dr. Drew the other night. I overheard him say this to one of the callers, “Intensity is not love.” I sat with that for a moment and began to unpack what it means to have intensity in a relationship.
Intensity is not what the majority of us know as “Butterflies;” that initial warm tingling feeling that we get when we see that person or when we think about them when they are away. Intensity is much different. Butterflies are driven by the same oxytocin hormone, but the intensity is like an addiction and can be driven by negative triggers in the oxytocin. The intensity lies in large and fast amounts of this “love hormone” resulting later in opposite behaviors like jealousy and envy; although these emotions might not come through at the beginning of the intensity, these emotions can take effect after the intensity is over or during its intensity.
Intensity is mostly felt by those who experience relationships through insecure/anxious attachments or avoidant attachments. Secure attachments are the healthy attachments that allow us to get the proper doses of oxytocin at the proper times and allow for quality trust and bond building.
When the brain and body illicit butterfly feelings, once those feelings go away our bodies do not crave or seek out those feelings. We have landed in a comfortable place when we stop feeling those initial rushes of emotion; comfort and security override those feelings. However when we feel intensity, it is never enough when it goes away; it is the chaos that we constantly feel or seek out in the unhealthy relationship.
When thinking about a specific someone who makes you have intense feelings, some of which can even create some anxiety, listen to your body more and take the time to acknowledge what the relationship or person is actually doing in your life.
You can also take this QUIZ to review your attachment style. Ask yourself if intensity is something you crave. Look into understanding your attachment style to make better and healthier connections with your partners in the future.
With so much in our lives to keep us busy, it is difficult to get quality time to connect with your significant other. Maybe you are constantly rushing out the door for work or school; you might be picking up the kids for a quick second only to get them dressed and right out the door again for soccer practice. You might be in the middle of a big move or frustration may have kicked in about a big life change. Whatever the situation, it is important that we continue to develop and sustain rituals in our relationships.
Too often, couples are missing the quality connection because they are rushing off to the next event or hammering out the next big project.
Allowing time for your partner can help alleviate some of life’s stress, while at the same time creating quality romance and bonding.
Rituals can help you connect to your partner. Life can get busy and overwhelming, and before you know it disconnection has happened in your relationship.
Develop a ritual in your relationship to stay connected such as:
- Walks outside
- Romantic baths together
- Coffee and talk in the morning
- Watching a television show together
- Whatever you choose make sure you are connecting.
- You might not talk, but during the television show you can playfully sit on your partner’s lap or spoon on the couch.
- Make sure the rituals contain an intention physical and emotional connection, such as talk and touch.
- Remove any distractions such as smart phones or work emails.
Sit down together and think about what would be meaningful to you and your partner. It is important that you understand how each of you connects with one another. In an earlier article, we discussed the five love languages quiz: this can help show you how to romantically engage with your partner. Here is a link to the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
First, understand what makes your partner feel connected to you. Then, develop rituals around those languages that can connected you on a regular basis.
Yesterday we discussed how dating can be so complicated and why it seems like times have changed when it comes to dating. Honestly, I miss the courting and the attention that used to be given in dating.
That is why I am a big advocate for some of the items below. I hope these ideas help you un-complicate your dating life:
Know what you need in a relationship. It is important to know what you are looking for in a relationship prior to beginning a relationship. This is a good way to align your values and what you look for in a mate. Knowing what you want ahead of time will help you not sacrifice the quality of your dating partners.
Know what you give to a relationship. Don’t exaggerate who you are in the relationship. It is okay to be honest and genuine about what you bring to the table. Trying to be someone you are not will give a false idea to the person interested in you and you will pay for it later. Be able to be truthful about what you are good at and what you are not good at.
Pay attention to red flags.You have no idea how often I hear. “Yes, but,” when asking a direct question to a friend. The conversation goes like this…
“I thought you wanted to date someone who was hard-working, finished college, and was closer to your age,” said me.
“Yes, but, well, he actually lied about his age (giggles) and he then told me later that he wasn’t as old as he said and by that time we had really connected. He doesn’t have a full-time job now, but he has plans to start school again because he wants to be a lawyer,” said anonymous friend.
“Oh, okay, so he lied (red flag) and he doesn’t have a full-time job (red flag) and he wants to be a lawyer, but he still has to complete the undergraduate school he dropped out of (red flag),” said me.
Knowing what you need in a relationship and partner can help you to keep your eye on the prize when you begin to see red flags.
Walk don’t run. Too often people try to jump into relationships. There is little interest in the dating part of it or our expectations get the best of us. Until you are in someone’s inner circle, they may not adapt to you the way that you want them to. They have no obligation to keep in contact with you or hand you a resume that includes their whole dating past. Try to take it slow and enjoy getting to know someone without putting too many expectations on them in the beginning.
Limit your distractions. Unless you are a doctor on call or expecting a baby (which I hope you are not if you are dating) you have no reason, zero, none to bring your phone into the restaurant or dating venue with you. I get that we are so glued to our phones, but there are lots to be said about making a quality and genuine connection with someone. If you cannot go for two hours without your phone, you need some self-reflection as to why. I remember dates that were so good that I lost track of time and we spoke for hours. A ringing or beeping phone will only distract you from the one thing you are trying to do in that evening : have a genuine connection with someone.
