Don’t Put your Partner on a Pedestal, says Research

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Don’t Put your Partner on a Pedestal, says Research

According to a study, thinking the world of your partner may not be the best romantic strategy. In fact, don’t put your partner on a pedestal at all, says this research out of Colgate University in New York. What happens when you do? The relationship satisfaction of your partner takes a nose dive. Psychologist and researcher Jennifer Tomlinson says that a balance in a relationship between admiration and a practical outlook on your partner is the best approach. In an interview with Live Science she said, “While it may be tempting to provide effusive praise, I think it’s also important to communicate understanding and validation of a person’s core identity.”

Those who believe that their partner is spectacular have higher rates of relationship satisfaction. But how a partner regards this also plays a role. Tomlinson and her colleagues wanted to investigate what the best level of idealization of a partner in a relationship was. Three experiments were devised to do just that. In the first experiment, 98 straight couples and one lesbian one were brought into a psychology lab. They were told to fill out a questionnaire about their relationship; one the participants believed was all the same. 50% of participants received a questionnaire with two different added questions. These participants were to list all of the “extremely valuable and positive” characteristics that their significant other possessed.

Next, the couples were to sit on a couch with a striped blanket over it. The stripes were inconspicuously used to count how far apart couples were. Those that had one partner who idealized the other too much found the couple sitting much farther apart. In the second experiment, 89 married couples whose median age was somewhere in the mid 30’s, and 153 university students in relationships participated. First, they completed surveys about their relationship including how their partner felt about them and how they felt about their partner. The best place to be, researchers found, was when the partner saw them as slightly higher than where they perceived themselves. But once the lover’s perception was far more elevated than the person’s own, the relationship suffered.

Those whose idealization was way out of proportion made their partners feel as though their sense of identity was threatened. They believe that their partner doesn’t really know them and that their expectations therefore cannot be met. Those who were overly-idealized were less accommodating in their relationships as well. Of this Tomlinson said, “People who are feeling over-idealized may feel like they have more power in the relationship, so they may be less willing to put their partner first.” This research appeared in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. For more relationship advice read, The Love Book for Couples: Building a Healthy Relationship by E. Michael Lillibridge, Ph.D.

Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

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Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

Trying to stick together for the children, even after you’ve done everything possible to resurrect your marriage, usually just makes things worse. Even when the children are shielded from the arguments, they can sense the hostility like a tense fog over the house. Some kids even report feeling relieved when hearing of their parent’s divorce, the opposite of what we picture would happen, begging them to stay together. But having things appear to be working and having them actually working are two different things. You can’t hide the truth from them. They live there, too. And they know, already. Kids have an incredible beat on what’s happening with their parents. It’s some sort of natural inclination. But to deny it is to insult their intelligence. Children also model their romantic relationships after their parents. If you stay together without any longer feeling love, commitment or any tender feelings at all towards one another, what kind of message are you sending them? Will they do the same in their future marriages or relationships? Don’t you want them to be happy and follow that happiness, wherever it may lead? If you stick together, your sacrifice is wasted. In fact, it is doing more harm than good.

There are lots of considerations when getting a divorce. There is the financial burden, which everyone will endure, including the children. It can be hard in a variety of ways. There is telling them, the possibility of moving and putting them in a new school, custody battles, and fights over asset allocation, child support and alimony. The average divorce lasts somewhere in the vicinity of six months. The most hotly debated and contentious can take years. For those in no financial condition to divorce, a separation until the means for a simple divorce can be arranged may be the best answer.  Some worry about the stigma. But today, divorce is so common the stigma has virtually evaporated. What generally happens when it is all over, or at least when a new pattern settles in, is things get better. Without living in a contentious household, the kids feel more secure. They will relax and be themselves. More focus will now be placed on them instead of on the elephant in the room. Parents can also feel that they are being upfront with their children, and the kids won’t feel lied to. There are also lots of life lessons being portrayed that can carry over into their love lives, once they grow up. Children learn to have realistic expectations for relationships, love and marriage. Too many people today have some sort of Disneyesque vision, skewing their expectations. They just are not realistic when it comes to love and relationships in the real world. But children of divorce see past all that. They are also less likely to jump into a committed relationship without thinking about it, and who with.

A divorce helps children see their parents as people. They see their parents in many different roles; sometimes as a worker, of course as a parent, a friend, child, and a sibling and when they start dating again, as a partner to someone else. In other words, the kids don’t take their vision of their parents for granted. They also recognize more closely that their parents are flawed, or to put it a better way, human. But children who see their parent’s marriage as an ideal to be lived up to, suddenly cannot choose what their heart wants. They keep chasing an ideal that they will never catch instead of the reality of love that is before them. Everyone has to find someone right for them. And those two people have to develop a relationship that works for their particular personalities. But when we try to bend a relationship to match some unrealistic ideal, things are bound to run in to trouble.

Children can see their parents more as people who have hopes, dreams, flaws and regrets. They also gather insight into how bad relationships operate and how good relationships work. Usually, parents get into other long-term relationships after divorce, or get remarried. So instead of focusing on having children coming from a “broken home,” realize that if your house is full of contention, either explicit or implicit, it is affecting the children far more negatively than you think. It’s best instead to have the courage to move on with your life, embrace who you are and after you heal, allow yourself to love again. These are great lessons to pass onto your children. They will learn to be brave, and go forth in the world to find the love that they deserve, the kind that is right for them. To learn how to operate and move forward when you have kids and a separation is looming read, The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery.

