Give Love This Christmas

christmas-gift-ideas-2.jpgNeed a unique Christmas gift for the young adult on your list?  Help them have a successful love life with Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

No matter where on the road to love someone is, this book will help them to avoid or work through the inevitable bumps along the way.  This book gives tips on each stage of a relationship, from finding a partner and making sure it is the right “one”, to creating a lasting love.

Instead of opinionated advice one might get on the internet or from their social media, this book gives them tips and techniques based on the science of what actually works.  The gift keeps giving because they will refer to it both now and throughout the years, because as their love life evolves new chapters will become relevant.

Available as a paperback or e-book at Amazon.com (amzn.to/2Kft05b or amzn.to/2YvQJls).

Oh, and if you are a young adult who is reading this, buy a copy of Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life for yourself (and maybe even one for a friend).

A (Short) Guide To Better Boundaries

I was honored to contribute to this article which appeared on Page 5 of the Wellness Section in the Sunday New York Times on October 30th. boundriesblog

11 Pretty Surprising Reasons You’re Dreaming About Your Ex

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Spoiler alert: It doesn’t always mean you want them back.

 

BY ARYELLE SICLAIT

AUG 13, 2019

Dreaming about your ex is extremely inconvenient—I don’t need to tell you that. I mean, you’ve done the hard work of crying all the tears, ridding your home of all things related to the relationship, getting past the drunk-texting stage, and moving on, and yet their stupid face creeps up in your dreams. The nerve of them.

First off, you should find comfort in the fact that, as annoying as it may be, dreaming about a former lover is not all bad. The same way that freaky dream about losing your teeth is a sign that you’re more stressed about a major life change than you’d like to admit, or dream-cheating on your S.O. means your current relationship might be in need of some TLC, dreams about your ex can give you really helpful intel into your real life.

Having an old flame guest star in your nighttime fantasies (or, uh, nightmares) is actually a reminder from your subconscious about general feelings you’ve shoved into the junk drawers of your mind and should consider revisiting.

“An ex shows up in your dreams ‘because of unfinished business.'”

Generally speaking, an ex shows up in your dreams “because of unfinished business,” says Beverly Palmer, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of Love Demystified.

And no—before you panic—those feelings aren’t necessarily about wanting your ex back, or tied to a sign that you belong with this person (fact: you most likely don’t), says Marion Rudin Frank, EdD, a psychologist specializing in dream analysis and relationships in Philadelphia. In fact, those feelings are actually probably not about your ex at all.

So what are they about? Well, this is where things get a little tricky. Frank notes that dreams are super personal for everyone (even the weather in your dreams is symbolic and specific to you!), so she can’t offer too many generalizations about what these dreams mean (unless you were to sit down with her or a similar expert one-on-one…which I highly recommend).

But the biggest takeaway is this: Dreams are NEVER random. Every single one is a consolidation of what you’ve dealt with while awake and, for that reason, has tons of meaning, she says. (Fun fact: You have about six dreams per night, so gear up for a lot of deciphering).

Here are the most common reasons you might be dreaming about your ex:

  1. Something is missing in your life

If you dream about straight-up missing your ex, it mean that you’re feeling a void in your life, says Frank, such as intimacy from a parent or a solid group of friends like the ones you had before you moved cities.

  1. Your current relationship could use some help.

If you dream about fighting with your ex, you’re likely wrestling with something with your current partner that needs to be addressed, such as guilt about a lie you told them.

  1. Something small simply reminded you of them.

All it takes, says Frank, is a whiff of perfume or having to deal with someone in your waking life in a way that’s even loosely related to your ex for them to make an appearance in your dream world. Though, they might not have done much in the dream itself, something you encountered during the day was enough to unlock a dormant memory of them that manifested itself as you slept.

  1. Your self-esteem took a toll.

If your ex is intruding in your dreams, it may be because there are parts of yourself that you have trouble appreciating but your ex thought were beautiful, says Frank. Your ex’s presence is your mind’s way of telling you to show yourself a little more love.

  1. You’re annoyed with other people.

You probably associate negative feelings with your ex, Frank says.

