One in every three first marriages in the U.S will end within ten years, and one in five will end within five years, according to a November 2001 report issued by Centers for Disease control and Prevention. The report "First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage: United States," also notes that 43% of first marriages will end within 15 years.
Although recent statistics paint a bleak picture of the future of marriage, it seems that most people have not totally lost faith in the institution itself. Also, newer studies have revealed that the statistics on the success of remarriages are even less encouraging; remarried couples divorce at an even higher rate than first timers. Yet it is not uncommon to see many divorced people remarry for a second and even a third time.
It should be no wonder that, despite the statistics so many people are willing to risk the heartbreak, sorrow, and economic losses resulting from failed marriages. People need companionship, and marriage has been the accepted structure for men and women to live with each other for as long as we can remember.
However, over the past few decades, the staggering increase in the divorce rate in America has left young people in doubt about the idea of marriage itself. Many have opted for the less traditional arrangement, i.e., living together without the benefit of the marriage vows. One U.S. Census report "Marital Status and living Arrangements, 1996", showed an 85% increase in cohabitation within the last decade alone. But does this ensure compatibility in marriage?
According to numerous studies, the rate of failure in common law relationships is 50% higher than that of traditional marriages. So the question is: What can couples do to reduce the rate of failure in their own relationship? Even more significant questions are: What are the reasons for these failures in so many relationships. Why do people who want to share their lives together find it so difficult to sustain long term relationships with each other?
The answer to these questions and more is the focus of this book. One of the principal causes of the high casualty rate in marital relationships lies in the sources of our life- long teaching and information about marriages. Most of us are familiar with the emotional side of romantic love. Less commonly known are the biological connections to these emotions. Anthropologist Helen Fisher (more about this in Chapter 7) has documented evidence that links the biological and chemical processes of our bodies to love and attachment between males and females.
In her study, Fisher notes that our bodies produce chemical substances known to cause attachment in humans. She suggests that nature has provided a way to bring couples together and keep them sufficiently motivated until the creation of offspring is accomplished. Additional clinical experiments link reduced levels of these "love-enhancing compounds" in the human body with the decline of passionate love and attachment between couples. Fisher believes that the reduced levels of these chemicals may be directly responsible for separation and divorce in romantic relationships.
Most young people entering a relationship for the first time are not sure what is expected of them to be a good partner. The majority of the people we interviewed admitted they were not looking very far into the future when they got married. All they knew was that they were in love with someone who met their social and sexual requirements-at least the way they saw them at the time. For most of us, our parents have been our only source of first-hand information about marriage. But times have changed; what may have worked for our parents in their time may not work for us today. And with the high rate of failure reported in present-day marriages, it would seem unwise for us to use past-day examples of marriages as role models for our own relationships. We need to find better solutions.
Love is No Guarantee guides you through the process of finding love and keeping it alive in the face of today's challenges. It is not a book about psychology. I am not a psychologist and this is not an attempt to psychoanalyze why people behave the way they do; numerous well-qualified professionals have already done an excellent job in that area. This is a look at the practical, logical reasons for people's actions and the resulting consequences.
Part one covers all aspects of dating; guiding you to some of the places you can meet eligible people who share similar interests with you.
When you feel you are attracted to someone, Love is No Guarantee walks you through the steps you must take before you fall in love; yes, that's right, before you fall in love. Even when you believe you've found the right person, you will have to take steps to make certain "what you see is what you are getting."
For example, I've heard men complain they fell in love with women they met in a work environment. These men were attracted to and sought women who held interesting jobs and led socially stimulating lives. Imagine the surprise to those who married these women, only to discover that their wives want to give up their careers to become stay-at-home moms. Usually the relationship becomes strained because the men may feel they have been misled. Likewise, a man who is financially well off may marry a career woman but secretly plans to convince her to give up her career and become a housewife or a "trophy" wife.
When you do decide to choose someone you believe may be right for you, this guide suggests ways to confirm your initial feeling. You will be able to determine if, in fact, you can share a life together. These steps are relatively simple to follow, yet many people bypass them only to have regrets later. Remember, to enjoy a fulfilling relationship even with someone you love, you must share compatibility in the important areas of your life. You'll stand a better chance of understanding your partner if you both share similar values, personal habits, and opinions. You don't have to agree on everything; being in total agreement with your partner at all times can produce boredom in the relationship. In fact, even on some important matters, you can have different opinions. But at least you should see eye-to-eye in matters critical to your day-to-day existence.
For example, if you grew up in a wealthy family and have always appreciated, enjoyed, and looked forward to the finer conveniences of life, you may have difficulty living with a mate whose philosophy is to live on the bare necessities, especially if he or she believes accumulation of wealth is immoral. However, your relationship may still survive if you vote Republican and your partner is a staunch Democrat.
Love is No Guarantee explains what men and women want from each other in a relationship and how you can determine what your prospective partner expects from a relationship with you. Being aware of each other's expectations gives each person a clear picture about the other's willingness and ability to meet his or her needs.
When you are reasonably satisfied that the mate you chose is "the one" and you decide to formalize your relationship, Part Two provides valuable tips to make your relationship a success. This may be even more important than it seems because the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis can cause us to neglect our relationships. And by the time we realize our mistake, it might be too late to repair any damage caused.
You will learn:
* What men really want
* What women really want
* How to tell if your partner truly loves you
* How to maintain love and intimacy while raising a family
* How to communicate your most intimate needs to your partner
* How to maintain a satisfying sexual relationship with the one you love
* How to deal with in-laws without loosing your hair
* The reasons why love dies
Love is No Guarantee teaches you to recognize signs that indicate potential trouble spots in your relationship before they get out of hand.
Each relationship has its own problems but many share similarities. It is my wish that you use the knowledge and experiences gained from others to seek solutions that can benefit you. It is my sincere hope that you can sit back, look at your own situation, and ask yourself whether your beliefs, expectations, and actions so far have worked for you. If so, congratulations! If not, you may want to adopt some of the practical applications outlined in this book to improve your own relationship.
