Free Love Demystified Workbook

Front Cover 2

Starting June 29 and continuing through July 3 you can get the Kindle version of this workbook FREE.  Just click on this link: Free Love Demystified Workbook

This workbook contains more than a dozen questionnaires to assess your current love life.  Respond to these questionnaires to find out where you are now and what you are needing.  You can discover how intimate your current relationship is, how resilient you are, how romantic you are, and how empathetic you are.

Ask your partner to also complete these questionnaires to discover new things about your partner. You and your loved one might then want to share your responses, which can create a deeper intimacy.

From your and your partner’s responses you may find that there are some areas in your love life you want to improve.  Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life is a companion to the workbook and gives you tips and techniques to enhance your relationship.  You can purchase it on Amazon as either a Kindle edition or a paperback: Love Demystified Strategies

 

3 Tips for Meghan and Harry (and All Married Couples) to Create a Lasting Love

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The beautiful princess (or duchess) and charming prince (or duke) may live in a castle but they will also have to face issues that you do on the way to happily ever after.  Here’s three tips for making love last.

Present as a Team.  People and events may try to pull you apart.  Family and friends will give you advice about what you should or should not do.  But, in trying to follow this advice you may find yourself at odds with your partner.  Major and minor events such as the birth of a child or even celebrations with in-laws can put a strain on your togetherness.  Later, as your child grows there are even more challenges to not having that child play one of you off the other.

Show everyone that you are a team, not just two individuals who can be pulled away from each other.  Disclose and discuss looming issues.  Then use “we” instead of “I” when responding to others.  In that way, others will see you are presenting a united front, one that is stronger than each of you separately.

Resolve Conflicts Successfully.  You will have disagreements that you can’t avoid.  Solving these disagreements in a way that you both win is necessary for a happy relationship.  If there is only one tool that will help you resolve conflicts successfully, it is empathetic communication.

Empathetic communication involves listening closely to your partner, taking a breath before replying, and then stating the essence of what you heard your partner say.  In this way you show you understand your partner’s position.  Feeling understood decreases defensiveness and increases cooperation.  If both of you do this when trying to resolve a conflict, it can lead to a winning solution for both of you.

Show you Appreciate your Partner— Every Day.  Yes, you are so in love now that you can’t even imagine lapsing into days of not connecting with each other at all.  Yet those days will come, perhaps sooner than you expected.  And then you will begin to feel the bloom of romance has withered, or maybe even died.  Yet, if you say or do something every day to show appreciation for your partner, the romance that is there now will be there throughout the years.

There are many ways to show appreciation.  Noticing what your partner is saying or doing and commenting favorably on it is one way.  Hugs, smiles, and saying thank you shows you value having your partner in your life.  Take a moment right now to show your partner some appreciation.

 

Podcast about Love

Recently I had a fun conversation with Brian Howie on The Great Love Debate.  We debated everything from what to watch out for when dating to how to make love last.  Listen to it here: Making Love Last

Podcast4.

Five Ways You Know You Have Found Your Soulmate

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Basically, a soulmate is supportive and makes you feel comfortable.

  1. A soulmate listens to you deeply and you feel instantly understood. Being deeply listened to without the other person listening only for how they need to respond is a rarity in relationships.  Yet the other person acknowledging an understanding of the message you are sending makes you feel intimately connected to that person.
  2. A soulmate brings out the best in you and accepts you just the way you are. You feel like you can be totally open and honest with your soulmate because, no matter what you say, you will still be accepted as a person.
  3. When you are interacting with a soulmate you notice the similarities you share. You may have similar values, interests, goals.  Or you may have a subconscious connection.  Your soulmate may be similar to someone else who was important in your life who was also nurturing and accepting.  So you feel comfortable when with your soulmate.
  4. Your soulmate has your back. It is the two of you against the world—well, maybe just against a common foe or issue.  You feel supported in your struggles.
  5. A soulmate feels like that is your missing piece; you feel completed when you are with your soulmate.

