The 2nd Biggest Relationship Myth – DEBUNKED

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 9.41.21 PM.jpg

Q

My boyfriend says that he's confused because sometimes he wants me and only me but then his mood changes and he wants other people. He says he loves me and I know I love him. We've broken up before but it's like we're lost without each other. Can you help?

A

 Of course I can help.  Whether you’ll like my help once you hear it is another question.

People think that the hardest part of a relationship is finding a person to be in a relationship with.

Specifically, the right person.

I don’t think there are right and wrong partners (outside of abusive partners).

Just partners who:

a)     Haven’t done the work to determine whether or not their values are compatible, and/or, partners who:

b)     Haven’t learned the relationship skills needed to figure out the answer to “a.”

 People think that the only thing needed for a successful relationship is LOVE.

Your situation underscores exactly how naive that belief is.

Here’s the deal: Most people want to be with other people at some point during a committed relationship.

God knows I find other people attractive. And I just asked my wife, Steph, if she finds other women attractive, to which she responded, “Yes. Is that OK?”

Of course it’s OK. I’d find it weird (or more likely, bullshit) if she told me she never finds other people attractive. The thing that makes You, Steph, and me different from your boyfriend is that we’re not going to act on that attraction – because we’ve decided that being in a monogamous, committed relationship is more important than any momentary attraction that we might feel for another person.

The bottom line is that your boyfriend isn’t in the same place you’re in.

He doesn’t value the relationship over his desire to be with other people.

And you see his desire to be with other people as a conflict of interest.

So, one of you needs to consider adjusting your values. Otherwise, the relationship is over. 

Either he decides to prioritize a monogamous relationship over his desire to be with other people (as honorable adults do when they’re in a committed monogamous relationship), or (get ready for it)…

You decide that you value your boyfriend over your desire to be in a committed monogamous relationship – and have an open relationship.

The choice is yours.

Gender and Orientation: Female, Straight

 
 

 

 

 

 

You Attract What You Try to Avoid in Relationships

mag.png

Amy is one of my favorite clients. I’ve changed her name of course.

She’s been dating her girlfriend for 2 years. Her primary complaint today is the same one she had in the first 3 months of her relationship:

Her girlfriend tries to avoid any discussions that involve potential conflict.

So basically, Amy’s girlfriend never wants to discuss anything serious – because just requesting a conversation makes The Girlfriend worry that the conversation will lead to a fight, otherwise, why would Amy want to talk about it?

Amy, who is the first to admit that her emotional needs would place her in a high maintenance category, feels forever silenced by the girlfriend.

The irony is that Amy is anything but silenced. She feels silenced, muted, unheard – particularly since she rarely gets to express her complaint du jour – but what she manages to convey (ad nauseam) is her frustration over her girlfriend’s avoidance of having discussions. 

This is the conversation she has almost daily:

AMY  “What do you expect me to do when I want to talk about something and it’s never the right time?”

THE GIRLFRIEND “We can make an appointment to talk about it another time.”

AMY “Every time we schedule an appointment, you cancel or tell me it’s not a good time!”

The paradox is that The Girlfriend gets exactly what she wants to avoid most: Conflict.

I used to wish I was conflict avoidant. Those couples always seem so content; their unexpressed gripes so well controlled, politely pasted into plastic smiles which most people mistake for happiness.

I never had that kind of self-control.

I come from fighters. A whole family of people who pride themselves on being real and honest and a go fuck yourself if you don’t like it mentality.

I didn’t think there was a problem with the way my family resolved conflict. By the time I left the nest and entered my first marriage, the only family problem I could see was that my mother had married a rageful guy who terrorized us all.  He’s been gone since I was a teenager, so between that, the fact that he and I weren’t biologically related (so I couldn’t have inherited his craziness), and everyone’s confirmation that my husband was as gentle as they come, I figured I dodged a bullet and wouldn’t have a repeat of my childhood in my new home.

The thing is, if you don’t heal it, you marry it. Or recreate it.

I’m too subjective to decide if my ex came to me with some wires crossed or if my fighting style could provoke a priest into madness. But the guy I married started to look a lot like the one my mother married.  

The thing is, I was a therapist.

A good one.

With a Ph.D.

How the hell could this have happened to me?

