Sunday, July 12, 2009

Love or Commitment - Which is More Important?



As a marriage counselor, you would think that I would use the word love frequently in my work. “Do you love him? Is there still love in your heart? Can your love return?” I tend to avoid using this word. A recent blog post (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/200803/loving-two-people-the-same-time) highlights why this is so. This blogger asked the question, can you love two people at the same time. Examples were given where the individuals having an affair found themselves feeling love for their lover and their spouse.

Love is a word that is associated with feelings. While you can have positive feelings toward more than one individual, it is difficult to be fully committed to more than one partner. The deception that is part and parcel of an affair undermines a commitment to a relationship. One cannot be fully committed to their partner while lying to their partner. Openness and honesty are important elements of a committed relationship. Betrayed spouses often express more hurt over the dishonesty than the sexual infidelity.

While love is an important feeling, there are many other factors that attract you to be close to your partner. Respect and admiration for your partner’s role in parenting, business, and the community contribute to your attraction to your mate. In fact, one’s commitment to the marriage continues when feelings of anger temporarily push aside loving feelings.

While it's interesting to speculate whether one can love two or more individuals at once, it is more important to focus on identifying the elements of commitment in marriage. That is why buy my initial blog posting focused on the core elements of commitment in marriage. Go back, read that posting (http://marriagemattersblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/mission-of-this-blog.html) and determine whether you could have such a commitment to more than one person at a time. I think that you will find that you cannot.












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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Defending Yourself or the Relationship

argumentImage by Robert in Toronto via Flickr


One of the biggest barriers to communication is the need to defend one's self to one’s partner. It is important to feel accepted for who you are, but acceptance does not mean that your partner sees you as perfect. It is unrealistic to expect your partner to only see your good qualities and to ignore undesirable qualities.

Instead of defending yourselves, try listening to your partner’s feedback. Listening does not imply agreeing with your partner’s viewpoint, only attending to your partner's viewpoint and feelings. The best you can do by defending yourself is to say, "I'm a good fellow/gal." On the other hand, listening provides you with the opportunity of growing closer to your partner. You can defend yourself or your relationship. I'm sure you know a divorced couple who are each quick to defend themselves despite their marriage's failure.

After you have listened to your partner’s point of view, then he or she will be better able to listen to your point of view. You will determine that being right or wrong is not the issue. Instead, you will find you have different viewpoints that each need to be respected.

You may find this to be more difficult because every criticism feels like an attack on your personal worth. Ask yourself whether your sensitivity indicates low self-esteem. Low self-esteem suggests that you are responding to messages you received in the past, probably from your parents. Children who are frequently criticized can end up being defensive spouses who create distance from their partner by constantly defending themselves. Individual or couples therapy can help you to address these deeper issues.




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