This book is for people who want to find peace and happiness in their love relationship.
Chapter 7, What is love?
Do I love you because
I need you or do I need you
because I love you?
- Erich Fromm
What does it mean when you say to someone "I love you?" There are many answers and interpretations to this question, but when asked, the majority of people said that love is something they feel but cannot explain in words. People who genuinely feel they have fallen in love report a warm fuzzy inner feeling, sometimes giddiness. And, according to Psychiatrist Donatella Marazziti, of the University of Pisa, "Falling madly in love may really make you mentally ill."
People constantly ask, "How will I know when it's true love? How can I be certain if and when it hits me?" In an attempt to provide answers to these questions, our interviewers asked dozens of people who said that they had experienced the feeling of falling in love. Their answers and my own experiences over the years led me to the following conclusions:
People who fall in love recognize a strong force that draws them close to each other. Sometimes this force can be a strong physical attraction, which psychologists say is an important ingredient in romantic love. Sometimes, it's more than that. And modern research suggests that over the centuries, our bodies have developed processes to ensure we fall in love with the opposite sex, according to anthropologist Helen E. Fisher PhD.
A Biological explanation
An individual may begin a sexual liaison with a partner sometimes purely for sexual pleasure, then discover that he/she feels a strong attraction for the partner. In many such instances, one or both parties may mistake this attraction for lasting love. Many of us are no doubt aware of how costly such mistakes can be. Helen E. Fisher, PhD., in her study "Brains Do It: Lust, Attraction and Attachment," says that this attraction can be explained biologically. She discovered that, after orgasm, there is a rise in levels of the hormones vasopressin in men and oxytocin in women. These hormones are known for their attachment-causing properties, which led Fisher to conclude that the presence of these chemicals in the body is responsible for the closeness many couples experience after sexual intercourse.
A study referenced in an article in Cerebrum, a Dana Forum on Brain Science further explains three systems associated with mating, reproduction, and parenting. These systems are called Lust, Attraction, and Attachment.
Lust: This is nature's way of ensuring that a male and a female are sufficiently motivated to engage in the mating process.
Attraction: This system keeps both parties passionately focused on each other until insemination is accomplished. Fisher sees the evolution of the attraction system as a way for individuals to select and maintain focus on the most eligible partner. Individuals thought to be genetically superior were, and still are, considered to be more desirable as mating partners.
Attachment: This emotion system (termed 'compassionate love') has evolved to ensure that offspring are nurtured and cared for. The increased levels of the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin mentioned above indicates nature's intention to keep parents together for joint parenting, at least until offspring are able to care for themselves. It is interesting to note that the report suggests Lust and Attraction does not always go hand in hand. When men and women were injected with testosterone- a hormone known to increase sexual desire-their sex drives did increase but they did not fall in love.
In this report, Fisher also refers to studies carried out by D. Marazzitti and associates who concluded that falling in love is associated with low levels of the hormone serotonin. But according to Marazzitti, this chemical balance in humans does not remain constant, confirming that passionate attraction does not last forever. She noted that, when tested after a while, the levels of serotonin in the bodies of infatuated men and women change, returning to similar levels observed in subjects who had not fallen in love. Marazzitti and her team established the duration of infatuation between lovers from a period of 12 to 18 months.
This research is important because it explains how our biological system works in concert with our emotional processes. Whenever we find a suitable partner, we can then rely on our chemical and biological systems to assist us in achieving our emotional goals. And when we find that our partners seem less attracted to us, it does not necessarily mean they have fallen out of love with us. It may simply mean their biological processes are performing normally.
People say they are seeking their soul mates-the one person who shares how they view life itself, their most important values, and the driving force that moves them. Nathaniel Branden, PhD, says "When we meet another person, we sense how that individual experiences him or herself. We sense the level of that person's excitement or the lack of it. Our instant attraction or non attraction is automatic because our bodies and emotions respond faster than thought can take shape in words."
Each person is a unique being. What we sense at this moment is that the other person possesses what it takes to complement our lives. We sense that a union with such a person can bring new possibilities, which can make our existence richer. This is not to say this newfound person is the only one who can be right. There may be others. For this reason, it has been concluded that, for each person, more than one soul mate exists, according to Andrea N. Jones of Youth Outlook, a newspaper published by Pacific News Service.
This instant identification of compatibility can take place on your first contact or later as you become more familiar with each other. And because the events are too rapid for your logical thought processes, all you know is that you sense this instant connection but cannot explain reasons for it.
Later on, as you become more familiar with your partner and begin to understand his/her way of being, reactions to, and expression of emotions etc., you may be able to identify similarities, thus explaining the initial mutual attraction. It's true that the initial attraction can bring couples together, but love goes much deeper than that.
Falling In Love Is Not Being In Love
Many people meet, are attracted to each other, and fall in love but do not live happily ever after. Why? Because most of them are confused by the meaning of love.
Let's look at an explanation of love; there are many, but this one seems most accurate. When you love someone, you value that person highly-so highly that you have made a choice to offer your resources to nurture the one you love. You have also chosen to place her/his well-being and development as your highest priority. Yes, it is a choice, and to make a choice, you need information. Information gathering requires time. For this reason, there is no such thing as true love at first sight.
However, to offer yourself in this case does not mean to sacrifice or deprive you of resources. Most people relate "giving" to "relieving oneself of resources." But psychologists familiar with human behavior observe that "giving love" has a different meaning. When you give love, you experience strength, joy, and aliveness.
Therefore, those who give of themselves are bestowing on another the most precious gift they have to offer: their joys, their understandings, and their love for life. To them, these things are more valuable than money, yet they are willing to give them freely. Then something wonderful happens. By giving, they enrich another's life with the same joy, aliveness, and understanding that is a part of them. When all of these good things enhance the other person's life, that person radiates those feelings, giving birth to a new joy, which can be shared by them both. So by giving love, people automatically receive love in return, even though they do not give it with this intention.
