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How To Fall In Love Again

How To Fall In Love Again

Let’s Talk About Date Night

If you’re in a long-term relationship the time will come when that burning flame of romance and passion dims to a comfortable warmth, it’s inevitable. This doesn’t mean that the romance and passion are over, it’s a new era of your relationship. If you welcome this era with an open mind and a willingness to experience this stage with your partner – you will find that this warmth is not only sustaining to your relationship but welcoming.

I know it can feel discouraging to think back on how alive and in love you once were before the chaos of life, work, and family obligations became primary conversations at the dinner table. Maybe you’re even asking yourself “can it ever be like it once was?”

The truth is, if you’re both willing to put in the effort to keep your relationship “lit” then YES you can have those rekindling experiences in your relationship! In fact, research by love gurus Dr. John and Julie Gottman has even shown that couples on the road to separation were able to rekindle the flame in their relationship. So what’s the secret? You guessed it…date night.

How To Get The Most Out Of Date Night

It’s easy enough to go on a date if time and circumstance allow. However, it can feel like there’s just not enough time in the day for dating, and if you are like most of my couples clients you have a lot going on. It can feel like your only conversations together happen in passing after a long day at work or at the dinner table with the kids. This means that you have to be intentional about date night, and you need to get the most out of your time together (yes, I’m talking quality over quantity).

So, How Do You Do This?

First, it’s important to choose a time that works for both of you. It might feel silly scheduling each other in, but I promise if you schedule your date together you’re both more likely to make it work. So sit down, get those phones out (or paper agendas, whatever works for you!) and pick a time where you are either both free or available to move your schedule around. This might mean getting a babysitter, rearranging less important plans, or simply saying “no” to lesser obligations. But remember, you don’t have to force a date for the sake of dating. Sometimes an hour at the nearby coffee shop can be just as fun — do what works best for you!

Next, be deliberate about the activity you choose to do together. Since time is limited, what you do with that time is important. Try to orchestrate a date that is both fun and meaningful for both of you! The more thought you put into the date, the more you’ll get out of it. Before this starts sounding like a chore, I’m not talking about an itinerary that has every little moment planned out. Think about what you both like to do? Where do you like to go? What have you done in the past you’d like to do again? What are some new places, food, or experiences you would like to try?

Number one rule – make this time about the two of you. You don’t have to stick to any version of a date that isn’t appealing to you. However, the more time you spend together, the easier dating becomes. If this means staying home and watching a movie together, sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine, going out to an upscale restaurant, or checking out the “hottest” club – do what’s right for the both of you.

Looking for some great date night suggestions? Take a look at these simple to elaborate ideas you can implement into your new date night routine.

Fun Simple Suggestions:

  1. Pizza & A Movie Marathon— whether you like the DIY method of making your own homemade pizza or you like someone else to do the work for you (aka…ordering delivery), this is a staple date night. You can choose a movie that has a special meaning to the two of you, or maybe even take turns showing your current or childhood favorites.
  2. Build A Fort or “Camp” Indoors—sometimes laying down together in a new place can be exciting and spark some old feelings you thought were lost!
  3. Go On A Long Walk Together—use this time to hold hands, talk about life, or even get to know each other more. Did you know that exercise helps release brain chemicals that can make you feel happier? So by simply doing something active together can create positive feelings between you and your partner.
  4. Desserts and Discovery—make your favorite desserts together and ask one another questions to get to know each other again. There are various apps that supply questions to ask your partner (I recommend the “Gottman Card Decks” app). You could even get creative and use this desserts and discovery date to spark some sexual intimacy as well!

More Elaborate Suggestions:

  1. Surprise Date Night—if you and your partner have similar schedules, surprise your partner with a spontaneous date (to a restaurant, bowling alley, movies, etc). The excitement of the surprise may spark some long-awaited affection.
  2. A Mini-Vacay—find a babysitter and book a hotel room for the night! A night away from home can be especially rejuvenating for a relationship, especially if you have children.
  3. Take A Class Together—some communities offer classes to the public. Register for a local class together such as art, culinary, dancing, or exercise classes. Some classes may even be free!
  4. Recreate Your First Date—think about your very first date together and recreate it.  Reminiscing on the past may help reignite passion in the present. It can also be helpful to talk through all of the obstacles you have overcome as a couple over the years and take time to appreciate how your partner has contributed to the strengths in your relationship.