Do you remember back when a “crush” would call; you relished the fact that you finally got your parents to buy a cordless phone so you could take the call in your bedroom. You would yell out, “Mom, I got it,” after picking it up. Before that you would hope that the phone cord would reach far enough into the other room so you could close the door in privacy. Now all of that seemed complicated!
So if we have privacy and numerous ways to connect (social media and online dating) what makes dating so complicated now? Whether you are new to the dating scene or getting back into it after a recent break-up or divorce, dating has never been more complicated.
Dating is so complicated because:
We bring our past into it. It is sometimes unintentional but also unavoidable. Most of our grandparents and some of our parents met and married when they were between the ages of 19-23. This means that their past dating profiles were limited in comparison. In todays’ culture our break-ups and divorces stack up and make it more difficult to let our past go.
Too much freedom. The days of leaving a message at the beep are over. Text Messaging is the new way to ask or be asked out on a first date. The problem is that beginning a relationship like this makes it so impersonal.
Too much distraction. I can recall going on a few dates in which the suitor would utilize his electronic device during dinner to text or skim Facebook. Honestly, that was such a turn-off that I never went out on a second date, but some of us don’t see it right away. The distraction of smart phones becomes one that is hindering our dating lives. (And some of our relationships).
Too much talk. We become a more entitled people each generation to the next. We believe that because we graduated college someone owes us a great paying job. This sense of entitlement has carried over into our dating lives. We want someone who is going to have the full package (looks, personality, career, character, and thoughtfulness) but we are not willing to make sure we are giving the full package in return. If you complain about your 35 hour work week, don’t expect to find someone who is loyal to a job and lands a managing position after putting in 2 years of 50 hour work weeks.
You don’t pay attention to red flags. Most of the time there are hints about a person in the beginning of the dating relationship. You can pay attention to these and weed out the bad ones pretty quickly. If you have a tendency to try to look past that and find the best in people, well that is a very admirable quality, but it is not a quality to utilize in your dating life. Be smart and weed the bad out quickly.
Dating doesn’t have to be complicated. Join us tomorrow as we talk about How You Can Un-Complicate Your Dating LIfe. Don’t worry, it does not include plugging back in that landline phone.
I have heard people say this about romantic relationships: “You should not have to work in a relationship” or “Your relationship should not be work.” What should it be then? All of the good friendships that I made took time and energy to foster and to keep. Why do people not complain about the work they had to put into their friendships, but will emote that kind of rant in their romantic ones?
Those statements boggle me. We are a society that believes we get things handed to us. Our grandparents or parents stayed together because they believed in the commitment in marriage and believed that hard work was the only thing that got you anywhere. They faced the same issues and frustrations that we do with relationships today. It looked different, but the solutions are similar.
I am asking that we stop treating marriage like a drive-thru. You need to park the car, get out, and go inside. If you are having difficulty in your marriage, the best thing you can do is seek professional therapeutic help from someone who you can trust and who has a track record of reconnecting marriages. Marriage will never be simple.
1. Relationships take time to foster. If you are in a hurry to walk down the aisle, that is a clear sign that your heart may not be in the right place. In Facebook world it appears everyone is getting married and having babies. However, in real-time, there are still a lot of singles out there.
2. The best way to keep your relationship simple is to always remember the friendship that is behind it. It is vital to be your partners’ best friend. You should continue to get to know each other for years to come. As you change together, you will need to learn new things about one another.
3. You have to nurture the marriage all the time. Just like we maintain our cars, water our grass, or dedicate ourselves to educational leaps through school; you constantly need to nurture your marriage. If you keep up with the little ways that you can stay connected, your marriage will keep on the right track. If you don’t keep nurturing the marriage, it will get put in the shop, die, or not pass the 9th grade. We maintain almost every aspect of our lives. We maintain our jobs and our progress. Why should it be any different in romantic relationships?
4. There must be mutual respect. We respect our friends. If you are my friend and I don’t text you back right away, you are not going to text me two hours later and say ? or why didn’t you text me back? We set boundaries and keep them very well in most of our friendships. We need to learn to do the same in our relationships. We must respect our significant other for the obligations they may have, the love that they may need, and everything in between.
5. You have to have a passion to have fun together. Have fun together in everything you do. Fun can be fostered by become more caring and in tune in the relationship. Make a list of three things that you will each do each day for the next two weeks. See how this new daily caring makes for more positive exchanges in the relationship. (Such as 1. Tell them you love them every morning when you get up. 2. Write them a note and leave it someone different each day. 3. Call them during lunch just to ask how they are doing.) If you are saying, three things every day?! Yes, three things each day for two weeks. You manage to eat three times a day and go to the bathroom multiple times. Make it routine!
Have you ever dated a guy that made you swoon over the way he treated you? He opened doors, he made sure to walk you to your car, or he brought you flowers so often you thought he owned a floral shop. You have been with this guy for only months and you begin thinking about details of a possible perfect wedding. Nothing could stop your fantasy dream….. but then you meet his mom.