Feeling understood and completed with your soulmate does have its downside.  You may feel you are incomplete without your soulmate and not able to function as well without that person.  You may start yearning for the next time the two of you will be together.  Or you may anxiously await the next text message.

You may begin to depend on your soulmate to meet your needs—your need for appreciation, for self-esteem, for comradeship.  If either you or your soulmate changes in terms of these needs, you can feel lost, not needed, or not needing.

 

Anger Triggers and Resolutions

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In relationships, some lovers are quicker to feel anger than others. Yes, not having your expectations fulfilled or not getting your needs met can cause frustration. But some lovers seem to have shorter fuses when these situations occur. And some lovers allow anger to propel them into using strategies that hurt the loved one and the relationship.

Common Anger Triggers

Judgments and sensitivity to rejection are two of the main triggers of anger. Instead of simply seeing the situation as it is, you put your own spin on it. For example, your partner is scrolling through the messages on their phone while you are talking to them. You judge their actions as showing they do not really care about what you have to say. You might even go a step further in your mind to think, “My partner never really listens to me because they don’t think anything I have to say is worthwhile.” Now you have fueled your anger with that interpretation.

Or you may interpret your partner’s request to take out the trash as a demand that you do immediately, which causes you to feel controlled and angry. Your judgments can then lead to an angry outburst or even a turning inward with troublesome ruminations.

Sometimes it is the judgments you make about yourself that are behind your anger. For example, you might judge yourself as inadequate or defective. Then you base your self-esteem on your perception of the way others feel about you. Notice it is your perception of the other person’s words or actions, not what they actually said or did. If your feelings of being inadequate are aroused because you see the other person as being critical, your anger can get triggered. Of course, you might actually be in a relationship where your partner often complains about you. If you are also self-critical, this combination can lead not only to anger but also to depression.1

Sensitivity to Rejection                                                                                               

Some people are extremely sensitive to rejection. They have an anxious expectation of rejection. Even when there is little possibility of it, they still readily perceive social threats. This sensitivity motivates them to react with anger, hostility, or withdrawal.2 It is the mere anticipation of potential hurt that triggers their reactions. They are so vulnerable and insecure, they don’t even have to be actually hurt to feel wounded; the threat is enough.

Research has demonstrated that the brains of these people are different from the brains of people who are not so sensitive to rejection and do not act so defensively.5.33 People low in rejection sensitivity have a more active prefrontal cortex, which allows them to be less emotionally reactive and more self-regulating.3 Yet the good news for people high in rejection sensitivity is that emotional self-regulation can be taught, and a supportive romantic relationship itself can mitigate this sensitivity.

One concern about the defensive reactions used in the face of rejection sensitivity is that these reactions can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the reaction itself causes the feared rejection. One member of a couple in a conflict situation can seek support but not receive it, or be on guard for any cues that might indicate rejection. If that person begins to defensively start losing their temper, insulting their partner, or swearing, it can incite the partner to do the same. Then the negative interaction causes the conflict to become unresolved.

Strategies to Defuse Anger

Why do we say such hurtful things to our loved ones? Often it is because we are too fused with them. When we are fused, what our partner says or does often feels like it has something to do with us. And then we react accordingly. We lash out or raise defensive walls. Or even worse, we blame ourselves.

Your partner leaves the dirty dishes in the sink all day and night—again. You think, “If they really cared about my feelings, they would put the dishes in the dishwasher.” Or “I am probably expecting too much.”

With these thoughts, you end up saying, “Must take too much of your energy to put the dishes in the dishwasher. How lazy can you get?”

You know you’re not going to change your partner’s behavior with this criticism, but it slips out anyway.

Your partner’s behavior annoyed you, but it is the judgment you put on that behavior that caused you to lash out. More than likely your partner did not leave the dishes in the sink to purposely annoy you or as a lapse in caring for your feelings.