Why Do We Need Love?
The greatest thing we ever learn is
to love and give love in return."
- Nat King Cole, Miles Davis -
From the moment we are born and even before, nature provides us with the security of a mother's love. Without that love, it would be difficult to survive. A mother's love is synonymous with care, protection, and nurturing. Our relationship with "mother" represented our first perception of love. As we progressed in life, we learned that love means taking care of our own well-being.
It has been said that mother's love is the purest form of love that exists, love that requires nothing more than being alive. Some people continue to seek this kind of love in other relationships even after they have grown up and become adults. A friend of mine said his mother once told him if he could find a woman who can tolerate his faults the way that she (his mother) can, he should marry her immediately. My friend is nearly 50 years old and not yet married.
Mother's love, by its very nature, is one-sided; one party gives while the other receives. In romantic and other forms of love, equality rules; both parties mutually share giving and receiving. Relationships other than those between mother and child, which are built on inequality, stand little chance of survival. Of course we all know of relationships of exploitation where both parties are dependent on each other; the "exploiter" needs someone to exploit and the "dependent" one needs to be exploited. Such relationships function as long as such mutual dependency continues to exist.
In addition to the basic need for existence, humans have always exhibited the need for companionship. People need at least one person with whom to share intimacy and their most important values of life.
People also need to find things, we value, things which give us pleasure, which we can love, which give us a reason for living. We have seen that people who find themselves alone due to the loss of loved ones and simply choose to be alone may keep a pet or a plant in their home. Remember, a healthy plant will not only bring life into your space, but also absorb toxins in the air.
Need for appreciation
In the year 2001, a CNN opinion poll named U.S. President George Bush "the most loved man in America." Bush has gained the approval of the American people for his effort in the war against terrorism. American people have recognized Bush and shown appreciation for his personal dedication and sacrifice. But why does he do it? Why does a man who has obviously had many great successes in his life continue to strive for even higher levels of excellence?
Many will say such men are driven by the need for power. This may be true, but psychological studies have linked the need for power with the desire to be loved. Many winners of the Academy awards for Motion Pictures have said their struggles are fueled by their need to be loved and appreciated by their fans. It is a fact that people who have achieved great levels of success in their lives are usually admired, respected, and loved for their achievements.
Is love forever?
Debbie, 33, a credit collector for a shipping company, recently ended a three-year relationship. "From the moment I met Jerry, I knew he was right for me but experience taught me to proceed cautiously. After about four months of dating, I decided my first impressions were right; he was everything I always wanted in a man. We had three happy years together and Jerry repeatedly told me how contented he was to have found someone with whom he could share his life.
"We did everything together, took business courses, went on vacations, even saw the same movies. Living together was comfortable, but for some reason the thought of marriage never appealed to me. We had talked about having a family some day, but whenever Jerry brought up the subject, I felt I was not yet ready. Jerry wanted to take our relationship to the next level but I felt comfortable with the way things were. For the first time in our relationship, it dawned on me that my relationship with Jerry may not be forever. This frightened me because I truly loved him but I knew that I was not ready to get married to him.
"When I finally realized Jerry really wanted marriage, a strange thing happened. I began to feel uneasy with our relationship. Things were not like before; I lost some of my excitement and desire to be with him. It's as if I was inconsiderate to him after he had been so good to me. I felt like I did not deserve to be with him. We finally agreed to go our separate ways, and even though I miss him, I feel that somewhere along the way the love I had for him was lost.
"It's been four years since Jerry and I ended our relationship, and I am still trying to understand what happened between us. I've been seeing other guys, but so far I have not experienced the closeness I had with Jerry. My friends tell me I'm not yet ready to settle down with anyone, and maybe there're right. In my relationship with Jerry I felt free to be myself. We lived together like buddies without feeling tied down to each other, (at least that's the way I felt). When he became serious about marriage, I no longer saw him as a buddy, but as someone who was going to tie me down. I just got scared."
Do you believe this relationship was one of true love? Some may say it was a mistake because Debbie and Jerry were not truly compatible and should not have been together in the first place.
In my opinion, this relationship was successful because both participants enjoyed three fulfilling years of their lives together. Someone once said if you can have one moment of true happiness in your life, grab it because true happiness is not easy to find.
Love is a living entity; if it stands still, it could die. To be alive means to move forward and go where life's journey takes you. Love may die only to be reborn again in a different form. Perhaps both Jerry and Debbie will move on to find love in different places, but they will always cherish the love they once shared with each other.
Seven ways to tell if he/she truly loves you
A woman once asked, "Ok, I heard all the love stories of people being on cloud nine or feel surrounded by fresh roses that bloom only for them. But after all this, how do I know that he truly loves me? How could I be sure after being together for more than a year that his love is real?"
Chapter 9, Making A Commitment To Each Other
You have known each other for some time now. You feel that a reasonable level of compatibility exist between you. Your partner has demonstrated the desire, capability, and readiness to enter into a serious relationship with you. And you both feel in love with each other. Congratulations! You are ready to commit to a loving relationship.
You may decide on a legal wedding ceremony or, for the less traditional, a non-legal or private way of formalizing your commitment to each other. Whatever form you select, it is important to understand the true meaning of such commitment.
Your commitment to your mate is not your marriage license, your wedding ceremony, nor your living arrangements. When you commit, you are in fact agreeing to the following:
"After serious consideration and with full responsibility and integrity, I am agreeing to share my life with my partner; to assist in his/her personal growth development and happiness wherever and whenever I can. I also agree to cherish and protect this union with my partner so it can forever flourish and always remains a happy one. I am agreeing to this because I want to, and for no other reason."
When you look at marriage in this way, it becomes easier to see why a marriage commitment does not end with a ceremony. Instead, it becomes a commitment for two people to strive toward, on a day-to-day basis. The commitment is to ensure the continued growth of each other and the relationship.
