When Does the Truth Help or Hurt in a Relationship?

shutterstock_256158817One of the main behaviors that can compromise a relationship is a significant lie. Poll after poll shows we detest liars. And psychologists will tell you that telling the truth, even if it is uncomfortable, is the best way to build up the bond of trust. They will also tell you that people lie an average of three times within any ten minute conversation. Robert Feldman, Ph.D. is a professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He says the number one reason people lie is spare the feelings of another. These are little white lies. We just don’t want to say anything that may cause another confusion, hardship, or pain. For some, the same is true in their relationship. You see it in the woman who drinks coffee as her husband fixes it, secretly wishing for years he would add just a little less milk, but never saying so, or the husband who endures a pet name from his wife, who inside gets pangs every time she calls him it. We sometimes don’t speak up, or lie to give in to what we think our partner wants. But in the end, we are just hurting ourselves, and not being honest with them. At other times, being brutally honest with our partner or spouse can hurt them, yet, add nothing to the relationship. So how do we know when the truth helps or hurts?

Err on the side of the truth. There is no reason to lie about how you like your coffee, or agreeing you like a certain performer that you can’t stand, just to get into someone’s good graces. Bigger lies will poison a relationship, such as infidelity or addiction in one’s past. It is best when things start turning serious to sit the person down and tell them, if you have something concerning in your past. The longer you let it go, the worse it gets. When you hide such things, you have to know that sooner or later they will find out, and it will be devastating to hear it from someone else instead of from your own lips. If your partner is wrapped up in a new hobby or something that doesn’t interest you in the least, do not feign interest. But you don’t have to be brutally honest, if you say think it is the most boring thing in the world. If you and your partner disagree on religion. Say one person is religious and the other an atheist. The atheist shouldn’t feel the need to tell their partner how ridiculous they think their religion is, or vice-versa. If it is just an opinion and that opinion will hurt your partner, without improving the relationship one iota. Keep any severe opinions to yourself. You can just say, “It’s not for me.”

Some people consider lying as a normal part of courtship or dating. In one study 147 people were surveyed. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 71. All of them admitted to lying to their partner at least one-third of the time. In another study, psychologists found that men and women lied in relationships for different reasons. While women generally lied to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings, men usually fibbed to improve the impression they gave. Sorry guys, but all truths are revealed in time. Sooner or later she is going to find out, and be disappointed. The best thing you can do is to evaluate what you are going to say before you say it. You want to be completely honest on the things that matter. You don’t want to swallow a lie on something inconsequential however, and endure some injury from it, like the wife and the coffee. But you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings with the truth, without they, you, or the relationship seeing any gain from it. Just keep negative opinions to yourself, or better yet formulate them in a positive light. “It’s not my thing, but I can see why you are interested in it.” Otherwise, be completely forthright and you’ll have a lot to talk about and work through, but you’ll also be building a deep understanding and a close and loving relationship. If you’re okay what you’re saying, but on the lookout for mistruths from the other side read, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage by Paul Ekman.

How to Benignly Get What You Want out of Your Relationship

shutterstock_283656011Ask someone what they don’t want in their relationship, and they can usually rattle off a list of traits. This is true for some long-term couples, especially if they have been having problems lately. But ask them what they want out of their relationship, and they often draw a blank, or scramble for words. Most people will have to think about it for a while. As time passes, it is easy to see what is wrong with our partner. But their positive qualities become less obvious. Also, annoying habits become more and more apparent. We focus on the negative, and what it is we want to discard, rather than the positive things we can focus on, or want to bring into it. Couples who have been married a long time for instance often say things to each other like, “How can you forget? I’ve told you a hundred times,” “You are so insensitive sometimes,” or “You only think about yourself.” But statements like these are bound to shut down our partner or cause a fight, rather than to have them open up to what we are really saying, and have them exhibit the behavior we desire or expect.

“Can you help me with this?,” “I feel more relaxed when I get a helping hand from you,” or “I understand your need to get things done, but would you mind checking with me before you make a decision like that?” Living closely with someone, sooner or later you are bound to step on their toes, and they yours. This automatically puts us into a defensive position. We have to learn that our partner is not out to get us. They love us and have our best interest in mind. They make mistakes however, just as we do. And as with us, they don’t always go about things the right way. In this defensive posture, we start to see our partner as the adversary. We want to win the argument, but what we gain is more anger, resentment, and frustration, and a more turbulent house. We’ve increased disharmony, not lessened it. We may listen to negative thoughts or critical inner voices at this time, which ultimately can even make things worse. Then there are those partners or even couples who instead of directly saying what they want, shutdown. They turn inward and choke on what they want, and their resentment toward their partner grows and grows, as they die a little inside each day.

