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Articles from August 2010

August 26, 2010

How Couples Survive Infidelity

A great quote from Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, in her article After the Storm in the Psychotherapy Networker about which marriages survive and which don't after she helps them get beyond an act of infidelity.

When we seek the gaze of another, it isn't always our partner we're turning away from, but the person we ourselves have become. We're seeking not another partner, but another self. Couples who reinvent themselves can bring this other self into their existing relationship.

Love it! What a goal! If we recognize this in time, we could skip the cheating and reap the benefits without all the pain.

August 25, 2010

On Again, Off Again is Not the Best Route to the Altar

In today's Dear Abby column, a reader writes:

Every time I start to get over Guy, he comes around again. It's like he has radar.

In this case, Guy is a married man, but that's the result, not the cause.

If you are looking to get married and running into people like Guy, or if you are in Guy's situation of being unable to choose, you need to know this. Some folks have a dread fear of making a bad choice, especially in a decision as big as who to spend the rest of their life with.

The fear, psychology researchers tell us, comes from childhood experiences of being smothered or tied down by our life-essential love for our caretaker. The fear is real, but it is a phobia, a fear much larger than the risk as others see it. (I was going to say the real risk, but I don't think there is a universal scale for how much fear a given risk deserves.) And, while psychologists have pounded their collective heads against the wall of many problems, phobias are one they've gotten figured out.

The phobia is triggered not by the partner, but by the desire to stay, the toying with the idea of committing to this one partner and, as those wedding vows say, "forsaking all others."

If you are dating someone with this phobia, the more delightful you are to be around, the faster you will trigger the phobia. If you make yourself available for another round after distance has reduced the fear, the odds are excellent the relationship will end again just when it feels the warmest and closest and most hopeful to you. It will end because those feelings trigger fears of horrible strings attached to love (which have nothing at all to do with you) or of missing out on even better feelings by making a choice of a mate before getting to know all the possible choices.

If you are looking to get married, your chances of curing a good prospect's phobia are about the same as those of a travel agent who tries to talk those with a strong fear of flying into enjoying their flight to the islands. Unfortunately, people familiar with their commitment phobia often rush into relationships the way a child who knows the water will be cold rushes into the waves. They can look very promising. You will know them by their other commitment (the one they go home to every night or every weekend but swear they will leave as soon as they are certain) or by their sudden 180-degree about-face cooling off period whenever the relationship warms up.

If you recognize yourself in this description, please know most phobias can be cured. But I also want you to know that your picture of love, the one driving your phobia, is that of the child you once were. Marriages do not succeed or fail because they are a match made in heaven or a pairing of soulmates. They succeed or fail mostly because of what goes on in our heads.

Our knee-jerk fear responses, expectations, and fixation on either-or choices dictate most of what happens. They, not the person we're dating or married to, create fear in most cases. These are what convince us we found the wrong person, and we will all see "wrong person" projected onto the face of just about anyone we choose after a few years if we don't Assume Love when upset, Expect Love when disappointed, and Find Third Alternatives when we disagree.

If you share Guy's phobia, give these three tools a try for a few months and see if you can't get yourself through the next desire to run from someone you love.

August 22, 2010

When Do You Feel Most in Love?

When do you feel most in love? When do you look into the eyes of your mate and melt? When do you feel so lucky to be loved by this man or woman that you could just float up off the ground? What floods you with warmth and a sense of security or a desire to protect this one special person?

Is it when you are fed and pampered? When you receive an especially thoughtful gift? During lovemaking? After you have been especially emotional? When you spend a day together without work intruding? When you make something for your special guy or gal? As you come off a dance floor? When you finish painting a room or installing a faucet together?

Have you got it? Do you have a picture in your mind right now of what is true when this magnificent feeling washes over you? Grab a card, your cell phone, or your netbook and write down three ways you could help create this sort of moment or better recognize one is on its way. May you rediscover it many times over the next 15 years.

How about sharing your list here in the comments? You just might give someone else the key to a loving moment, a long-lasting, wonderful memory.

August 14, 2010

Marriage, Communication, and Oxytocin

Better communication seems to occur in less stressful marriages. But are you sure which one causes which?

Those couples who communicate better experience less stress (as measured by cortisol in their saliva) while discussing a difficult topic. But when you give randomly selected couples a squirt of oxytocin nasal spray in a relationship lab, they communicate better than the couples who don't receive it. They don't report feeling any less stressed, but their cortisol levels say they are, and that's what matter to the health of their heart and other organs.

So where can you get some of this oxytocin? You secrete it from your pituitary. It's the size of a pea and located at the base of your brain, but you don't need to stick a probe in your brain to tell it to start producing more.

When you feel a wave of warm, positive feelings, you will know you have found the switch. Alcohol is an off switch, substituting its own wave of warm, positive feelings for the one that helps communication. The on switches? Orgasm is an oxytocin releaser for both sexes. So is genital stimulation, even without orgasm. Stroking of the skin works well, too, and the more you produce, the more enjoyable touching gets.

So perhaps those happy couples who communicate so well are reaping the dual benefits of the language of touch. It's good for the heart.

August 10, 2010

What I Expect from a Husband

An awful lot of complaints about the men in our lives start the same:

  • I expect my husband to pick up after himself.

  • I expect him to at least remember when our anniversary is!

  • I expect that when I cook, he does the dishes.

  • I did not expect that once we married, he would kiss me only when he's looking for sex.

  • And I did not expect he would make such a fuss about visiting my family.

  • I expect him to make a decent living.

  • I don't expect a lot, but is it unreasonable to expect he'll watch the kids on those rare nights when I go out?

Newlyweds and long-time marrieds both want to know, "What should I expect from my guy?"

And I answer, "Expect love."

That line can be hard to get your head around, because it is so easy to launch into something like this: "If he loved me, he would pick up after himself."

Not true.

Marriage is like a buffet. In a marriage, you should expect love. At a buffet, you should expect food.

At most buffets, if you are expecting food, you will be thrilled. There will be lots of it, and you are welcome to as much of it as you like. Some of it will be delicious. Some will be gorgeous. Some will whet your appetite. Some will fill your stomach. And it may come with a jazz quartet or a mariachi band or butter in the shape of a swan.

If you expect the carved watermelons your best friend described from the midnight buffet on her cruise, you will be disappointed. Most buffets don't have them.

If you expect ham or bacon, you may be so disappointed that you miss out on the exquisite potato pancakes or the lox.

If you just can't wait for those Austrian layer cakes from your sister's buffet, you may skip right over the great the fantastic pastitsio at the Greek buffet to save room. What a shame!

My favorite buffet is the one at Old Sturbridge Village, but I would be miserably disappointed expecting anything like their wonderful chicken pot pie at a jazz brunch buffet in New Orleans.

When you head out to a buffet, expect food. Let the rest of the details surprise you. Don't ruin the experience by comparing it to the highlights of another buffet.

And when you marry, forget what you know about other marriages. It will only get in the way of having a really great experience. Expect love. Let the rest of the details surprise you.

August 8, 2010

Why Do Women Say Cruel Things to their Husbands?

Sometimes: Because they fail to recognize how much their admiration means to their men, and the words just slip out.

And other times: Because they hurt so much that they want to sting with their words, illogically hoping the response will be a loving one.

August 7, 2010

What I Like About Being Married

I think it's great, at times of extreme stress, to have someone who remembers who I am and what I believe when the stress is not there.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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