I always remember the expression on a young lady's face when, one morning, she burst into the office where I worked. With excitement, pride, and contentment in her voice, she showed off her engagement ring. She had finally received a marriage proposal from a young man whom we all considered to be one of the most eligible bachelors around. She was the envy of all the women.
I later learned she had confided in close friends that, although she had hoped for a marriage proposal, she had not really expected one. She confessed that she had done all she could to win her fiancé, and that she was glad that it was over now. No, it is not over yet. Too many people see marriage as a point of arrival instead of the beginning of a long journey.
Too many people support the belief that after they have taken the necessary steps to secure a marriage commitment, they can relax in the comfort that their work is done. This kind of thinking can cause complacency, which is one of the killers of love relationships. I am reminded of an old saying: "The same things you did to win your partner are the same things you should do to keep him/her."
Yes, there are good reasons to celebrate when two people decide to commit to each other in a loving relationship, but remember that this is only the beginning. Celebrate that you have been blessed with the good fortune to find a mate who has met your standards for eligibility, and that you have both fallen in love with each other.
You must also realize that an offer of a commitment is a demonstration of the highest regard and a great compliment of love. When your partner offers marriage or another form of formal commitment to you for the right reasons, he/she is saying you have been placed as the highest priority in his/her life. Treasure this commitment and use your relationship as a launching ground. This launching ground marks the beginning of a new journey, which can take you to new places in life you've only dreamed about.
Your Relationship Responsibilities
In the context of a loving relationship, responsibility does not only mean tasks, obligations, etc. Yes, always assist your partner with household chores, financial support, marital duties, etc. But responsibility in a relationship has a much broader definition. Romantic relationships provide an environment in which to learn who you really are in relation to the person you're with. This is not to say you need someone else to discover your true self. But being with a partner helps in sharing love, something you cannot do alone. To truly enjoy love, you have to express it with others.
Many people believe they are on this earth for a purpose, that their existence will benefit mankind. Perhaps their contribution may not be as important as that of Alexander Graham Bell or Mother Theresa, but in some way will have a positive impact on society. A comedian, who makes people laugh or a mother whose daughter may discover a cure for the HIV virus are both important to our society.
Most people spend years trying to find a purpose for their existence. Some are lucky to discover what they believe to be their purpose relatively early in life. Others do so much later. And many people go through their entire lives without finding what they believe to be the true purpose for their existence.
When that discovery happens, you experience a marked change in life, which produces a profound impact on your existence. A person who has been converted to a religious calling or who decided to devote his/her life to a special cause falls into this category. Every day is full of excitement and a desire to constantly move forward. Fulfillment from the cause provides new energy.
Most people strive to arrive at this point in life. Within a loving relationship, it's your partner's responsibility to help bring out the hidden qualities you may not know you possessed. This does not mean you should sit by waiting for your partner to guide you toward your goals and dreams. It means that because of the love and mutual caring that exists between you, your partner will be aware of your emotional and spiritual struggles and provide encouragement and assistance with these struggles.
I've heard many happy couples say their partner represents their "other half." Now that they have found each other, they feel complete. This is one of the many myths surrounding romantic love. You may need others to assist in the development of certain areas, but no one can complete you, because you are already complete. If you can be happy by yourself, only then can you find happiness with someone else.
The secret is to feel comfortable defining yourself without having to include another person. For example, Mr. Smith's daughter or Mr. Jones's wife. When you depend on others to make you complete, you assume a position of inferiority. And it's for this reason some people feel lost and incomplete after a breakup in their relationship.
Remember if you seek happiness from outside, you will always be disappointed. True happiness comes from within. Yes, you can benefit from what your partner brings to the relationship, but you should not lose any part of you if what he/she brings is ever taken away.
The desire to nurture the one you love comes automatically when you are in love. Of course this refers to a mature love relationship. This is a relationship in which both parties are concerned with the needs of each other, not when one or both are interested only in their own needs.
People who love their significant other do not need to be told when she/he needs to be comforted, when he/she needs to be held, stroked and caressed, and when he/she needs to be left alone with his/her own thoughts.
You believe that your partner can succeed in whatever he/she sets out to accomplish and you respect his/her opinions no matter how childish or insignificant they may seem. Some people, even though they are in love with their mates, have not learned the art of (or feel the need for) nurturing. This can have roots in their upbringing, but it is easy to see why they would feel loved and appreciated when their partner nurtures them.
Why People Marry
According to Burnham and Phelan in their very informative book 'Mean Genes' humans are guided by their genes whose primary purpose is to ensure the continuation of the species. Both men and women pursue their genetic goals in whatever way seems most efficient. Marriage is one of these ways. It is an exchange between two people. The man offers commitment, protection, and financial support while the woman contributes the promise of sexual exclusivity, caring, and fertility. Traditionally, a man is expected to give her a ring as proof of his ability to provide material goods, and the woman's virginity proves she has kept herself pure and is now ready to be the exclusive property of her husband to be.
From as far back as we know, marriage has been the accepted structure of a family unit: When you're ready to start a family you get married.
Traditionally, families took a special interest in the selection of a marriage partner for their offspring to preserve the customs and traditions of their clans and communities. In the custom of arranged marriages, two people were brought together by community elders and matchmakers, and marriages took the form of a business arrangement between two families. It was even customary in some cases for the bride's family to offer a dowry, i.e., a gift of money or property in order to sweeten the deal. The wishes of the marriage couple in such an arrangement were of little importance. Of importance was having as many children as they were able to, and carrying on the family's tradition.
Except for a few cases, arranged marriages are no longer practiced in the United States, but are still common in certain societies. And with the problem of overpopulation in the world today, people ask, “Why should I get married, especially when I can support myself, and I don't want to have children?”
Some people mistakenly believe that marriage originated from a legal or religious obligation. This is not the case. In every society, marriage has always been a choice between two people and only sanctioned by the Church and State. Clearly, marriage is a choice and not an obligation. When two people choose to marry, it is then and only then do the Church and State intervene to provide legal protection for the marriage.