Date night can be a helpful tool for relationship health. Whether you’re wanting to stick to something simple or splurge on an elaborate night out, there are many exciting ways to get to know your partner and rediscover the excitement in your relationship. Try some of these suggestions and share your experience with me below in the comments section!

Wishing you the best on your date,
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

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Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC is a kind, compassionate marriage counselor, therapist and coach here to help you create your very best life. Ana specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts so they can create fulfillment and joy in their lives.

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

Even before I became a Denver marriage counselor and online couples therapist, I would have described myself as being a “hopeless romantic” and had grand expectations in a relationship. Growing up, I loved the idea of love. To me, the movies I watched made relationships seem easy. You know, the ones where both partners overcome some kind of obstacle to finally realize their need for the other, they confess their undying love then live happily ever after.

I loved this idea growing up, because it just seemed so natural. It seemed like such a stark difference from the real-world relationships that were falling apart all around me. I realized that my idolization of relationships in the movies led me to develop some unrealistic expectations about relationships in my own definition of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Here are some of the biggest expectations in a relationship that may prevent you from experiencing fulfillment with your partner:

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #1: “I have to be perfect.”  

Have you ever felt that you can’t let your partner see your faults or weaknesses?

As a couples therapist, I work with many couples who feel this pressure to be perfect for their partner, oftentimes stating their fear that sharing their weaknesses will somehow diminish the quality of their relationship.

These feelings of insecurity often leads to one or both partners tip-toeing around each other, neglecting to share their needs or fears, forfeiting the opportunity to experience a true, genuine connection with each other.

The myth of perfection is detrimental because it assumes that humans are faultless beings. Which we are not. Furthermore, perfectionism results in unsatisfactory relationships because there is a lack of depth and meaning when you are only sharing what you believe to be the best parts of you. In fact, vulnerability connects. 

A partnership is about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, it’s about sharing life together.  To share life with another person is to offer them your whole heart with the hope that you are both able and willing to accept and love each other fully — accepting the good with the bad.

When this kind of intimacy happens, it creates a true partnership, a bond full of depth and meaning with a person who you feel safe to rely on, through both the difficulties of life and the joys.

Tip: Try making a list of your top three insecurities and sharing them with your partner, while allowing space to validate each other’s vulnerabilities.

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #2: “This relationship is about meeting MY needs.”

Living in an individualistic society, we can often place more emphasis on what I can get out of a relationship, or where our partner is failing to meet my needs.  

What I so often see as a marriage counselor and couples therapist is that both partners have needs. It is important for partners to understand how to meet each other’s needs in a way that provides safety and security in the relationship. I also believe that we can be so focused on what OUR needs are, that we fail to see what our partners are needing from us and wind up neglecting them.

Partnership requires togetherness. Togetherness requires the courage to see beyond yourself into another person’s world. Consider your partner’s perspective, what they need, and how you can fulfill them. Doing this can create a community dynamic in your relationship, where you know that you and your partner are looking out for one another, that you’re not in this alone.

Tip: Try spending a day focusing on filling your partner’s “love tank” by doing what makes them feel most loved without expecting anything in return.

Unrealistic Expectation #3: “You should be my everything.”

In my role as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I’ve noticed this narrative increasing in the couples I’ve seen: a relationship expectation that their partner needs to be their everything.

This unrealistic expectation often leads to someone feeling lonely and hurt when their partner is unable to meet their every need. This mindset also puts an intense pressure on both partners to become something that is often unattainable.

I believe that, much like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to keep a strong partnership. Having more people in your life besides just your partner, and a shared community where both partners’ feel safe and supported by a number of people, helps to lessen the pressure that you both have to be everything.  Having a community creates an environment for your partnership to flourish as you realize that it does not have to be just the two of you against the world.

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community.

Have you had some expectations in a relationship, like the ones I talk about here, that have gotten in your way of having the kind of happy relationship you want? I hope that this article helped shed some light on them, and offered you some tips for how to break free of some unrealistic relationship expectations.

If I can do anything else to support you in creating a great relationship, you know where to find me!

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

The Power of Praise

The Power of Praise

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Catch People Doing Something Right.

Did you know that you have the power to perk people up, appreciate their wonderful, unique selves, and make them feel good about what they’re doing? And… that you have the power to make yourself feel that way about YOU, too?

It’s as simple as noticing what you, and others, are doing right.

