Infidelity navigation: Summary * fidelity 101 * fidelity 108 * fidelity 2 * fidelity 3 * fidelity 4 * emotional cost * triangles * how to mend * models of mending * how to forgive * the unforgivable * relationship education * exits from intimacy * ending a relationship in peace * defenses * emotional intelligence * re-romancing * on vulnerability
Relationship navigation: * page list * page 1 * page 2 * page 3 * page 4 * page 5 * how to build intimacy * how to mend * models of mending * commitment quiz * toxic patterns * mental maps * tough love * boundaries * turning points * how to end * forgiving * survey of marriage * what is success * marriage research * love styles * marriage quotes * family love like the wind
How to mend navigation: 1. How to mend * 2. Models of mending * 3. How to be a grown up * 4. Hold me tight * 5. Becoming vulnerable * 6. Emotional bids * 7. Constructive fights * 8. Exits from intimacy * 9. The answer
Last edit 09/01/2013
Happily married couples aren't smarter, richer, or more psychologically astute than others. They have simply hit upon a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other (which all couples have) from overwhelming their positive ones. Gottman
It’s just a matter of remembering to treat people the same way you would if they were guests in your home. Gottman
Marriage is not a license to say whatever you think. Ziji
How does love die? Years before, most of these couples suffered from a rampant cultural problem - relationship rudeness. As human beings it's in our nature to take things for granted so that what we come to expect, we come to neglect. Source
Failure is.... a highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true. John Keats
People are always frustrating us by interfering with the relationship we are trying to have with them. Apfelbaum
1.0 To begin mending or repairing a tired or broken relationship or deepen a happy one
In a word: Friendship.
In 2 words: No Critics.
In 3: Patient and Kind.
If it's about mending relationships with parents, a sibling or estranged children start here.
If trauma history is present in one or both of you, include these books in your journey: 'Coming Home to Passion' and 'Getting Past Your Past'.
Visit my iPad and iPhone friendly site couple-therapy.org
Relationship 'success has more to do with responding well when your partner is selfish or inconsiderate than it has to do with avoiding being selfish or inconsiderate in the first place. The problem is that people are not very reliable judges of what truly selfish behaviour is. Marital therapies have been relatively unsuccessful because therapists often inadvertently reinforce the notion that intimate partners can succeed without meeting the prerequisites' (i.e. of responding well). [From page 4-5 of 'Emotional Intelligence in Couple's Therapy' by Brent Atkinson]
Step by step:
- Go slowly.
- Work to feel like a team,
- lean into a feeling for yourselves as one entity, and
- think and act like people who usually get treated well by their partners.
- Use the 10 minute rule: If the guy or girl in the relationship hates to open up emotionally, or isn't good at talking, or feels s/he gets interrupted all the time, or shouted down, then it's worth working to the 10-minute rule. Sit down together to discuss things calmly and you each have ten minutes of uninterrupted talking time to put your case. Neither of you must interrupt or swear, or shout, or flounce out. You just talk when it's your turn, and listen when it's not. If you need another 10 minutes each, then have it. But agree before you start that you won't let this discussion go on all night. Guys in particular hate the idea of an open-ended row that goes on and on. So agree that after, say, half an hour, you'll go and get a pizza or something. Source
- Balance this with a 2 minute drama or monologue as needed. Stamp your feet, howl, scream, blame the government, whatever... Okay you've got 15 seconds left... get it off your chest... Now, back to team work after offering appreciation for the time given to letting off steam.
- 'When women say "let's talk" every man runs for cover.' A funny true video interview on the trouble with "we have to talk!" or "I have a question" as openers. They don't invite our partner to lean into the conversation and leave the person asking the question, believing the other won't talk or doesn't listen.
- Assume that each is acting in good faith and with a good heart.
- Your partner is likely doing their best and carrying the most they can bear as well.
- If disturbed sleep is an issue, address sleep deprivation first!
- Choose tiny steps. Intend the smallest imaginable change first and together.
- For example, turning toward bids for connection rather than away,
- ensuring the first four minutes of coming together after work offers meaningful re-connection,
- turning every complaint into a request.
- Intentionally expressing appreciation and gratitude to each other.
- Err on the side of using 'I', 'we' and 'us' rather than 'you' and 'me' language. Source.
- Organize your lives, cooperatively around these intentions.
- That is a mammoth task for many couples but
- even a tiny speck of light changes the very nature of darkness.
- A strong friendship and one of fondness and admiration are key.
- Most marriages can mend if a tiny spark of fondness and admiration remains. Become well versed in each other's likes, dislikes, quirks, hopes and dreams. Make a habit of enquiring about these. - Gottman
- Ask both yourself and your beloved what surprised you today? What inspired you today? What touched or moved you today? What strength did you draw on to pull yourself through a difficult moment today?
- These can be about work, home and life. Note them in a shared diary.
- Deepen your knowledge of each other by asking how, what, where and when questions.
- Avoid 'why' questions when a 'how' will do. More on mental maps.
- Express appreciation and gratitude - I can't repeat this enough.
- Talk with tact, and scan ahead.
- React if you must but with forethought and later.
- Put good manners first, rehash garbage last.
- Don't get caught in the criticize/pursue/attack and defend/placate/withdraw cycle - read this.
- The above are also the ground rules for a dignified co-existence in a broken relationship.
- Communication change makes a difference.
- Change saying 'you make me feel' to saying 'I feel ... when you ...'.
- Change 'don't wants' to 'would likes'.
- Change hoping and hinting to asking directly with 'I ...'
- Change guessing or assuming to making it explicit.
- Label your feelings - verbalize emotions instead of acting them out.
- More? I recommend this evidence based on-line course.
- Give up the struggle to change them into someone you want and they are not.
- Forget the idea that all problems can be solved. Many issues are not solvable, they are perpetual.
- Solve the solvable ones and work around the irreconcilable differences.
- Apologize even if you are right (the "right" or "happy", "proud" or "close" dilemma) or turn your marriage into a courtroom: "I'm right, you're wrong and I can prove it" by using the deal breaking trump card I keep in store for these occasions.
- Sometimes both of you are exhausted by an absorbing yet divisive negative interaction cycle. Unable to find the positive cycle that will draw you together again?
- The negative interaction cycle is the problem - not your partner.
- The pattern is the problem.
- Finding it hard to believe that you contribute equally to the cycle? It is a dance remember!
- If in doubt read Sue Johnson's "Hold Me Tight." More on that here.
- First, agree to consciously manage the space and time given to recycling reactive emotions like anger, jealousy, resentment, despair and frustration.
- These create isolation and push you further apart.
- This is not recommending censorship nor silencing but intentional and kind management of difficult emotions by
- changing difficult conversations to learning conversations.
