Archive for the ‘Romantic Relationships’ Category

Why Men And Women So Often Just Miss Each Other Through Various Life Stages

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

 

Life is about change. (insight of the week). Men and women are different. (second insight). Men and women have different aspects of their brain, upbringing, and social enculturation. Marriage does not change any of these basics.  It may, however, bring a man and a woman closer together or drive them apart. Since life is about continual adjustments one must look at the various developmental stages and see what kind of challenges prevail and how most men and women react to them.

A disappointing factor that I frequently encounter in counseling with couples is the “miss” that takes place. Let me address a common stereotype fitting most middle to upper middle class couples.

EARLY TWENTIES: Marriage. Both work. Child arrives (sometimes planned, sometimes “oops”).  Man is primary “bread winner” while the woman works at a less income producing job or stays home with the kid(s). Man has job change/transfer. Family moves. Woman adjusts and accommodates as she is the glue that keeps the family together and on track as much as is possible.

THIRTIES AND EARLY FORTIES: Similar family pattern exists. Man is mostly in control. Woman is a pleaser, peace keeper.  Focus is on income production and child development.  Marriage enhancement is lost in the shuffle. Distance is more prevalent between the couple. “Separate lives” is becoming the norm.

FORTIES AND FIFTIES: Man advances career. He is gone more often for work and socializing with the guys. Woman, with the kids in school or out on their own, goes back to the work place or gets more involved in women endeavors.  Further distancing exists of the couple from each other. Sex life diminishes, sometimes drastically. Women are less interested because of the lack of emotional intimacy and menopause issues.  Men are stressed and ED complications affect time and effort to romanticize his wife. He spends more time with the guys, and maybe the girls, as he seeks a woman connection. Increased alcohol consumption, and perhaps forays into porn and gambling.

SIXTIES: What has resulted? Woman has become cold, controlling, angry, frigid – definitely not interested in cuddling or anything beyond that.  She often sleeps in a separate bedroom so as to not be bothered for sex, or awakened by snoring, or just alone time to read at her leisure. Man starts to feel melancholy, needy, empty, less self confident, depressed, worried about his health – and lonely.

For some couples the distance has become too great and one or two divorces happen through these periods.  Others stay together as “roommates” because they don’t want to take the financial hit of splitting assets or starting over with a lesser life style.  Plus, they do enjoy socializing with other couples who may well be in the same boat. Group fun covers up couple sadness.

 

Such depressive scenarios do not fit everyone.  There are the cases where the man “gets it” and becomes more attuned to his wife and her needs and thus becomes a better husband. The woman decides to again be open for re-connection and pushes her “re-start” button to become more loving and nurturing.

Women usually survive better in the later years, both physically and socially. Women nurture each other better.  Men die younger because they don’t take very good care of themselves and don’t have that loving partner that helps them take care of their well-being.

Okay, stereotype finished. What part of you, Respected Reader, fits you and your spousal relationship? At whatever age you are can you see yourself in this portrayal?  What about going forward, your future? Different outcome desired? Changed needed?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

“Heady” Stuff, Can You Handle It? Creating Deeper Connections!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Over the many years that I have published articles my perspectives  I have gotten feedback that tells me of the diversity of the readership and their desire for a variety of types of articles. Some people want just the basics, “how to” information regarding marriage relationships and parenting. Others want a better understanding of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, addictions, etc….  And then there are some who want to be intellectually stimulated by being kept abreast of challenging theories with regard to philosophical and scientific discourse involving higher level functioning relative to the brain and personal relationships. This article addresses this last interest.

Dr. Henry Grayson has published a book called MINDFUL LOVING: TEN PRACTICES FOR CREATING DEEPER CONNECTIONS.  Noted marriage theorist, Dr. Harville Hendrix writes, “Grayson has integrated psychology, spirituality, and the new physics into concrete theory and practice that sheds light on how couples make themselves miserable, and how, by transforming their thoughts, they can achieve mutual joy.”

