Being Fully Present in Your Relationship

MINDFULNESS-RELATIONSHIPS

Being Fully Present in Your Relationship

When we get used to being with our partner we can sometimes take them for granted. We assume they’ll always be there. So we move on to our worries and stresses. We become so preoccupied with the kids or the challenges in our career that when we are eating dinner and trying to take part in meaningful dialogue, we aren’t even there. Then there is the constant distraction of our electronic devices that although convenient also become an obstacle to chitchat, discussion and intimate conversation. After a while without meaningful interaction we start to feel like roommates with our partner or spouse rather than lovers. The day-in, day-out decisions of running the household, parenting and paying the bills become the focus, and otherwise each person lives in their own separate bubble. When it comes time to interact, give your partner your undivided attention. When we aren’t fully present we aren’t showing them the love and respect they deserve. Instead, we are neglectful, albeit not on purpose. But the message we are inadvertently sending is that what is on my mind is more important than you. Misunderstandings arise when we don’t listen fully to our partner. This can lead to problems or even terrible fights. So how can we be more present with our partner?

First, make a conscious effort to focus on them and what they are saying. If there is something particularly important on your mind and you are distracted, tell them about it. Let them know how you feel and schedule another time to talk. Try and give them your undivided attention and expect the same in return. Make positive eye contact. Repeat back what they’ve said in your own words to show that you understand. When your partner or spouse seems distracted, don’t tell them or remind them of something. Wait until you have their full attention. If you are distracted and they told you something, don’t assume that they will remind you. It’s best to check with your partner in a positive manner whenever you are unsure. Regular running of the household exchanges are of course important. But they don’t help build intimacy. You two have to make time to talk on a deeper level. At the end of the day, we may be so exhausted that we just want to watch a couple of TV shows or surf the net, check our social media pages and go to bed. But that doesn’t bring you closer. Instead, clear out a little time each day to spend talking on a deeper level.  Not just, “How was your day?” But what really happened to you today? What were you thinking about? How did it make you feel?

Sometimes you have to leave the dishes in the sink or put off laundry and spend a little couple time together. Some experts say having more sex is the answer. But a recent study found that building intimacy is far more important. When miscommunication, unfulfilled expectations and misunderstandings occur they get in the way of real intimacy, and so not only block your connection but your ability to get physical. Hurt feelings get in the way. When we are fully present with our partner, the chances of miscommunication and misunderstandings are lower. Knowing what they expect will help meet or exceed expectations and vice-versa. Mindfulness is a touchstone nowadays. This is an ancient Buddhist practice that has become trendy lately in the West. This is the art of being fully present in the here and now and appreciating each moment in all its richness. If we could practice mindfulness in our relationships they would be so much more intimate. Couples would have a deeper sense of intimacy, better sex and superior communication too. To learn more pick up a copy of, The Mindful Couple: How Acceptance and Mindfulness Can Lead You to the Love You Want by Robyn D. Walser, Ph.D. and Darrah Westrup, Ph.D.

ADHD and Relationships

couple at therapy

ADHD and Relationships

When one person has ADHD in a relationship, and the other person doesn’t, unique problems can occur. The power dynamic can become that of a parent to child, which isn’t healthy. The non-ADHD person becomes the one with the power, guiding, reminding and helping their partner. When the ADHD partner has a chore to be done, their counterpart may remind them, indeed several times, until the ADHD partner does it. Or the non-ADHD partner may give up and do it themselves rather than keep reminding their other half. Eventually, too many chores or responsibilities are allocated to the non-ADHD partner.

The symptoms of ADHD unmanaged are permanent. Distraction, memory problems and other symptoms start to weigh on the relationship. The non-ADHD partner becomes the parent, the ADHD partner the child. The power dynamic in this relationship becomes off kilter, leaning only to one side. This leads to a lack of respect on the part of the non-ADHD partner as they begin to view their partner like a child, and a condescending attitude can ensue. The ADHD partner begins to resent their significant other.

Adaptation is generally considered a good thing. One partner sees an issue arising and both partners change to meet and overcome it. Some research has shown however that stronger couples see problems coming down the pike and counteract them before they become an issue in the relationship. For ADHD, this power dynamic increases over time. As more and more control is lent to the non-ADHD partner and the more they become the parent, the other the child, the more resentment builds. Both people in this relationship have their problems with the other. One doesn’t want to do all of the work of the other. The ADHD partner doesn’t want to be treated like a child. They get tired of constant reminders, general bossiness and nagging. And the non-ADHD partner gets tired of doing so. And this dynamic puts a strain on the relationship. The couple feels less inclined toward positive feelings of love, affection, physical intimacy and romance.