- Next, make it safe and inviting for each to be seen and heard in finding and expressing the feelings that underlay those reactive emotions. Not sure what this is about - read this.
- These are sadness, hurt, fear, shame and loneliness. These will draw you closer.
- Disclose in a way that pulls for compassion and connection.
- Make a kind place for those emotions to emerge. This requires soft awareness and slow mind.
- You will know you are there when you feel empathy or compassion for the other's painful isolation.
- Compassion can only occur between equals. That is a place in the heart to hang out with.
- Take your time. Remember, isolation and loss are inherently traumatizing.
- Bonds of secure attachment repair the harm. If you can't get there, get help.
- If you can get there, next formulate and clearly ask for what would meet the needs of those heart residing emotions. 'Hold me tight and never let me go' 'Make "us" our safe harbour.' 'Be there for me.' 'Let me know that I matter to you.' 'Let me comfort you.' 'I will catch you if you fall.' 'Let me rely on you, confide in you, trust you to hold me when I'm overwhelmed with fear.' 'Join me when I overcome my limitations and celebrate my triumphs with me.'
- Again, read 'Hold me tight' by Sue Johnson, co-founder of emotionally focused couples therapy.
- Practice her 7 conversations. Here is an excerpt.
- The odds of 'saving a marriage' are very high - the US divorce rate is 0.38% and Australian 0.46% - that is, between 4 and 5 adults per thousand adults divorce each year. US Source & Oz source.
- Conclusion: many distressed relationships choose to struggle on empty, and endure terrible isolation or savage destructiveness, rather than getting help or getting out.
- Crazy isn't being broken. Crazy is you and me, amplified. Susanna Kaysan
- Stop destroying every real feeling that remains for each other.
- It doesn't work, is grotesque and undignified.
- Have you so emptied yourself of the relationship that nothing your partner can say or do even scrapes the sides? The container that once supported your relationship is now like a sieve - everything you or they put in pours out the bottom?
- Start to identify and plug the holes together. Collaborate on this. Make it a joint project.
- 'What if'; 'if only'; 'why me', and 'you should' - let them go. Send them a holiday.
- Deal with the problems at hand. Stay solution focused.
- Consciously manage your routine arguments as they unravel, without escalating and as soon as you become aware of the first steps of the dance.
- 'Many conflicts are about the “conversation that never took place but needed to”, a conversation that was fundamentally about emotional connection.' Source
- Apply the do-what-works strategy - if it works, go on, if not, do something else.
- When faced with an always deceive strategy (hair splitting, infidelities and lies) the tit-for-that strategy is more successful than the do what works strategy.
- In other words, you play by the rules I play by the rules. You break the rules I stop playing. You return to the rules, I return to play. You keep breaking the rules I change the locks on the door to my heart; pull down the open for business sign; clean up my own house and move on with life.
- Ease into the process of mending - it takes at least as many months to repair as the number of years you have been together.
- Deeply ingrained habits support relapses every time you give them room to move and air to breathe.
- Constraining damaging habits and approximating healthier ones builds neural pathways in the brain that bypass the old well worn neural trenches.
- Almost every walking corpse of a marriage has a remnant spark of life whose flame is as lightly rekindled as it is blown out. That is both a source of hope and painful repetition.
- Easing into mending may require other agreements such as: ending threats to leave; name and close habitual exits from intimacy like blaming or rescuing family members and responding to 'urgent' phone calls.
- Better manage escape routes like kids, leisure, work, internet and TV.
- Stop being defiantly strong. Yield to professional help especially when dealing with traumatic grief. Men in particular appear to cope with high levels of stress but in fact take a lot of hits and then one final and sometimes a small blow, knocks them over.
- If you are also dealing with the loss of and/or trauma to a child, loved one or a community - it may take longer to mend and not necessarily recovering from the loss. One can grieve and mend at the same time.
- That takes courage, one day, one hour sometimes one minute at a time. Traumatic losses may be overwhelmed by concurrent crises and multiple secondary losses. It may take a community response to help you through and that's okay too unless your pride is in the way. Healthy attachment is the basis of individual and community recovery and resilience.
Vulnerability is the capacity or susceptibility to being hurt. The word vulnerable is also synonymous with the words openness and exposure. When a person is truly vulnerable there is an unobstructed entrance or view to the person's heart, being and soul. In the strongest or most enlightened person there is no protecting or concealing cover because the person needs none. Such people carry themselves in full view of others because they are not afraid of being hurt, because they are not afraid to suffer. The most important key to finding love is found in our willingness and ability to be vulnerable. From the world psychology site.
More on the meaning and actions of vulnerability here.
Unable to stop the fighting - read this.
Unable to stop the past intruding - read this.
Forgotten how to laugh and play - read more on this.
Emotions are multi layered and this makes them troublesome companions - read more on this.
Just want the answer, detail overwhelms you at the moment? I distilled this article into 6 lines and one video.
1.1 Primary example
Please note: People described in all the examples on this page and elsewhere on site are fictional composites drawn from many life stories. None of the events took place in the locations indicated.
What happens in adult relationships is that often people end up sapping the freedom and the separateness in the name of a kind of connection and safety that is illusory at best. And they sap the very erotic vitality out of their relationships. At first they welcome the unknown. That’s how they met. But then they start to find the same dimensions at home, threatening. Now they don’t want surprise. And they slowly start to create something that is more fixed and flat, more safe, more secure, but also more boring. And they complain of marital boredom. Esther Perel
Most tired or broken relationships do not have deep friendship, vitality or broad shared values at their core.
In another sense they have given up the surprise and mystery, often by simple neglect.
One couple described their experience from the very beginning as not ever having walked beside each other.
Suresh and Simone ran a tourist business in town. They went to the same High School in Mullumbimby. They had a strong physical connection from the start but not strongly heart nor head. They spent 16 years fighting over those weaker two thirds until both were broken, and the marriage like a deceased estate.
She criticized, he withdrew. He criticized, she withdrew. They demeaned each other and said regretful things. Some cut deep. A toxic dance ran the show.
They recovered from the dance but each time around both were emptied of a little more good will.
They developed a culture of quiet and sometimes aggressive rudeness. The tone of voice, set of the jaw and raised eyes said it when words failed.
Both could name the day when a critical breakdown in their relationship occurred.
It was a moment that later crystallized into a realization that in their actions, they were not on the same team. They had not been since the kids were born. They did the talk but not the walk.
They undertook relationship counselling from a psychologist at a Health Centre near home. 10 sessions.
It improved significantly, for a while.
Then slowly over a number of years it reverted to demon dialogues and the four horsemen. Read models of mending.
It was affecting the kids. The kids were the center of their lives.
