It’s Finally Released!

booksolo (002)

With Valentine’s Day approaching, here is the perfect gift for yourself or your loved one:

Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

This guide uses cutting-edge psychological research to tell you how to find a new love, fix a current relationship, love again after a loss.  It gives you the tips and techniques you need to get through many difficult times in loving.

Available through the publisher (BookLocker.com/9605) or at all online and neighborhood booksellers.

Anger Triggers and Resolutions

anger cartoon

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 to Look for in a Potential Partner

communication

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;

 

Red Flags: What to Watch Out for When You Are Dating

question

Swipe right—swipe left.  When it comes to the first few minutes of sizing up a potential partner, both men and women rely mainly on physical attractiveness.3.46 In addition, people overgeneralize from appearance, assuming that those who are attractive on the outside are also nicer on the inside, a phenomenon that has been termed the “what-is-beautiful-is-good-stereotype”.3.47 During the first 100 milliseconds of seeing a person’s face, not only is attractiveness judged, but also being judged is likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness.3.48

So, after you have met someone, how can you be sure this is the right one?  Are there some personality characteristics that you may not see initially but are ones that can stop a relationship from becoming a loving one?

You can assess these red flags by noticing how you feel when you are with the other person.  Do you feel controlled, inadequate, or criticized when you are with that person?

Some of the red flags to watch out for come from the scientific literature documenting impairments in thoughts and feelings regarding one’s self and one’s interpersonal relationships.3.90 We all might show some of these characteristics some of the time but it is the persistence and insistence of them that create problems in relationships.

Does he or she…

  • Want others to do things his/her way
  • Get bitterly upset when others disappoint him/her
  • Insist on being in charge
  • Get easily jealous or suspicious
  • Blame others when things go wrong
  • Get angry about even little things or perceived slights
  • Bully or flatter people into doing what he/she wants
  • Blow hot and cold
  • Get highly threatened by differences of opinion
  • Have difficulty acknowledging the other person’s point of view
  • Show a lack of awareness of the impact of his/her actions on others

If any of these characteristics are often present in a prospective partner, RUN!  You will not be able to change this person for the better because these personality characteristics have been shown to be stable throughout a long-term relationship.3.91 A person with these characteristics may begin, though, to recognize the difficulties they are causing and start to work on modifying them.  However, do you want to stick around long enough to possibly see these modifications?

But how do you find out about these characteristics during initial encounters, especially when the other person is trying to make a good impression and, perhaps hide them?  You could ask your partner how he or she would react in a given situation.  Ask, “If someone interrupted you while you trying to tell them something important, what would you feel and what would you do?”  Or “Tell me about a time when you were disappointed because someone did not think and act like the way you expected them to do.”  Another way to probe a little deeper is to ask about why previous relationships did not work out.  If your partner only mentions what was wrong with the other person, you may need to persist by asking what part they think they might have played in the relationship not working out.  Someone who has no insight into the way they may have triggered their partner is prone to create the same relationship that they created in the past.

So, what are the things you should look for in a potential partner? The next blog will address that issue.

3.46 Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What Leads to Romantic Attraction: Similarity, Reciprocity, Security, or Beauty? Evidence from a Speed‐Dating Study. Journal of Personality, 77(4),933-964.

3.47 Feingold, A. (1992). Good-looking people are not what we think. Psychological Bulletin,111(2),304. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.304

3.48 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.

3.90 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5). Washington, D.D.: American Psychiatric Press.

Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4(1).

Jacobsberg, L., Perry, S., & Frances, A. (1995). Diagnostic agreement between the SCID-II screening questionnaire and the Personality Disorder Examination. Journal of Personality Assessment,65(3),428-433.

3.91 Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1988). Personality in adulthood: a six-year longitudinal study of self-reports and spouse ratings on the NEO Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,54(5),853.

 

Why Judge?

overanalyzing

               Judging is a great destroyer of relationships, and it can destroy your self-confidence as well.    Yet we all do judge others.  When someone looks or behaves differently than we expected, we judge that person negatively.  We expect others to be like ourselves, do what we want them to do, or have the same standards that we have.  When they don’t, we push them away with a disapproving look or a criticism. 

               What’s more, we judge ourselves as harshly as we judge others.  We assess whether we are living up to our standards.  When we determine that we are falling short, we beat ourselves up.  Not so good for feeling self-confident.

