Archive for January, 2011

Are You a “Pursuer” or a “Distancer” in a Relationship?

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

     Psychologists describe people and their behavior.  They try to help people understand themselves and become the best that they can be.  Part of this process is to describe behavior that is healthy and growthful and that which is painful and destructive.  Romantic relationships are complex because you are working with two individuals who have their own personality and style and need to come together in a united synergistic partnership.

     One of the better psychologist writers over time has been Dr. Harriet Goldhor Lerner.  Her book THE DANCE OF ANGER is a classic work.  A part of this book describes two basics types of people in a relationship – PURSUERS and DISTANCERS.  The following are descriptors of each.  I would like to encourage you to read them and determine which one best describes you – and your partner, if you have one.

PURSUERS:

1. React to anxiety by seeking greater togetherness in a relationship.

2. Place a high value on talking things out and expressing feelings, and believe the other should do the same.

3. Feel rejected and take it personally when the partner wants more time and space alone or away from the relationship.

4. Tend to pursue harder and then coldly withdraw when the partner seeks distance.

5. May be labeled as “too dependent” or “too demanding” in a relationship.

6. Tend to criticize their partner as someone who can’t handle feelings or tolerate closeness.

DISTANCERS:

1. Seek emotional distance or physical space when stress is high.

2. Consider themselves to be self-reliant and private persons – more “do-it-yourselfers” than help-seekers.

3. Have difficulty showing their needy, vulnerable, and dependent sides.

4. Receive labels as “emotionally unavailable”, “withholding”, “unable to deal with feelings”, from one’s partner.

5. Manage anxiety in personal relationships by intensifying work-related projects.

6. May cut off a relationship entirely when things get intense, rather than hanging in and working it out.

7. Open up most freely when they are not pushed or pursued.

    Okay, which one fits you best?  You may not fit either one completely, but you probably lean strongly toward one or the other.  How about your partner, past partners? Are you with the same type as yourself?  Attract the opposite.

     For those of you who have read Harville Hendrix’s works, his “Fusers” would be the Pursuers and his “Isolators” would be the Distancers.  He describes the family situations that tend to develop one or the other.  You might want to re-examine your childhood experience in the Family to help understand why you are oriented to be one or the other. 

     Knowing your tendency and that of your partner can go a long way to help you both understand each other’s emotional wiring and how it affects your relationship.  Communication about this topic will explain a lot of each other’s behavior. I hope you explore these aspects of your personality.  Only good things will come from such effort!

Sex and Money Affect Relationships (As if you did not know that!)

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

     The sexual and financial dynamics in a marriage are powerful.  They greatly affect the success of failure of the relationship.  Stereotypically it is said that men control the money and women control the bedroom.  Generally there is a correlation between the two.  The emphasis in this article will focus on the financial side of the exchange. Sex comes later.

     First, a few questions about your relationship:

1. Who makes the money, one person or both?

2. How much does each person make?

3. Who handles the finances, i.e., paying the bills, going to the bank?

4. Who deals with the investments?

5. Do you have a budget?

6. Does each of you make up the budget?

7. Is one of you more of a “spender?”  Is the other quite “frugal?”

8. Are both of you happy with the way that the finances are handled?

9. What would you like to change?

10.Do you both consider that you have a partnership in this area, with both person’s concerns and styles taken into consideration?

Oftentimes I assist couples discuss and modify the way that money is handled  between them.  There is a lot of variation in couples’ financial worlds.  There are not definitive ways that should govern each couple, but there are principles that can be applied:

1.Emphasis should be on the partnership, not on how much each person earns. This presumes that both persons agree on the earnings choices of the other.

2. Each person should have input as to how much money is needed, budgeted, and spent.

3. Each person should be able to question the other’s spending if s/he feels it is inappropriate.

4. No one person should have the final say regarding money matters.  Discuss compromise, perhaps mediation, may need to be utilized.

5. Put all discretionary money into one checking account, with possible exception due to stepfamily situations or special account needs.

6. Be responsible!  Enter all checks.

7  No secrets.  Discuss finances on a regular basis.

8. Share dreams and develop short and long term goals and plans.  Housing, transportation, travel, “toys,” kids education, second home, retirement are a few of the key areas for couple discussion.

 Sex and money are volatile issues that elicit “power struggles” for a couple.  Power struggles bring forth nasty behavior such as control, criticism, and sneakiness.  These inappropriate styles erode and sabotage even the best intentioned couple. I invite you to look at and discuss your financial situation. While it may be difficult to do, it can greatly enhance the quality of your relationship.

Do You Like Yourself? Try This Self Esteem Analysis.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

     It is a fact that the way we view ourselves has a lot to do with our behavior, both personally and professionally.  It is very difficult to accurately assess how we see ourselves, because it is a very subjective process, using two different parts of the brain, the cerebral cortex(cognitive) and the limbic(emotional).   Add our various defense mechanisms, such as denial and rationalization, and the analysis gets even more complicated.

 How about giving it a shot?  I have devised an evaluative instrument as a starting point of self assessment. Give yourself a grade for each category, based on how you perceive yourself. (Use a scale of 1-100)

                        CATEGORY                                                        GRADES

BODY

PERSONALITY

INTELLIGENCE

EMOTIONALITY

HEALTH

SEXUALITY

CAPACITY TO WORK PRODUCTIVELY

CAPACITY TO HAVE FUN

EXERCISE

RELATIONSHIP WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHER

RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PARENT(S)

RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR KID(S )

RELATIONSHIP WITH FRIENDS

RELATIONSHIP WITH CO-WORKERS

COMMUNICATION SKILLS – PERSONAL

COMMUNICATION SKILLS – PROFESSIONAL

LIVING YOUR VALUES

SPIRITUALITY

COPING ABILITY UNDER STRESS

SENSE OF HUMOR

FINANCIAL CONDITION

EATING HABITS

JOB SATISFACTION

MARITAL SATISFACTION

LIFE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

     There may be other categories by which you assesses yourself.  Use them.  Any surprises?  Any conclusions or challenges that are derived from this exercise?

