A frequent challenge among many couples arises when one is feeling very low, in a depressed or negative state that inevitably affects the other partner. The “feeling low” partner may feel a great need to share his/her intense emotions or to have them recognized and validated. The other partner may be worn down by the negativity; unable to identify (and commiserate) with the other’s intense emotions; or possibly resentful of what feels like unfair blame and criticism.
Zoe Heller’s thought-provoking article “How Everyone Got So Lonely” (New Yorker 4.4.22) takes a look at loneliness and the recent decline in sexual activity. The latter part of Heller’s article, from which this blog piece has been excerpted and edited, focuses on robots as a (possibly?) satisfying solution for growing loneliness among people of all ages.
It is a powerful statement about the degree to which we underestimate both the epidemic of loneliness and the challenges of relationship.
NYTImes opinion columnist David Brooks writes about the art of connecting, even in time of dislocation. His list of “non-obvious lessons for how to have better conversation, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself,” are applicable to non-Covid times as well.
In her recent NYTimes article (What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?, 11.18.20), journalist Jessica Bennett introduces us to Professor Loretta Ross, who is combating “cancel culture” with a popular class at Smith College.
Ross, an activist of more than 40 years, helped organized a delegation of women of color at the March for Women’s Lives in 1989.
Celeste Headlee, who has worked as an NPR and Public Radio host for decades, knows the ingredients of a great conversation: honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. Author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter (2017), Headlee notes that most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, but rather to reply — a dynamic that is clearly evident in many dysfunctional relationships.
This period of coming to terms with viruses and transmitted diseases might be a good time to give some thought to whether we are protecting our sexual health, and whether we are doing our utmost to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Once we are all out of quarantine and sequestration, it would be wise to follow these guidelines coming from STDTesting.org.
A thought I want to share as the holidays approach: Your child owes no one a hug.
Insisting a child kiss or hug a relative or family friend Hello or Goodbye when s/he does want to, invalidates your child’s feelings by suggesting that external pressures (and Aunty’s feelings) are more important than his/hers. And it teaches them that consent can be manipulated, by cajoling or worse.
So many of the struggles of the couples I work with revolve around one or the other’s need to always be right, to hold on tight to ideas, beliefs or perceptions as if their lives depend upon it.
While possibly protecting us from our own self-doubt and uncertainty, this need to always be right “calcifies” our ability to listen well, to be flexible and open-minded, and makes us a lot less fun to be around to boot…. And by regularly dismissing our partner’s ideas and feelings, we are also inadvertently poisoning our relationship.