Say your coworker takes credit for your work on a project, for example. Though you brushed it off in the moment, you might dream about your ex because they’re your subconscious’ best representation of those feelings of betrayal. So, dreaming about your ex could have been your mind’s way of reconciling with those feelings you’d pushed aside earlier that day.

  1. You miss your ex—or certain qualities of them.

Remember when the pros said dreams about your ex aren’t always about wanting to get back together? Well, sorry to break it to you, but that means those dreams—particularly ones where you reconcile—can sometimes be messages from deep within you about missing your ex or wishing your current partner were more like them.

Plus, if your past relationship ended on good terms (lucky you), it’s not so unlikely that you’ll be easily reminded of them from time to time.

  1. You’re craving more intimacy.

If you dream about hooking up or having sex with your ex, you might be needing more intimate connections in your life, according to Frank. And it doesn’t necessarily mean more intimacy from your current partner—you might need it emotionally from your family or your friends.

  1. You associate your creativity with them.

Did you dream that you and your ex had babies? Don’t fret: Children represent creativity and the growth of ideas, says to Gary Toub, PhD, former director of training at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado, who specializes in Jungian analyses, dreams, and fantasies.

That means that you might have dreamt about co-parenting with your ex merely because you’re excited about a project you just pitched at work, or because of some other cool creative endeavor.

  1. You’re in the healing phase.

Perhaps you dreamt that your ex apologized to you in your dream. First of all, finally. Second of all, Toub says there’s a good chance the dream means that you’re moving past something that hurt you. Oh, thank g-d.

Hoping to stay friends your ex? These celebs figured out how—maybe you can, too:

  1. You’re still feeling the feels.

If you dreamt that you’re living with your ex, get this: It’s a really common dream, says Toub, but it’s also one of the most personal.

Overall, this particular ex dream means that whatever your former beau represents for you (safety, hurt, sadness, fear, warmth) is still alive in you. So, if you’re dreaming about shacking up, it’s probably because one of those emotions was triggered some time before you went to sleep.

  1. You’re moving on.

Did you relive your breakup by having a dream about breaking up? This could actually be a really great thing: that you’re breaking up with the part of yourself that your subconscious mind associates with your old flame.

Especially if your former partner hurt you, this could be symbolic of your progress—the process of separating yourself from the part of you that was injured by your ex and getting your agency back.

Gotcha, so what do I do now?

Dreams about your ex (as unwelcome as they might be) can mean a billion different things, so whatever you do, don’t write them off, Frank urges. They’re an opportunity to learn about yourself, about your current relationship, and grow.

Dreams about your ex are an opportunity to learn about yourself and grow.

What should you do? She suggests writing down everything you remember about your dream(s) as soon as you wake up, and, if you’re able to, running it by a psychologist who can decode what your psyche is trying to communicate from those hard-to-reach parts of your mind.

It could be that you haven’t completely moved on from that relationship—and there’s no one better than a therapist to help you sort through those feelings, and if/when you’re ready, give you the tools and support you need to charge forward.

Now, whether you sorta hate your ex or will always love them, who woulda thought those annoying dreams would have turned out to be worth it after all?

ARYELLE SICLAIT Assistant Editor

Women’s Health.

 

Video of a Couple Flirting and Another Couple Resolving a Conflict

I’m so happy that the video introducing my book has finally been released.  Take a look at it showing a couple flirting and another couple resolving a conflict.

WHAT MAKES US ATTRACTIVE AND TO WHOM DO WE BECOME ATTRACTED?

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Whom do we really fall in love with?  And what makes us lovable?  Whether we have a partner or are looking for one, we all want to know why we are attracted to one particular person rather than another.

When we choose a partner, it often seems like love is blind.  It feels like we enter a relationship with blinders on—falling in love with whoever happens to be in close proximity to us (e.g. Tinder).  However, love is not blind, only a little myopic.  Moreover, this myopia is extreme at the time of the first encounter.  For love at first sight, the most important factor is the way we look, our physical attractiveness, as a study of preferences during a “hurry date” session showed.1 During the “hurry date” sessions men and women interacted with each other for three minutes and then indicated which of the people they met they preferred. Certainly, physical attractiveness can be important during the first encounter but, surprisingly, this factor is equally important to both men and women when selecting a sexual partner although men tend to put more of a premium on physical attractiveness when selecting a potential marital partner.2 Maybe that is why so many social media and matchmaking website descriptions and photos present a somewhat false front. 