I would like to convey some of Dr. Grayson’s key concepts to stimulate and stretch your thinking for those so inclined.  Grayson challenges the reader’s belief system as he addresses:

  1. The interconnectedness of all things through consciousness using the principles of quantum mechanics and particular physics.  (Anybody quit reading here?)
  2. Definition of the “True Self” and how to connect with it.
  3. People can create, shape, and choose their own reality, especially as it exists within their relationship. One can rise above the constraints of the Ego-based relationship into a more Spiritual relationship connecting with the Divine.
  4. The power of thoughts and beliefs: how changing what one thinks can effect change in emotions and behavior.
  5. Distinguishing between Counterfeit and Empowering Love.
  6. Unfolding the flow of Love
  7. Meditation as a means of connecting with the “God within” and breaking down Ego boundaries in relationships.

For those of you who have not yet fallen asleep and those of you stimulated by these lofty concepts, may I draw forth a few pragmatic tidbits that may speak in a clearer fashion to you.

  1. Our mind seeks transcendence – to connect spiritually with the Divine-God.  Scientists have discovered a gene in the brain that inspires a person toward transcendence; some call it the “God gene”. This search path for transcendence varies between religions and individuals.  One’s “Belief” is important here.  How one thinks so too does one act.  Grayson presents a particular belief that he feels best unites science and spirituality.
  2. The more conscious, or aware, you are the more you can form an “Intention” as to what you want to create.  When you commit to an intention you co-create a reality that connects you better to your True Self and can better help you connect with your significant other in a loving fashion.
  3. God is Love – Being itself.  We as human beings participate in Divine Being and are energized by that love within us.

Teilhard de Chardin, a French scientist and theologian, has written in this vein:

“Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone joins them by what is deepest in themselves”

I hope that this treatise, complex as it is, has given you, Respected Reader, some food for thought. It is indicative of valiant attempts to connect science and spirituality.  A noble endeavor.  Perhaps it will jostle your mind to continue your search for a deeper understanding of yourself, your life, your connections, and your participation in the Godly mission of creative and healing Love.

Whew, I’m done in but encourage you to keep seeking as “The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates.

Are You Open to a Relationship “Check- Up? Of Course You Are!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

JOHN J. STATHAS, Ph.D., LMFT

Okay, you’ve had your annual physical with your physician.  You’ve made sure your car, perhaps boat as well, are in good condition.  The lawn mower purrs well. The shrubs have been pruned with your careful attention. And your relationship, what kind of shape is it in?  Oh, you haven’t had a check up or maintenance review lately. Well I guess that isn’t very high on your “to do” list. Priorities?  For those of you who welcome opportunities and methods to do regular evaluations of your relationship, the following is for you.

In doing an evaluation of your relationship it is important to do it in a way that minimizes defensive reactions and retaliation.  Discussing a relationship is oftentimes not easy to do.  The following model is one from a National Institute of Health study. I think it does a good job of getting the ball rolling for a relationship discussion.  There are six questions for each person to answer. Let the dialogue begin!

  1. “How are we doing?” (To avoid innocuous answers like “okay”, “pretty good”, etc… I ask couples to answer on a scale of 1 to 10 and then elaborate).
  2. “What’s good about us?” (Always want to start with the positives.  It helps to deter defensiveness. Try to string this section out.  Warm fuzzies always feel good!)
  3. “How can we work together better?” (Don’t go into history of what has gone wrong.  Just focus on what could be improved going forward).
  4. “What do you need more of from me?” (Gives each person an opportunity to look at his or her needs and communicate them to his or her partner).
  5. “When we disagree how can we communicate better?” (Recognition that disagreements go with the territory and present challenges to communication.  This invites each other to upgrade the communication process when tensions mount).
  6. “How satisfied are you with our physical intimacy?”  (Gives each person a chance to discuss a highly charged area of the relationship that is often difficult to address. Again, I recommend a                      1-10 rating, with elaboration).

