Can an Open Marriage ever really Work?

POLYAMORY

Can an Open Marriage ever really Work?

People come in all shapes and sizes. They have different wants and needs. Anthropologists say what was traditionally supplied us by a whole village such as warmth, guidance, financial sustenance, understanding, passionate love and eminent friendship we now seek solely in our spouse or significant other. But that’s a huge burden to carry. Due to the high divorce rate, the need for sexual novelty, the desire to try the same gender or emotional needs that their spouse can’t supply sometimes pivots them in the direction of an open marriage. It’s often when the needs of one person cannot be met by the other. It’s no one’s fault. Instead, it’s usually just a mismatch. For others, it’s a need to explore further with love, a mindset that requires free will, strong confidence, good communication and a non-jealous personality. Surely, there are dysfunctional open marriages as there are dysfunctional closed ones. But can an open marriage ever really work? Experts say there are such that can work but it takes the right kind of couple and the proper mindset. Open and honest communication is the most important aspect. An open marriage doesn’t mean a person can have sex with whomever, whenever. Instead, a certain set of pre-agreed upon rules are made and adhered to, with each mate’s preferences in mind.

According to psychologist Deborah Anapol an expert on polyamory— practicing intimacy with more than one partner, though many couples who in an open marriage struggle with jealousy from time to time, very few say they regret being able to share intimacy outside the confines of their relationship. There are many alternative romantic and sexual couplings going around nowadays. People are getting married later on in life due to the time it takes to get a proper education and work your way up. The new generation prefers lots of choice and not getting tied down. In the wake of the sexual revolution and the explosion of dating and hookup apps, people have freedoms and opportunities they’ve never had before in the history of humankind. That and the elevated divorce rate has non-traditional people looking for new ways to have their needs met, explore their sexuality and enjoy their life with others.

Still, the reason for entering into such a relationship is important. One party should not be pressuring the other into entering into such an agreement. Another party should not be going along with it when they really don’t like the idea, just for the sake of saving the relationship. Instead, this is something that both parties have to be sincerely interested in. For some couples, it’s a way for a person who has a large sexual appetite for instance to have his or her needs met without disenfranchising their partner. For others, it’s a way to express their freedom. They believe the human heart has the capacity to love more than one person and in more than one way. They feel that commitment and fidelity are not synonymous. Besides intermittent jealousy, the potential for a stream of uncomfortable conversations and lots of chances to be tempted to lie to your partner, cause many to steer clear of the idea. Others fear the chance that no matter what rules are in place their spouse could run off with another. Really it’s all about how you feel about one another and your relationship. If it’s a way to renew the marriage or explore new dimensions of love and freedom, go for it. If it’s to placate someone or a last ditch effort to save the marriage, you may be setting yourselves up for a terrible fall. For more pick up a copy of the book, The Seven Natural Laws of Love, Polyamory in the 21st Century by Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D.

Why do we Fall in Love?

inlove

Why do we Fall in Love?

Have you ever wondered how much of love is biology and how much is psychology? If you’ve ever wondered if chemistry just happens or can be created, if love at first sight is real and all other things about love, you are living in a wondrous time. Why do we fall in love? Science has some answers. There are three different systems in the brain, that when brought together spell the emotional and biological phenomenon we call love. First is the sex drive created to ensure the perpetuation of our species. The feeling of romantic love helps you focus on one person making sure you don’t waste any time or energy. The last part is the comfort and security you feel when with a long term partner, giving you time to raise children together.

Love feels fantastic because the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when we fall for someone. Dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel euphoric, enthralled, and sleepless mirrors other experiences, such as being high on cocaine. Love at first sight does occur, though more to men than to women. Men are visual creatures. Whereas women fall in love in terms of who a person is, their charm, status or power rather than their physicality. Love at first sight may be an evolutionary advantage, producing offspring in a short amount of time rather than the long, drawn out process we go through today with society as our backdrop.