If you see your partner’s behavior as independent of your connection with them, you won’t be pressured to say something hurtful. Instead, you will find a way to let them know that you noticed without the negative reaction. You might even joke. “Maybe we could make the kitchen sink into a dishwasher.” Indeed, those partners who each have a sense of their own autonomy will be less defensive during a conflict and will be more satisfied with their relationship.4

The time between a trigger and your angry reaction is generally only two to three seconds. So try to cut the link between the trigger and your anger by taking a slow, deep breath the moment you notice a trigger. This will help you to cool off the hothead feeling, not bite the bait, and take a moment to think about a way to express your needs in a helpful way.

After the deep breath, you can respond rather than react, and then you will remain in control. You can respond with an “I” statement that lets your partner know what you need at that moment. For example, if your partner forgets to pick up the dry cleaning that has your work uniform in it, you could take a deep breath and then say, “I really needed my uniform for work tomorrow.” You are putting the issue on the table instead of blaming your partner. Then the two of you can work on finding a resolution to the issue.

Even if you are the recipient of your partner’s anger, you can still have some control over the angry reaction. When you see your partner starting to tense up, you can remind them to breathe. Or you can model the necessary action by taking a slow, deep breath yourself. Initiating the first step in calming the hot responses down will give both of you a chance to approach the situation in a more helpful manner. Instead of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, you have used a calming strategy.

  1. Whiffen, V. E. and J. A. Aube. 1999. “Personality, interpersonal context and depression in couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12 (3): 369–383.
  2. Romero‐Canyas, R., G. Downey, K. Berenson, O. Ayduk, and N. J. Kang. 2010. “Rejection sensitivity and the rejection–hostility link in romantic relationships.” Journal of Personality, 78 (1): 119–148. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00611.
  3. Kross, E., T. Egner, K. Ochsner, J. Hirsch, and G. Downey. 2007. “Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 (6): 945–956.
  4. Knee, C. R., C. Lonsbary, A. Canevello, and H. Patrick. 2005. “Self-determination and conflict in romantic relationships.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89 (6): 997.

What Would Happen If You Assumed You Are Loveable?

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We all start out being dependent on someone for love, needing to get love to survive.  Then, in the process of growing up, new needs emerge—-the foremost of which is to feel lovable, independent of other people’s judgments.

We feel a need to rediscover our separate self, our likeable, huggable, lovable self.  But how does someone who has only received conditional love begin to feel lovable?  It seems impossible for someone who never got unconditional love to be able to give unconditional love, to one’s self or to others.

From birth, we are all needing love and giving love1.  We are not just empty shells waiting to be filled.  There is love within us from the moment we enter the world.  We do need love from others, but not to fill us.  Rather, we need a special kind of love to uncover the love within that was always there.2

Love Yourself Unconditionally

You can’t fully love another person until you fully love yourself.3 So how do you do this?  You have to stop judging yourself.  And stop seeking other’s approval of you.  Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are loveable because you are this unique person, this whole and real person.  What is it that you, specifically, don’t accept about yourself?  Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

  • I regret …
  • I failed to…
  • I shouldn’t have…
  • I wish I were….
  • I need….
  • People would say I am….
  • I am…
  • I am proud of…
  • If only….

Do some of your responses indicate you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable?  Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others?  Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes?  Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present.

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses but those are what make you a unique person so you don’t have to hide nor become defensive about them?  Each of us is a unique individual, with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.  That does not make us better than nor less than another person—just different—and we are usually loved for that difference.

Can you accept yourself just as you are now, unconditionally, free of any qualifications, and show that vulnerable self to your loved one?  Being vulnerable means willing to be open to yourself and to your partner.  If you look back at your responses to the above questions you might see what you are defending against when you respond to your partner.  You may assume that you should not let your partner see those weaknesses because then you wouldn’t be loved.  Yet, to have a lasting love, you must trust that your partner’s love for you will not be affected negatively when you reveal your vulnerabilities.4 The irony is that, if you tell your partner about your weaknesses directly, you will find that your partner will usually feel much closer to you.