               So why continue to judge?  Because we think we can control other people (or even ourselves) through our judgments.  We become impatient when a person is walking in front of us too slowly. We say, “Why don’t you ever listen”, when we want someone to listen to us.  We conclude that a person’s way of parenting is not the way we think it should be done.  We become angry when someone expresses an opinion we don’t agree with.  All of these judgments just make us or the other person feel bad. 

               To not judge just switch your focus.  Instead of seeing someone with your eyes, see them through their eyes.  They see the world differently than you do and that is ok.  These differences really do not have anything to do with you.  A person is not walking slowly, not listening, parenting a certain way, or expressing an opinion to purposely annoy you.  It’s just the way they see things.  So you can let them be and not react with a judgment (even one not expressed).

               Letting go of judging oneself is especially difficult but can be done if you take note of a behavior that you would have liked to take back but then not wallow in regret.  Everyone who is human makes mistakes and learns from them.  But not everyone beats themselves up because of the mistake.  Again, switch your focus to see the goodness that is still in you even when you have made a mistake. 

               Loving oneself and loving another is to let go of judgments.  A love that empathizes and accepts takes the place of judgments.

What Do You Do When a Powerful Person is an Insecure Liar?

amprunrb6n0-oscar-keys

“I am the most important person, not you, and I am always right” is the mantra of the compulsive liar.  Of course, he is not the most important person (lie number one) and he is not always right (lie number two).  Yet, you can be drawn to his seemingly self-confidence and power.  Then, as long as you agree with him (even if what you are agreeing with is a lie), you will be part of his inner-circle. 

But, how do you deal with a compulsive liar if you don’t agree with him?  And why does he impulsively and compulsively lie?

Psychologists have described one type of person who lies so as to boost his ego.  He needs constant admiration from others and will even lie to get it.  If he is confronted with the lie instead of being admired, his worst fear of being criticized and rejected will appear, causing him to attack or try to silence the messenger.  He can easily attack without fearing the consequences because he lacks empathy and compassion for others.  His view is the right view and all other views are false views.  After all, for him it is just a comparison of views, not facts.

The compulsive liar has a grandiose sense of self-worth which is shown by boasting and being contemptuous towards “lesser beings”. Others are seen as being able to be conned by lies that will lead to his personal profit.  Because he does not feel a human connection with most people, he has no compunction about crushing them in order to achieve his goals. His impulsivity is shown in his speech and sexual promiscuity.  Yes, this could get him into trouble but he then deflects and denies responsibility.  Because he is such a great showman, he can fool many people many times.

The brain of the individual who impulsively and compulsively tells lies may be different from others’ brains.  Psychologists Yaling Yang and Adrian Raine have found that pathological liars have a significant increase in white matter and a decrease in the grey/white ratio in the prefrontal cortex compared to normal controls.1 The relative reduction in grey matter is linked with disinhibition, resulting in impulsivity and compulsivity.  The increase in white matter provides the capacity to size up a social situation enough to construct a really good lie.

So, if there are actually neurobiological differences in the brains of pathological liars, how can you deal with them?  You can’t change them and you can’t confront them.  The best you can do is contain them.  Reduce their sphere of influence so that their lies affect as few people as possible.  If you work with a self-aggrandizing liar, divide up parts of a project so you can be totally responsible for one part.  If you live with this person, stop trying to please him/her.  Look to other people and to yourself to satisfy your needs instead of depending on him/her.  If this person is one of the most powerful in the world, join with others to create a group that is more powerful than he is.

  1. Yang, Y., Raine, A., Lencz, T., Bihrle, S., Lacasse, L & Colletti, P. (2005). Prefrontal white matter in pathological liars. British Journal of Psychiatry. 187,320-325.

Raine, A., Lencz, T. et. al. (2000). Reduced prefrontal gray matter volume and reduced autonomic activity in antisocial personality disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57,119-127.

Is It Men or Women Who Fall the Hardest After a Break-up?

a-romantic-enters-the-world_art

Ever since the early 1970s, psychologists have found that men tend to fall in love more quickly and they hold on to a waning affair more so than do women.1   But what happens when there is a break-up?

