Posts tagged marriage
'Your Relationship'

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

"Why are you treating me this way?"

Sometimes our partners say things and act in ways that we just don’t get. Things are supposed to be this way, not that way. Why don’t they understand how things are supposed to be in a relationship?  The answer is simple: your understanding of how things are supposed to be in your relationship – your ‘normal’ – is not their ‘normal’. You must accept that their understanding of how relationships work – how to act, what to say, and how to handle things – will inevitably differ from yours. You have your ‘Guide to Relationships’, while your partner has a different ‘Guide’. Their guide not only differs from yours, but even seems to be written in another language sometimes. Why can’t they see that your way is the right way, and that their way is wrong?

Let me introduce you to your parents.

Perhaps obvious, but often overlooked, is the example your parents set, during your childhood, of how a relationship should be. If you thought everyone learned what a relationship is by watching “Leave it to Beaver” or heaven forbid “The Sopranos”, you are very much mistaken. When it comes to relationships, we learn the rules, the ways of interacting, and the ways of behaving - what a relationship is and how it works -  from our parent’s example. Your ‘normal’ is what you know, and your partner’s normal is what they know.

If you are currently in a relationship, look at your partner’s parent’s relationship. Here you will find the underpinnings of your partners ‘Guide to Relationships’. Then look at your own parents – how they interact with each other, what they say to each other, how they behave – and recognize that much of what you believe to be a normal relationship was influenced by their example. These are the cornerstones of your ‘guide’ to normal relationships. Even if you disagreed with or even hated the nature of their relationship, it was what you grew up with and was a primary example.

What Do We Do Now?

If the state of your relationship warrants, finding and working with an experienced and knowledgeable couples coach is invaluable. Whether or not you partner with a coach, the first step is to identify your relational goals. Work together to discover and outline the steps necessary to meet those goals. Issues such as conflicting relational definitions and beliefs need to be identified and discussed. Compromises will need to be made, and you may both need to accept relational ‘deal breakers’ that present themselves. You may not agree with or even understand some of your partner’s requests. The goal is to combine your 2 different relational guides into one – a relational guide that you and your partner agree to.

Commitment to change will be expected, and a couple’s coach can help you change the behaviors you agreed to change.

Rewriting the foundation upon which you and your partner have lived by is not easy and requires commitment to both the change process and to each other. Yet I have witnessed couples make incredible changes, turning dysfunctional relationships into happy, harmonious relationships. Every partnership is challenging. When difficulties arise, I strongly encourage you to examine your core beliefs about relationships, identify where you learned these beliefs, and question their usefulness in healing and strengthening your relationship. Relationships should be joyful, strong partnerships. Work together, never apart, to create a relationship you’ve dreamed of.

 

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Secret Love

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

It will happen: you will meet the perfect man: attentive, caring, loving, attractive, sexually exciting – the soul mate. You take out your list of ‘must haves’ – we’ve all seen them, or made one, or perhaps given up on one – but the list is THE LIST! Your perfect partner must have certain qualities, and, as a young romantic, compromise just doesn’t seem logical. That perfect person is out there, and you have faith that he or she will arrive, ready to make your dreams reality.  

And there he is – the perfect man. Playful courting ensues, and your brain transforms. The love chemicals take hold, and full-blown infatuation overtakes every cell of your being. You both fall hard, and soon find that everything has changed. You are ecstatic, and the high of infatuated love is convincing. This is YOUR PERSON. It’s happening, and you find the relationship so intoxicating, so intense, and so intimate, that reasoning and certain brain function vanishes. The belief that love conquers all blinds you almost completely. And the sex – most if not all of us have experienced the rapture - the sexual pleasure that accompanies the early months of new found love.

It is easy for new love to turn our feelings, our hopes, and our dreams into a reality we see as clear as the brightest day. New found love brings out the best in us. It’s easy to bury and hide the person we are when not in the throes of infatuation. And it’s equally as easy for our new love to show his best side. Infatuation plays tricks on us all. Red flags we would normally spot go unnoticed. Soon, as the intensity of our new love lessens, we begin showing more and more of our ‘actual’ self, and we notice that our new partner isn’t so perfect either. 6 months into new relationships, neurotransmitter levels in our brains begin to level off. After 2 years most of the chemical bomb that exploded early on is gone. The difficult truth, as research on human love relationships shows, is that the more intense the beginnings of a relationship, the less likely it will last. Joy kill! you yell at me. My apologies, but my greatest concern will always remain your long-term happiness and life satisfaction.

We must pay attention to the wonderful things that occur during infatuation. The underpinnings of true and lasting love can be found by examining a couple’s beginnings. For example, during infatuation, couples make their relationship, and each other’s needs, a priority. They flirt and play, laugh, show affection often, and support each other emotionally. They accept one another unconditionally, forgive imperfections, and tend to work out problems in a giving, forgiving, and selfless way. It seems that love is more often a verb than a noun. Love is action, and love grows through loving action. It’s not enough to say, ‘I love you’. You must act in ways that demonstrate your love – be considerate, caring, and respectful of your partner. Infatuation fades, but continued loving actions lead to the growth of true love.

To create lasting love, couples must be vigilant. Signs that a relationship may need attention or may be taking unhealthy turns include less willingness to make time to be together, feelings that you and/or your partner begin to prefer more alone time, there is a lessening of loving gestures, or you no longer give your partner the benefit of the doubt - and instead begin jumping to negative conclusions and blaming. Perhaps you begin feeling that you are ‘falling out of love’.

It is now, while you consider your feelings and your future, that I recommend a reframing process. It is now that you must accept that the intensity of feelings experienced during infatuation could never sustain, and that infatuation is not true love. Happiness is the ratio between what you expect and what you get. If your expectations are that the intensity of infatuated love should last forever, then you are certain to be disappointed with a mature relationship. The key to happiness is aligning your expectations closer to reality, and committing to the hard work that love requires. Commit to loving - and acting in loving ways - each day. As our own needs as humans change with time, love also changes. This is the key to creating love that grows. Mature love isn’t a feeling - it’s action, attitude, responsibility, loyalty, and support.

Love often begins as an explosion of human chemistry. But when attended to properly, love matures and grows, and becomes far greater than a feeling. True love is action – it’s the way you respect and attend to your partner. Love is a life lived together, and ultimately, a life lived as one.

 
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