It might be only a one-night hook-up that the most attractive women get because what predicted whether a couple would go out on even a second date, was a couples’ similarity in physical attractiveness rather than the degree of physical attractiveness.3 

If we want an attraction that lasts longer than just one evening, we look for one built on mutually perceived similarity.  After all, even two supremely attractive people can spend only so much time complimenting each other on their good looks.  The sexual attraction of the first encounter gives way to an attraction built on similar interests, values, and attitudes.4 Potential partners’ conversation quickly turns to fishing for what they have in common. 

The similarity we seek and that holds us together is in our image of ourselves.  We are attracted to people who are reflections of ourselves.  Indeed, a survey of people who married after initially meeting online found that those couples who had similar personalities were more satisfied with their relationship up to four years later.5 So physical beauty may attract the eye but personality attracts the heart.

  1. Kurzban, R. and Weeden, J. (2005). HurryDate: Mate preferences in action. Evolution & Human Behavior, 26, 3, 227-244.
  2. Walster, E., Aronson, V., Abrahams, D. & Rottman, L. (1966), Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior,Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4,5, 508-516.
  1. Folkes, V.S. (1982). Forming relationships and the matching hypothesis. Social Psychology Bulletin, 8, 4, 631-636.
  2. Murstein, B. (1976). Whom will marry whom?: Theory and research in marital choice. New York: Springer, p. 180.
  3. Gonzaga, G.C., Carter, S. & Buckwalter, J.G. (2010). Assortive mating, convergence, and satisfaction in married couples, Personal Relationships, 17, 4, 634-644.

Don’t Just Say “I Love You”. Show It.

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You may think saying “I love you” is all that is needed in your relationship(s).  But, if you live each day as if it could be your last with the person(s) you love, you will find many ways to show your love rather than just announcing your love.

Here are some proven ways to show your love.

Give Reassurance and Emotional Support

               Both men and women feel loved when their partner gave assurances that he/she would always be there and supportive.1   Give your partner security by saying you are there for them when they most need it.  Show emotional support by being attentive though making eye contact and actively listening by repeating back a bit of what you heard.

Touch

Don’t let a day go by without touching your partner.  Maybe it is a hug or a kiss, or a shoulder rub.  Touch does not have to always signal, “I want sex”—it can signal, “I care about you.” 2   In fact, contrary to stereotypes, men in long-term relationships who get lots of kisses and cuddles report being more sexually satisfied.3

Be Positive

               When you are cheerful and optimistic, your replies are comforting for your partner.  This positivity also includes being patient and forgiving, showing a cooperative attitude during disagreements, and avoiding criticizing your partner.  Researchers have found that both men and women can show this equally in relationships and it is much appreciated by both genders.4

Do Things Together

               Sharing household tasks, working together on a mutual (fun) goal, walking and talking (but not about problems), and having a night out all communicate that you love to be with your partner.  Although one study found no difference in the men and women using this way of showing love, one other study did find that men tend to using this strategy more than women.5, 6

Show Appreciation

               When your partner does something you like, make sure you say so. And, often, just out of the blue, compliment your partner by saying what, specifically, you love about him/her. 

Do Things for Your Partner (Especially Surprises)

               Have a plant or flowers sent to your partner at work.  Wrap a warm blanket around your partner when he/she needs comforting.  Pack a suitcase for each of you and take your partner on a surprise weekend trip.  A lot of what love is all about is the attraction, caring, and intimacy you are showing through these actions.7

  1. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  2. Marston, P.J., Hecht, M.L. & Robers, T. (1987). True love ways: The subjective experience and communication of romantic love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 387-407.
  3. Heiman, J.R., et. al. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 4, 741-753.
  4. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  5. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  6. Schoenfeld, E.A., Bredow, C.A., & Huston, T.L. (2012). Do men and women show love differently in marriage? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 11, 1396-1409.
  7. Rubin, Z. (1973). Liking and loving.Y.: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Do Marriages from Meeting Online Last?