Timing of course is just as important in falling in love as it is with everything else in life. If you’re too busy with work or focusing on your responsibilities you may not notice the perfect person for you, when they’re just inches away. But with a little free time and the right mindset, a sort of openness, not necessarily looking for it, love can hit you like a lightning bolt. If you want someone to fall in love with you, do exciting things together with them. This releases dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain, mimicking romantic love. There is a difference between love and lust. You can feel love for one person. But lust dissipates after sex. And you can feel attracted to someone without being compatible, or jealous if they are into someone else.

How do you keep the spark alive? By trying new and exciting things together, and doing the things you did when you were first dating. Perhaps someday all of our questions on love will be explained. Will that kill the romance? Or will it give us a finer appreciation of the nuances of love? Only time and intrepid scientists will give us the answers. For more on this topic read, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher.

Are On-Again Off-Again Relationships Unhealthy?

Couple sitting together on park bench

Are On-Again Off-Again Relationships Unhealthy?

We all know the boy-meets-girl plot structure of classic romantic movies. Some of us yearn for such easy, movie plot love lives where everything is all sewn up by the end, and happily ever after means no more problems to wade through. Instead, the path to love is often obstacle filled and rock strewn. And two people who love each other may be kept apart by circumstances. Those who barely tolerate one another may be thrust together. Then there are situations that are even more confusing.  Should you be looking for a relationship or just open to different possibilities? And when you find someone who doesn’t quite fit the bill should you stay with them? There are lots of people who get stuck on the roller coaster ride of on-again, off-again relationships. This is where a couple breaks up, reunites, breaks up again and the cycle continues. They have chemistry and a rapport with the person. Yet, something about the relationship just isn’t right. But are these relationships as unhealthy as many claim? First, understand that this situation is very common. One study found that 60% of the population experiences such a relationship at least once in their romantic life.

The reasons most people initially break up is out of boredom, stagnation, the desire to be with someone else or just general dissatisfaction. Oftentimes, communication is not clear. These couples don’t get a clean break. Instead, things are left open and unresolved. Then they reconcile. This can also be for many different reasons such as thinking your ex is “the one,” missing the comfort and companionship of the relationship and still having feelings for one’s ex. Then the list of annoyances, doubts or disappointments pile up until one or both parties can’t take it anymore. The emotional ups and downs, the uncertainty and more equate to a toxic situation. Not only is it bad for the relationship but also for each person’s own wellbeing. These types of relationships can be exciting for some. But they also increase stress, put you in psychological distress and decrease your overall quality of life.

Each relationship’s story is as unique as the people that inhabit it.  For some, a break can be a time of reflection, self-discovery and even growth. This may have one or both partners come back to the relationship reaffirming their love and carrying with them the tools to make things work this time around. Unfortunately, most of these kinds of relationships are the same story played over and over again. The same problems keep arising and the couple cannot find ways to overcome or negotiate them. For those in this kind of relationship, experts suggest negotiating a slow drawback. Over time extricate yourself from the situation. Sometimes one person cares about the other, but their partner cannot or does not fulfill all of their needs. The partner leaves them wanting. It can be hard to decide what to do. A good cost-benefit analysis might help. For those who are at the end of their rope, research shows that each person should sit down for a serious talk. Each should communicate their needs, and then evaluate if they can meet the other person’s. Then a temporary breakup period should be enforced. During this time, each person can lead their separate lives. Then they can get a better look at the relationship from afar and decide what is really best for them, and whether or not things will actually be different this time around. For more advice read, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not – The Emotional Dangers of an Off Again/On Again Relationship by M. Osterhoudt.

How do you know you’re in the Right Relationship?

Couple-Flirting

How do you know you’re in the Right Relationship?

Are you in a happy relationship with physical and emotional chemistry and a deep bond of trust? But you are still wondering if this is the right relationship, if this is the person you should stick with long term, even marry? There is no exact method you can use to find out if you are in the right relationship or not. But there are some indicators that this relationship is good, right, resilient, and will last. But how do you know you’re in the right relationship?