It was a man, Lord Byron, who wrote, “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ’tis woman’s whole existence.”  Still today, most men and women would agree with this statement. Men seem to be able to do without a loving relationship better than women, who seem to derive their life out of their loving relationships.

Yet psychologists have shown that it is men who cannot live without love. After the break-up of a relationship men feel lonelier, obsessed with what went wrong, and depressed than do women. 2

Whether the relationship lasted only a few years of dating or a long time with marriage, many of the responses seem to be the same.3   Women initially are in emotional pain but they recover more quickly.  Men never fully recover—they simply move on to try a do-over.

Differences between women and men in response to a break-up are related to at least three important factors: (a) who initiates the break-up, (b) the amount of obsessing and insecurity, (c) the degree of social support.4   In longer-term relationships, it is the woman who initiates the break-up 69% of the time.5  Women tend to be more aware than men when a relationship is not satisfying and thus take action, especially if there is the possibility of another relationship that looks like it might be more satisfying.6   Men tend to not be in touch with or express their feeling as much as women.  The feelings men sometimes acknowledge are anger or confusion rather than sadness about the loss.7   Then they either try to ignore the situation or replace the loss but sometimes they find the loss is irreplaceable.  Both genders obsess about what they could have done differently to save the relationship, but men tend to continue obsessing longer than women.8   Maybe this is because the man feels it was his fault that he got dumped.  Yes, both genders need to know the part they played in the relationship not succeeding so that they don’t make the same mistakes the next time around.  But, at some point, one has to stop obsessing and move on.

Moving on, then, is easier when one has a good system of social support, which women tend to have more often than do men.  Men seem to not talk to their friends about their difficulties as much as do women.  Keeping all of one’s thoughts and feelings to oneself then can delay the ability to move on.

References

1.Kanin, E.J., Davidson, D.K.D., Scheck, S.R. (1970). A research note on male-female differentials in the experience of heterosexual love. The Journal of Sex Research, 6,64-72

Hill, C. T., Rubin, Z., Peplau, A. (1976). From breakups before marriage:  The end of   103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 1, 147-168.

Rosenfeld, M.J., Thomas, R.J. & Falcon, M. (2015). How couples meet and stay   together. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.

2. Hill, C. T., Rubin, Z., Peplau, A. (1976). From breakups before marriage: The end of  103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 1, 147-168.

Morris, C.E., Reiber, C., Roman, E. (2015). Quantitative sex differences in response to the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9,4, 270- 283.

3.Morris, C.E., Reiber, C., Roman, E. (2015). Quantitative sex differences in response to the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9,4, 270-283.

Rosenfeld, M.J., Thomas, R.J. & Falcon, M. (2015). How couples meet and stay together. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.

4.Sweeney, M.M. (2002). Remarriage and the nature of divorce: Does it matter which spouse chose to leave? Journal of Family Issues, 23,3, 410-440.

Morris, C.E., Reiber, C., Roman, E. (2015). Quantitative sex differences in response to the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9,4, 270-283.

Rosenfeld, M.J., Thomas, R.J. & Falcon, M. (2015). How couples meet and stay together. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.

5. Rosenfeld, M.J., Thomas, R.J. & Falcon, M. (2015). How couples meet and stay together.    Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.

6.Sweeney, M.M. (2002). Remarriage and the nature of divorce: Does it matter which spouse chose to leave? Journal of Family Issues, 23,3, 410-440.

7.Morris, C.E., Reiber, C., Roman, E. (2015). Quantitative sex differences in response to the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9,4, 270-283.

How Resilient Are You in Love and Life?

jack-in-the-box2   If you became embroiled in an argument with your partner, felt rejected by a lover, or lost a loved one, would you bounce back fairly quickly?  Or would you remain angry, mired in self-recrimination, stuck in despair?  Take this quiz to see how resilient you are. (And you might also want to ask your partner to take this quiz.)

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1. If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely – when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

This quiz is from a book by neuroscientist Richard Davidson that shows how differences in the way our brains are wired affect our resiliency.  Do not despair, though, if your score shows you are not that resilient.  According to Davidson, you can change your brain’s wiring to become more resilient if you change what you are saying to yourself or if you engage in the practice of meditation. 

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012)  The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.

 

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

235592-When-Dudes-Ask-can-You-Cook-

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.