Something I’ve learned from years of being a therapist, a life coach, and a couples counselor (as well as a wife, mom, colleague and friend) is this: Noticing, and commenting approvingly on positive behaviors not only makes you and others feel good, it also encourages more of the same.

Too often, people try to create change in others — and themselves — through criticism. They only speak up when something is NOT working. This leads their partners to feel that they “can never do anything right” (which I hear about all the time in marriage counseling) and it leads them to feel badly about themselves, and even doubt their competence and worth (a common topic in the therapy and life coaching room). [For more on this subject, check out “Creating Self Confidence.”]

When people feel bad about themselves, or like they’re always going to disappoint their partners, it’s nearly impossible to muster up the energy and try harder to do better. It feels like it doesn’t matter anyway, so why try?

Have you ever trained a dog? Do you scream at it whenever it does something you disapprove of, and ignore the instances when it behaves beautifully? No! Exactly the opposite is true: When your pup obediently sits / lays down / comes to you on command you lavish it with praise and reward with a treat. “Who’s a good dog? Who’s the best doggie? You are the best doggie!”

In contrast, think about your own internal dialogue when you don’t do something just right: You miss your workout, eat the donut, or make a mistake at work. If you’re like a lot of people, your inner critic berates you, calls you names, brings up all the other times you disappointed, and paints a bleak future. [For more on how to get a handle on your inner critic, check out The Happiness Class].

Now, think about your inner dialogue when you did make it to the gym, ordered the salad (dressing on the side!), and did your work just right………. Crickets. Chirping. Most people glide right by their own awesomeness, and that’s a shame.

Same goes for your partner. It’s so easy to jump all over people, or automatically radiate disapproving energy when others fail to meet our expectations. It’s also very easy to completely miss all the times — which are probably most of the times — that your partner is kind and generous.

You could certainly indulge the, “Why should I compliment them for just doing what they should be doing?” school of thought. But you’re probably reading this article because you want a next-level type of relationship. If that’s the case I invite you to imagine what kind of love-fest might ensue were you to slather on the praise and positivity when your partner is actually being great.

A simpler way to connect with the power of praise is to think about how YOU feel when your efforts are noticed, your specialness is admired by others, and your gifts are celebrated. It’s affirming. It’s validating. It makes you feel like you’re on the right track, and that you should keep doing more of what you’re doing, right?

Here’s one from me to you: I think that it’s fantastic that you’re browsing around online for articles that will help you build yourself up, feel happier, and have better relationships with others. Not everyone does that. Many just complain about their circumstances or blame other people.

But you understand that knowledge is power, and you’re open to new ideas. You are aware that you’re in control of your life, and you have the power to shape the results you get. You get that what you do, matters — and you’re committed to putting in your best effort.

That is a pretty great thing about you. I hope that you remind yourself of that fact as you go about the rest of your day — tossing around positivity and praise like you were the mayor of happy-town.

Much love,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. While you’re at it, try this one with a kid. Comment on something they did well, (like, “Good job listening!” or “I really like it when you look right into my eyes when I’m talking to you!”) and they will not just puff up with pride, but often fall all over themselves to get more of your approval. They’re hungry for it.

P.P.S. Everyone is.

Are Negative Perceptions Harming Your Relationship?

Are Negative Perceptions Harming Your Relationship?

Seth Bender is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

Stop Jumping to Conclusions

As a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and married guy, I know that this happens to anybody who is in a relationship – you get into an argument with your partner, and your mind starts racing with thoughts that seem to automatically pop into your brain. In the therapy world, we often call these thoughts “perceptions.” Perceptions are mental images which are triggered by emotions, which then influence how we act towards our partner.

Negative Perceptions = Negative Reactions

If these perceptions of ourselves and our partners are negative, then they might manifest in behaviors that can be destructive to a relationship, especially if they get repeated. But how does this process happen, and more to the point, how can you help manage and control these perceptions in your own relationship?

What’s Your Inner Dialogue?

To understand what perceptions feel like, imagine the initial thoughts that run through your head when find yourself in a heated argument with your partner. For example, do you assume your partner is always losing control? Do you think nothing you do will ever be good enough? Do you assume your partner is running away or abandoning you emotionally? Do you think you have to fix the situation any way you can?

These are all examples of negative perceptions that can then influence how you then behave and communicate with your partner. If your thoughts are negative in that moment, then you will likely behave accordingly in a way that will push your partner away, not connect them to you.