Child/parent dynamics will almost inevitably lead to relationship or marital dysfunction. ADHD should be treated with the help of a mental health professional. Both partners should be involved. But if you are married or seriously involved with someone who has ADHD or if you have ADHD make sure to talk about it in depth with your partner. Treatment should also be sought. For more advice read, The ADHD Effect On Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps by Melissa Orlov.

Are you a Pushover?

pushover

Are you a Pushover?

Are you dating someone that you think is taking advantage of you? In a relationship, for real love to blossom there has to be mutual respect and if there isn’t, then it’s merely a relationship of convenience. You can’t have a real relationship where one person takes advantage of the other. But what is the difference between being sweet, considerate, understanding and showing your appreciation for your significant other and being taken advantage of? Read on to find out whether you are a pushover or not.

Are you in a committed relationship? If not, are you interested in being in one? If you haven’t established exclusivity, you two have been seeing each other for a while, you want to establish a commitment but you are afraid of being left, you are a pushover. Of course, when you are first dating and figuring things out, you don’t want to push a relationship. It should develop naturally. But if you’ve been seeing each other regularly for months with no signs of commitment on the horizon, talk to your significant other. If they still don’t want to give you a commitment, when that is what you want, let them go. They aren’t serious about you. Discuss the issue, in depth to make sure there aren’t any extenuating circumstances. But by and large, if this is the case they are taking advantage.

Does he or she have friends over all the time and you feel more like the wait staff than their romantic partner? If you are cooking, cleaning, and taking off so they can have guys or girls nights at your place all the time, you are definitely a pushover. Why can’t they prepare all this themselves? And what about times when people aren’t coming over? Do you do his or her chores in addition to your own? If so, your significant other treats you more like a servant than a partner. Unless this is some type of weird fetish or you are female and very traditional from a certain ethnic or religious background that causes you to do all these things, you are a pushover.  Everyone goes out of their way once in a while for their significant other. But if you are always making accommodations, allowances, and keep saying to people that’s how he or she is when confronted by what they see as an injustice, you are definitely a pushover. Is this person loving, attentive, and do they surprise you with something, a little sweet text, a gift, take you out, something like that? If you feel perpetually taken for granted, while you do all the little niceties for your partner, you are a pushover.

If you avoid conflict and every fight ends with you backing down, you are definitely a pushover. Now what are you going to do about it? There are two problems here, your significant other is taking advantage and you are giving them more than enough opportunity to do so. Instead, sit down with them. Have a chat. Set some ground rules. Go over everything that is unfair and tell them what you think would make it fair. Hear them out. But if they aren’t willing to bend you have to be willing to walk. Instead of investing all that energy in your relationship start investing it into yourself. Work on your goals, your dreams, your career, going to college or whatever it is that will enrich you. You are worth it. If they don’t see how worthwhile you are, be brave and lose them, and find someone who does. For more advice read, How to Be More Assertive: Quit Being a Pushover and Boost Your Self Confidence in Any Situation by Alfred Hale.

Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

Happy couple in bed --- Image by   Darren Kemper/Corbis

Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

It is a common misconception that people who have been together a long time inevitably see their passion fade. So can marriage and lust coexist?  In fact, research has shown that married people are having more sex than their single counterparts. For instance, a 2010 Kinsey Institute survey found that three out of five single people went without sex last year, as opposed to one out of five married people. In another study conducted by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth which studies families, married 25 to 59 year olds were more likely to have sex two to three times per week than their single counterparts. Usually couples have sex often in the early phase of the relationship but frequency slows down as time goes on. What often happens is people get caught up in the demands of a career and raising a family and so have sex less often. But studies have shown that married people enjoy it more. Laura Carpenter, a sex researcher from Vanderbilt University says, “While people get older and busier, as a relationship proceeds they also get more skillful—in and out of the bedroom.” Still, couples often blame dry spells on their marriage. It’s usually certain aspects of the marriage such as an all too familiar partner, arguing or household chores and the politics that can come with them.