They took to another counsellor, whose main field of interest was individual psychotherapy. The marital differences seemed irreconcilable at the outset. At the start of the fourth session the counsellor recommended they separate, and declined to offer further couple sessions.
They described the counsellor as providing band aid treatment based on a conflict resolution method.
Read my two pages on how to choose a competent therapist.
They decided to create more separateness at home instead.
He to get out more and give them both more space.
He slowly built another life in sport and community services. Each step led him to a more completely separate life from the marriage.
He took the kids on camping weekends around the Northern Rivers, and in the Gold Coast hinterland. She stayed home.
They have good friends and a strong community around them.
He didn't meet anyone but was busy. She didn't meet anyone but was isolated.
Truth be told, their belief in marriage wasn't so broken that they were open to an affair.
Such an opening is usually framed by one partner as:- 'this is not a marriage so the rules don't apply'. For Simone and Suresh, the rules still applied.
That core marital value they shared.
She asked for time with him.
He said, 'I might have an hour in the next month but I can't say when.'
She wanted to be wanted. She didn't really want him nor he her.
So they continued in separate beds. This was their modus mortis.
Their kids about to enter the teens. An empty nest looming.
They occasionally did sex. Luke warm. They had not made passionate love for as long as they could remember.
Maybe the caring and protective elements that nurture love and the way that love flourishes in an atmosphere of mutuality and reciprocity are the very ingredients that block the unselfconsciousness and freedom that is needed to experience desire with the one you love... It would not have been difficult for me to write a book about people who can’t stand each other, don’t communicate, and therefore don’t have sex. What was interesting was that I have all these couples come to see me saying, we have a great relationship, we love each other very much, we have no sex. They say, I know he loves me but it’s been years since I’ve felt wanted. Esther Perel
Therapy with me marked their third attempt at repair in the previous ten years.
All that may seem hard to believe but in a culture that accessorizes and dumbs down just about everything, it is not surprising.
They got married because that's what you do and what their friends were doing at the time. It was the done thing. The quintessential accessory for a happy life.
By the time you've got the wedding plans under way you also have got the blinders on. Larson
Sex was enough to bond them initially, and later to carry them over the empty feeling. They knew this was not what they signed up for. Was this as good as it gets?
Their problems were there from the start, in the pre-marriage preparation or lack of it. They had attended a marriage preparation course.
They reached empty after 16 years and hung on because that's what you did. It's what their parents did. They hadn't even moved far from where their parents lived Byron.
They read the research. Divorce didn’t typically: reduce symptoms of depression, raise self esteem or increase a sense of mastery. Read my how to end a relationship with dignity.
They decided on a 12 month separation. She upstairs with a view of the beach. He downstairs near the shed. Later they thought, he would move out when the kids were a bit older.
From the moment of that decision peace reigned at home. Finally they had given up hope. They stopped pretending it was a marriage. Dropped their expectations to what IS rather than should be.
They told the kids. One was devastated.
When separated she wondered if he would then make time to date her.
In their first session both sat on the edge of their seats. I saw them looking across a chasm to the inconceivable other on the opposite side of a broken marriage.
They seemed to want the last rights.
To confirm there was no hope.
It's that moment in hospital when family gather for the switching off of life support.
They had become other. Strangers.
Like invisible tenants of a common estate.
'I don't know who you are any more.'
They were familiar to me and to every other couple's therapist reading this page.
These are the burnt out relationships where mending is sometimes possible.
It was their third time seeking help for their marriage.
They came as if carrying a vessel that had brought them to their knees.
For another to bear witness to the pain of parting.
For them to give testimony to the joys and anguish of their journey?
These are the remnant sparks easily overlooked.
They held them like a flicker does in the fading embers of a fire.
Just faint enough for them to notice the possibility that they could come home, together and for the first time.
In a sense they had not married. They had been on another journey.
One that brought them back to the beginning.
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee. Leonard Cohen
1.2 Reader's question
Q. Your example raises more questions than it answers. Does that couple actually exist? How many therapy sessions? Wasn't the second counsellor on the right track and shouldn't the couple have taken that advice? By the time they saw you wasn't it time to call it quits? Why make so much work of it for themselves? Are they still together and are they happy? Surely they are an exception?
A. They and many like them exist. You will find them in your neighborhood giving of themselves in volunteer organizations, partly to compensate for the emptiness back home. We spent 18 sessions together. A decision to end or mend has to come from within it can't be imposed. The second counsellor may not have had couple process skills, may only have had a problem solving approach or even just individual counselling skills. By the time they saw me they were at the end of the road, and had surrendered their relationship to life (perhaps Life). In that moment there is always an opportunity for the light to get in. The hard work they made for themselves was based on ignoring the 80:20 rule.
Some years back, I bumped into them in at a camp site in Lamington National Park. They were together, and took the time to speak clearly of a stronger head and heart connection. On the same page at last it seemed.
Significantly, they were neither looking for things nor for the other to make them happy. I asked them what had made the difference. They said that 'most important was they were both willing'. That I had given them a safe place to put all their cards on the table, and there they discoverred their hands were not empty. They said a big one was their 'stubborn refusal to accept defeat'. 'And something else', they said, 'call it luck'. 'Grace?' I asked, 'Faith?'. 'Nah - just dumb luck,' they chimed together and laughed.
An exception? Exceptional yes. Many don't make it. Gottman's research indicated 50% of couples in all kinds of marital counselling go on to divorce.
However, that poor outcome has to be balanced by these results of effective evidence based couple therapies:
Dr. John Gottman spent forty years researching how couples create close, lasting relationships and what it takes to turn a distressed marriage around. Using his approach, Gottman Method Couples Therapy, 85% of couples were able to turn their relationships around.
More recently, Sue Johnson et al followed couples who sought the help of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Ninety percent of couples using this approach felt their relationships had improved, and 70-73% felt that their marriage difficulties were solved after after 10-30 counselling sessions. Even better, for both these approaches, couples continue to improve after marriage counselling is over. The level of distress and severity of the problem did not matter much – it explained only 4% of these couples’ counselling success. Source.
If you are considering choosing a couple's therapist please, please read my observations on this page before you jump in.
2.0 To begin again after many false starts
Only when our hearts are fixed do we find that our hands are truly free. G. K. Chesterton
We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. Mother Theresa
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen
If you have had many false starts then you may have to go at a snails pace in order to catch the traps before they catch you.
To begin healing we have first to clear our lives of debris; withdraw from the inessentials, and allow space for creativity to come in. We have to take time and give time.
Complete the free character strengths test at authentic happiness. You will have drawn on those strengths to make it this far. There may be other strengths you can lead with. Take some of the other tests there as a check up on your positive mental health.
Complete some of these quizzes on site: compatibility; the big three; pre-marriage traits and a 15 item relationship inventory. They may flesh out the issue in the relationship.
Maybe just skim over the articles on doubt and turning points.
Rebuilding a broken or tired relationship will occur one conversation at a time.
Many will have to soften harsh start ups to their arguments; self-manage automatic reactions; self-soothe their reactive emotions, and offer each other the validation that comes from a marriage of good attention and empathy.
This will require tough love.
Validation and healing require a good enough balance of the following 7 attributes of love: kindness, restraint, harmony, ambition, humility, connection and correction (i.e. discipline and boundaries).
Each contain elements of all seven - for example, "restraint in kindness" is not going overboard rescuing people; "ambition in restraint" is sub vocally cheering someone to get up off the floor without lifting them yourself; "humility in correction" is knowing that but for the grace of god you would have made exactly the same mess of your life; tough love is love in correction, drawing a clear boundary around where you end and I begin.
Each of those 7 attributes together make a total of forty-nine traits. Exiling one of them is like taking the yeast out of wine making. Understanding the direction of those 49 points on the compass and applying them is a life long journey.
If we are our own and each other's best friend we draw on a balance of those traits for understanding and problem management.
If our experience is heard and validated by our partner without blame or offering a fix - simply reflected in a mutual bright resonance, the process has begun.
That is the principle of reciprocity.
However, if the basis of the relationship was not good friends, then you will have to grow friendship first.
2.1 Is it too late to develop friendship and its values
There is probably no experience more terrifying than disclosing ourselves to significant others whose probable reactions are assumed but not known. Jouard
Emotional intimacy, passion and commitment are different though related animals - a quick quiz on site.
How well do you know each other?
• I can name my partner's best friends.
• I know what stresses my partner currently faces.
• I know the names of those who have been irritating my partner lately.
• I know some of my partner's life dreams.
• I am very familiar with my partner's religious beliefs.
• I can outline my partner's basic philosophy of life.
• I can list the relatives my partner likes least.
• I know my partner's favourite music.
• I can list my partner's favourite three movies.
• I know the most stressful thing that happened to my partner in childhood.
• I can list my partner's major aspirations.
• I know what my partner would do if he/she won a million dollars.
• I can relate in detail my first impressions of my partner.
• I ask my partner about his/her world periodically.
• I feel my partner knows me fairly well. Source: 'Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work' Gottman.
Perhaps you just don't like your partner or their values enough to want to be their friend. That will exile (or result from the exile) of some of the traits above for example, connection without kindness; correction (discipline) without love; determination without humility.
If you dislike someone, the way they hold their fork will make you furious. But if you like them, they can turn their plate over in your lap and you won't even mind. Source
Loving and liking your partner are related experiences but they are not the same. (The book 'Best Friends and Marriage' by Stacey Jean Oliker is free on line.)
If it were a life threatening illness, some would consider tearing up all their commitments except to children, partner and family, to parts or all of work and to anything else that stood in the way of giving recovery the best shot.
Mending a broken or tired relationship has to begin with that same quality of will or intention. Getting to that shared goal with a calm and equal determination is the hard part. Some just talk the talk. Actions speak - implicit messaging is compelling evidence of change.
These resources on site: forgiveness and meditation point to inner abilities of incalculable value for getting there.
They are among the first and the last places people go in a broken or tired relationship. To manage this sometimes crazy place we have to access an indwelling understanding of our situation - sometimes in our sleep, in meditation or in day dreaming and in the struggle to forgive ourselves and in the crises we co-create.
2.2 Actions speak louder than words
Gottman discovered that successful repair attempts, like tiny bridge-building gestures in the midst of a dispute, ranging from an apology, to a "hey, we're getting off-topic!" to a goofy grin, were crucial chords in composing marital harmony. No matter what style of interaction a couple favored, Gottman found, a simple five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions indicated a marriage that would last. Source.
So, who makes the first move? What to do when walking away itself is built on the stale resentment of earlier false starts? Bridging a stalemate is no easy task. It is near impossible without good will and a little trust building.
It is best to move forward in tiny steps by each giving, without thinking of to whom. Let the trust also rebuild in tiny steps on a gentle gradient. Predict two steps forward/one back and manage the process with good intentions.
Walking the healing talk rather than just talking the talk requires congruence. Owning the wounds at the core of self instead of projecting them into the world of other's actions. Tough love is a recipe for that.
Change requires readiness, opportunity, choice and will. The stages of change are: precontemplation, contemplation, decision, action, relapse, and maintenance.
2.3 A mutual commitment to growth
According to Human Synergistics data, the number two style for Australian and New Zealand managers is 'Avoidance' (number one is Oppositional - oppose ideas and be critical of others). So, imagine 10 million managers and workers in Australia avoiding having difficult conversations. Source
Imagine one marriage doing the same. Stopping the rot will require difficult conversations. The outcome of which is committing at least one hour per week enjoying each other's company, ceasing avoiding and opposing it.
Sometimes that time is spent in exploring what leisure activities might be enjoyed whilst taking a walk or turning off the TV over dinner and chatting.
Here are 161 ideas to draw on.
Ship-wrecked couples usually have so completely lost touch with each other that they fill the time with anything else but each other. There are few rituals of connection but many ritualistic exits, like storming out or sulking, rescuing family or friends, work and doing 'good works'. More on site about exits.
Dear reader, you won't be surprised to know how hard it is for almost any marriage to find that one additional hour for each other. Even 20 minutes can be a stretch. Many couples say they can do it but week after week of therapy sessions and it still doesn't happen. Most marriages whither from this chronic lack of due care and attention.
There is no better reason for how it died than from a lack of food, air and water. Simple neglect.
The nuclear family is deficient by design. The original use of the word 'family' described a group of slaves. My hunch is that this very deficiency makes consumers of us all and commercializes gratitude. It takes a village to write a book, raise a child and I think also to grow a marriage.
More on how to build intimacy in a family on site.
Masters & Johnson owed much of their success with chronically dissatisfied couples to locking them up in a motel room for two weeks, with occasional outings to the clinic to attend marriage group therapy sessions. The couple was given significant amounts of time in shared, focused activities with some coaching. It tended to overcome their lack of due care, until they got home. Those who didn't maintain the changes found old habits crept back. Whereas the survivors and thrivers had learnt and kept the new habits. Aristotle had this problem worked out a very long time ago - we are our habits.
I once suggested to a couple in a huge mess who were not short of money or time, that they take exactly that two weeks away just for each other, without distractions. At the following session they were pleased to tell me they had booked the two weeks. The first at a resort with lots of diversions and the second staying with their grown children nearby 'who needed them'. Not quite what I had in mind. I reminded them that they were in intensive care and that he had to get under the sheets without bringing the whole family into bed at the same time.
2.4 Feeling heard
Healthy couples, one might assume, can listen and echo each other's feelings naturally. But in fact, claims Gottman, married couples, whether miserable or giddy with happiness, almost never interact this way. "People said what they thought about an issue, and they got angry or sad," he wrote in The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton, 1999), "but their partner's response was never anything like what we were training people to do in the listener/speaker exercise, not even close."
Such exchanges occurred in less than 5 percent of marital interactions, he wrote, and they predicted nothing about whether the marriage would do well or badly. What's more, Gottman noted, data from a 1984 Munich study demonstrated that the (reflective listening) exercise itself didn't help couples to improve their marriages. To teach such interactions, whether as a daily tool for couples or as a therapeutic exercise in empathy, was a clinical dead end. Source
Contrary to the above, Roger's restatement rule can sometimes be helpful: feedback in your own words what you heard the other express. Check the accuracy of hearing its content, underlying feeling and meaning before expressing your own views. If you are way out in hearing what was meant then try again until there is a reasonable fit between what is expressed and what you have heard and can feedback. Then it's your turn.
Gottman's view of this practice is bleak - in practice only conflict mediators use it, he says. More on Gottman's repair recipe.
The benefit of reflective listening is that it takes time; slows communication down; increases empathy and helps remove hidden assumptions. External link to more about listening skills.
By contrast, dialogic communication is more focused on the present, encourages use of paraphrasing and metaphor and asks the person to 'say more'. The aim of dialogue is to nail the internal logic or the mental map that makes the whole experience sensible to the speaker and then feed that back to them as if you were inside it yourself.
More on mental maps on site.
Dialogue is more demanding than Roger's active listening. An article about intentional dialogue on site which may have been drawn from material in a book titled 'How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic & Difficult to Love Personalities' by John Lund.
On Martin Buber's I-thou dialogue on site.
On building a thinking environment at home and work.
2.5 Tell it like it is
Telling the story of the relationship and the story of changes in the relationship with 'I' statements, one at a time without interruption. This may help the other get inside your experience and validate you.
Your story is your experience of life. It is not the events themselves.
One of my client couples decided to do this on a huge scroll of paper with a time line, like a giant scrapbook. They added photos, and contrasting their points of view with story, music, texta and rhyme. It took them a couple of months. It gave them an anchor that held them together as they showed each other a whole other life they had lived whilst each thought they knew what was going on.
Listen to how each of you depicts your experience and notice body language for clues to the meaning of that experience, rather than focusing only on what is said or disputing the interpretations of events.
Here's a listening self assessment.
This is about understanding their values and mental map rather than imposing your own. More on mental maps on site.
This life line exercise could be done in conjunction with the life events scale, both on site links. Re-telling the story as a fable, a metaphor or even a kid's fairy story, once upon a time can help you get distance from pain and disappointment.
2.6 Consider inviting the sacred into your lives
My Sacred Life isn't really a challenge - that sounds too strenuous - it's really more of a softening ... into a moment, a treasured possession, a companion - people, parts and places of your everyday life that you cherish. Whatever is sacred to you. Source
Not religion, not some new age mythology. Rather celebrating what each considers sacred in a life.
This suggests a meaningful practice in a daily or weekly ritual of marriage. The Jewish practice of friday night Shabbat is an example.
Ensuring time and space for long hellos and long goodbyes functions in the same way - it acknowledges the sacred in our meetings and our partings.
Giving thanks at each meal is another - not some rote, ritualized 'grace' but a moment to reflect on the web of connections that brought food to the table.
A practice of giving and of gratitude for what we have been given could include just about anything - even a few moments of quiet reflection in a busy day that we gave another and were given ourselves.
One of our friends continued a practice of saying goodbye that came from their Russian family of origin. It was to sit at the table for five minutes as a family or couple and just be together. Often this occurred in silence. I imagine it arose from not knowing if you would ever see each other again during the Russian pogroms, but they maintained it because it honour ed the connection between them.
More on the sacred on site.
Just sit there right now.
Don’t do a thing. Just rest.
For your separation from God
is the hardest work in this world.
Let me bring you trays of food
and something that you like
You can use my soft words
as a cushion
for your head. - Hafiz
3.0 How relationships break down
Conversation ... is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener. Nathan Miller
How does love die? Years before, most of these couples suffered from a rampant cultural problem - relationship rudeness. As human beings it's in our nature to take things for granted so that what we come to expect, we come to neglect. Laurie Puhn
Good communication is not rocket science. We mess it up simply by ignoring the ground rules. The wry quote above attests to the common breach of the cooperation rule.
Effective couple and parenting communication is something to be shared and consciously managed. Not a competition. Not left to happen by accident and not left up to the person who is good at it.
There are wide differences between people on when, how and if to share the process. There are differences in skill, EQ and awareness and there are hormone differences: oxytocin is a purring kitten and testosterone has no time to cuddle.
There is variation in reactivity - some remain calm no matter what, others shoot first and think later, others brood without thinking of the consequences in their relationship.
Poor thinking prolongs the arrival of late-arising problems. Try this on-line assessment of your time to think.
However, the basics of good communication are not that difficult to handle provided you are not arguing about perceptions (if so go to my mental maps page first) or struggling to cope with the emotions that erupt in the slow process of unpicking a tangled knot (if so start by taking responsibility for soothing your own emotions and develop other affect management skills).
- Effective communication requires respect and due care.
- These demonstrate availability and are the foundations of trust.
- Attentive listening saves time, flags trouble early and conveys respect.
- The quality of that attention determines the quality of the other's thinking.
- Empathy (walking in the other's shoes) is the most effective way of sharing power and rebuilding trust.
Progressive failure in these forms a gap. This grows into a gulf or an enduring disconnect, which then accumulates stuff left unsaid or unspeakable. It fills with the debris of countless unresolved things, little things, which in totality may appear unbridgeable, even unforgivable.
If you think your partner is thinking crazy, reflect on the quality of attention you give in listening to their thinking and vice versa.
Troubled relationships start this journey by diminishing or exaggerating (underfunctioning or overfunctioning):
- mindfulness, respect and honoring of difference;
- the values of connection, time and money;
- the trust and care that the costs of everyday challenges will be shared fairly;
- the quality of attention required of good friends that when either diminished or exaggerated, ends up insulting dignity and eroding trust.
- Distrust brings misery and other indignities to the surface.
- Eventually self-respect and integrity are damaged.
- During this process, clear thinking about the consequences of these failings takes a walk, sometimes not to return for decades.
- What happens next is often less important than how we react to it.