What I particularly like about this study, and the reason for this article, is that it raises awareness that “check ups” are necessary for healthy relationship maintenance and improvement – and it does it in as a positive manner as possible. It avoids a critical blaming approach.  No history lesson needed here. It invites communication input from both parties.

If you truly explore the relationship you probably will find that there are areas that should be addressed if the relationship is to thrive.  Occasionally professional assistance is required to fix or further strengthen the relationship. Regular routine “check ups” can avoid a subsequent serious rupture in the relationship.

Will you utilize the “check up” with your significant other?  If no, why not?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”        Socrates

JOHN J. STATHAS, Ph.D., LMFT

Okay, you’ve had your annual physical with your physician.  You’ve made sure your car, perhaps boat as well, are in good condition.  The lawn mower purrs well. The shrubs have been pruned with your careful attention. And your relationship, what kind of shape is it in?  Oh, you haven’t had a check up or maintenance review lately. Well I guess that isn’t very high on your “to do” list. Priorities?  For those of you who welcome opportunities and methods to do regular evaluations of your relationship, the following is for you.

In doing an evaluation of your relationship it is important to do it in a way that minimizes defensive reactions and retaliation.  Discussing a relationship is oftentimes not easy to do.  The following model is one from a National Institute of Health study. I think it does a good job of getting the ball rolling for a relationship discussion.  There are six questions for each person to answer. Let the dialogue begin!

  1. “How are we doing?” (To avoid innocuous answers like “okay”, “pretty good”, etc… I ask couples to answer on a scale of 1 to 10 and then elaborate).
  2. “What’s good about us?” (Always want to start with the positives.  It helps to deter defensiveness. Try to string this section out.  Warm fuzzies always feel good!)
  3. “How can we work together better?” (Don’t go into history of what has gone wrong.  Just focus on what could be improved going forward).
  4. “What do you need more of from me?” (Gives each person an opportunity to look at his or her needs and communicate them to his or her partner).
  5. “When we disagree how can we communicate better?” (Recognition that disagreements go with the territory and present challenges to communication.  This invites each other to upgrade the communication process when tensions mount).
  6. “How satisfied are you with our physical intimacy?”  (Gives each person a chance to discuss a highly charged area of the relationship that is often difficult to address. Again, I recommend a                      1-10 rating, with elaboration).

What I particularly like about this study, and the reason for this article, is that it raises awareness that “check ups” are necessary for healthy relationship maintenance and improvement – and it does it in as a positive manner as possible. It avoids a critical blaming approach.  No history lesson needed here. It invites communication input from both parties.

If you truly explore the relationship you probably will find that there are areas that should be addressed if the relationship is to thrive.  Occasionally professional assistance is required to fix or further strengthen the relationship. Regular routine “check ups” can avoid a subsequent serious rupture in the relationship.

Will you utilize the “check up” with your significant other?  If no, why not?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”        Socrates

Ever Said These Words About Your Partner? Then You Did What?

Friday, March 15th, 2013

 

Over the years I have heard spouses comment about their partners while giving reasons why the relationship was not working out.  Some of them are the following.  Perhaps you can identify with a few of them.

  1. We were too different to make it work
  2. He was just too stubborn and wouldn’t change
  3. She was too needy. Everything was all about her
  4. Talk about self centered! He didn’t care at all about me or my feelings
  5. Whatever I did it was never enough. There was always something I did wrong
  6. He was afraid of intimacy. Every time we started to get close he would pull away
  7. Everything was fine until she changed
  8. I was always his project.  He kept trying to change me
  9. Gradually the kids became more important to her than I was
  10. Work was all he cared about
  11. I felt completely controlled and manipulated
  12. It never felt safe to open up
  13. She’s too emotional. It just wore me out
  14. He never listens to me. All he wants to do is give me advice and solve my problems.
  15. Our sex life was non existent
  16. He drank too much and I didn’t want to be around him
  17. She let herself go and didn’t take care of herself
  18. All he wanted to do was sit in front of the television
  19. He was bit time into porn
  20. She insisted that the dog had to sleep in our bed
  21. We just weren’t having any fun together anymore
  22. Her life was all about shopping and spending my hard earned money
  23. He had a real dark side that got worse over the years
  24. I can’t forgive him for how he has hurt me
  25. She just got angrier over the years. I don’t want to live with an angry person.