Can you see yourself as having a lot of love inside to give your partner because you no longer judge yourself so harshly?  Then you have developed compassion towards yourself that spills out as compassion towards your partner (and, quite possibility, towards everyone).

See Yourself as Separate from Your Partner

Can you see yourself as separate from your partner with your own strengths and weaknesses?  This view of yourself is crucial because you may not always have your partner to supply what you don’t supply for yourself. So many of us separate or are forcefully separated from our partner before we have had a chance to develop a separate sense of self. Then the struggle is all the harder, but we can still find the love that helps us grow. This love is within ourselves.

When you see yourself as a lovable and loving person separate from your partner, you have the basis for developing a relationship that is no longer based on dependency nor isolated independency. You are more interested in giving love than in getting love.  Each of you give love and receive love but you are not desperately needing to get love from each other. You now have a relationship based on interdependency—two people who see themselves as existing separately and together.

  1. Cozolino, L. (2014). The neuroscience of human relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company. pp. 97-98.
  2. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-Centered therapy. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 137-142.
  3. Fromm, E. (1956. The art of loving. New York, NY: Harper Colophon.
  4. Kernberg, O. F. (1984). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson. pp. 185-240.

 

Assumptions that Cause Disillusionment

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You might see your partner and yourself through the lens of many assumptions.  Then you begin to act toward your partner in ways that confirm these assumptions.  Instead of changing your assumptions, you become disillusioned that love is not what you thought it should be.

 

Loving relationships never follow a smooth path but there are some assumptions that make dealing with the bumps even more difficult. Some of these assumptions may be only yours or some of them might be shared ones. Look at the following assumptions about love that can hold you back from fully loving and check off those that ring true for you.1

 

  • Someday My Partner Will Find Someone Better Than Me

You don’t trust that your partner will always love you.   Your insecurity then leads to jealousy and suspiciousness that alienates the very person you want to love you.

 

  •      I Need Everyone’s Approval to Feel Worthwhile

This assumption keeps you in a submissive position in order to be approved.  You have given your partner tremendous power—-the power to approve or disapprove of you.  In doing so, this assumption is self-defeating because it stops you from being able to grow in the relationship.

 

  •      I Can’t Feel Happy and Fulfilled Without Being Loved

Tremendous insecurity results from this assumption because there will be times you will not have your partner in your life or your partner’s love.  This assumption may cause anxiety just thinking about the possibility of losing love.  It makes you feel like you are walking on egg-shells.

 

  •        If I Don’t Meet All of My Partner’s Expectations and Demands, Disapproval and Rejection Will Follow

When you have this assumption, the relationship becomes a burden that eventually leads to resentment.  Either you continue to be a slave to your partner’s demands or you run away, carrying this assumption with you, to start the whole process over again with a new partner.

 

  •       My Partner Is Not What I Need

You find your partner lacking so you try to make him into what you want him to be.  You look disapprovingly or nag when he does not do what you want.  Does this get you what you want or does this change him?

 

  •       If My Partner Rejects Me, It Proves That There’s Something Wrong with Me

Sure, rejection does not feel good, but that rejection might say everything about your partner and nothing about you.  You have magnified the result of your partner’s actions into feeling devastated instead of seeing it as a momentary glitch in your relationship.

 

Dealing with Assumptions So They Do Not Derail Your Relationship

All of the above assumptions can be changed once they are recognized as just assumptions and not a reflection of reality.  Your assumptions are just the way you see yourself, your partner or the situation, not the way you, your partner nor the situation always is.

Furthermore, these assumptions often are not expressed.  Instead of telling your partner, “I need your approval in order to feel loved,” you say “You’re always criticizing me.” What would happen if you stated your assumption out loud?  Maybe your partner would not feel so attacked and would, instead, understand a little more about where you are coming from.  So, by recognizing, stating, and changing your assumptions, you can change the way you love.