However, recent actions on the part of government and state indicate these practices might be changing. In February, 2002, Frank Keating, governor of the state of Oklahoma, allocated 10 million of federal tax dollars to a program intended to combat divorce and promote heterosexual marriage in the state. In officially proclaiming February 13 as “Sanctity of Marriage Day,” the governor urged churches and religious groups statewide to develop special programs aimed at improving marriages.
Surely we can understand the practical consideration of marriage: the protection of children, questions of family inheritance, etc., but there is nothing wrong with people who choose to live together without the formal commitment of marriage. In fact, in most modern societies today, there are similar laws to protect people who live together without a marriage contract.
Are People Still Committed To Marriages?
The concept of marriage has always been, "Until death do us part." Today, to many people, it's more like "As long as I'm happy." And nowadays, even the interpretation of this happiness can vary.
For various reasons, we sometimes find it difficult to communicate our personal needs and expectations to our partners. Such needs and expectations can change from time to time due to changing circumstances in our lives. For example, you and your partner might have come together because of your mutual desire to travel and explore the universe. But your life's direction may change after you've had your fill of adventure from traveling.
Also, sometimes we ourselves do not fully understand the implications of what we ask or expect from our partnership. And since misunderstandings can be the order of the day in many love relationships, we ought to maintain constant communication, both verbal and non-verbal, clearly expressing what we expect from our mates. Maintaining the flexibility to regroup and renegotiate our understanding of our relationship agreement from time to time also helps.
For a long time, it was customary to honor your commitment in marriage. Once you made it, you lived by it. But many people who, after 25 or more years of unhappy marriages, confessed that they remained together only because of their commitment. Of course our society assisted in the prolongation of unhappy marriages by making it difficult to get a divorce.
A change of the laws in the United States made divorces easier and brought many people in unhappy marriages out of the closet. Now it is common to get a divorce when it becomes clear your marriage has ceased to function. Some marriage counselors do not support the concept of easy divorce. They believe marriage works best when there is a strong commitment between two people. They say that making it difficult to obtain a divorce forces people to honor their commitment to each other.
Remember the saying "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Similarly, you can convince someone you are their best choice for marriage, but you cannot force him/her to love you if you subsequently become unlovable. It is my belief that commitment does not make a happy marriage but, when the marriage is a happy one, the partners become emotionally and morally committed to each other.
Chapter 12: Sharing Intimacy
All you need is love
It's no accident that John Lennon's words have stuck in the minds of people everywhere. But even before we heard John Lennon or the Beatles, we were told that love conquers all. And even if you are not from that era, artists like Celine Dion today constantly remind us of The Power of Love.
However, many who believe that a happy and successful relationship automatically follows when a strong and passionate love connection exists between two people often misinterpret this message. Life's experiences continue to teach us that although love can serve as a solid base upon which to build a successful relationship, by itself, it offers no guarantee. Clearly we have seen that love is not enough.
Is the honeymoon over?
At the first sign of marital problems between newlyweds or other couples who have recently entered a relationship, we often hear people say, "Ah… the honeymoon is over."
Today, people have come to expect relationships to be short-lived. And when we look at statistics that tell us the average lifespan of first marriages is about three years, it's no wonder even the couples themselves in a relationship are sometimes not surprised when their relationship ends prematurely.
But it does not have to be this way. And as people who enjoy blissful relationships would tell you, their honeymoon is not over. So why is it that some people enjoy blissful relationships while others don't?
Let's look at what men and women have in mind when they embark on a search for a partner. Most people seek an intimate connection with someone, a deep connection in which they feel completely at ease with each other and don't have to hide themselves for fear their partner will criticize or reject them.
If you're in this kind of relationship, you can drop your mask and don't have to play games. You can relax because you have accepted who you are and you know that your partner loves you the way you are. Imagine, your mate knows all of you, your strengths, your weaknesses, your fears and shortcomings, how you look when you are at your worst, and how you behave when you are in your worst mood. Your partner knows you and says, "I see you; I know everything about you, I love you just the way you are." Yes, this is what true intimacy and romantic love is all about.
But some people mistakenly believe this stage of intimacy comes automatically when two people fall in love. It does not happen that way; you have to make a conscious effort to open the door to your heart so that love can come in. Let's look at the case of Janice, a 37-year-old housewife.
Two years after divorcing her husband of 12 years, Janice met and started dating Donald a 42-year-old businessman who immediately fell for her. She proceeded cautiously with Donald. She found it extremely difficult to trust another man; because the relationship with her husband ended on a bitter note.
But Donald has treated her special, being gentle, caring, and patient with her. She has long closed the door on the relationship she had with her husband so there is no longing to return there. For these reasons, she cannot understand why she has not fallen head over heels in love with Donald. She said, "Things are not so bad. I feel comfortable with Donald and he continues to be patient with me, so why am I not hearing the chimes of bells? Is there something wrong with me?"
For reasons she does not understand, Janice has not opened her heart to Donald. And one thing is certain. Until she consciously opens her heart to the love he is sending, she will continue to feel the emptiness she experienced in her marriage.
What Prevents People From Opening Their Hearts To Love?
For a long time, psychoanalysts have identified the problem of self-alienation in humans. This is a condition exhibited by people who have lost touch with their true feelings. They are never sure what represents reality to them. This causes people to act unconsciously to whatever motivates them. They are not certain if their actions are guided by their true feelings or by outside influences. How does this happen?
Most people have been conditioned from childhood to suppress their feelings. On a visit to a friend's house, I remember seeing his young daughter Nancy came running into the living room screaming at the top of her voice when she heard that her favorite uncle had come to visit. With the same excitement, she leaped into her uncle's arms. It was clear how thrilled she was to see him.
Later, I overheard her mother scolding her. "You know, young ladies do not behave that way, running and screaming like that. You can go to your uncle and say 'How are you, it's nice to see you'."
