Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Five Reasons to Stop Avoiding Tough Issues

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In my work as a marriage counselor, I find that I work harder to encourage couples to approach issues than I do to subdue arguments.

Are you avoiding a tough conversation? Do you tell yourself that you don’t want to rock the boat? Does it feel scary to approach the issue? Yet, you find the issue keeps eating at you. It is as though there is a battle going on inside where one side wants to get it out on the table and the other side says, “Run away (from the issue).”

Let me make a case for approaching those tough issues. Here are five reasons you should address the issue:

1. The tension of avoiding the issue will undermine your happiness. While addressing the issue will create tension, you will be happier in the long run by getting the issue out in the open.

2. The relationship will be better if you address the issue. Relationships don’t improve by avoiding tension; they only improve if issues are addressed, then dealt with in a way that is satisfying to both partners.

3. Your value will increase if you address the issue. By forcing your partner to address issues important to you, you are saying, “My views, feelings, and desires are important. I expect you to address them and be willing to compromise your views, feelings, and desires in order for the relationship to be mutually satisfying.”

4. You cannot get what you want in the relationship unless you learn to negotiate with your partner. It may seem as though you are behaving in a loving manner by being passive, but you are actually being a poor negotiator for what you want. Your partner will not see you as loving, but as giving (and ultimately as weak). Making expectations increases the “cost” of being with you, but also increases your value. Value increases as we pay more!

5. Ask a couple whom have been married for many years and are close what has been the major factors in building closeness and they won’t tell you about their enjoyable vacations or the bigger home they purchased. Instead, they will tell you about the tough times they survived by pulling together. If you do not address issues, then you are not providing the opportunity to draw closer to your partner. The goal is not to avoid tension, but to build an increasingly intimate relationship with your partner.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“I’m no longer attracted to you – you’re too fat”

 

MP900443614I’ve been thinking about guys that say they aren’t  attracted to their partners because their partner’s appearance has changed for the worse. I have always been uncomfortable with such a message, but why? Doesn’t such a statement reflect on the fact that men are more visual than women? Don’t women participate when they spend much time and energy on appearance?

I think such a statement makes me uncomfortable because it is the opposite of what I expect someone in a committed relationship to say. A committed partner should be motivated by caring. A caring partner wouldn’t simply not make such a statement because it would hurt their partner’s feelings although that also works for me.

Instead, I expect appearance to be something that fades in importance as a couples bond grows. When a partner focuses on appearance, then I suspect that there really is not much of a bond and caring has always been limited – even before the change in appearance happened.

So if your partner complains about your appearance, ask yourself whether he or she is concerned about your health, your pride in your appearance, or is the message really, “We’ve lost a connection we once had.” If it is the latter, then respond, “I’m wondering how you feel about our relationship in general?” rather than going on the defensive about your appearance. You may find that working on your connection improves your appearance – at least to your partner.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Loss of Sexual Desire in Marriage

j0444014How many times have you heard men complain that the  frequency and enthusiasm their partner exhibited for sex changed with marriage. Then, the women counter with how romance has drained from the relationship since marriage. If each is true, then the question is why would the relationship change simply by getting married.

You might reason that romance and sex would improve with the security and commitment that comes with marriage vows, that is if sex before marriage and after meant the same thing. The fact is that sex before marriage is part of a message that says, “I desire you, I want to spend time with you, and most importantly, I want a future with you.” Both men and women respond strongly to such a message.

After marriage, the message of sex changes. In one study, 35% of women and just 13% of men cited love and emotional intimacy as goals of sexual desire. Seventy percent of the men and 43% of the women said that sex was the goal of sexual desire. Research has clearly demonstrated that men think about sex more, pursue sex more, place more importance on sex, and masturbate more.

The general availability of sex and the routine that forms in the sexual relationship (and in the relationship in general) after marriage apparently leads to a decline in sexual desire for the woman more than it does for the man. When the woman’s desire declines this is typically more detrimental to the relationship than if the man’s desire recedes.

I have often heard married women suggest that sex has become unimportant to them, except as a means of pleasing their husband. Yet, when they become involved in an affair, their sexual desire is rekindled. Why is this? Women having an affair seem to respond to the novelty of being pursued by a man who finds them interesting, attractive and sexually desirable.

Marriage may undermine the woman’s sexual desire if she comes to feel she is nurturing her husband rather than attracting his desire. Husbands must show their wives that they desire them, find them attractive in many ways and that they are interested in creating an improved relationship in the future. The most common complaint I hear is for that the woman (or man for that matter) to say she feels taken for granted. This suggests that she does not feel valued.

Fortunately, sexual desire can be rekindled if each partner accepts responsibility for improving the relationship…not just the sexual relationship.