4 Ways to Let Go of “Me” and What They Mean for the “We”

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True or False: We can and should try to change our romantic partners.

Answer: False.  But that doesn’t mean our partner’s can’t or shouldn’t try to change themselves.  We can be a major influence for those changes we hope to see. Sometimes we even find ourselves changing because of our partner.  

When “me” becomes a “we,” there are many opportunities for change.  Sometimes those changes happen in the relationship as a whole, like making a single Facebook account for a couple.  But the most common changes happen at an individual level.  When two different individuals begin spending so much time together, it is only a matter of time before those two individuals become more like their partner.

In a recent study, Kevin McIntyre at Trinity University found that allowing ourselves to become more like our partner can play an important role in relationships. However, not all changes have a positive influence.  The study revealed four main types of what are called “self-changes,” or how one partner changes him or herself to become more like a partner, and only half of ... Read more »


Closing the gap: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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In today’s world of increased travel, internet, and smartphones, one type of relationship has become more common: the Long Distance Relationship.  Chances are you have experienced one yourself or have a friend who has.  You may know some of the challenges that come from being together as a couple, but distant physically – the bittersweet dreams of reuniting with the loved one, and the pain that follows when you realize it isn’t happening soon, or when you do reunited and the relationship turns sour instead of sweet.  The truth about reuniting with a distant loved one is not all rosy and sweet.

In a recent study, Laura Stafford and her colleagues at Ohio State University got a clear picture of what really happens when long distance couples reunite. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

When reunion occurs, most couples experience some good changes to their relationship that strengthen them and make their dreams come true.  

More face-to-face time

As would be expected, being closer geographically allows for more time to spend together face to face. This opens up opportunities ... Read more »


Do you Celebrate your Relationship Enough?

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Try to remember your high school graduation.  What were you wearing?  What speeches were given? How did you feel? You may not remember every detail, but chances are you can clearly remember the feelings you had and some of the colors, sounds, or thoughts you experienced.  Why is that?

Markers of accomplishment, such as high school graduation, are often celebrated with traditions that set them apart from everyday events.  These traditions, or rituals, remind us that we are moving from one stage to another, and we can later recall these transitions with clarity.

Similarly, in relationships we make many transitions, big or small, that are important markers of the relationship’s progress.  Sarah Halpern-Meekin at the University of Wisconsin and Laura Tach at Cornell University have found that couples who use rituals to mark these stages are better able to remember the moment of change in the relationship, and are generally happier and more stable.

 

What is a Relationship Ritual?

When you think about rituals in relationships you may think about a proposal and the engagement ring. A proposal is often a marker of ... Read more »


Which Stage of Dating Are You In?

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relationship

Knowing what stage of dating a relationship’s at and where it’s going is important.  The answer to these questions help us determine such things as how intimate we should be with our partner and what plans we should start making for our future together.  Determining the seriousness of our relationship, however, can be very challenging and confusing.

The 3 Stages of Dating:

Lucky for us..

Laura Umphrey and John Sherblom, researchers from the Universities of Alaska and Maine (respectively), have simplified the process.  In one of their studies, they found the keys to understanding your relationship development–there are three distinct relationship stages and this is what each stage looks like.

 

Casual Dating

 

What is it: Casual dating is the first stage of any relationship.  It is characterized by people just dating for fun without any expectation of commitment or exclusivity.  It’s a “getting to know you” phase where we’re not likely to invest much in the relationship or worry about how we feel about the relationship as a whole.

 

Stresses: Because of the lack of commitment, we’re also more likely to worry about what our ... Read more »


What You’re Still Missing About Empathy

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Today’s post is inspired by Dr. Brene Brown’s work on empathy.  Empathy, as she states in the video above, is feeling with people.   Sympathy, on the other hand, is feeling sorry for people.  Empathy connects.  Sympathy disconnects.  Empathy says, “I know what that feels like, or at least I’m glad you told me what it feels like because I want you to know you’re not alone.  I’m here.”, whereas sympathy says, “Wow, that sounds terrible, sorry you have to deal with that!” (and then slowly backs away to the comfortable sphere where it doesn’t have to feel your pain with you).

 

Okay, so empathy is great and wonderful, but why do we care?  Because empathy requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is what connects us most to each other in this world.  We all have a need to feel connected, loved, and accepted because we’re human beings–we’re wired that way.  We’re starving for connection, and we live in a world where it’s harder and harder to connect because we’re busy hiding behind our screens.