Most marriages have individuals thinking or saying some of these comments along the way.  The key is what is done when such thoughts exist.  Just accept that your marriage is just like that? Get divorced? Decide to work on it with a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist?

People are capable of change.  Marriages can get better. Perhaps you might want to look at your life and your relationship. You may want to listen to what thoughts or words you and your spouse are sending forth – and then do something constructive about it.  I believe you will be happy that you did!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”       Socrates

“Venus” and “Mars”: Now It’s About the Hormones!

Friday, March 1st, 2013

MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, authored by Dr. John Gray.  Remember that book and title?  It has been a gigantic best seller since it came on the scene in 1992.   Those gender descriptors carried over into popular culture, often used to describe any and every male-female difference.

Gray has written a number of MARS-VENUS books over the years and recently has added a new one: VENUS ON FIRE, MEN ON ICE.  Gray has consistently pointed out male-female differences with the intention of helping each gender to better understand the other and communicate more effectively. This book has a deeper scientific underpinning than some of his others as he illustrates the gender challenges based on biochemical understandings.  He says hormones are the key.  Hormonal differences between the sexes affect the way they interpret and respond to one another. His book offers “simple tips required to ensure a steady supply of feel-good hormones for you and your partner.  In the foreward Dr. Hyla Cass says these impactful hormones are oxytocin for females and testosterone for men.

Women get angry (FIRE) – demanding and aggressive. Men go cold (“ICE”), – passive, move away emotionally.  Why? Gray says it is all about the amount of testosterone and oxytocin present in each gender as they respond to life challenges.  It the stress gets to be too much the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol production interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones thus leaving each gender person frustrated.

Here are some of the statements that illustrate these factors:

“How can he just sit there and watch TV when the house is such a mess.”   “Why does she always want  to talk about her day and even worse why does she expect me to talk about my day.” “Where did all the romance go? In the beginning he would plan dates, give me compliments and show me lots of affection. Now he only touches me when he wants sex.”  “Why do I have to jump through hoops to have a sex life?”

If cortisol is not impacting the oxytocin, the hormone of love, and testosterone, the hormone of desire, fuel romance between the partners.  Women are feeling happy and “in love, while men are feeling motivated, passionate and romantic.

If women want to stop men from going to “ICE”, they need to stop making these kind of statements:      “When are you going to put this away?  Isn’t time for you to get a haircut? You should slow down, you’ll get a ticket. How can you think with the music so loud? Did you wash your hands? Why did you need to buy a new one? You’ve already had one dessert! You should buy new T shirts, these have holes in them. Why are you so lazy?”        (Men, add your own comments that your partner need not say)

If men want women to not go to “FIRE”, they need to stop making these kind of statements:                 “Just let it go; it’s not important. You’re expecting too much. It’s simple, just say…  It’s not such a big deal. You shouldn’t feel that way. Here’s what you should do. That’s not what happened. Don’t get so upset. You shouldn’t let them talk to you that way. You’re acting like your mother again”              (Women, add your own comments that you wish your partner need not say)

The bottom line here is that men and women biochemically react differently based on the communication and behavior present. Oxytocin and testosterone are key factors for emotional and romantic connections. Cortisol emanating from stressful situations hinders the production of these feel-good hormones. Greater awareness is needed by both men and women as to what they say and do which may result in the negative “FIRE & ICE” between men and women OR kick in a caring and romantic connection between two people who love each other.

Ask yourself the question, is there much “FIRE” or “ICE” in this relationship?  If so, start working on getting the beneficial hormones present. Romance and a positive connection will be yours!