Most men remember the pain of being hurt while playing as a child. The natural reaction of a child, experiencing pain is to cry. His father would tell him that boys don't cry. As a boy grows older, he is reminded by his peers that men are not supposed to show emotions
If, for example, a boy develops a flare for the arts and expresses a desire to take ballet classes, his mates will likely call him a sissy or a wimp.
With the desire to please her mother and as a reward for being loved, girls like Nancy will try to suppress her excitement and be more ladylike. Boys will hide their emotions so their peers will accept them. So by the time these children become adults, they might have forgotten or completely lost the desire to express the emotions they possessed as children. "If you don't use it, you loose it." But these feelings and emotions don't go away. They are a part of you and will always remain that way. "A leopard never loses his spots"
In addition to direct teaching, psychologists have noted that children learn by example. Their subconscious minds are constantly absorbing the lessons learned by the actions of their parents and the people around them. A boy who observes his father as the dominant figure in his household may believe a man must always maintain his superiority to a woman in a relationship. And people who practice certain religions teach their children that certain thoughts and emotions are evil, and should be purged from their minds.
All of these factors cause confusion in the mind of a child; he or she begins life in touch with his or her natural feelings, and later learns that certain emotions are not acceptable. Yet these emotions are a part of his or her personality. What is the solution for the child?
The child builds into his/her personality a state of unconsciousness as a form of coping and protection against emotions, which are perceived as threatening to his/her safety or self-esteem. The results of this produce humans who base their value system on whatever prompts them or seems socially acceptable at the moment, instead of letting their spontaneous emotions be their guide. Depending on her upbringing, a woman may suppress her full expression of feeling during sex for fear she may shock her partner. So she goes along with whatever she believes is acceptable, thus denying herself true fulfillment in her sex life. She may even blame her mate for her lack of sexual fulfillment.
To achieve intimacy in your relationship, both you and your partner must consciously agree to share your true selves with each other. Your partner must know who you truly are so he/she can love the real you. But before this can happen, you have to know the real you. You have to know what you honestly feel. You have to remove the layers of resistance which conceal buried or repressed emotions so that these emotions can surface and be integrated into your present system. The good news is that many people have been successful in reclaiming their disowned emotions.
Reclaiming Suppressed Or Disowned Parts Of Yourself
When people say they are trying to find themselves, they are sometimes referring to the parts of their psyche that may have been disowned by them a long time ago. Sometimes the real you that is deeply buried wants to surface, if only you would allow it to do so. But for many people, this is not easy. They are submerged parts of the self that will rise to a conscious level, producing anxiety and even fear. You may wonder, “Would people think less of me when they find out what my true feelings are?” “If my mate discovers that I sometimes cry, would she still respect me as a man?” Or “Would I receive the same attention and care from men if they find out that I am not as helpless as they thought?”
I know a lady who has always been possessed by the urge to fix things. If, for example, she was out on a date and the car developed problems, she would be shoulder to shoulder with her date trying to fix it. After a while, she had to restrain herself from offering to fix mechanical things in the presence of men because she found out most men felt uncomfortable in her company. Now that she pretends to be helpless around men, she finds she is being asked out on dates more frequently.
How do you rediscover and reclaim disowned parts of yourself?
1. Listen to your inner voice. Take some quiet time alone to listen to your thoughts and notice your spontaneous actions. Why? Because your spontaneous thoughts and actions determine who you really are. You may modify your actions when in the company of others, but you and only you will know your true thoughts. Also, it may be helpful to keep a journal. There, you can record your thoughts and insights because it's easy to forget them when you get bogged down with outside influences. You may find it difficult to find quiet time in your busy day, but as little as 15 minutes in a quiet place should be enough.
2. Honestly pay attention to your actions. Never mind what you say to other people. Guide yourself by your own actions. You may lead others to believe, for example, that you are ruthless when it comes to charging for your professional services, but you perform the same services for free at the local community center. Or, it may appear that you like to dress elegantly when you feel more comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans.
3. Seek professional help. Some people may find it difficult to reclaim their disowned and suppressed emotions by themselves. In such cases it is wise to consult a psychotherapist or other professional who can guide you through the process. Other ways exist, too.
The Option Method was created by Bruce Di Marsico. This is a simple questioning method that helps people to reveal to themselves how they are governed by their own belief systems. The Option Method has received much attention in recent times. Many people claim it has assisted them in finding the source of their unhappiness. The following is an article published by Jennifer Hautman of the Option Method Network.
Why the Option Method works: by Jennifer Hautman, inspired by Mandy Evans' audio cassette 'Choosing happiness', and reprinted with permission.
Option Method dialogues go to the very core and centre of all unhappiness, your beliefs. The process gives you the opportunity to first see your beliefs. They allow you to investigate them to see whether they are serving you in your life. The hundreds of thousands of beliefs that make up your belief systems may have been acquired long ago from parents, teachers, society, etc., yet are still operating as the source for your feelings and actions in the present.
The Option Method is unique in that it offers the opportunity, sometimes for the first time, to look at and review these beliefs head on, in black and white, and with your eyes wide open. Often self-defeating beliefs crumble under the scrutiny of investigation. Once you change a limiting belief, what results can appear miraculous, but there is nothing mysterious about it.
Without the limiting beliefs, you are free to experience powerful, life-changing results. Issues and challenges that caused years of discomfort can often be dropped with ease.
Why Is It So Easy?
Imagine you work in an office with ten other people. In the foyer, which you pass through each day, there is a 12 x 12-foot area rug. The receptionist warned you the first time you came in the office about a big hole in the floor under the rug and to stay clear of it. It was dangerous. You've now been working for this company for two years. The rug and hole have become a natural fixture to the office. The people who work there just know to give that area of the building a wide girth. Walking in from lunch, you and your co-worker don't miss a beat in your conversation as you walk around the rug. You don't even think about it much anymore.
You've had discussions with other co-workers about why the owner doesn't fix the hole, or at least put up a barrier with signs until it's fixed. There have been theories proposed like the owner doesn't care because he doesn't come in the office, that the business isn't doing well and he can't afford to fix it. Not impeding your work, you accept the hole as a "necessary evil" for working for the company.