The first step of getting what you want is knowing what you want. Instead of concentrating on how you feel when your partner disappoints you, zero in on the words or behavior you had expected. You will be surprised. Stating what you want, though making you vulnerable, can take the fury out of a fight, sometimes immediately. Your partner is being let in and is coming to know you, and will likely want to provide for your needs and desires. If you do get caught up in the heat of battle, you can stop the fight by dropping your side of it. Simply say, “I’m quitting because I care more about our relationship than winning this argument.” That ought to put the brakes on fast. Don’t use “you statements” or passive-aggression. Don’t play the victim. Instead use “I” statements. Tell them how their behavior made you feel. Be vulnerable, communicative, and open. Some people view vulnerability as a weakness. But when used correctly it can be our greatest strength.

For more on how to operate in a better way read, The 11 Pillars of Relationship Success by Matt Bishop.

What to Do When You No Longer Want to Have Sex with Your Husband

shutterstock_260900729He’s a great guy. You love him. You know he has needs. And you want to show him how much you care. But the thought of sex is gross. You don’t know how to get aroused anymore. So you avoid sex. You may even come to hate it. Sex is usually hot and frequent in the beginning of a marriage. But for most couples as time wears on, a sudden transition appears where it disappears, or just tapers off. Many times, when this occurs couples have to find new ways to spice things up in the bedroom. If not, one or another partner can feel resentment. Both partners may also worry that this spells the beginning of the end for their marriage. The first thing to do is to look and see if there is any physical health reason why you have lost the desire for sex. A hormone imbalance can be one reason. This can have something to do with menopause, a new medication, a thyroid problem, and so much more. Get checked out by a doctor. If this is not the case, consider an emotional reason. Have you been severely stressed lately? Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? Take steps to alleviate these and your libido may return.

Next, think about whether or not your relationship has been having any particular issues. Sometimes a woman can have resentment building up from a number of problems in her marriage, or one large issue. While men can compartmentalize sex, a woman’s concern over her relationship will snuff out her desire until the matter is resolved. That is not to say that she cannot feel desire. But when relationship problems are weighing heavy on her mind, she has a hard time getting into the mood. If none of these appear to be the case, think about whether you have had any negative situations surrounding sex. A negative impression or experience in the past can manifest itself in your marriage today. When we first get together, love and chemistry are so strong that they blot out all other emotions. But when we get used to the relationship or even the marriage, those strong feelings wane, and the previous impression or experience may bubble up to the surface. Working with a mental health professional or sex therapist may be best. The tendency when this problem first arises is to push your husband away. It is hard to explain a lack of desire without feeling as though you will sound like you are blaming, or that you want the relationship to be over. Fight that urge. Pushing him away will only hurt the relationship.

If you want this marriage to succeed, you must tell him. But practice what you say so that he understands. For many women, when this problem strikes they begin to think that their husband may look elsewhere to have his needs met. A woman has to be relaxed in order to get in the mood. Feeling threatened will undermine that effort. Let him know that it isn’t him. It’s just that there is something wrong and you’ve lost your desire. Now it’s time to make a choice. Losing your sex drive can be horrible. And no one is saying you should have sex when you don’t want to. Each person should decide for themselves when it is or isn’t right. But you will have to decide whether or not you can invest the time and energy to finding it again. What would rekindle your desire? Start talking about sex, turn ons and turn offs, and desires with your husband. Write them down. Keep a journal where you don’t sensor yourself, but write down these secret, inner thoughts. Find healthy ways to manage your stress. It can sidetrack you. Any interest in porn? Try watching some together. When you find that it is time to reconnect physically, use sensuality first as an entree way. Women take a lot longer to get turned on, and sensuality is a great gateway into getting in the mood. It may feel untenable at first. But just like any other problem, if you begin to look into it, you should find what is causing it, learn more about yourself, and then figure out how to reconnect to your sex drive and with your husband.

For more such advice read, Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido by Andrew Goldstein and Marianne Brandon.


Fighting can be Good for Your Relationship

shutterstock_341429870There are those couples who seem to never fight. But rest assured, they do, just behind closed doors. Two people are whole worlds encapsulated in flesh. But when they come together in a relationship, as things progress, particularly if they begin living together, sooner or later conflicts arise. If they never do, then this is not a healthy relationship. For instance, take the couple where one person consistently capitulates to keep the other happy. The capitulator either has near non-existent self-esteem or their partner is a narcissist or a tyrant who has to constantly be placated in order to keep the peace. In a partnership with two are equal, each person’s ideas are valid. And so their differences have to be discussed, debated, and yes even fought over, for things to progress. Just like there is no such thing as a story without a conflict, there is no progress without disagreement. Otherwise, your relationship will remain stuck in time. It’ll become dull, ossify, and fossilize. After all, what is more of a turn on than our partner with that fiery look in their eye, passionately advocating for what they believe in?

