Marital therapists commonly speak of “relationship dances” when exploring the repetitive patterns of interaction that couples fall into, patterns that greatly limit their capacity to problem-solve. Some of the more common “dance steps” include the following:
While couples frequently complain that their partners aren’t sensitive to their needs, I have observed many dissatisfied individuals presenting as OVER-sensitive to the other’s needs and feelings. Wanting to avoid hurting or “devastating” the other, they avoid confrontation altogether. In the most sensitive of areas – the sexual realm – couples will live together for decades, so enmeshed in one another’s feelings and in their need to maintain emotional stability, that what needs to be said is never said. And so, naturally, nothing changes.
When all is said and done, we earn our teenagers’ trust by showing them we trust them, by being respectful, and by sharing power. Adolescents (and all children for that matter) who feel their parents are really interested in their world, feelings and experiences, are more likely to be open to learning from them.
According to Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, authors of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (2010), and a psychologist and practicing psychiatrist, respectively, men and women aren’t meant to be in lifelong monogamous unions. In their attempt to explain the high divorce rates in the western world, they argue that monogamy is in direct confrontation with the evolved reality of our species.
Montreal psychotherapist Rhonda Rabow discusses what is reasonable to expect from a healthy relationship and what is asking too much. What behaviors, she asks, are red lights to be paid attention to before a long-term commitment is made, and what behaviors are part of the workings of real relationships and can be forgiven?
Many of us, possibly most of us, find it challenging not to react immediately to various triggers without anger, irritation, or defensiveness. Rather than take the time to contemplate and reflect, we react much like Pavlov’s conditioned dogs. And thus we go through life, repeating the same script over and over, with little awareness that we have the choice to respond differently.
A poem that has always touched me, and to which I return often, is David Whyte‘s Self-Portrait. To me it speaks of the longing to live life courageously and passionately, and in a meaningful and connected way. I was not surprised (but I was pleased!) when I learned he had read this poem to a crowd of 3000 therapists at a recent Psychotherapy Networker conference (2010).
Harri Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister (1937-2011) who helped shepherd talks that led to the historic 1998 peace agreement in Northern Ireland, died this week in Helsinki. In a speech in 2008, Mr. Holkeri cited several reasons he and his colleagues were able to guide the long-divided parties to a deal. I wondered, as I read the NYTimes obituary, whether these might be helpful in navigating our own everyday disagreements and conflicts.