Example: One of my clients was a mindfulness and respect nazi, exaggerating the values of connection - a one person, personal development police force. Their partner managed by ducking for cover when the love of their life was on the rampage, which of course just escalated the reciprocal process. Over time this will wear any couple down. Working out who started withdrawing and who pursuing is like sorting out a fight between kids - who hit who back first.
The mess accumulates .... gradually .... one conversation at a time .... and usually ends abruptly.
Many couples endure this journey. The unhappiest can have the biggest turn around:
2 out of 3 unhappy marriages (in a survey of 5,232 couples) had become happy 5 years later. The researchers conducted focus group interviews with 55 formerly unhappy husbands & wives who had turned their marriages around. They found that many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including: • alcoholism • infidelity • verbal abuse • emotional neglect • depression • illness • work reversals. Survey review on site.
Marital research suggests there are only two dysfunctional adaptations to marital issues: one that is dysregulated by escalating negativity, and the other that is dysregulated by having no affect expressed. The pursuer/distancer pattern is an example of both present at the same time, one exaggerating and the other diminishing connection. More of that research archived on site.
Respect is an attitude of admiration or esteem that circumvents reason and logic.
Dignity is the quality of being worthy of that respect or esteem. They are vital to intimate relationship. Perception is everything here as elsewhere.
The lack of respect or the presence of chronic disrespect breaks a person's will to maintain the vulnerability that is essential to intimacy.
Chronic disrespect harms any relationship. It leaves each feeling mean, powerless and out of control. Learned helplessness is the result in children who are constantly criticized. Uncorrected, learned helplessness teaches a child depression as a way of life.
Although that is self-evident and all would agree it should be avoided, disrespect persists in troubled relationships. The consequences are minimized by the mind with for example, denial but the body aches with its burden.
Just by a flick of the eyes upward as if to say, Stupid b...! and through petty cruelties and unaware forgetting; in payback, withdrawal or blame. Ordinary, good people start to behave badly - worse than kids and family pets.
Some of the most hellish behaviors I have met in troubled relationships, are committed by folk that any person would be proud to call friends. In their own home they act like the house guests from hell, blaming each other for the poop accumulating in their own pants.
At this point we have closed off accountability, softness and vulnerability in order to defend ourselves. This will keep the crap coming.
Somewhere in here we might come to think and act as if the person, once dearest, is less than human. As if they did not exist - that they are 'other'. That is a line crossed at considerable cost to safety.
Kind people with tender hearts travel here and lose their way. Not the whackos from another neighborhood, but people like you and me. Often the marriages that end here do so quietly, slowly and with a bathetic whimper. (Bathos - something so pathetic as to be humorous.)
The good news again: the most unhappy marriages report the most dramatic turn-rounds. Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost 8 out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married 5 years later. More from this survey on site.
The healthiest make a noise about the trouble at home, recognizing the problems, not too proud to express vulnerability, take ownership nor ask for help. More on how to choose a therapist on site.
Do you want to be proud or close, right or happy?
Some folk are crippled by false pride and a sense of entitlement. They build an edifice of brilliant pretense and righteousness on the outside. One that makes the ramshackle building look great from the street. Outsiders see the edifice of a perfect couple, an ideal family, something to aim for themselves.
Inside the mess, however, anticipating more emotional pain, each can feel trapped and turn to the dark side in order to further shield their vulnerability and pain from view. Forgiveness is off the menu. This is a disabling shame.
By contrast, healthy shame is short lived, self-correcting and does no injury to a core sense of high self worth. Forgiveness naturally follows.
Sometimes, I am fortunate and get to work with those disabled by shame. Hearing their stories, I often observe how perfectly they have role played marriage but have neglected their relationship over many years. I say so in a matter of fact way. Quickly, automatically, I get a shared list of reasons for this. These are window dressing excuses on which they can agree.
They expect the list to be a lay-down misere for winning an argument with me. It is what they show to the street outside their home. It's not the therapist they're arguing with.
Some friends and relatives believe them. Unfortunately so do some others who also come for help - those who have made the mistake of comparing their insides to these guy's outsides. They often say, 'everyone around us seems so happy and together. Why is it just us that's always in trouble.' So I tell them the ramshackle building story of the 'perfect couple'.
Everyone struggles at times with intimacy. That's normal. It's a personal development workshop. Everyone has a personal journey no matter how perfect they appear.
Marriage is hard enough without the burden of low expectations (quoted from 'Sleepless in Seattle'). This is contrary to a view that the secret of happy marriage is low expectations. That is one interpretation of Wilcox and Nock's article on dual earning, egalitarian marriages titled: 'What's Love Got To With It' linked here and discussed here.
Lowering some expectations some of the time in some marriages makes good sense, but as a way of life in a 20+ year marriage with kids, it is really hard work for everyone.
Lucky for me it is not my job to patch up my client's shop windows and make a more convincing street front for covering up the mess. I get to go down into their basements and gasp at their facile, face saving disclaimers that there is nothing down there.
Then I remember the incredible front I put on my own crumbling story. How I hid my disabling shame with a desperate facade in my 20's and 30's. No wonder people looked at me incredulous at the brittle bonhomie and effervescent, joie de vivre. I still remember how important it was for me to convince friends, aghast at my behavior, that everything was alright. I mastered hiding behind a stage-managed openness. By letting it all hang out I thought no-one would look behind the shop front.
Without vulnerability and healthy shame, both intimacy and mercy are diminished, even absent.
Looking back on their journey to health, my mended couples wonder how they go to be so cruel to each other and damaging to themselves.
Fear and neglect are strong forces in a troubled marriage. They can project a lot of front to the contrary.
More about functional and dysfunctional patterns on site here and on defenses and fighting on site at this page.
3.3 A marriage of equals
Let me put this one to rest - Vickee quoted below puts it well. Reading between her lines, one could guess that she and her man share a sense of hum our. Her proactive approach to accountability makes a difference in the time/availability squeeze of a typically busy family.
I have found the only way to insist the spouse participate more in home/child/relationship care is to make it inconvenient if they don't pull their share. Stop doing their laundry. Stop cooking for them (if they arrive home late). Hire out their portion of the chores and charge them on their discretionary budget for it. Don't ask permission, just do it! If they don't put away stuff, have a 2 day rule - then the items get either tossed or thrown into a cardboard box. When the item is finally missed say "It's in the 'Thoughtlessly-left-for-clean-up-by-the-servant-we-don't-have-box'" and smile. I used to just throw everything away, but that almost caused a stroke (and divorce).
I also leave lists, and an 'accomplish by X date' indication. If it isn't done, I hire the work out. No asking. And I don't nag, never have. We have the chores broken out. If I have to, say, vacuum, the job is worth $50. I vacuum and write myself a check. If dh complains, I tell him the job is now worth $75 for aggravation. If he forgets to load the dishwasher too many nights in a row, no problem; I go out and buy a new set of dishes.