When a person hides their feelings from the other, they get sublimated. But they are still there. Resentment builds up and sooner or later they will blow up. Or the person will slowly choke on their true self year after year until it sinks them into a quiet desperation and despair, for never having their point of view brought to the fore or their emotions recognized. There can be no intimacy if one does not trust one’s partner with one’s true opinion. That doesn’t mean one should support hashing things out in a damaging or hurtful manner. But each person should be heard and have their say. In a relationship of equals, both partners need to make their case, and then if no one’s is stronger, a negotiation worked out. The best kind are the ones where both people get what they want. But sometimes you have to dig to find out what that really is. You can easily make the case that we never really know our partner until we’ve seen all sides of them. Conflict and competition bring out the best in us. Just don’t be too competitive or play unfairly, or you may win the battle and lose your relationship.

Psychologists agree that a certain level of conflict is normal and healthy. The thing to concentrate on is how you fight. Do you scream at each other, break things, and slam doors? Or do you separate when things get heated? This is the best way. Give each other some space and time to cool down, and come back refreshed and ready to communicate. We really cannot dig into the deeper stuff hidden in our partner, or ourselves until we come across some kind of conflict. But not all are important. A large portion of arguments come from misunderstandings. But these too can be blessings in disguise. For when we begin to unravel how our partner understands things, we get a glimpse of how they see the world. We come to know them better. And when they listen calmly and patiently to how we understand things, they get a better notion of our worldview. So that understanding and closeness await any couple who can safely and positively negotiate a problem or even a crisis. But despair, decay, and even disintegration awaits any relationship that cannot successfully overcome obstacles. The moral of the story, become masters at communicating and overcoming conflict, and you will form a close, loving, and more blissful union.

Want to learn the best conflict resolution techniques? Pick a copy of, Everyday Relationships Resolving Conflicts in Your Personal and Work Life by Sheila Alson and M.A. Gayle Burnett

Give a Divorced Guy a Chance

shutterstock_294128408The rules of dating and courtship in our culture have changed tremendously in a short period of time, making it harder to make romantic decisions. Though we at times deride the feeling of free falling into love, only to find ourselves ejecting from it once again, in the end we aren’t meant to fit in a box, human life is longer now, and we must find who fits us whether it be long-term or only for that period in time. Still, even though we are oh-so-modern, some residual effects of the old ways still inhabit our thinking. For instance, divorce used to be taboo. Today, a lot of women still carry a stigma against men who have been married before. The idea is that he is damaged goods. Well, aren’t we all? These women think that whatever broke up his marriage may infect their relationship, should one begin. The truth is people split up for lots of different reasons. Different people interact differently together. Their problems might not be yours. The reason their marriage broke up may have no bearing on a future relationship with you. Who knows? His ex-wife might have nothing but good things to say about him. And yet, for one reason or another they did not work out. Rather than staying away from divorced men, you should perhaps lean toward dating one. Why do you ask? Here are some reasons you should give a divorced guy a chance.

Tired of men who are afraid to commit? A divorced guy isn’t. Or at least he wasn’t. This is not the eternal bachelor who keeps his lady helplessly hoping for commitment which deep in his heart he knows will never come. Past behavior is a great indicator of future choices for most people. So with this guy, you know that if the situation is right, he will be ready to take things to the next level. With a divorced man, he has already put time into a serious relationship. He knows the drill. Some guys have been bachelors for so long, either by choice or circumstance, that they have a hard time transitioning from “me” to “we.” They don’t check with you about things you should have input on, and they may make decisions without considering how they will affect you. But a man who was once married can transition more easily from prioritizing himself to his relationship. Divorced guys are a bit more mature. You have to be to be married and to go through a divorce, one of the most painful experiences a person can have. He has to have gained at least some knowledge and insight from the experience.

A divorced man has some idea what it takes for a long-term relationship to work. If he is self-reflective, he may have even noticed his short-comings and own up to past mistakes, helping him avoid making them a second time around. In any relationship that did not last, both parties have had an influence. Chances are, his ex has already pointed out his faults to him, and he is aware of them and better able to manage them. If he is willing to give a long-term relationship a shot again, it shows if he is positive, resilient, and has hope. Lots of men go through a divorce proclaiming that they will never get married again. But if he is not talking marriage down, and is still open to it, it shows a lot of underlying, positive qualities. Even that he is back in the dating scene again is a positive sign. Consider learning more about him first. Is he still balancing duties from his first marriage, such as parenting? Has he recovered from the divorce completely? What led to the marriage’s breakdown? Personal information and insights into who he is will give you a better idea of whether or not to get involved with him. But don’t count him out just because he is divorced. In fact, the whole affair may have a silver lining, a better, future relationship with you.

For more dating advice that may just lead to marriage read, Single Is The New Black: Don’t Wear White ‘Til It’s Right by Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell.