Sunday, October 28, 2007

“Outside Factors” Can Seriously Interfere with a Romantic Adult Loving Relationship

The impetus for this Post came from an e-mail I recently received from a former student. Below is the part of her e-mail that grabbed me:

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Over the past few months, my husband and I have been having a less than desirable relationship. We basically were arguing all the time. I suggested that he and I read your pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway. It was the first few sentences of the first chapter, “Living Life, Consciously,” that got our attention: “I am sure that most people would agree that in order to live a happy life, a person has to be conscious. But what does it mean to be conscious? Simplistically explained, when a person is conscious, he or she is aware of his or her own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, inner feelings, and clearly cognizant of everything that is going on– inside of oneself and outside of (or surrounding) oneself.”

What we realized was that we had a lot of stuff going on outside of our marriage which was troubling us – but, we were blaming each other for them. Once we attributed the “stuff” to what it really belonged to, and not each other, we turned the corner.

Thank you for this wonderful book…

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With some subsequent searching, I sent to her some very helpful suggestions I found on the internet. For example, wisely says, “Good and healthy relationships are created when people realize that differences make people and life interesting. Relationships work when people learn to base relationships on sharing. Truelove grows when people see each other as partners in life and not property, trophies or someone else who they are obsessed with.”

Likewise, Dawn J. Pipthrott, LCSW, offers 10 excellent “TIPS FOR A GOOD RELATIONSHIP” – they are:
1. Every morning make a conscious commitment to eliminate blame, criticism, and invalidation from your side of the relationship. If it leaks out, acknowledge it, and apologize to your partner.
2. Pay attention to and express appreciation for positive things your partner says or does--no matter how small!
3. Ask your partner to write down what makes him/her feel loved and special. Do the same for yourself. Exchange lists. Then, every day, no matter how you feel about him or her, do one loving/caring behavior for your partner!
4. Honestly look at the things YOU do that you know are not helpful to the relationship. If you want something different, you need to do something different!
5. Develop compassion for your partner and for yourself. Reactive, defensive thoughts, words and behavior are ways we protect ourselves from "danger". Watch yourself reacting and ask yourself, "What does this remind me of from my own past?" and, " What can I do differently at this point to become safer for my partner?"
6. Ask very specifically for what you need and say 'why' it is important to you. Your partner cannot read your mind and actually experiences life differently than you do!
7. Learn new skills that make communication safe and effective for both of you.
8. Know that both romantic love and the power struggle are not the destination, but are stages on the road to 'real love'. Frustration and conflict are keys for healing and growth for both of you!
9. Read Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., for new understanding of underlying issues that fuel frustration in your relationship and of ways to co-create a better relationship.
10. Most relationships can be 'saved' and transformed, and getting rid of the partner does not get rid of the 'problem'! If you think you need help, call for an appointment or come to one of our workshops or classes. You can create the relationship you want.

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, a good friend and colleague, Dr. Bill Lambos, and I are currently writing the 2nd Edition of my 1997 self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships. We just finished the first draft of Chapter 21, “Outside Factors and Features,” and in it we discuss what could be considered the “big six” factors outside a relationship that can cause significant difficulties: (1) primary family versus immediate family issues; (2) blended family issues; (3) child-rearing issues; (4) distance issues; and (5) disability issues. We also discuss “other factors” as well, and conclude the chapter with the following:

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How do outside factors affect our relationship?

Heroes and heroines in the movies can engage in the

most romantic embraces and say beautiful,

loving words to each other as bombs from

enemy planes are falling down all around them.

Husbands and wives in dysfunctional marriages never

can find time to talk about their relationships

because she has to wash out a blouse and he

has to check the oil in his car.

To a very large extent, the magnitude of the influence

that an outside factor has on our relationship

is inversely proportionate to extent to which we

recognize it and the extent to which we

attend to it.

What we pay attention to,

is probably the best indication

of our values and what we consider important.

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Question: Have you and your significant other (and your relationship) ever struggled with factors outside such as those mentioned above?



Anonymous said...

I think everyone who has been in a long relationship has at some point in time lost sight of what's really important in a relationship. I know I have from time to time. One time I was given a great piece of advice. An old man who had been married for a very long time sadi his secret to a happy marraige was to "treat his wife like she was his girlfriend". Basically, when people are dating and new in a relationship they are extra loving and extra caring because they need to reassure each other that they are interested. By doing so after you're married you don't allow doubt or resentment to creep in and the excitement doesn't fade.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello again Maconole,
Thank you for sharing your experience – one that indeed epitomizes the essence of the message in my Post. When I see partners referring to each other in their role identifiers – “mother,” “father,’ “grandma,” “grandpa”) – I cringe. These can translate into how they see each other (and thus they treat each other accordingly). As your elder friend wisely suggested, it is much more enriching when such individual see each other as “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” and treat each other accordingly. Importantly, you (and your wife I suspect) are heeding his advice (and enjoying the benefits of it).
Thanks again… hope to see you again soon,

Cole Reising said...

What great advice! Thank you for sharing.


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Thanks Cole... I always appreciate your gracious comments. And, by the way, these are some of the kinds of issues I sprinkle into my romance novels. I trust that you probably do as well.
Thanks again,
P.S. Readers are encouraged to check out Cole's cool Website: