relationship advice

5 ways people unintentionally sabotage relationships

 

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It’s impossible to break patterns without awareness. Whereas ending a relationship is seemingly straightforward, ending relationships without fully understanding why is a dangerous pattern—a pattern that can’t be broken unless we employ serious self-reflection. Focusing on the outward makes us feel powerless to make changes; it’s easy to surrender to a victim mentality. Below are the most common ways men unintentionally sabotage relationships:

 

  1. Holding on to a relationship fantasy.

Believing that the grass is always greener—that there is better elsewhere and anything less than perfect won’t do—is a mechanism that shields people from deeper levels of intimacy. If you believe better is just around the corner, there is no reason to invest fully, emotionally or otherwise, in the current relationship.

 

The belief that better exists is usually rooted in fear—fear of commitment, fear of losing one’s individuality, and the fear of pain. Believing that something better exists outside of the relationship mitigates the fear. Looking deeper within will reveal that the greener grass mentality is a projection of the discomfort we have within ourselves; idealizing something or someone who isn’t real soothes those uncomfortable feelings.

 

What to do: Take an objective look at your relationship patterns.

  • Are you constantly seeking change?
  • Why did your last relationships fail? What was your role in that?
  • Are you content?

Figuring out what you idealize in a partner might be a good starting point to figure out what you’re missing within.

 

  1. Inability to address pain openly.

Emotional intimacy can only be achieved through vulnerability. Being unable to share openly and truthfully will inhibit emotional depth and closeness. In The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms with Your Own, Ken Druck, PhD., writes that men learn that anger is a “good” male emotion as it demonstrates toughness and makes some men feel like they are in control. After years of programming, it’s no wonder that many men act aggressively in the face of stress, fear, sadness, or loss.

What to do: Learn to identify your emotional needs and learn how to get these needs met in and out of your primary relationship. This is a process; a therapist can help make it easier.

 

  1. Taking feedback personally instead of objectively.

Criticism can be highly triggering; hearing something that challenges a strong ego can cause an emotional reaction. Not only does this reaction reveal insecurity, these emotional reactions make will make it harder for your partner to communicate openly.

 

What to do: Stop Defending.

According to Robert Taibbi, LCSW, the best way to handle your partner’s concerns is to affirm your good intentions and seek a better understanding of your partners needs. Trying to build a case that refutes your partner’s point of view might stroke your ego, but it will ultimately prolong resolution.

 

  1. Failing to recognize your partner’s love language.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman describes the most common ways people feel loved: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. If you haven’t discovered your partner’s language, reading this short book will help you learn how to express feelings more effectively.

 

Often times we express love in the way that makes us feel most loved, but that is not necessarily the way your partner will feel most loved. Additionally, learning your partner’s love language will help you avoid situations that could be especially devastating. For example, if your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, non- constructive criticism or failing to express appreciation will be very painful for a partner who is more sensitive to verbal communication.

 

  1. De-prioritizing the relationship.

Complicating factors—work, children, aging parents—can certainly detract focus from the relationship. Situational distractions are inevitable, but letting distractions, and the distance that follows, get out of hand is a dangerous pattern that gets in the way of valuing your partner.

 

What to do: Schedule couple time.

Date night, Skype dates, weekend getaways—whatever you choose is irrelevant. The most important part is that you choose something. Be intentional. The 9-5 autopilot lifestyle can easily suppress passion and spontaneity. The busier you are, the more important it will be for you make room for quality time.

 

5 Easy Ways to Attract a Quality Woman

 

iStock-543806276 copy.jpgFinding someone single, attractive, and interesting is only half the battle. Finding someone capable of sharing a future can be a much more difficult task. If you find yourself dating—but never finding sustainability—with the same type of women, you need to think about re-evaluating your dating style.

Homework

Make a list of all the qualities you want in a partner. Now ask yourself: Do I possess these qualities? If the answer isn’t a definite yes, then it might be time to re-evaluate your expectations.

The best way to attract a quality woman is simple: Become that which you’d like to attract. Here are 5 ways to get her attention.

 

  1. Do interesting things.

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, so many of us fall into routines—and the routine can get old. No need to make grand changes, you can spice up your schedule with relatively small tweaks. Opt for a cooking class, art show, or concert. Try a new lunch place. Meet people different from yourself. Say “yes” to new experiences, even if it’s ‘not your thing’.

The most interesting people have lived through vast experiences—not all of which were pleasant. Successes and failures all contribute to a well-rounded character, so it’s in your best interest to take some risks. You will surprise yourself, and she will appreciate you for it.

 

Homework

If you’ve invited to a networking event, dinner party, or frankly any social gathering, NEVER refuse an invitation. You never know who you are going to meet. Furthermore, try two new activities in the next 60 days. Diversify your routine and see what happens.

 

  1. Enjoy the company of women, without an agenda.  

When finding a partner is top of mind, your conversation will slant in that direction instead of evolving organically. Give each other a chance to develop some attraction. The anxiety that can stem from a potential rejection will influence your interaction. Let the date be a secondary objective and just talk.

The thrill of the chase can also get in the way of determining if there’s anything beyond physical attraction. Instead of pursuing the most physically enticing woman, try to find the woman who makes you feel the most comfortable. Establishing some semblance of emotional connectivity will help you establish a firm foundation, the basis of any real connection.

 

Homework

Before asking her out, ask yourself: Would I be friends with this person? If the answer is no, ask yourself why you’re asking her out in the first place.

 

  1. Put yourself in her world.

Imagine your dream woman. What kind of things does she enjoy doing? Art? Sports? Horses? Music? Go to places that attract the type of people you’d like to meet. It’s not impossible to meet someone special during last call at the bar, but the odds of making a real connection aren’t in your favor. You’re better off making connections in places more conducive to conversation or in places that group people together based on shared interest.

 

Homework

Generosity and altruism are always attractive, and it doesn’t necessarily mean opening your checkbook. Find an upcoming event that interests you, and volunteer your time.

 

  1. Be prepared to carry the conversation initially.

Let’s be clear: Women struggle with conversation as much as men, but men are generally tasked with breaking the ice. The good news is that you only need a few open-ended questions to get started.

The questions that are easiest to ask are going to be the same ones she’s answered from every other guy. Set yourself apart with questions that require her to answer from her emotional side, not her logical side. She mentions she completed a marathon. You could go with something obvious like, “Where did you run?” or, you could try something new like, “What is it like to cross the finish line after so many hours?” Giving her an opportunity to share an experience with you will, in some ways, allow her to relive it again with you.

 

Homework

Did your last date feel like an interview? If so, the talk-to-listen ratio wasn’t balanced. Remember, G*d gave you two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. Next conversation, limit yourself to asking two consecutive questions. Give her an opportunity to learn about you.

 

  1. Let your actions—not your words—show her who you are.

If you’ve found professional success, and it’s serving you well, you shouldn’t need to spell this out. Talking about what you have, who you know, and what you can provide isn’t attractive; it’s validation-seeking behavior. A quality woman won’t be with you for your bank account or Rolodex; she manages her own finances and social network.

If you’re outlining reasons for her to be with you, she will wonder why you feel the need to convince her. Spearhead a more interesting conversation about common interests or something that has less to do with your success and more to do with things you enjoy.

 

Homework

Instead of starting with the basic questions and getting more specific, work in the opposite direction. See how long you can talk without mentioning what you do for work. Engineering the conversation this way will force you to talk about the life you lead outside of the office. If this is challenging, it’s time to take some serious vacation and turn your phone off.

 

Attracting a quality woman begins with a fostering a stable, healthy relationship with yourself. These dating tips are just a few ways you can capture some interest; living your truth and being comfortable with who you are is the best place to start.

 

 

7 Ways to Nurture Your New Relationship

 

iStock-541824336 copy.jpgOne of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the opportunity to share life’s joys with someone else. Unfortunately, so much of us are conditioned to seek the things—and the people—either out of our reach, or that might seem to satiate what we see as the current shortcomings in a current relationship. It is easy to start believing the grass is greener instead of investing in what we have. To save time, we want to know who “checks all the boxes”, and are quick to nix a future with anyone who might not follow the image we had in mind. For these reasons and so many more, we unintentionally jeopardize and sabotage our relationships.

 

Strong relationships take work and self awareness. The strongest relationships are built on a firm foundation between two partners who share the same values. To nurture a new relationship or breathe some new life into the one you’re currently in, try the following:

 

  1. Foster dependability.

Can you count on your partner to do what he or she says they’ll do? Can you be relied upon in the same way? If you are unsure if your partner will have your back during the hard times, you might ask yourself, “what’s missing?” You or your partner might not be taking the relationship as seriously as it should be for long term viability.

 

Take your promises seriously and only say what you’re sure you can deliver. If for any reason you fall short, acknowledge your mistake. Try to anticipate your partner’s needs in advance, so you can practice dependability without expectations.

 

What it looks like: Knowing that his girlfriend had to get her oil changed, Paul offered to pick her up from the mechanic to spare her a long wait time. When he arrived to pick her up, he asked the mechanic about the flashing engine light and proceeded to fill her tires with air. Though his gesture was a simple one that took 15 minutes, his actions spoke volumes about his commitment and dependability.

 

  1. Honest communication.

Be honest with each other at all times — even if the consequences may somewhat hurt the other person. When your partner is communicating, listen with an open mind, without interruption, and notice the tone of their voice and facial expression. Not all conversation is verbalized; sometimes your partner will tell you everything you need to know without any words.

 

What it looks like: Annie knew it was ridiculous to feel jealous of her boyfriend’s attractive female coworker, so she kept this to herself. “Why bring drama into this? Obviously, they just work together,” she thought noting her own insecurity. When she learned that her boyfriend had an upcoming work trip with the attractive coworker, she started acting distant and passive aggressively. Finally, she fessed up. “I’m sorry to say, but I feel jealous and insecure.” When her boyfriend learned what was going on, he reassured Annie and suggested that she join for the next happy hour so she could meet all of his coworkers.

 

  1. Asking for emotional support.

Expressing vulnerability is the cornerstone of building an emotionally supportive and sound relationship. Talk to your partner about the things that scare you, that embarrass you, that challenge you. Talking about these uncomfortable things is not just an exercise in your communication skills, it is an opportunity to build trust.

 

  1. Fine tune the romantic intimacy.

As your communication skills improve and your relationship evolves, so will the way you express physical connection. If you refuse to communicate about what you want in the bedroom, be prepared to have a less than fulfilling love life. If you intend on staying in a monogamous relationship, give your partner a chance to satisfy your needs.

 

  1. Balance alone time with partnership.

The cure for trouble in a relationship is not always more face time. It’s important that both people feel they can take space when they need it and return to their partner without anger or resentment waiting at home. It’s important to honor the urges we have to be by ourselves, but realize the impact our absence can have on our partners. If you feel an urge to be alone, make it easier for yourself and your partner by letting him or her know in advance that you need some time. Some reassurance that your absence is not the result of anything he or she did will help a new partner understand your needs without confusion.

 

  1. Assess the way you fight.

In any serious relationship, disagreement is inevitable. Arguments will arise, and they may escalate into some heated conflict. If you find yourselves disagreeing often, ask yourself, “How am I contributing to this?” Sometimes the need to be right will stress the relationship in ways that are neither necessary or helpful. You will not be able to control your partner, but you can control the way you approach conflict.

 

What it looks like: A former client called crying after her boyfriend stormed out after an argument. “Every time we talk, I end up having to repeat myself, and finally I lost my mind and told him, “’You never listen to me and that’s why this relationship isn’t working.’” After calming down, the client realized that, when she lost her temper, she couldn’t acknowledge her boyfriend’s efforts to understand her. Instead of attacking his short comings, she started the conversation appreciating his efforts before moving into new ways they could improve the relationship together.

 

  1. Maintain your sense of self.

Do you lose yourself in a relationship? Establishing and maintaining your boundaries is necessary to keep your standards firm and your self respect intact. Letting a partner decide what you should and shouldn’t tolerate will lead to resentment from you and loss of respect from your partner. To compromise your personality to “fit” your relationship will ultimately ruin any chance at long-term sustainability.

 

These tips will help you nurture and build a strong, loving relationship, but they will only work their magic with consistent reinforcement. The effort and sacrifice will pay off, however, when you find yourself in a loving, sustainable relationship.

Heartbroken? Cardiologists explain why your heart might *actually* be broken

 

Signs_He_Doesn't_Love_You.jpgIn the wake of a breakup, you might say that you’re “heartbroken”, a phase characterized by deep sadness and loss. The feelings are sharp and intense, but are they just feelings?

 

Research shows that the gut wrenching, kick-to-the-stomach feeling that comes after losing someone you love is not just an emotional experience; the effects of a broken heart are grounded in real physiological changes.

 

To understand how the pain is processed, neuroscientists at Columbia University looked at brain activity in unmarried people who had experienced an unwanted breakup in the previous six months. Participants were asked to look at pictures of friends and exes while being touched with a hot probe. Interestingly, the pictures of the exes and the hot probe caused the same parts of the brain to light up. The pictures of friends had no effect. This study revealed that the part of the brain that processes physical pain also processes the pain associated with emotional loss, and your body will respond in many unfortunate ways in the wake of pain.

 

Heart

 

After a breakup, a heart may temporarily enlarge while the rest of the heart functions normally or with even more force. This condition is called stress-induced cardiomyopathy also known as broken heart syndrome. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center noted an especially precarious window for developing a heart problem: During the first 24 hours after experiencing loss, a person’s risk of suffering from a heart attack increases 20X.

 

According to the American Heart Association, broken heart syndrome is similar to experiencing a heart attack. Symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain, but no clogged arteries, a characteristic of a traditional heart attack.

 

Unfortunately, your heart isn’t the only place that will experience stress in the wake of a break up.

 

Skin

 
Breakouts can be attributed to many things—diet, hormones, cosmetics—but the stresses associated with a breakup can also send your skin to a bad place. Researchers at Wake Forest University studied 94 students in Singapore to isolate the causes of breakouts. They found that breakouts were 23 percent more likely to occur during periods of high emotional strain.

 

Hair

 Some people experience hair loss after losing a partner. The emotional stress can trigger an auto-immune condition which attacks your hair follicles or increases the production of androgen, the chief cause of female pattern baldness. Luckily, this issue is only temporary, and as you recover from your break up, your hair should grow back.

 

Muscles

After a break up, the body will produce an influx of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. These stress hormones can help you react quickly in dangerous, short-term situations, but in longer term traumatic situations, these hormones can exhaust your muscles. The extra cortisol will tell your body to send more blood to you muscles, but with no physical outlet, the muscles will swell and feel sore.

 

The Stomach

The cortisol produced in the wake of a break up will also wreak havoc on your digestive track. The extra cortisol will divert blood away from your GI, causing irregularity. If your stomach is already sensitive, you might experience additional cramping or diarrhea.

 

Best ways to counteract the nasty effects of a break up?

Endorphins. Curb those wild stress hormones by pulling yourself off the couch and breaking a sweat. “Exercise also leads to the release of brain chemicals like endogenous opioids that can create feelings of contentment,” says Dr. Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. “It may even get your dopamine flowing.” The stress stemming from a painful break up is real, and physical activity is the best way to help your body release and process the pain.

 

 

Harsh Truths: 6 Reasons Why Your Relationship Fell Apart

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Relationships end for a variety of reasons—some we can control, others we cannot. Before your next relationship, consider asking yourself if any of these issues are sabotaging your efforts at finding a deep, committed relationship.

 

  1. Your ex is STILL coming up

We all have a past, but when the past becomes the fodder of our present, you are creating a rift between you and your partner’s ability to connect. Talk of past relationships not only reveals that you’re not moving forward, it also jeopardizes your chances of a future. If you find yourself beginning sentences with “My ex and I…” or “When I dated X…” consider taking some time away from dating to understand why you’re still telling these stories.

 

  1. You couldn’t trust

It’s no surprise that trust is the crux of all healthy relationships; without the bond of trust, a couple will miss an opportunity to experience true intimacy. Aside from cheating, trust issues can also indicate jealousy, game playing, and possessiveness.

 

If relationships have ended because you couldn’t trust, ask yourself if it was because of actual events (i.e. your partner lied to you, broke promises, hacked into your phone) or if you are feeling unable to trust without cause (i.e. you feel jealous even though your partner has never strayed). Being able to differentiate feelings that stem from actual events versus unsubstantiated paranoia will help you uncover barriers to intimacy.

 

  1. You were Mr./Mrs. Right Now, not Mr./Mrs. Right

The relationship is guaranteed to fail if you find yourself on either side of this equation. Not all relationships are built to last—and that doesn’t make them any less important to our growth—but if you are looking for a life partner, meeting someone who is open to the same is crucial for long-term success.

 

If you are with someone until you land your dream job, move, lose weight, or meet someone better, you are wasting your time and your partner’s time. If your partner is not your priority, you aren’t ready for an enduring long-term relationship. If you’re wondering if you’re the top priority—you’re not.

 

  1. You harbor contempt

Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert on couples’ studies, concluded that the single, best predictor of divorce is contempt. Contempt, a toxic combo of anger, disgust and frustration, stems from a superiority complex. When we are unable to see our partner’s point of view because we believe they are less intelligent, sensitive, or competent than we are, we are making it impossible to communicate about the things that bother us.

 

In addition to contempt, there were three other closely related patterns of toxic communication: criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling (shutting down, no eye contact, etc.)

  1. You were emotionally dependent

If you are unable to make yourself happy, you will always seek someone who can distract you from the uncomfortable feelings you have towards yourself. Not only is it unfair to expect your partner to keep you afloat, it’s dangerous to allow someone else to hold the keys to your happiness. Codependent people usually don’t keep high standards when it comes to how others treat them, so it’s more likely that they end up with a partner who doesn’t treat them well. There are many ways to heal from codependency, but they all start with a belief that you—and you alone—can make yourself happy.

 

  1. You stopped appreciating your partner

A lack of appreciation comes in many forms. Perhaps you’ve stopped making an effort—to make fun plans, to keep up your appearance, to remind your partner how special they are. Taking someone for granted is a quick way to kill the romance and up the apathy.

 

When someone is asking what is best for “us”, compromise ensues. If you stop appreciating your partner’s efforts, it’s easy to stop asking “What is best for us?” and replacing it with “What is best for me?”

 

Of course not all reasons our relationships end are because we are at fault. Without the right timing, otherwise compatible people won’t be able to connect for reasons outside of their control. Age, seemingly just a number, will start to matter if he’s 28 finishing grad school and she’s 34 looking forward to starting a family. Life situations can also affect our chances of connection. If he’s ready to move things forward while she’s healing post divorce, the couple will not be able to connect on the same level. Situations can change, broken hearts can heal, and different phases can pass, but if the timing is going to be ‘off’ for more than a few months, it is better to make a clean break and revisit at another time.

 

How to Get Over a Break Up ASAP

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Both sides of the break up coin are agonizing. The person initiating the split has to fill the role of bearer of bad news, usually wounding the heart (and ego) of someone who he or she cares for deeply. He or she usually experiences guilt, confusion, and a unique type of stress that stems from knowing the end is near. On the other hand, we have the person receiving a final decision. Stripped of all opportunity to direct the course of the relationship, this person is left vulnerable, helpless, shocked, or disappointed.

If there was connection—real connection—pain is to be expected from all parties involved. We also know that every relationship that doesn’t make it to the next level will end with a breakup, yet we still find ourselves hurting after every split.

So, how do we heal from heartbreak faster?

  1. Avoid Numbing Agents—Shopping, food, alcohol, rebounds, pills, and drugs used to mask the pain will only prolong the agony of loss. Deriving relief this way will only push you deeper into depression, debt, or weight gain.

 

  1. Feed Yourself Well—When your heart is hurting, it’s even more important to monitor what goes in your body. Excessive sugar will crash your system; processed food will challenge your energy; and not eating will stress your heart even further. Now is the time to treat yourself to the best food you can get your hands on.

 

  1. Bring Yourself Joy—It’s easy to fall out of love with yourself just because someone else has. So many factors lead to relationships ending; we forget that so many of those reasons have nothing to do with who we are.