Our Thoughts Create Our Feelings, Which Lead to Reactions

Another important point to remember is that perceptions serve as the bridge between emotion and responding to that emotion. In other words, perceptions are most often caused by anger or frustration — secondary emotions that are fueled by fear and pain. From there, perceptions seem almost automatic. If perceptions are fueled by negative emotions, then they will often turn into negative behaviors. [For more information on the Thought > Feeling > Action response cycle, check out the “Happy Mind” unit of The Happiness Class.)

When your thoughts about yourself or your partner are negative in the moment, then you may feel emotionally insecure and unsafe, and any negative behavior that arises from that is the body’s natural response to feeling emotionally threatened.

But there’s something very interesting to think about in terms on negative perceptions – they’re most often not true!

Challenge Your Automatic Thoughts

For example, remind yourself that your partner is responding to their own fears and is likely not trying to run away from you, you don’t have to fix every problem in a relationship, and you ARE good enough, even if your negative perceptions feel true in the moment, especially when triggered by anger or hurt. Even though the thoughts are in our head, they feel very real and we respond to them in kind.

Fortunately, there are ways to be able to break the cycle and fight these negative thoughts.

Fight Negative Perceptions With Empathy

The antidote to negative perceptions lies with empathy and empathic communication, meaning being able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to understand why they may be acting the way they are.

Empathy can be built in a number of different ways – listening to and validating your partner, sharing softer, deeper emotions with one another, and understanding that your partner’s behavior may be caused by unmet emotional needs and a lack of emotional safety that might have little to do with you are all examples of empathy — and all ways of breaking negative perceptions proactively and in the moment.

Know that a partner’s reactions may seem irrational to you, but emotion is often not rational, and in those moments, try to take a step back. If you can validate and understand your partner’s true pain, those negative perceptions will become less intense and you’ll be able to access kindness to your partner in the moment. Your positive thoughts will connect you to your partner, not push you away.

Remember, you can feel empathy for yourself too! Perfection is never attainable – you are human and you will make mistakes, as your positive and negative experiences help build how you respond to stress and perceived threats. People respond to negative perceptions in attachment styles that feel safest, and you are no different. You have permission to not be perfect!

You’re Not Alone

All that being said, negative perceptions can become overwhelming. If you’d like support in learning how to manage your thoughts and find more helpful responses in moments of stress, a good therapist or coach can help you access your strengths to work on resolving underlying pain and controlling your thoughts. As those thoughts are connected to what has already happened, then healing and coming to terms with the past may be key in helping you move forward.

The brain controls emotions, but the brain can also play tricks on you! Know that even though negative thoughts in the moment feel real and overwhelming, they are often not true. You have the power to manage and change those thoughts, and to change your relationship to one that you always return to for comfort and safety.

All the best,

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

Do You Have Overly High Expectations For Your Relationship?

Do You Have Overly High Expectations For Your Relationship?

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How to Love The Relationship You Have

Everyone wants their relationship to be the best it can be, and it’s a good thing when both of you are striving to be good partners for each other. Having a great relationship takes two people working to make it so.

And yet, it’s also possible to have too high of expectations for a relationship, and this can cause its own set of problems. One of the things I’ve learned as a marriage counselor, couples therapist and dating coach is that when people have unrealistic ideas about what their relationship “should” be like it can both sabotage new relationships before they get a chance to grow into something great, and it can also sink long-term relationships.

Unrealistic relationship expectations are often rooted in core beliefs about relationships that just aren’t true. Here are some of the most common misperceptions that many people have about what relationships “should” be, and why it can lead to relationship problems when you buy into them.

Relationship Misperception #1: “Chemistry” Is The Most Important Thing

Of course, you deserve to have a relationship where you feel attracted to your partner, you click intellectually, you feel compatible, you have fun together, and there’s a spark between you. However, successful long-term relationships require other things too, including trust, loyalty, commitment, communication, emotional maturity, team work, empathy, and much, much more. We all know this intellectually, but still, many people will overlook these other positive relationship attributes if they’re not feeling the “chemistry” they expect to feel. 

This is unfortunate because feelings of “chemistry” (which is often simply a cocktail of sexual interest plus anxiety) generally has nothing to do with whether or not someone is compatible with you, or of good character, or is going to be a good choice for a long-term partner. As we all know, it’s possible to feel intense chemistry for a person who would make a terrible partner. Yet the belief that one needs to feel “chemistry” or “butterflies” in a good relationship persists… and creates enormous problems in relationships.