Then one day, a new employee gets curious and pulls back the carpeting. He wants to see the hole. To his surprise, there is no hole!! He calls to everyone to come and see. As you all stand around looking at where the hole was supposed to be, you try and figure out why you all believed the hole was there in the first place. Who started this hole (whole?) mythology?!?
As it turns out, the owner had the hole fixed the weekend following the damage, but didn't inform the employees. "Just like management," one employee says, "they don't tell us anything." You each take a turn tentatively stepping on the floor where there was supposed to be a hole. You laugh as each person tests the area by jumping and dancing on "the hole." It's as solid as a rock. You're surprised and amazed.
After some discussion, you eventually make your way back to work. The next day when you enter the office, you walk around the rug. You chuckle to yourself thinking "old habits," then turn and walk over the rug to your office. With each passing day, you forget all about the hole and think nothing of where you walk.
Was it difficult to walk on the rug once you saw there was no hole? Did you need to go through years of therapy in order to do so? Did you need to analyze your childhood? Heal any wounds? Release your anger? No, you just walked on it. No big deal. Your actions and experience naturally changed once you knew there was no hole there.
This is how it works with beliefs. Changing what you believe changes your behaviors and feelings. You no longer make a circle around the rug. You no longer warn new people. You no longer look at the rug and think, "Why doesn't someone do something about that." All because your belief about the hole has changed. It can be that easy.
You can practice the option method by yourself or have an option practitioner assist you through the dialogue questions for the first times anyway. Contact the Option Network at for more information.
When you are free to honestly know what you feel, you can then share these feelings with the one you love. This is not to say that you have to share every last detail about yourself and your feelings with your mate: even in the most intimate relationship, judgment should prevail. Some thoughts and perceptions are sometimes better kept to yourself. But there are certain emotions that affect your everyday life, and it is important for your partner to be intimately aware of such feelings and emotions.
Communicating Feelings To Each Other
For some time, Dennis, a technician at a packaging company in Ohio, had been hearing rumors that his company may be closing down. The economic situation in the country had taken a downward turn and Dennis knew the packaging business usually suffers in a slow economy.
After 15 years with the company, Dennis was worried that he could suddenly find himself out of a job. His wife Elizabeth noticed he has not been himself lately; he would lie in bed gazing at the ceiling. When she asked him if something was the matter, he would say that everything was all right. She accepted this at first, but as the days went by, she noticed that Dennis seemed uneasy and the simplest thing would upset him. She insisted that he tell her what was bothering him. Dennis became defensive and a quarrel developed. One thing led to another and the fighting between them lasted for weeks. Their marriage began to deteriorate so Elizabeth decided to seek help from a marriage counselor. The counselor requested to see them both, but Dennis was reluctant to do so. As the situation in their marriage became worse, he finally agreed to see the therapist.
It came out after a few sessions that Dennis was overtaken by the fear of losing his job. He had imagined himself in financial difficulties and dreaded the thought of losing their home. He did not want to tell his wife about his fears because he did not want her to worry. He believed that "he is the man" and it's his responsibility to maintain his family.
The marriage counselor helped Dennis and his wife by giving them some suggestions on how to deal with the situation, and Dennis was able to overcome some of his anxieties.
Consider what might have happened if Elizabeth did not take the initiative to seek professional help. The fighting between this couple could have developed into serious problems.
Many of us associate fear with weakness. We feel a sense of humiliation if others find out that we are afraid. Most men like to give the impression that they are bold and fearless, and people have come to expect men to act that way. It's always an amusement for the attendants in the doctor's office when I tell them I am afraid of injections. They always comment, "Come on. A big guy like you can't be afraid of this small needle."
It may be okay to show a lack of fear in certain situations, (like when you're coaching others) but it helps to let your mate know when you are afraid. Sometimes simply talking about your fear with your partner can help overcome it. And sometimes the mere listening to your partner can give them the strength to act against his/her fear.
Failing to express your true emotions to your mate can sometimes cause misunderstandings, which may develop into serious problems in your relationship. I think of a man who could not understand why his wife becomes jealous when he flirts with other women at a party. "I don't see her point; she knows I love her yet she gets extremely jealous when I dance with other women. She knows that I'm not going anywhere, but I enjoy having a good time when I'm at a party." Every time they go out to a party, she gives him the silent treatment for days afterward, and this has caused some tension in their relationship.
This woman's jealousy results from fear of losing her husband to another woman. It may be true he has no intention of running off with another, but that does not eliminate his wife's fear. As a woman, she is reluctant to express this fear to her husband, thinking he may believe she lacks self-confidence. She therefore takes the stand that, as his wife, he ought not to put her through what she considers an embarrassment in public. Her husband, on the other hand, misinterprets her feelings and believes that she is just a spoiled sport.
If the woman was to express her true feelings to her husband, and say to him, "You know honey, I know that you love me and I know that you are not in the market for another woman, but for some reason I am fearful. I am terrified by visions of you leaving me. And it doesn't help when I see you having a good time with other women." If she was to confide in him that her feelings go deeper than petty jealousy, he may be able to better understand her preoccupation.
Anger : A Natural Reaction
When either you or your partner expresses anger, you are expressing an honest feeling, but this does not mean you no longer love each other.
Anger is a form of communication, which tells your partner your perception of what has happened or what was said. It is a normal and spontaneous reaction. But some of us choose to withhold our expression of anger, perhaps in an attempt to maintain peace and tranquility in our relationships. According to Dr. Constance McKenzie M.ED., MA, the more we withhold feelings instead of letting them out, the more likely we are to have an angry outburst as the pressure builds inside.
Many of society's educators, parents, teachers, religious leaders, etc., teach that anger is a negative emotion that gets us into trouble and should not be expressed. They note that the momentary relief we may gain from impulsively expressing anger is not worth the possible negative consequences that can result. We like to be good citizens, so we do our best not to show anger.