The more and more time you spend with his mom, you begin to realize that she has no intention of stepping down as the most important lady in his life. As time goes by you begin to un-plan the wedding. Not to his discredit, as he has learned the love language of the ladies from being close to his mom.
The problem is unless his mom is willing to step out of the lead role, it will be impossible for you to fall into the role of wife. It is customary for a mother to protect her son. However, when that son is ready to go out of the nest, it is vital that the mother let him go out alone. It is important that her role is less and less as he gets closer to choosing a partner for himself. There are many different reasons for a mother to be too attached to her son; including unhappiness in her own relationships, jealousy of other or younger women and the list goes on. It is a response and a behavior that comes from something deeper. It is important for you to know that biologically it will be natural for the son to take the mother’s side. As much as you can want to have a happy family, it will be near impossible until mom steps out and lets you have the leading role. This is a difficult relationship triangle that needs to be resolved if there is going to be a successful relationship between you and your boyfriend
Family is one of the most important things in life. I am not downplaying the strength of family, but psychology tells us that enmeshed family can create maladaptive behaviors. We talk about how boyfriends and girlfriends need time for friends and need individual space, and the same is true for the immediate family. Separation is important; you can have a healthy family life with your significant other when boundaries are in place throughout all relationships.
As a relationship leaves what we know as the “honeymoon phase” both partners begin to feel less connected and more consumed with the “task” of being in a relationship. There is much to be said about the work and dedication it takes to keep a relationship or marriage connected and exciting.
Remember above all, you need two partners willing to take responsibility for themselves and work towards the same goal of improving the relationship.
The four A’s are high in the beginning of a relationship and just need tuning every so often. The four A’s are essential to improving your relationship:
Attention: In the beginning, you wanted to pay more attention to what would make that person smile and feel good. You put in work to go above and beyond; to “be cute” or let the person know you were thinking about them. We forget in the later part of the relationship how much attention is needed to keep both partners in tune.
Affection: You wanted to be close to your partner and meet their needs for affection also. Sometimes there is even a steamy part in the beginning where we can’t keep our hands off each other! It is exciting and new. Affection can be kept alive by having romantic evenings and dates paired with sexy events and reasons to get all dressed up. It is fun to see our partners in different settings on a regular basis.
Appreciation: You were thankful for the other person and having them in your life. You often vocalized or reminded them of this appreciation. Once the relationship goes on we assume the other person knows how much we care about them and that we don’t need to vocalize it anymore. However, this vocalization should continue throughout the duration of the relationship or marriage. Positive appreciation of both partners breeds positive emotions in the relationship.
Approach: The approach you took in the beginning of the relationship was different from the one you take in the middle. You were apologetic for your downfalls and open to differences. Your approach was very open-minded. You approached the beginning of your relationship with fascination and hope. In the middle, we begin to get defensive and often have trouble being as open and forgiving as we were in the beginning. Try to look at your relationship with a fresh approach each and every day.
You can improve your relationship at any point, if you are willing to work hard. It is never too late to implement the same principles that you used in the beginning of the relationship. These simple changes will help both partners to better understand one another and to bring back the happiness and love that has always been there.
What do you think your biggest relationship asset is? Let me give you some hints:
It is not your looks, as sexy as you may be. It is not your job, or your money, it is not your large house or the metals you won in sports; it is not how you romance someone.
The biggest asset in securing a relationship and keeping it is your attitude. Your attitude is something that, whether you like it or not, is going to come out at your best times and your worst times. Your attitude includes the way you evaluate yourself and the outside world around you. It makes you judge and perceive situations and people. But it also gives people insight on your personality. Your attitude will allow your partner to see how you engage in certain situations and with certain people.
Here is a list of unattractive attitudes:
- Bad attitude. Who wants to be around Pouty Pat or Sassy Sarah all the time? No one does!
- Entitlement attitude. The reality is that your entitlement attitude might get you through your teens and even college, but it will not help you secure a spouse.
- Inflexible attitude. Exceptions are important in life. A black and white view of the world will only hinder your attitude.
- Selfish attitude. Being giving shows your ability to love. If you are too busy keeping things all to yourself, sharing your life with someone will be difficult.
Your attitude will motivate you or make you fearful. Your biggest relationship asset is part of your personality, but it is the part of your personality that can be altered. Your attitude can change, but you have to work on aspects of your life in order to begin to change it.
Here are some attitudes you should adopt: hopeful, optimistic, playful, grateful, cheerful, open, and confident.
Here is how to work toward those promising attitudes:
Change your Expectations: If you want others or yourself to meet too high of expectations, you will always be disappointed which will fuel a bad attitude. Lower your expectations and make them more reasonable, this way you and others will be able to meet those expectations.
See the Glass Half Full: Change the way you look at things. Try to find the good in people, events, work and relationships. This will help shape your attitude for the better.
Your Friends: Make sure you have optimistic people surrounding you. Our attitudes brush off on one another. Being around people who have good attitudes will allow you to create one too!