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According to a recent study, more than one-third of marriages in America now begin on-line.1   But do these marriages last as long as do marriages that result from off-line meetings?  The answer is a resounding “yes”.  In fact, marriages that began with an on-line meeting were slightly less likely to result in a marital break-up than were marriages resulting from an off-line meeting.  Furthermore, among those who remained married, marital satisfaction was higher in this group.2

  1. Cacioppo, J.T., et. al. (2013) Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America,110,25, 10135-10140.
  2. Ibid.

So That’s Why I Fall in Love with the Wrong Person

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Blame it on the chemistry.  Yes, it is chemistry that causes you to fall in love with the wrong person. That tingly euphoric feeling that is there soon after you meet that special person comes from a surge of dopamine that makes you feel so good but it also impairs your judgment.1   You then become obsessed with having the high that comes from every text, every moment with your loved one.

Yet, you aren’t really experiencing the totality of your loved one—you are experiencing only the ecstatic feeling when you are connected with him/her.  And, like any addict, you need increasing amounts and doses of dopamine in order to continue to feel the ecstasy.  What you are experiencing is “romantic intoxication”.2 Then, when your partner does not instantly reply to a text or isn’t available for an entire day, you start experiencing withdrawal.  So you frantically try to reestablish the connection as soon as possible.  At this point you don’t love the person—you love the ecstatic feeling.  And you will do anything to be with that person, even if it is the wrong one.

  1. Doidge, Norman (2007) The brain that changes itself. N.Y.: Penguin Books, p. 115.
  2. Liebowitz, M. (1983). The chemistry of love. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

What’s Wrong with Satisfying Each Other’s Needs?

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A recent relationship advice book focuses on his needs and her needs.  The author “discovered” these top needs from interviewing his patients and others.  Of course, this is not science—it is just the opinions of a group of people. 

Men stated their top needs as:

  1. Sexual Fulfillment 
    2. Recreational Companionship 
    3. An Attractive Spouse 
    4. Domestic Support 
    5. Admiration

Women stated their top needs as:

  1. Affection 
    2. Conversation 
    3. Honesty and Openness 
    4. Financial Commitment 
    5. Family Commitment

Yes, we have these needs and often look to our partner to satisfy them.   A relationship that satisfies these needs feels so comfortable.

But what happens when your partner stops satisfying your needs? Maybe your partner lost his/her job and is having trouble finding another one.  Maybe you both are so busy satisfying the domestic support and financial commitment needs that there is little time and energy to address some of the other needs.

Is the solution to make sure there is a change?  A change where your partner shapes up and satisfies most of your needs?  Or a change where you become so disillusioned that you withdraw into your own world (or maybe into a relationship with someone else)? 

Erich Fromm, in his theory of love, stated, “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.”1 Children are dependent on others for their needs to be fulfilled by others because they cannot fulfill many of those needs themselves.  So parental love helps a child grow through fulfilling many of the child’s needs. 

Erich Fromm went on to state that, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.’”2 Adult relationships that are built on fulfilling each other’s needs create dependencies.  You depend on your partner to fulfill your needs rather than developing into a person that can fulfill some of his/her own needs. 

When you fulfill some of your own needs you have a mature loving relationship that is interdependent, not dependent.  For example, you can have some recreational companionship with your partner but you can also have some of it with others and even some of your recreation by yourself.  You could also have conversations with others besides your partner so that your dependence on your partner to fulfill that need is not an everyday occurrence. 

Of course you are not going to ignore your partner’s needs nor is your partner going to ignore your needs.  You just will not feel resentful when your partner demands they be met or when your partner fails to meet your needs.  You will, instead, develop a relationship based on looking inside yourself and not always just outside yourself.

Needs also change throughout one’s life.  The attractive partner need becomes less as the relationship develops into a deeper connection of minds and hearts.  The family commitment need becomes less as the children leave home (unless, of course, an aging parent moves in). 

Yes, do connect through understanding and responding to each other’s needs but make sure you are not desperately dependent on each other for need fulfillment. Give the love you have within rather than waiting to get your needs fulfilled through love.

  1. Fromm, Erich (1962). The art of loving. New York: Harper & Row, p. 26.
  2. Ibid., p. 41.