A few years ago, I was beside myself with anger over the huge amount of the work load I was doing. Then I decided to pay myself for doing the work. I now do all my tasks cheerfully, knowing that even if I end up doing more than my share, there is a reward at the end. For example, I am flying to Las Vegas next weekend for 4 days/3 nights to visit family and Do Nothing for Four Blessed Days. For the past year, dh has worked a tremendous amount of hours. Okay. I understand these things happen. I cheerfully subtracted some tasks from dh's chore list. However, we decided that my reward for cheerfully taking on the extra tasks would be 2 trips by myself for 4 days each (to visit friends, to avoid hotel costs) as soon as dh's work load normalized. It normalized last week, so off I go.
The one thing I don't 'keep track of' is how much time I spend with our sons v. dh. That time dh has lost is punishment enough on its own. At 4 and 5, both boys are little enough that they want me all the time due to seeing so little of their dad. And that is it's own sad punishment. It breaks their dad's heart.
Is there an egalitarian marriage? No, probably never. But you've got to get it honed to the point that one of you isn't pissed all the time. Whatever it takes; hire out the chores, get rid of stuff so you don't have the clutter, have children involved in less 'extra' stuff; whatever it takes.
Good luck to all of us. We are all just sneakin' along the highway of life. Posted by: Vickee | March 03, 2006 at 05:21 PM
Sometimes it's the other partner who does the insisting. One of our friends is a commercial cleaner, starts work at 4.00 am finishes by midday. His wife, an accountant, is lucky to be home by kids bed time during the week. In the peak of her business cycle he employs a cleaner for an hour each day and returns home to a tidy house. He hires out her chores when they are not done after a specified time and charges all of it to her discretionary budget. That money is then saved for family holidays. Peace!
In a family with (unmanaged) parental conflict, the eldest might gain love and approval by being a caretaker; the middle child - the angry rebel, trusting no one with her vulnerability; and the youngest tunes out family tension by focusing on his own needs and achieving in school. (These) survival positions necessary in childhood, become part of the dowry that individuals bring into adult relationship. Roles (that) become frozen in the form adopted in childhood, stultified and inflexible, when applied to the present situation ... become a hindrance and a major element in perpetuating an impasse. Family Process
This appears in repeating communication patterns such as one initiating conversation and the other reacting; one deciding the other undermining, one reaching out and the other withholding. More on these maximizer/minimizer patterns on site.
Some get stuck in particular communication styles that are mutually invalidating. In particular: passive (I don't matter) or aggressive (you don't matter) or passive/aggressive (mixed messages that obstruct and foster chaos).
These patterns are picked up in the family of origin and then applied to marriage as if it was the same venue. They can also evolve in otherwise healthy relationships from physical or emotional exhaustion; chronic power/responsibility imbalances and radically different access to resource (education, status, health, employment and family wealth).
Doggedly sticking to any of these patterns when they are clearly not working to build consensus, creates the impasse. These lead to questioning each other's motives. Then good will can no longer be assumed to underlay the stuckness.
Each becomes reactive to unrelated events that resonate with the impasse. Events previously ignored become case material before a grand jury. The trial can be undertaken as a matter of survival, exhibiting a prosecution that would put even the worst Courts to shame.
"How many times a week do you have sex?" He says, "Hardly ever! Only two, maybe three times a fortnight."
She says, "All the time! Two, maybe three times a fortnight."
All of the issues in the article above apply in bed.
Those issues are then confounded by 'same bed different dreams'.
Sex is a bellwhether in committed intimate relationships. The canary in the marital coal mine. A marker that is exquisitely and uniquely sensitive to the climate of intimacy in all its dimensions.
Wanting sex whilst ignoring the health of the whole relationship is mistaking the part for the whole, and tends to nourish a climate of distrust and hurt.
Sensual and sexual touching in a climate of hurt and distrust can become revolting.
Some couples are able to persist with sex despite those obstacles and eventually arrive at disgust. That penultimate decay in the sexual relationship may finally bring some for help as a couple. I have seen a number couples who have lived without a sexual relationship for upwards of seven years. I am no longer dumbfounded when new clients reveal a sexless union, it has become that commonplace!
Clearly, viagra or other diversions won't do it if your pants are filled with "poop", so to speak.
There is an overwhelming amount of information and misinformation on the web about sex in committed relationships. My penny's worth is in my 13 observation of intimate relationships.
Here is chapter one from 'Passionate Marriage' - one of the clearer ones on this topic (though the book itself could have been better much shorter) for example:
we want someone else to make us feel acceptable and worthwhile. We've assigned the label "intimacy" to what we want (validation and reciprocal disclosure) and developed pop psychologies that give it to us while keeping true intimacy away. We've distorted what intimacy is, how it feels, how much we really want it, and how best to get it. Once we realize that intimacy is not always soothing and often makes us feel insecure, it is clear why we often back away from it.
Any one of these 161 ideas for quality time can work in an atmosphere of tenderness and respect. None require the assistance of a therapist. However, if not one of them warms both of your hearts then truly, you better get help to repair damage to the foundations.
Staying and mending is usually (but not always) a better option that leaving and repeating.
You can forgive and move on.
How to choose a therapist on site.
For what it's worth and as a baseline, in any one year 30% of marriages are platonic and the rest have sex once a week for seven and a half minutes! Rabbi Shmuley is a delight on this topic.
Ultimatum (n.) A final proposition, concession, or condition; especially, the final propositions, conditions, or terms, offered by either of the parties in a diplomatic negotiation; the most favorable terms a negotiator can offer, the rejection of which usually puts an end to the hesitation. Brainy Dictionary
An ultimatum is a threat of overwhelming force as a punishment for non-compliance with an order. It is often delivered by a stronger party to a weaker one, as for instance, by a parent to a child: 'If you don't eat your broccoli, I'll take off my belt and teach you a lesson.' Although such commands would seem to be peculiarly inappropriate when delivered by one sovereign nation to another, they hold a place of privilege in the histories of both World Wars. Quoted from Lillian Corti, Professor of English at the University of Alaska. Archived source.
Ultimatums are mostly a lose-lose strategy. The only ultimatum that can work in marriage is a mutually agreed one, discovered collaboratively and executed cooperatively. Mutual growth is the prize of a healthy negotiation like that. Mutual resentment is the poisoned chalice of a one sided ultimatum that fulfills it's purpose.
Resentment from that source is an investment in unfinished business for both people. One likely carried for years, whether you become separated or remain together. A win-win solution takes time and mutual respect to formulate and in some cases also with the help of a neutral third party, who has been given the power by both to slow the proceedings and find a collaborative outcome. If the third party is not honored with that gift s/he cannot help.