Overprioritizing chemistry can lead to people to become emotionally entangled with romantic interests who may not be compatible, reliable, or trustworthy — just exciting. Many people on a quest for chemistry have found themselves terribly hurt when the partners who they felt intense chemistry with wound up not being even remotely close to who they really wanted or needed to have in a healthy, long-term relationship.

For married or committed couples, a nasty consequence of getting stuck on “chemistry” (or lack of) is when people in long-term relationships don’t feel angsty butterflies for each other anymore… and take that to mean something is wrong with their relationship.

The Fix: 

Actively remind yourself of all the positive qualities you want in a partner, above and beyond “the feels.” Especially if you’re dating, when you meet someone who’s kind, considerate, thoughtful, interesting and emotionally mature — but who maybe doesn’t inflame your passions — consider slowing down, and giving them a chance to grow on you. (I’ll have some advice for you committed couples in a moment — keep reading.)

Relationship Misperception #2: Imagining That Other Couples Are Happier Than You Are

Another misperception that can easily damage a relationship believing that you should be feeling happier and more satisfied in your relationship — and that other couples are having that experience. In our image-driven age, it’s very easy to scroll through Instagram and see posts about the peak moments that other couples are having: The vacations, flowers, gifts, and spontaneous declarations of love for each other look so great, don’t they?

No one posts selfies of themselves locked in the bathroom crying after a terrible fight, of their partners drinking too much and playing video-games until the wee hours, or failing to follow through on promises of unloading the dishwasher. [For more on this subject check out,  “Stop Comparing Yourself To Others.“]

It’s therefore easy to imagine that other couples are always happy, in love, and doing interesting things together. Combined with what we’re led to believe good relationships should be through movies and shows, it distorts one’s sense of what the reality of a normal relationship is.

I recently met with a couple who I asked to rate their sense of how healthy and strong their relationship currently was. They both rated it as a “7.” I smiled and said, “that’s great!” They both looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “A seven? Isn’t that bad?” That led to an important conversation about their expectations for how their relationship should feel, as compared to the reality of what a healthy, happy, long-term relationship actually feels like when you’re living in it day-to-day.

What is true about all relationships is that they’re a mixed bag. Yes, a healthy relationship should have its share of positive, enjoyable moments and happy memories. And it’s also true that the day-to-day reality of a long-term relationship or marriage is largely based around the stuff of life: Running errands, schlepping kids around, making dinner, dealing with the stress of work, managing a home, and trying to fit fun into whatever time is left over. No couple is having meaningful, magical moments with each other all day every day. But if it’s pretty good, most of the time, that’s worth celebrating.

It’s also true that inevitably — even in fantastic relationships — there will be things about our partners that will be disappointing. There is conflict in all relationships. There are moments when you needed something and your partner doesn’t respond to you the way you want them to. There may be times when you feel bored, or annoyed. Your partner will fail you sometimes… and you will fail and disappoint them. You’re two imperfect humans, prone to moods, quirks, and your own baggage, both trying to have a relationship with each other. 

But imagining that other couples don’t deal with the same things that you do can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety about your relationship, and that can have a negative impact on your partnership. 

The Fix:

A much better strategy is to turn your attention to all that is right in your relationship. Be generous with your praise, and actively appreciative of all the ways that your partner makes you happy. Recognize that you’re both human, and release the idea that either of you are going to be perfectly perfect all of the time. Also, don’t get tricked into believing that anyone else’s life or relationship is better than yours. Instead, remind yourself that there’s always more to the story than what you see on the surface.

Relationship Misperception # 3: Using Your Feelings As a Barometer Of The Relationship

I cannot tell you how many couples I’ve talked to who have arrived in couples counseling with this one chief complaint: “We don’t feel ‘in love’ anymore.” These are often people in 10+ year marriages who believe that something has gone terribly wrong because they do not the excited, tingly feelings they used to. (See “chemistry” above).  

What many couples don’t understand is that early stage romantic love is a transient experience that usually lasts about a year or two. This is often experienced as a craving to be with your beloved, thinking about them all the time, seeing them in the best possible light, and feeling happy and excited when they are around.

Believe it or not, there is a biological basis for the “crazy about you” feeling. When romantic love does its job, it serves to bring people close enough together for a long enough time for a deeper kind of love known as “attachment” to grow.