You can challenge each of the above assumptions by replacing them with a more helpful one.  For example, instead of assuming that you have a deficit that will cause your partner to find someone else, you could assume that you are lovable and just need to make sure your partner sees this. Indeed, what would happen if you assumed you are loved even when there isn’t someone in your life presently acknowledging it?  In a subsequent post you will discover how to see yourself as lovable independent of your partner’s actions.

Do you assume that you have to meet your partner’s expectations and demands?  You could, instead, assume that your partner is capable of meeting her own needs.  Then you would just show your partner how she can meet her own needs.

Finally, assuming that you and your partner are okay just the way you are can go a long way towards avoiding the conflicts that occur when you are depending on your partner to fulfill your needs or trying to change your partner.

 

  1. Burns, D. D. (1985). Intimate connections: The new and clinically tested program for overcoming loneliness developed at the Presbyterian–University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. New York: William Morrow & Co.

What to Look for in a Potential Partner

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When people are asked what aspects they value in a potential partner they tend to list physical qualities, socially desirable characteristics, and unrealistic expectations.  Furthermore, as we learned in the previous blog posting, we tend to make judgments about the other person’s trustworthiness, competence, and likability within the first tenth of a second, during the first glimpse of that person.1

We know that, for short-term relationships, physical qualities are valued but for long-term relationships, honesty, warmth and intelligence are valued.2 Other qualities typically valued are sensitivity, consideration, generosity, respect, responsiveness, and responsibility.  Yet none of us demonstrate these qualities all of the time.  We sometimes show the polar opposite, such as insensitivity, inconsiderateness, selfishness, rudeness, apathy, and irresponsibility.

Therefore, we should not expect these valued qualities to be fully formed and demonstrated all the time.  In fact, partners in growth-promoting relationships develop these qualities to a deeper degree as their relationship and they, themselves, mature.3 Yes, do look for these qualities but don’t expect them to always be present.

There are three qualities, however, that are especially important to look for in oneself as well as in a prospective long-term partner. They are so important that they actually predict the ability to form a lasting and growth-promoting relationship.4

These three qualities (some may even call them skills) are empathy, acceptance, and intimacy.  Empathy is the capacity to accurately understand others’ experiences and motivations, to appreciate others’ perspectives even if one disagrees with them, and to be aware of the effect of one’s own actions on others.  Acceptance is an unconditional love, a love without requiring oneself or the other to be a certain way or meet one’s expectations. Intimacy is the ability to engage in caring, close and reciprocal relationships; to strive for cooperation and mutual benefit; and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors.5

Does your potential partner listen so carefully to you that he/she can acknowledge the essence of what you said?  Does your potential partner make you feel loved just for who you are or does he/she often criticize you for not meeting his/her expectations?  Does your potential partner spontaneously disclose what he/she is thinking and feeling at a given moment and respond to your thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you feel close to that person?

1. Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17(7), 592-598.

2.  Regan, P. C. (1998). What if you can’t get what you want? Willingness to compromise ideal mate selection standards as a function of sex, mate value, and relationship context. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(12), 1294-1303.

3. Beck, A. T. (1988). Love is never enough: How couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and solve relationship problems through cognitive therapy. New York: HarperCollins.

4. Rogers, C. R. and Sevens, B. (1980). Person to person: The problem of being human: A new trend in psychology. New York: Pocket Books.

Block‐Lerner, J., Adair, C., Plumb, J. C., Rhatigan, D. L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2007). The case for mindfulness‐based approaches in the cultivation of empathy: Does nonjudgmental, present‐moment awareness increase capacity for perspective‐taking and empathic concern?. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4), 501-516.

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A two-factor model for predicting when a couple will divorce: Exploratory analyses using 14‐Year longitudinal data. Family Process, 41(1), 83-96.

5. Reis, H. T. (1990). The role of intimacy in interpersonal relations. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(1), 15. doi: 10.1521/jscp.1990.9.1.15;