4.0 Unlived life
For some of those that cannot or will not commit the time or energy to the task of mending it can be a question of what do I really want.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Resistance plays for keeps. Resistance recruits allies. Resistance never sleeps. Pressfield
The unlived awakens core questions like, Is this all there is? Is this what I want. What is my passion?
Some of my clients describe their conflict as: you can't do what you want if it hurts other people and if you don't know what you want you can't do anything. The frustration produces thrashing and pacing like a caged animal.
A chronic absence of self-knowledge and the fear of 'getting a life' can still end a committed relationship. Even though most relationships survive self-knowledge and the getting of a life.
You can lead the mind to water but you can't make it drink. More on mind on site.
Others harbor conflicting desires of equal value - a life of my own and yet not to hurt anyone. These are two part conflicts. Some of us make life more difficult and have multi party conflicts.
From a couple's therapist point of view it is much easier when at least one person knows what they want and can articulate it.
Often therapy with broken marriages is just getting to clear statements of how it actually IS - in both the rational and the emotional terms of those conflicting desires.
It is not often about the loss of love that is felt but rather the crap that has slowly buried it alive. I think this is why the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost 8 out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married 5 years later. Source on site.
Feelings buried alive seldom die. Bitterness marks their grave. Renewal can grow in its soil. Bitterness and blame are hard to listen to, so we have to soften to it in opening their grave.
4.1 Unrequited love
Limerence is a state of mind characterized by intrusive thinking, longing, uncertainty, hope, misperception, fantasies, and passion. wikipedia
This link will take you to an intimacy, passion and commitment quiz on site. With good skills and good will, almost anything can be negotiated. However, it's a big ask when you find your responses are at opposite ends of those scales (assuming the responses were not twisted by anger or bitterness). This is one recipe for unrequited love.
Unrequited passion is an acute longing for reciprocation. It seems odd in this day and age to be writing about the unrequited. Yet at its simplest this describes the heart of some exhausted or burnt out marriages and of some exhausted lives. The lack of reciprocity, of mutuality and of sharing has worn one of the partners down or one of the body's organs to a frazzle.
Whilst the other partner 'just doesn't get it'. They can misinterpret their beloved's fight for or flight from the relationship, perceiving it as a pointless thrashing and pacing to and fro, rather than the loss in facing the mortal limits of one life.
The fear of loss (even loss of a passion not yet lived) drives much pleading and anger, fight and flight from committed relationship. Trying to have your cake/s and eat it is looking for a bargain. There is a stage in grieving called bargaining where giving up is perceived as failure, rather than surrender. Acceptance of the loss marks a sea change in these lives.
We can then describe life AS IT IS without a protection racket on ourselves or on behalf of the other.
Until then a disheartening, unequal love shapes perception and the blindness of both. Each works to fit around the ache and each might describe their relationship as hard work.
It is too strong to say these relationships are one sided and yet they have a kind of involuntary emotional celibacy, like a musical note left hanging, unresolved. Like this solo pleading:
Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I want to stay.
It’s all wrong, but it’s all right.
The way that you treat me baby.
Once I was strong but I lost the fight.
You won’t find a better loser. Bell Bottom Blues by Eric Clapton
I have noticed many ways of dressing the unrequited as something that it is not: too busy with a career; intrusive in-laws; sick children; multiple affairs; lack of money; no direction; regret or self-pity; onerous debts; judgments and criticism of and from spouse or family; feeling never good enough; not trying hard enough; too scared to risk and been hurt too many times before.
Each of these has a kernel of lived truth. Yet at some level each can boil down to an unmanaged or unmanageable difference in passion. Passion. Without passion we have no principle of action, nor motive to act. Helvetius
An unrequited passion to fulfil a particular ambition in life; a long held dream denied; to find that one kiss. Each can lead to making compensatory demands on a committed relationship or of a career that they cannot meet. Both life and a relationship can seem to not reciprocate.
Heart is the organ of fire.
Difference in its flame is normal.
It is how we manage or bridge the difference that matters.
Troubled marriages neglect to build and maintain the bridges.
4.2 Broken promises
'Judgments, criticisms, diagnosis, and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our needs. If someone says, "You never understand me", they are really telling us that their need to be understood is not being fulfilled. If a wife says, "You've been working late every night this week; you love your work more than you love me", she is saying that her need for intimacy is not being met. What is critical in meeting needs is awareness of the needs and the feelings and emotions generated by these needs.' Quoted from the world psychology site.
If we don't know what we want or often express it in alienated ways, we cannot fulfil the promise of intimacy. More on differentiating wants and needs on site at 2.3.4 on Fidelity2
However, if the marriage has crashed because a commitment to fidelity was unilaterally torn up, then more tearing may not be such a good idea. 90% of first marriage divorces involve someone else in one's head or in one's bed.
Extensive information about betrayal begins at Fidelity 101 including more on how to get over infidelity without losing your relationship.
If none of the above fits the jigsaw then you might consider the possibility of a personality disorder - article on site.
4.3 A broken heart
One of the toughest things to convince a broken heart is that their hurt carries unresolved pain from years past. That to heal, one has to first stop the bleeding, then get nourishment and then gather up all those broken fragments of self, mending each one and melding all into a circle.
This means re-visiting past hurts, childhood memories, early choices and family influences. The recipe is making friends with the abandoned parts of our selves.
Most men are socialized to minimize awareness of this process and most women to maximize it. Each can miss the point on which hurt turns. This is the axle and rim dilemma of a wheel. In fact both turn at the same rate and cover the same ground, but one appears faster than the other and one surface appears to take all the beating. One makes a lot of noise, the other is almost silent when lubricated, but can bring the whole show to a halt if neglected.
Broken marriage clients never cease to amaze me in their capacity to turn the corner by retrieving aspects of themselves they had given up in order to get or to stay married. Sounds simple but many obstacles and distraction stand in the path of one's own truth. Like a mountain climb that struggles to begin because the elements conspire to stop us taking the risk.
Life is round. It's not a scribbly line that connects up little compartments or caves that we keep separated by the years. We may hope these will never collide and flood our underground tunnel system. But when the heart is cracked and broken, it's a lot more than a flood. It is a watershed that brings up all the debris. There is always hidden treasures in debris, but you have to get your hands dirty.
We insist that the problem is now. Just now and nowhere else. And it is. And it is not. Most everyone wants a recipe except that one.
I measure every grief I meet with narrow, probing eyes, I wonder if it weighs like mine, or has an easier size. Emily Dickinson
Here's a thoughtful article from a reluctant traveler.
5. Three models for mending intimate relationships
I have placed these on their own page.
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