Researcher John Gottman notes that all couples have perpetual issues. They argue or disagree about the same things over and over again. According to Gottman, many of these are not solvable even though certain aspects may be negotiated, compromised or decided amicably.
Here are some of the most common issues that we notice in couples who are dating. Clearly, the longer a couple dates and the more serious the relationship becomes, the more clearly the differences appear. Most of these are usually not enough to end a relationship. Couples, instead, need to learn and practice healthy and respectful ways to talk about them with each other.
1. Time together versus time apart. Often one person wants to spend a lot of time together and include each other in most activities while the other person feels a real need to maintain a sense of independence.
2. Relationships with friends of the opposite sex/jealousy. One half of a couple may want to remain friends or develop new friendships with others of the opposite sex stating and believing that they provide no threat to the relationship. Others believe that involvement with people of the opposite sex should always include the new partner. This can be especially difficult if there is a desire to remain friends with a former romantic partner.
3. Sex. There are often different levels of desire for sexual and physical contact.
4. Friends. Some feel that friends are a bad influence on a partner. This may be because they believe that these friends encourage “single kinds of behavior”, are just critical of the relationship partner or otherwise undermine the relationship.
5. Family. Some believe that family members interfere too much, are nosey or require too much time taken from the relationship.
6. Levels of intimacy. Women often want more verbal intimacy from men than men are comfortable with or see as important.
7. Future goals for the relationship, especially marriage and children. This can be one that ends a relationship. While we always encourage couples to take things slowly and not push for a decision about any of these issues, there are times when it is best to just let go of a relationship if these desires are very different.
Couples can chip away at many of these issues, for instance, they may agree on how much time to spend together on a specific weekend or how to reassure a partner that they are the only person in their lives that they care about in a romantic way tonight. With these perpetual issues, however, couples have to find lots of different ways to stay calm, caring and respectful as they share their different ideas, needs and feelings.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
I have had bad luck with dating. The guys that I go out with either end up leaving me or have some problems like pot, alcohol or dating several at the same time but not letting me in on this. Trusting a new person is hard and yet I really want a new relationship. Can you give me some ideas about how to find someone that I can trust and when I can decide that it is okay to let down my guard.
Congratulations to you, Tara, for recognizing that you want to go more slowly and be more careful before beginning a new romantic relationship. Dating is and should be about learning about yourself as much as it is about finding the right person for the rest of your life.
Think about these ideas when you are looking for a new romantic partner.
We tend to be drawn to the “familiar”, even if it is not necessarily healthy. Our radar seems to just “hone in” on partners who feel comfortable to us, even if the comfort level is not a good one. Hence, we may find ourselves drawn to “thrill-seekers” or engaging alcoholics or players because their behaviors remind us of other significant relationships with parents or former loves.
We have to find ways to get over one significant relationship before beginning a new one. Finding a new love is really not the best antidote to getting over an old one. Take time to mourn the loss and grieve the hopes and dreams for what might have been.
Take the time to do a “post mortem” about the relationship. Was this just about your “picker”? Or would you say that you did some things that you know that you want to do differently the next time around?
What about that picker? Have you chosen the same kind of person only with a little different look? Are you always with someone that you have to “fix” or take care of? Do you tend to choose men who are romantic and exciting but with no history of commitment?
What about your own half of the relationship? Are there things that you did with communication or with conflict that you know you need to do differently?
These are just some points to ponder. Please call or email us if you have comments or questions. We offer online counseling by phone and by email and would be glad to work with you in more detail about your specific situation.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
So, what are some of the things to count in and count out when looking for someone to date? Remember, in choosing someone with whom to partner, it is important not to look for someone who might want you; but rather, someone that you think can be a mature, healthy fit for you.
Has your new interest been able to hold on to a job for a while, have healthy relationships with friends and family or be able to explain honestly some of his or her decisions about distance or disruption in a relationship? Is he or she able to be nurturing and supportive? Does he/she struggle with “old baggage”?
While you may be of different political perspectives, can you respect the differences? Are they too large? Do you believe that your partner is honest and has integrity? What about spirituality? Is he/she a loyal person? Responsible? Trustworthy?
Is your new interest able to handle money effectively? Is debt appropriate for his or her status? (Student loans are a lot different than a large credit card balance.) What do you notice about how he or she handles money when you are together?
Interests and Lifestyle
Do you have things in common? Like similar music interests? Activities? Hobbies? What about social activities, do you both enjoy generally the same level of activity with others? Does one of you really like to be out and about while the other is more of a “homebody”?
Education and Intelligence
Do you have similar educational backgrounds? Relationships work best when there is similarity although it certainly does not have to be equal. It is also best when intelligence is similar. It enhances conversation and interests.
What does your interest think about marriage? What are his/her thoughts about roles for a husband and wife? What about children? If he/she could describe an ideal marriage, what would it be?
While beauty is only skin deep, there are also some physical characteristics to consider. Certainly, physical attraction is one of the first things that you notice but, in the long run, some aspects may remain important. Is being “fit” important to you? Are neatness or stylish dressing important to you?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Consider these questions and answer them honestly about yourself to determine if you know how to be part of an emotionally intelligent and healthy relationship. Think about friends and especially about those you date as a way of determining if they are able to be part of a healthy relationship with you.
1. I am able to communicate my needs in a relationship with others.
2. I am able to listen well and resist giving unsolicited advice.
3. I am able to say “no” when I need to.
4. I can be clear about preferences for closeness or distance in friendships/relationships.
5. While I do not consider myself to be one who likes conflict, I am able to talk about disagreements and remain in the discussion.
6. I know how to calm and soothe myself in a stressful or conflictual situation.
7. I know what “healthy boundaries” are and I am able to respect my own and those of others.
8. I am able to be nurturing and allow nurturing in a relationship.
9. I am able to reach out and repair a friendship/relationship with words and actions when it is needed.
10. I have identified characteristics in a partner that are important and I am able to end relationships (get out of ones that are not healthy) when I need to do that.
11. When there are differences in the kind of partner who attracts me and the kind of partner who fits with my values and life, I am able to make the distinction and make choices that are healthy for me.
12. I have made decisions about what part I want sex to play in a relationship and can communicate those clearly and stand by them with my partner.
13. I have a good sense of humor.
14. I know how to say “I am sorry”.
If you can answer “yes” to 12 out of 14, congratulate yourself on your emotional intelligence and seek dating partners and friends who reflect these characteristics as well.