First, notice whether or not you have a plan B. What would you do if it all came apart right now? Of course you’d be devastated. That shows how much you really love this person. But not having a plan B means that you weren’t expecting it to end. If there’s no exit plan, your psyche is planning to go the distance with this one, and it should be consciously noted and recognized fully. Are there any subjects that you ignore? Are you harboring any resentment, anger, frustration or worry? Or do you two talk about and settle all of your differences? If superlative communication is the foundation of your relationship, if everything is out in the open and no hidden or unresolved issues linger behind the surface, if you two can settle all of your differences through talking it out, and you and your partner feel comfortable enough to discuss anything together then your relationship is in excellent shape.

Staying with just one person for the rest of your life can cause great fear and anxiety, no matter if the person is male or female. But if you think about staying with the person you’ve fallen in love with until you grow old, and you don’t feel fearful, but perhaps happy, inspired, content or even blessed, this is the right relationship for you. Some people feel that arguing is an unhealthy practice for a relationship. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Any relationship where arguments never occur means that one or more parties are harboring some problem, slight, or resentment that they haven’t shared with the other. Instead, healthy relationships have their fair share of squabbles. But how do you fight? Do you fight fair? Do either of you say things you can’t take back or don’t really mean? Is there a spiteful element? If not, and you two fight fairly than this is a good relationship to be in.

How about trust? Is either of you sneaking around, looking at the other’s texts, email, or social networking sites? If so, there are trust issues at work here. If not, this is a well-adjusted relationship. If nothing comes between you two, if your bond is strong no matter what happens, this is the right relationship for you. Stick with it. For more relationship advice read, The New “I Do”: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels by Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson.

How to be Healthy throughout a Divorce

stressed

How to be Healthy throughout a Divorce

It’s estimated that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce today. Though many are civil, they are all uncomfortable, draining and even painful. Then there are the problems of moving, adapting to a new financial situation, transitioning to being single again, and, for many, single parenthood. Helping children to get used to a new lifestyle is tumultuous as well. Depression, loneliness, misplaced anger, insecurity and anxiety can envelope you at this time. Lots of people let themselves go when they are going through a divorce, and wallow in these negative emotions. A recent Gallup poll found that those who are divorced scored lower on well-being measures including physical and emotional well-being. Keeping yourself healthy throughout a divorce and afterward can feel very challenging. This is especially true for women. Even after a divorce women have a higher risk of suffering from depression, making it crucial to know how to cope with negative emotions in a positive way. So how do you stay healthy throughout a divorce and in its aftermath? First, don’t wallow in isolation. Lots of people feel that they want to be alone. But then they spend too much time alone and this isolation begins to wear on them, or exacerbate their problems. Sometimes it has to do with pride. But there is no shame in reaching out for help and support. It takes a really strong person to do so actually.

Reach out to friends, family, mentors and other people who are close to you during this period. They will be there for you with open arms, advice, and comfort. Sometimes we just need someone to listen and validate how we are feeling. Let them know what form the comfort should take and they will be more than happy to oblige. It can also be beneficial to reach out to divorce support groups in your area. DivorceCare is one such group, but there are many others. When you get divorced it seems that so many priorities get in the way that your needs settle way down at the bottom of the list and hardly ever get addressed. Getting enough sleep should be a priority however. Preparing and eating healthy meals, getting enough exercise and making sure your emotional needs are met should also be on the docket and not at the bottom of the list, but near the top. You, your children, your coworkers and your family and friends are counting on you to be the best you you can be. They can’t make it without you. You are an essential part of their lives. But don’t just do it for them, do it for yourself. The healthier the lifestyle you commit to, especially during a divorce, the better off you will be and feel in the long run. Lastly, don’t perpetuate the feeling bad cycle. Everyone needs a chance to mourn. But if you are going to be sullen all the time people at first will be sympathetic, but if too much time has passed they will begin to put space between you and them. Find the positives in your life. Look for moments of joy. Laugh. Be lighthearted and find the positives in situations. Choose to be happy. It won’t be easy but it will be right. For more help with divorce recovery read, The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John W. James and Russell Friedman.