Science can’t help us here. There are few studies that have looked into what a normal sex life looks like in mid-life. There is no recipe therefore on what can keep sex hot and lust going in a marriage. Still there are indicators. The eminent John Gottman, a pioneer in the field of couple’s research and head of Seattle’s Gottman Institute says that when men and women share their lives, they are more likely to engage in sex. Men who share in the household chores and childcare had sex more often than those that didn’t, Gottman’s research found. Other researchers have also found that the more a couple shared, the more sex they had. Other research has shown that it doesn’t matter who is the breadwinner. No matter the financial situation, long-term couples had the same frequency. On another front, it’s important to see a certain psychological paradigm that exists and how to overcome it, or balance it out. Our sexual feelings are filtered through our culture. Rules and norms on desire, fantasies and arousal lock us in to what researchers call “sexual scripts.” These are the roles, desires and fantasies we allow ourselves to take part in. University of Washington Sociologist Julie Brines thinks the trouble is we are still stuck in traditional sexual scripts. Even more problems occur when we are between scripts.  “I don’t think we have newer alternatives to traditional sexual scripts in marriage,” she said. Since couples relate differently in and out of the bedroom perhaps our sexual scripts should reflect this new dynamic. But one has yet to settle in.

Psychotherapist Esther Perel says the issue of losing passion in a marriage comes when we are too focused on our need for security. It comes to dominate our competing need for novelty. Perel says that, “couples who describe themselves as loving, trusting, and caring complain that their sex lives have become dull and devoid of eroticism.” What Perel does then is show couples how to, “reconcile our fundamental need for safety and security with our equally strong need for adventure and novelty.” It’s worth noting that her 2013 TED Talk has five million views on YouTube. Some suggest using one’s sexual imagination to explore what is interesting and novel to the couple themselves. Gottman found that desire was present most in couples who responded to each other’s feelings. Those that were adversarial shut down desire. These were the sexless marriages. Gottman also found that sex didn’t take a back seat to other things on the couple’s agenda.  “Couples who are going to have a lot of sex end up somehow being able to communicate to one another that it’s a priority,” the researcher said. “It is not going to be the last item on the infinite to-do list.” When one person wasn’t in the mood in these marriages Gottman said one would give the other person an alternative to intercourse. This is done so as to show love and concern for the spouse and their needs. Lastly, to keep the spark alive, Gottman said that sexual imagination needs one very important thing, a free and comfortable atmosphere conducive to play. For more on keeping the novelty in your marriage read, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

Show you care no Matter What Day it is

happy

Show you care no Matter What Day it is

So Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Some people love it for a chance to cherish their loved one. Others hate the commercial Hallmark holiday aspect. Still others don’t want to be reminded of being single. But the truth is that we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us how much we love that special someone in our life. In fact, if you are only using that particular holiday to show how much you care for one another, you will soon be seeing less Valentine’s Days, at least with that particular person.

Show you care no matter what day it is. If you keep feeling and showing your gratitude toward your romantic partner in words and gestures, they will return the favor. A virtuous cycle will be created that will sustain and enrich your love and relationship for as long as the two of you keep it up. Here are some ways to display the tempest of passion that lies deep in your heart. If your lover works in the service industry, whether a barista, a waiter or waitress, or tending bar, go in, flirt with them and leave a little tip. You can’t imagine what fun this will be, especially if your lover’s coworkers don’t know you.

Always hold the door open no matter what sex your lover is. If you don’t cohabitate but you do run errands together, pay for their groceries, especially if they have been struggling to make ends meet. If you do cohabitate pay something extra just to say I love you. When you are out and about running errands, buy them their favorite candy, or a little toy that reminds you of them. For an added bonus hide it somewhere in the house and let them find it unexpectedly. Whenever you notice a change in clothes or hairstyle, notice it and comment on it. Ladies, guys like it when you notice and compliment too. It’s not just for women. Call your sweetie at lunch or in the middle of the day just to see how their day is going. Tell them you couldn’t stop thinking about them. If the mood strikes you say something dirty, or just flirt with them. Make something for them, a knit scarf, a painting, a poem, a song, a tchotchke; make it from the heart. Something you made will always be worth more because of the talent, time and care you put into it. Make them their favorite meal, or surprise them with a dinner out on the town. There are lots of ways to show that special someone in your life how much you care. For more advice read, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship by Clinton Power.