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.

Ethical Non-monogamy or Polyamory

POLYAMORY

Ethical Non-monogamy or Polyamory

With so many options today and many professionals independent and not interested in settling down, people are looking for new romantic options that fit their modern day attitudes and lifestyle. Though it isn’t a significant part of the population yet, ethical non-monogamy, also known as polyamory, is a growing trend. So what is polyamory? It comes from the Greek meaning many loves. There is no hard and fast definition. The practice is having more than one loving or sexual relationship at a time, which all parties involved knowledgeable and consenting. No one should be pressured into entering into this kind of relationship. It should be an arrangement all parties are interested in. Another definition less often used, it could also mean a couple taking part in non-monogamous activities such as swinging. Many believe that the human heart is too wild and free to be tamed by a certain social construct. Outside of such expectations, no one can really say who they will love or how many they have the capacity to love, be it one or twenty. Though we have familial love and friendship, polyamory refers specifically to having romantic relationships that include intercourse. The point is to grow strong relationships, enjoy the powerful feelings and the act and have deep, profound intimacy in all of them. Everyone involved has to be consenting. These need to be open-minded individualists. But they also need to be good communicators.

It isn’t a competition. No one should be keeping score. Instead, it’s about making an emotional connection with others and not dictating to the heart who and how. Some believe that we have the capacity to love many others without constraints. They say this is a way to escape serial monogamy. In monogamous relationships there is the problem of the relationship going sour. Another problem is cheating, lying and hurt feelings. Here, those things are eliminated. Of course, there can be jealousy. But it’s how that jealousy is managed that counts. Really jealous people should steer clear of this sort of arrangement. There are all kinds of poly relationships. What most people are looking for is the freedom to love how they wish without hurting others, and the ability to determine what kind of arrangement works for them. How long does such a relationship last? Just like all relationships, it depends on the people that are in it and how they relate to each other. Some last for years while others only for a short while. Each person in any type of relationship brings baggage and pre-conceived notions. Communication is really what it all comes down to. You don’t have to be bisexual to be poly. Some couples are looking for an extra to form a triad. Some triads are open, others closed.

For those who live together, arrangements such as everyone having the same bedroom and bed, to each person having their own separate bedroom, to certain people maintaining a schedule where they sleep in a certain bed on a certain night are all well-known arrangements in poly communities. If it’s a closed triad, it’s important that each member relate to the other, and spend time with each other so no one feels left out. Each person’s relationship has to be strengthened. Sometimes a schedule is formed so each member can have quality time with each other. Some people practice polyfidelity or polyfi meaning their triad is closed. But others are more open. There is also a unique term called compersion in the poly community. This is when someone you love is being loved well and taken care of by another, and it brings you great joy. Certainly there is no test of whether or not you are poly. Most are of a very open-minded, progressive mindset and nonreligious and so not tethered to monogamy as such. Many are intellectuals and professionals. To learn more of whether or not polyamory or ethical non-monogamy is right for you read, More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert.

Asymmetric Relationship Playbook

unequal

Asymmetric Relationship Playbook

Sometimes you feel like you aren’t giving as much as your partner is. This can be an imagined inequality perhaps caused by low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy. But other times it is an asymmetric relationship. Is it that your lover takes advantage of your commitment? First, try to evaluate the situation. There certainly isn’t ever equality in any relationship. One person may be better at some things than the other. One is hardier, makes more money, has more friends or some other advantage. The question is, how much value do you put on your relationship and how much does your partner? It starts out in the beginning of the relationship that you two value each other immeasurably. Some couples stay at this stage or float around it. What may begin to happen is that the value on the other or the relationship may start to diminish. If it diminishes more for one person in the relationship than the other, this is what we call an asymmetric relationship. There isn’t equality in value between one person and another in this relationship. And that is where problems occur. In terms of a marriage for instance, one person may revisit his or her options now and again, putting strain on the relationship.

It comes down to one person putting more value than the other on the relationship. If there isn’t equality in what each person is contributing, then the couple must discuss the issue and come to a conclusion about it. The relationship cannot last if this problem isn’t dealt with. Eventually it will drive a wedge between the two so that the relationship will cease to exist. The bond will be broken. If one or another person wants to leave, finding themselves or the relationship devalued, they may not be able to. They may want to stick it out for financial reasons, or for the sake of the children. They could find the divorce proceedings too painful and expensive to wish to endure them. Each person must make their own choice and find their own path toward happiness. If you are in this situation and find that you cannot find your happiness staying with this person, by all means get out. But if you can find bliss and still cohabitate or even try to repair the relationship, go ahead and make it work. The trick is to reach down inside yourself and decide what it is you want, and what you can accept. But don’t let someone take advantage of you. Never give consent if you hear “If you love me, you’ll do this for me.” That isn’t real love. It’s manipulation. For more advice read, Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles L. Whitfield, M.D.

A Lasting Relationship Comes Down to Two Things

lasting

A Lasting Relationship Comes Down to Two Things

How many married couples make it to happily ever after? According to psychologist Ty Tashiro only three in ten marriages contain health, happiness and longevity. So what makes some marriages toxic while a slim few stick it through? John Gottman might have the answer. He is a prominent psychologist who has been studying relationships for only about four decades. He along with psychologist Julie Gottman—his wife, run their own institute figuring out what it takes to make love last. “The Love Lab” at The Gottman Institute in New York City has run many a fascinating study. In one, newlyweds were hooked up to electrodes and asked a series of questions including how they found each other, what was a big problem they faced together and to share a cherished memory. The electrodes measured their heart rate, blood pressure and sweat response to signify the level of stress each was experiencing. The couples were followed up with six years later, to see if they were still a couple. Soon a pattern emerged. Gottman separated newlyweds into two groups: the masters and the disasters. Those who were still together six years on were masters, those who had broken up disasters.