 

So why does empathy require vulnerability?  After all, how hard is it to be there with ... Read more »


Why Your Partner Responds With, “I Don’t Know…”

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I don't know

As a therapist, my least favorite answer to a question is probably “I don’t know…”.  I mean I always think (rather critically), Really?  You don’t know?  Yes you do.  You’re in your head, not me.  Just tell me!  As I’ve been thinking about this more I’ve realized that I have the same response to my husband when he gives me non-answers like “Where do you want to go to eat?” “I don’t know, you pick.”, “How are you feeling about this?” “I don’t know.”, “Did I hurt your feelings?” “I don’t know.”, “I just told you how upset I am about all of this, don’t you have any response?” “I don’t know.”.  I’ve always been frustrated and a little impatient with it, whether it’s in my own marriage or in my relationship with clients in the therapy room because I don’t understand “not knowing” how you’re feeling.  I usually have about a thousand ways to express what I’m thinking and feeling!

 

Here’s what I didn’t know about “I don’t know.”.  It’s true!  They don’t know!  Earth-shattering, right?  But truly, they really don’t know in ... Read more »


What You Don’t Understand About Your “Emotionally Unavailable” Partner

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Disengaged Partner

I was at a conference this weekend where it was once again reiterated to me how impactful our attachment in our early relationships is on our current relationships.  When we talk about “attachment”, we usually mean how safe and connected we feel to our partner (or friend, or parent, etc.).  What the research has shown over the years is that our attachment style is mostly dictated by our relationship we had with our parents when we were little, but it can change as we have new relationship experiences throughout our life.  There are a few main attachment styles that I want to unpack today because I think they’re often misunderstood and this misunderstanding can cause major problems in relationships.

 

Secure Attachment

When you meet someone with a secure attachment style, they probably grew up with a steady flow of comfort, validation, empathy, and love from their parents and family.  These are the people who aren’t too anxious, but aren’t scared of relationships either.

 

Insecure Anxious Attachment

When someone has an insecure attachment style, they either exhibit avoidant or anxious behaviors to cope with this ... Read more »


Why Manners Still Matter

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Manners

Several years ago on a plane I had an experience that I’ll never forget. The steward, a man probably in his 50’s, was making his way down the aisle to offer beverages. After he handed me my request I simply said “thank you” out of habit. He stopped what he was doing, turned around, and said, “Young lady, thank you. No one these days has manners anymore.”

 

My mom, the person who harped on me as a kid to learn my manners, is the person deserving of credit for this brief encounter. However, I thought of the magnitude of his response and what it means. He sees hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people a day. One “thank you” was enough to make him stop in his tracks? That’s pretty disappointing.

 

Manners are still important, especially in our relationships. Evelyn Rush, an author on successful relationships, said that most of us begin a new relationship on our best behavior, but that usually wears off over time. As a sex therapist, she has seen that as a huge indicator of wavering, unhealthy relationships. ... Read more »


3 Things to Think About Before Talking to Others About Your Relationship

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Friend reaching out

When you have a concern about your relationship, who do you go to first?  Do you talk to your close friends about your concerns, or do you turn to your partner?  Do you talk to your mother or other immediate family member?

 

In a recent study, these researchers found that people who discuss their relationship concerns with friends more than their romantic partners are often hurting their relationship rather than helping.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean that talking to your friends about your relationship is a bad thing.  If you’re going to share parts of your relationship with friends, here are some things to think about to make sure you don’t go too far:

 

Talk to Your Partner First

Relationships require vulnerability and disclosure, and sharing your deepest concerns with your partner is a sign that you trust them.  This will also allow you to work on your relationship together, which is far better than trying to do it alone.  People who work through concerns with their partner tend to be happier, feel more secure about their relationship, and perceive more trust and ... Read more »


How Being “Mad” is Hurting Your Relationship

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Mad

Have you ever been mad at someone and thought, “Why am I so mad at them?  They didn’t do it on purpose!” ?  When you’re mad about something, it’s easier to shut off your brain and just brood than really think about the above question.  Unfortunately, when you do this, it leaves you clueless as to why exactly you’re upset.  Before you come back with the retort, “I’m just mad because I’m mad!”, hear us out.  Anger is what we call a secondary emotion.  It’s the top of the iceberg of emotions.  This means there are primary emotions beneath it.  Because primary emotions leave us feeling more vulnerable, they quickly get covered up with some form of anger, causing us to react poorly when we feel wronged in our relationships.

 

For example, a wife might be mad at her husband for forgetting his phone one day because she couldn’t get ahold of him.  But a closer examination of what’s going on with her could reveal a fear of something bad happening and not being able to find him. Or maybe she’s ... Read more »