However, withholding your expression of anger may be okay in social gatherings, business meetings, etc., but can be a source of misunderstandings in a loving relationship. Why? Because in an intimate relationship, it is wise to know your mate's true feelings at all times. You honestly may not be aware of how your actions may hurt, belittle, or offend the ones you love. Sometimes it takes an expression of anger to get your attention.
Expressing anger, however, should not be confused with attacking your partner. "You are no different from my last husband/wife; I should have known you'll be like this." Or "You inconsiderate so and so. I know you did this so you can get back at me." Instead of communicating your feelings honestly, such expressions are designed to provoke an attack, like a declaration of war.
When someone who loves you perceives that your words or actions were intended to cause pain (in many cases mistakenly so), he/she reacts spontaneously and passionately. It is a reflex reaction. He/she cannot understand how someone with whom he/she shares such strong love and intimacy can intentionally hurt him/her.
Such a reaction indicates that true love does exist in the relationship, and it should be viewed that way. Someone who is in a relationship for reasons of convenience and not necessarily for love may react in a similar situation with indifference or withhold expressing anger while planning revenge.
So in a loving relationship, allow your partner the freedom to express anger. Don't argue or fight back, but listen attentively while he/she vents angry feelings. If you constantly ignore, make light of, or fail to acknowledge your partner's anger, he/she may turn off and withdraw to himself/herself. This can begin a downward turn in your relationship.
The case of Monica and Robert provides a good example of how happy couples handle anger.
When Monica came home from work one evening, Robert had still not arrived; he gets home about an hour before Monica on most days. She didn't think much of it until she noticed it was after eleven o'clock and he had still not shown up. She telephoned his place of work where she learned that he had left hours ago. By 2:00 a.m., she was besides her self with worry. Robert had not yet come home nor had he called to say where he was.
At 3:30 a.m., she was on the phone to friends when he walked in the door. "What happened?" she asked. He casually told her that everything was okay and that he just decided to stay out for a while.
Monica erupted. "Why do you do this to me? I've been up all night sick with worry thinking that something terrible had happened to you. I was just about to call the police. Listen, I can't talk about this now. I'm going to bed, and I'll see you in the morning."
Monica gave a spontaneous response when she was satisfied that Robert was safe. It was triggered by passion caused by the love she had for her husband. However, she had to contain herself so she wouldn't be overcome by her own emotions. She withdrew and said, "I'll see you in the morning." Notice she did not attack nor attempt to abuse Robert in any way, and he did not detect aggression in her voice.
No doubt Robert would apologize to his wife later for being inconsiderate. But at the time, he chose to do nothing even though he may have been under stress. He understood it was necessary for Monica to vent her anger. Usually people don't react this way; they react with strong or abusive expressions, sparking a confrontation that develops into a win-lose or right-wrong situation. Under stress, people react in ways they may regret later.
Expressing Happiness, Love, And Excitement
Just as it's important for lovers to communicate their negative emotions to each other, it is equally important to share happy and positive emotions as well. It may seem natural for people to want others to know when they are happy, but many couples are reluctant to openly express happiness to each other. Why?
A simple explanation is that if you don't trust someone, you will be afraid to expose your intimate feelings in his/her presence. "If I show my undying love and devotion to him, I will become his slave." Or "If she believes that I can't live without her, she will take advantage of me." But in a love relationship, this is a recipe for failure because intimacy and trust are vital ingredients for maintaining passion. How could you be in love with someone you cannot trust?
To share your life with someone does not mean only living under the same roof. It means sharing our inner feelings and processes, how you perceive things, what turns you on, what brings you happiness, what makes you sad, and what you fantasize about. All of these should be expressed so your partner can better understand who you are.
In a group session, a woman explained her husband's lack of excitement during sex. "Yes, he goes through the motions, but I never see any sign of excitement on his face. He says he is satisfied, but I don't see any evidence that this is so. It frustrates me and makes me feel inadequate; I think I am not turning him on." This is a source of torment for people in relationships with partners who have learned to suppress their excitement.
What inspiration and satisfaction we receive when we know that we stimulate joy and excitement in our partner's life! And contrary to men's popular belief, sexual passion is also maintained by the feedback we receive when we stimulate excitement in our lovers and not only by our expert sexual performances.
The inspiration we receive from such feedback applies not only to sexual issues. The excitement I see on my wife's face when we visit historical sites encourages me to plan trips where we can include visits to such locations. And many of us can't wait to buy our lovers that vanilla ice cream sundae or that lobster dinner, which we know he/she would die for.
Unfortunately, however, many of us have been brought up to conceal this excitement. We have learned that, in order to appear grown up, we must contain our feelings of excitement. People will see us as being silly and childish if we get too excited. You may recognize this if, for instance, you caught someone off guard who is deeply involved in his or her music. You enter the room unexpectedly to find him/her dancing and performing, but at the first sign of intrusion, he/she abruptly stops the performance with a look of embarrassment.
Sometimes we want to express our excitement and let our partners know how much joy they have stimulated in us. But it is our partners who withdraw, making us believe it's best not to show such feelings, that some things are better left unexpressed.
Intimacy: How do we overcome this problem?
Dr. Gary A. Davis PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, have observed that creative people, artists, musicians, writers, etc., show some childlike qualities such as outbursts of excitement and lack of caution. Some people may see such traits as immature. But this spontaneous outlook and reaction to life is necessary to maintain passion. If something turns you on, let it show, enjoy the moment. If you feel like screaming with excitement, go ahead. Who cares if someone might be listening? And if you find yourself afraid or embarrassed about expressing your emotions, make a conscious effort to accept that you are fearful or embarrassed. Don't fight it; accept it. Honestly let it come out in the open. Then you can be free to move on.
To know you is to love you
There is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and security in a relationship when two lovers feel known and understood by each other.
When you truly love someone you would like to know and understand everything you can about that person's world. This is true for any relationship. Mothers often say to their children, "I know you like the back of my hand." This is easy to understand because of the deep intimate connection between
Tags: Love Intercourse