Couples who had activated systems where their heartrate was racing, their blood pressure was high and their sweat glands were active were the disasters. Those whose systems were calm were masters. The reason was, those disasters just sitting next to their spouse and answering questions made them nervous. Their body was in a state of hyper-arousal, the fight-or-flight response. This raised their heart rate and blood pressure, and perhaps that of their partner. This physical response made them more likely to lash out at their partner which made the couple unstable. As a result of following thousands of couples over a long period of time, Gottman found that the quicker their system was during these initial interviews the less likely they were to have staying power. Masters were generally well connected, and calm during these interviews. Now the researcher wanted to know what aspects of masters helped them to keep intimacy flowing and how they stayed so close and connected. In the inverse, how did disasters shutdown channels of intimacy? What he noticed was when interacting, those couples that showed an interest in one another’s interests had a closer relationship. When one mentioned something they were interested in, called “bidding” if the partner responded positively, this helped build connection. But those who turned away or responded negatively missed a chance at connection.

Couples who had staying power looked for places where their significant other did something well and complimented them on it. They built an atmosphere of respect, tenderness, curiosity and love. The masters would notice things about the partner and compliment them on it. It came down to two things really: appreciation and kindness. Conversely, the end of a relationship was near when one or both partners showed contempt. Being kind bound couples together. Contempt and being taken for granted tore couples apart. Kindness should be thought of not as a trait but as a skill we all have that we either hone or do not. Some are kinder than others but we all have the capacity for compassion. It’s what makes us human. In our technological world we often get caught up in emails or social media. But instead of just muttering a response to our spouse, we should really listen to them and find elements of interest, when we don’t we miss an opportunity to grow closer. If we can remember to keep kindness and appreciation in our relationships, according to Gottman’s research, then we have the best chance of success. For more on the logic of love read, The Science of Happily Ever After by Ty Tashiro.

The Real Reason Men Cheat

whycheat

The Real Reason Men Cheat

George Mallory was the famous 1920’s mountain climber who attempted Everest in his words, “Because it’s there.” This is the reason many women think men cheat. Much like Mallory who ultimately succumbed to the world’s largest mountain, relationships are swallowed whole by such trysts. But is sex drive and opportunity the real reason men go astray? Or is there something more than the need for variety? Marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman noticed that most of the studies that looked at male infidelity examined the woman’s point of view. He decided to instead to go right to the source. Neuman interviewed 200 husbands, both those who practiced infidelity and those who remained faithful. He not only asked the cheaters why but also what could have kept them from going astray. What he found was, although we often blame insatiable lust coupled with mere opportunism, 48% of men said they did so out of emotional dissatisfaction with their primary relationship. Only 8% said they did so purely due to sexual dissatisfaction.

Neuman said that in our culture the social message we get is that all men need is food and sex to be happy. But guys are emotional creatures too. Neuman found that they also needed positive affirmation from time to time to feel appreciated by wives or girlfriends. When men felt underappreciated or their efforts unrecognized, was when their eyes began to wander. Neuman also pointed out that unlike women men are less likely to speak out about this need. It’s considered emasculating to seek appreciation or approval. Instead, women in relationships who want to solidify them should consider what her man brings to the table and show her appreciation for him. In fact, if she does so he will likely reciprocate, setting up a virtuous cycle dynamic. 68% of those who went astray said they never dreamed of cheating. Almost every cheater interviewed said they felt remorse. Most responded that if they could do it all over again, they would have remained faithful. Though they are emotional, the male of our species is different. Men are able to compartmentalize feelings in ways women cannot, the counselor said. These feelings are boxed and shoved away, to be dealt with at a later date. The takeaway is if you think you’re guy will never cheat, think again. But if you both put a little effort into having the kind of relationship you want, trussed with kindness and appreciation then you have nothing to worry about.

Want to get a sense of whether or not your man might cheat? Take a good, hard look at his friends. 77% of cheaters had a friend who cheated. This subconsciously legitimizes the act. Certainly you have to trust your husband or boyfriend and can’t tell him who to hang with and who he can’t. However, be aware of things, spend time amongst other happy couples and invest in your love. That should be more than enough to cheat-proof your relationship. 44% of cheaters met the other woman at work. “Oftentimes the woman he cheats with at the office is someone who praises him, looks up to him, and compliments his efforts,” Neuman said. This is even more reason to validate him at home. If he starts mentioning a female colleague very often, it may be time to have a conversation. Find out how he has been feeling. Talk about boundaries with a coworker of the opposite sex, for both of you. Find little ways or some time where you two can be more loving and feel connected. 6% cheated the same night they met. That means for the majority they got to know her. They developed a relationship. Notice when you two aren’t connecting. Don’t ignore it, clear the air and work on it together. There is a timeframe before most men cheat. If when things ebb you can reconnect, you’ll be faithful to one another and have a long and happy relationship together. To learn more, pick up a copy of the book, The Truth About Cheating by M. Gary Neuman.