How Do You Handle Your Anger?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

     Everyone gets angry at another person at some point on the path of life.  What you do with your anger is what is important.  Anger management is critical to your personal happiness as well as significant relationships.

     WHO has made you angry in the past?  WHO makes you angry in the present?  Certain people and events trigger feelings of anger.  For those of you who may be struggling to identify your anger, substitute the word “hurt” for the word anger.  Anger and hurt are two sides of the same coin.  Depending on your personal reactive style, one feeling or the other will be most evident. 

     Anger/hurt is a signal to be aware!  Your alert system is warning you–“fight or flight”.  Something in your space is scary or threatening.  What is your typical reactive style?  Do you “act in”(emotional retentive) or “act out”emotional expressive)?

     If you “act in” your anger you tend to repress (block) and/or rationalize (“It’s not important”) these feelings.  The result is that you are depressed, defenseless, and tend to get out of balance with some type of addictive excessivebehavior, i.e., eating, drinking, drugs, shopping, etc… Your deepest personality is shrouded in fear and sadness. Limited power/energy is available.  Impotence is your middle name.

     If you “act out” your anger you are likely to displace or scapegoat it on to some weaker entity or become rageful. Rageful behavior lashes out physically and/or verbally at another.  You are driven and competitive.  Lots of power/energy is available, but you tend to run too hot and can burn out from within, or be destroyed by a more powerful competitor.

     Being an assertive person is the happy medium between closing down and lashing out.  When you are assertive you are aware of what is going on, state your perception objectively, and ask for what you want.  Be prepared to negotiate a compromise that you and the other person can accept. You are at your assertive best when you feel good about yourself and have emotional stability. Occasionally you may need to establish a boundary with people. You do not let people into your physical or mental space (“out of sight, out of mind”) because they are “vexations to the spirit” to quote Desiderata.

    The key to emotional stability is balance of Mind/Body/Spirit.  The main component of such a life are exercise, rational thinking, forgiveness, meditation/prayer, hearing the music, laughing, and trusting your intuition.  Anger, and its allies of fear and sadness, will be replaced by the power of love.

How Long Will Your Marriage Last? Want To Be Sure?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

     Couples are getting more and more nervous about their capacity to have a successful marriage. With divorce rates at fifty percent for first marriages, and close to seventy percent for second marriages, couples of all ages are doing pre marriage or marriage counseling to better understand what makes a marriage work.  Pre marriage couples are wondering if they are compatible for the long term. They know that they have not been prepared well for the various developmental stages and developmentsover the course of marital time.

     Clinical experience and research has enabled  marriage and family professionals to predict up to ninety-four per cent probability whether a marriage will end in divorce.  Given the huge costs of marriages, and even higher financial and emotional costs of divorce, enlightened couples are seeking some assurance that marital happiness is probable.

     Dr. John Gottman is recognized as one of the foremost  researchers of  marital success rates. His extensive clinical testing has resulted in naming eight vitally important skill sets that will enable couples to have a successful marriage.  These eight factors are:

l. KNOWLEDGE OF EACH OTHER’S WORLDS.   Taking time to know the concerns, hopes, and challenges of your partner elicits love and caring in return.  Couples need some time daily to get “caught up” with each other.

2. KEEPING SIGHT OF THE POSITIVE.   Marriages that succeed have partners that notice and comment on the positive things that occur in their interactions.  Try to catch your partner doing something nice and tell him/her about it.

3. “TURNING TOWARD”.  Partners who initiate small acts of caring or connection, delivered without strings, are destined to have better marriages.  To nurture, and be open to being nurtured, occasions closeness and satisfaction.

4. “WE-NESS.”  Couples  who succeed plan their lives together, rather than passively just living day to day.  They talk through priorities of activities, spending, life style, timing, etc… with emphasis on living and sharing life as a couple.

5. SOFTENED VS. HARSH STARTUP.  All couples argue, but how arguments are started determine ultimate marriage success or failure.  Studies suggest that 96% of the time, the outcome of an argument can be predicted by what happens in the first three minutes of the disagreement.  Successful partners complain and express their unhappiness, but do not criticize or be contemptuous.

6. ACCEPTING  INFLUENCE.  When couples disagree and each person stays in a locked up position,  the odds of a successful marriage diminish.  But when each partner is able to remain flexible, and then open to the merit of the other’s position, marital success rates go up.  It’samazing what your partner can offer if openness prevails.

7. EFFECTIVE  REPAIR.   Successful couples learn how to repair damaged relationships.  Couples  learn how to come together quickly after a disagreement. I believe this may be the most important and enduring factor in couples that “make it.” I have written an article entitled “The art of the re-connect”. You can find it on my web page.

8. AVOIDANCE  OF  GRIDLOCK.  Research indicates that about 69% of the issues that couples argue about do not go away over the life of the relationship, because they are based on fundamental differences in personality, style, beliefs, or values.  Couples that succeed find ways of lessening the irritation of these differences by understanding and supporting the basic dreams of one’s partner.

      May I suggest that, after reading this article, you sit down with your partner and go over the eight categories listed here and see if they are present in your relationship.  If one or more is missing, please work on establishing it.  The success of your marriage may depend on it!