Attachment is a more mature, enduring kind of love. It’s a secure, tranquil, peaceful experience that is characterized by a general sense of affection and a good feeling when you’re around each other. But secure attachment also makes it okay to be apart. A securely attached couple can have their own lives, and still be profoundly attached to each other.

The problems occur when people begin neglecting their relationship because they don’t feel the way the used to. Over time they can come to believe that they’ve grown apart, they have nothing in common, and that it’s never going to feel like it used to. Those beliefs can get in the way of couples rekindling the spark in their relationship, and creating pleasure, fun, and enjoyment with each other again.

The Fix:

Wise couples know that feelings of love come and go, and that the intense feelings of romantic love they felt in the first couple of years of their relationship are unique to that time of life. They don’t make the mistake of believing that because they don’t feel the way they did in the early stages of their relationship that something has gone wrong; they view it as evidence of a more mature, enduring type of relationship.

Understanding that allows wise, happy long-term couples to focus on the truth: That true love is not a feeling at all, but a choice. We don’t passively feel love. We act with love. And, paradoxically, our active, intentional acts of love can increase the positive feelings our partners have for us and vice versa.

Putting energy into your relationship, and finding ways of connecting meaningfully with your partner can help you both start enjoying each other again. Being generous and finding ways of actively showing your love are key. Doing new things together helps. Many couples also benefit from strengthening their long-term relationship by constantly finding ways to improve their communication, enhance their partnership, and most importantly, resolving hurt feelings misunderstandings quickly, before they evolve into resentments. That’s why you find the strongest, most successful couples have often had a course or two of couples counseling over the years.

Also, as you both evolve over the years, you might consider introducing yourselves to each other again by sharing your thoughts, your feelings and your world. Remember that over time, you’re not the same person that you used to be — and getting to know the new you can make things feel exciting all over again. [For more on this check out, “How to Feel In Love With Your Partner“]

Misperception # 4: Believing That Your Partner Should Be Your “Everything”

Another thing that can create problems in a relationship is having a belief that your partner should serve perfectly (or close to it) in many relational domains.

For example, we want our partners to be witty, pleasant and entertaining; emotionally mature; reliable and loving parents; good listeners; the best friend who always has our back and who will talk to us for hours; our charismatic, attractive and fun social partners; our enthusiastic traveling companions; motivators and accountability partners; excellent managers of time and money; to enjoy the same hobbies and activities that we do; our number one fan and supporter; always on top of things around the house; good providers and hard workers; perhaps our business partners; oh and intense and erotic lovers too.

No pressure, right?

These expectations can put a major strain on a relationship. When our partners fail to be what we believe they should be in one or more of these domains, as they invariably will, it can lead to perceptions that “something is wrong.” What is often the truth is that our partners will (and should) meet our needs in some, possibly even many, of these areas… but rarely all of them. 

For example, I recently met with a couple who has so many strengths and a great relationship overall. And yet the female partner was unhappy that her husband was introverted in social situations and not more talkative and outgoing. They had many fights about this, and it was damaging to their relationship.

However, our discussion led to a productive conversation about how to shift away from focusing on how they were being “failed” by the other person, and instead, focusing on having love and respect for the person that their partners were instead of who they wanted them to be.

For her, it also led to an important shift away from, “What are you doing for me?” towards, “What does it feel like for you to be with me?” This allowed her to refocus on how she could be loving and supportive of her husband during social situations that were anxiety provoking for him. (Which, paradoxically, enabled him to feel more confident and safe in these situations… which helped him to open up and be more engaging socially!)

The Fix:

Considering that we’re all mere mortals, and it’s unrealistic for any of us to expect that our partner should be all things, a much better alternative is to instead put our energy into appreciating the unique strengths and gifts our partners bring to the relationship. This makes it easier to downplay some of the things that maybe your partner is not as gifted with.

Adopting an attitude of tolerance and acceptance towards them (as opposed to criticism) will help you build the kind of positive, mutually appreciative relationship that you want. It will also help you make emotional deposits that increase the likelihood that your partner will be more accepting of you, too. [For more on this, check out “How to Strengthen Your Relationship.“]

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I hope that you experiment with some of the “fixes” I’ve shared with you in this article. Doing so will allow you to take some of the pressure off yourself and your partner so that you can both get more enjoyment from your relationship.

If you try any of these ideas, let me know how it goes!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
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