Preconceived Notions of Love Threaten Real Life Happiness

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Preconceived Notions of Love Threaten Real Life Happiness

Have you ever used the phrase “better half”? How about “made for each other”? Even if you were toasting a happy couple at a wedding, you may have sabotaged their relationship and not even known it. How’s that? According to a study out of the University of Toronto romantic, idealistic phrases such as these may solidify unrealistic expectations about love in the couple’s heads. The study found an inverse relationship between these sorts of phrases and relationship satisfaction. Subjects in the study were bombarded with idealistic phrases such as “better half,” “we were made for each other” and “we are one.”

These phrases actually gave the participants a pessimistic view of their own relationship. That’s because the myth that two people magically meet and everything falls into place, without any effort whatsoever, makes people in the real world resentful, angry and anxious when they feel that their own relationship doesn’t measure up. The irony is, a great relationship may be flowering but they are so busy with their disappointment, or wondering whether or not they are really “meant to be” to allow the relationship to blossom. Instead, it’s nipped in the bud, leaving the person wondering why they can’t find love. Here are some preconceived notions about love that we have in our culture that threaten real life happiness.

Those who expect their relationship to be perfect are in for a real shocker. There is the assumption floating out there that a relationship written in the stars begins perfect and stays that way. The truth is we are all human. We all have our positive and negative qualities. Sooner or later, once the initial honeymoon phase wears off, you will begin to realize the flaws of your beloved. They will also see yours. This is only a natural process. But how you negotiate problems and each other’s differences will spell whether you stay together or drift apart. Obsessing over everything your lover said, or becoming upset that things aren’t how you pictured, is only going to increase your stress level. Instead, focus on the positive. Seek out the reasons why you are blessed to be in this relationship, and remind your significant other why they are lucky to have you.

There are those who believe a relationship that is “fated” doesn’t need work. Everything just comes together on its own. Nothing could be further from the truth. All great relationships, though they may look effortless, require work. Any couple that looks perfect has worked hard at overcoming obstacles or is ignoring their problems altogether. Use patience, understanding, active listening and the art of negotiation to keep your relationship on track. Spend quality time together. Communicate clearly and often. Show how fond you are of your lover. They will feel good, and do the same for you in return.

When you are looking for perfection in a relationship, all you can see are the downsides to things. All you notice are disappointments. Soon flaws appear at every turn. Even if this relationship falls away, the next won’t be satisfying either. These expectations are too unrealistic. They get in the way of real love. That’s why they say love isn’t a noun but a verb. It is constantly reforming itself. Love is always in flux and forever evolving. When you focus too much on a preconceived notion you miss the real beauty that exists before you. Real love is being perfectly comfortable with someone, enough to feel vulnerable, to bare the absolute you and not worry at all for judgment or ridicule, and allowing your partner to do the same. Being judgmental just stands in the way of all that. Sure the honeymoon phase is amazing. What we often forget is how nerve wracking it is too. But if you can get to the level of absolute comfort and vulnerability, you will build a bond that is deep and strong. Finding out who that person really is, and their finding out who you really are and accepting each other’s faults, even loving them more because of them, is the real meaning of true love. For more on perfecting your love life read, The Relationship Handbook by Dr. George Pransky, Ph.D.

Knowing the Difference between Love, Infatuation, and Lust

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So you are in a relationship and you are trying to figure out how you feel about this person. But how do you know the difference between love, infatuation, and mere lust? Romantic feelings are confusing. It can be hard to nail down exactly how you feel about a person, particularly if you are not the type who understands yourself or others intimately, or who isn’t exactly in touch with their feelings. How well do you know this person? A relationship in the beginning can feel perfect. You might think the person has no faults. But everyone does. Real love is knowing and accepting a person for who they are, faults and all, and loving them anyway. This has to be reciprocal. If they don’t feel the same about you or treat you the same way, than it isn’t real love. Have you two shared deep secrets, things you wouldn’t tell others? Will your partner stand by and support you no matter what situation comes your way? Will you support them in the same manner? Real love is sticking by someone even when they are at their lowest point, and them sticking by you in the same way. Infatuation is not knowing the person’s faults, merely seeing them as perfect. If you are infatuated, you don’t really know this person, or you are experiencing a relationship in its infancy.

How long have you two been together? If you can’t imagine life without your romantic partner, you are in love. When you are physically intimate, how is it? Do you cuddle afterwards, stroke each other’s hair, or feel each other’s presence? Do you feel close afterward? Mere lust focuses only on the physical side, not the emotional side of intimacy. How do you think about your significant other? If something funny, shocking, good or bad happens, do you want to tell them right away? When you are in love, you want to share everything with your partner, even the bad things that happen. Those who are infatuated or merely feel lust don’t have this emotional compulsion. Have you two ever had a fight? How you argue and how disagreements are handled is an important part of being a couple, and telling whether this is love, infatuation or lust. If a fight is shocking and breaks the illusion, this is infatuation. But if you and your partner feel as though you will work through anything, and will always be together even when you don’t see eye-to-eye, this is love. In infatuation and even lust the object of your affection is idealized. They are like a symbol, they’re not real. In lust, it’s only the physiology of the person that is the focus. In infatuation, they are the perfect symbol of a love interest. Only when you know, love, and accept the real person, and they love, know, and accept you, is it love.