Because it turns out, you attract the very thing you want to avoid in life. Particularly in relationships.

Just like Amy’s girlfriend, I unconsciously recreated my worst fears in that relationship.

Then, hoping to 'pick better,’ I threw myself into dating rather than therapy.  I figured the problem was him.

Until it was her.

OK. This isn’t my memoir, or even a teaser thereof.

This is a cautionary tale.

The solution to your relationship problems isn’t outside of you.  It isn’t your ex, or your partner, or your life circumstances.

It’s you.

The good news is, you have complete control over how your story ends.

Just like I did.

Will you throw yourself into your own work like I did?

The Secret To My Perfect Relationship

Almost every day I find myself sitting across from a client who’s struggling with relationship envy, only the relationship that they’re envious of doesn’t really exist. It’s a curated version of a relationship (or, relationships) that they see on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re popular on social media, it’s because you follow certain unspoken rules:

You Post About: 

Milestones: weddings, losses, engagements, celebrations and accomplishments.

Announcements: politics, current events, tragedies, the juiciest news.

Happy things: vacation pics, things that will make others laugh, your adorable children, your even more adorable animals.    

You Don’t Post About:

Uncertainty: “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pay my rent this month.”   

The mundane: “It’s 10:13 pm. ET on Monday and I’m writing this week’s blog post.”

Misery. Recall that I said, ‘If you’re popular, you don’t post about these things.’ Exactly: rants about one’s ungrateful or poorly behaved children, gruesome images, dramatic cries for attention, expressions of your own rage.  

Nonetheless, most people I know (clients + friends) actually believe the carefully produced life stories they see on social media. Particularly when it comes to other people’s relationships.

The tendency to believe what you see provokes a cycle of social comparison, where you compare the reality of your life (read: the unposted version) to the posted versions of others. Round and round you go scouting other people’s lives to see how yours measures up. It would be bad enough if it were a fair comparison. But the fact is, your friend’s social media feeds are a complete distortion of reality.   

Take mine, for example:

It’s not that I intend to mislead you when you follow me on social media. I want to entertain you. And I did even before I had a TV show. I learned quickly that the posts which garner dozens or hundreds of 👍’s are the ones that follow the rules.

Here’s what I don’t post about my relationship:

Steph and I fight. We go through periods of time when we almost never argue, and other periods when I feel like I can’t say or do a fucking thing right. When we’re in a peak, I’m certain we’re going to stay there forever. I fly high for weeks at a time. And I probably get a little lazy. And then I’m shocked when I find myself in another valley. And I have to be very deliberate in the way I talk to myself during those times so that I don’t overgeneralize the moment that we’re in – begin to view it as a chapter instead of a page in my marriage. I remind myself that just a few weeks ago I couldn’t keep my hands off her. Which brings me to…

Our sex life has highs and lows. Here’s something I’ve noticed (and will absolutely forget in the next hour): When I’m more conscious of showing up in my relationship the way Steph needs me to show up, when I’m careful with the tone I use with her, when I communicate that I love her in ways that resonate with her (as opposed to communicating in the ways I’d like her to express her love for me), things miraculously improve in the bedroom.

Equally predictable: When I’m in the throes of a professionally creative phase (which can look a little like a manic phase or an obsessive phase, in which I’m neglectful of her), we start to feel like business partners. Exclusively. Which sucks.

Steph’s moody. I mean really moody. She and I secretly refer to her as MMF, which stands for Moody Mother Fucker. It took me a long time to realize that these moments aren’t about me, that she doesn’t want me to try and fix her mood, and that if I just breathe through it and allow her to be who she is, her mood passes.

Nothing is ever good enough for me. I see the world through a lens that searches for imperfection. I’m so trained to fix problems that my wife can’t open her mouth without me offering up unsolicited advice. And it’s much worse than that: Every household object that’s out of place, the microscopic toothpaste splatter on the bathroom mirror, the lightbulb that’s burnt out in our sconce – all becomes impossible for me to ignore (yes I know they have medication for this but believe it or not I don’t quite meet criteria).

My relationship doesn’t involve perfection at all. Just two imperfect beings who are somehow able to tolerate each other’s imperfections. And in making a life-long commitment to each other, we’ve made the decision to call those imperfections a marriage.