 

  1. Follow the Good Vibes—We tend to feed off of the energy around us. Experiment with a new crowd that offers you a fresh start. Science reveals laughing and smiling are instant mood lifters, so give yourself an opportunity to absorb the joy around you.

 

  1. Remove the Reminders—Pictures, cards, and other reminders should be out of sight. There is no need to live among reminders of relationships past. The mementos, seemingly innocuous, can derail your path to healing. Also, consider un-following—not unfriending—your ex on social media. You can always change the setting when you’re in a better place without anyone finding out.

 

  1. Keep it Simple—This is harder than you think. Attending parties he/she might attend? No. Finding reasons to reach out? No. Keeping in touch with his/her friends? No. It’s easy to think you can “be adult” about crossing paths, but the heavy emotional charge has a way of clouding better judgment.

Ironically, the things we are least likely to do during a break up — eating right, visiting friends, meeting new people—are the things that will help us heal the fastest. Giving yourself the time to cope with loss is going to fast track you to a better place with a better partner.

6 Signs He’s Boyfriend Material

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During the first stages of dating, it’s tough to know if your current date situation is worthy of a more in depth investment—with your time and your emotions. Here are 6 telltale signs that the one you’re seeing has the stuff that boyfriends are made of.

 

  1. He remembers the little things.

Men who are genuinely interested keep track of information that is specific to you—your favorite movies, foods you dislike, places you want to see. Though they may not appear actively engaged, you’d be surprised with how many details they’re absorbing.

 

Here’s what it looks like: He knows you get cold—even when it’s 70 degrees outside. He will make sure you know where to find a blanket or he’ll set aside his favorite sweatshirt or oversized sweater just for you.

 

  1. His values his family.

Staying connected with the parents and siblings reveals that he’s able to maintain relationships with the ones who matter most. Even if drama lingers at home, he has a way of seeing the bigger picture. A guy who prioritizes his family will be more likely to invest in a family of his own and sustain a relationship with you through for the long haul.

 

Here’s what it looks like: He talks about his sister’s upcoming visit…and hopes you will be available to meet her.

 

  1. He has excellent follow though.

If he says he will call, he does. He doesn’t just talk about plans; he actually makes them. If he’s serious, you won’t need to push or prod to see action; he’s happy to orchestrate gestures—big and small—to keep things interesting.

 

Here’s what it looks like: When my client’s date had to fly out for work travel, my client said he would pick her up when she returned. Unfortunately, the date’s plane was delayed. Despite an 11:30 p.m. arrival, he was there to drive her home.

 

  1. He puts you first.

There is nothing more telling about a man’s intentions than the way he prioritizes your needs over his. We’re not talking about a man doormat; we are talking about someone who is committed to ensuring that his date is comfortable and happy.

 

Here’s what it looks like: My friend felt ill at a basketball game with her date. Instead of asking her to stay till half time or getting annoyed about losing out on the great seats, he found her some Advil and quickly escorted her home. The next day he called to check on her.

 

  1. He communicates with you often.

Despite his busy schedule, he always makes time to check in. It’s not the length of the message that counts; it’s the frequency. You might get a text, a phone call, or even a social media nod. Whatever it is, you won’t be left wondering if or when you’ll hear from him.

 

Here’s what it looks like: After two weeks my friend’s date left for international work travel. Between the time changes and the work load, she didn’t think she would hear from him for days. She was pleasantly surprised when he bought a new sim card and called her when he checked into his hotel.

 

  1. He’s interested in growing and evolving.

He realizes that he’s a work in progress and wants to better himself. If he’s aware of his faults and interested in working them out, you’ll save yourself the un-winnable battle of trying to change someone. Openness about his desire to grow and change can be an opportunity that brings you closer together.

 

Here’s what it looks like: When my client first started dating in the wake of a painful divorce, he felt aloof and noncommittal. When he first met his girlfriend, he wasn’t sure how much to divulge about his past. Knowing that a lack of communication caused havoc in his first marriage, my client opted for transparency. He realized that for true intimacy to exist, he needed to experience vulnerability. His openness strengthened their bond and left both my client and his now girlfriend feeling secure about their relationship.