People and Relationship Issues
People Who Can’t Discuss Emotions
Problem: This inability to communicate forces the other spouse to become a mind reader. It puts additional burdens on the relationship.
Exception: The reticent partners always make clear their anger. Should anything go wrong, they sound off.
Tell the silent partner the kind of emotional response you expect. It’s not easy. Example: When you need comforting, say so. Problem: Usually, this type of personality is not geared to comprehending another person’s needs.
Try to understand what makes your partner act this way. Usually, it’s the manner in which a person is raised that determines attitudes involving emotion.
Example: People with parents who were hypochondriacs may not be comforting to loved ones who are sick. They think sickness is only an act to gain attention.
Partners often slip into traditional roles to avoid commitment. Women may play protected little girls. Men may act out the role of stoical providers who feel no need to give of themselves. Best: Work on changing yourself to accommodate the silent partner. This may spur the other to match your efforts.
Consolation: The silent partner has plenty to offer besides an inability to divulge feelings. Focus on mutual understanding to play up the healthy, positive elements of your union.
Mixed Messages: Destroying A Relationship
The mixed message is a dangerously effective way to “drive crazy” those you most cherish and regard. The technique: saying ‘yes’ and then acting in a way that clearly signals ‘no.’
Examples: A husband agrees that his wife needs more help, but then he “forgets” to do his weekend chores. A parent agrees to spend more time with a child, but is always too busy with other things when the youngster’s appointed hour arrives.
The mixed message is not mean-spirited behavior. It begins when we say what we think the other person wants to hear to avoid hurt feelings or conflict. Underlying cause: A reluctance to express what we feel, think, or expect, fearing that honest communication may damage the relationship. Result: A vicious cycle. Crazy-making messages bring on similar responses, tension increases, and trust is destroyed. Sexual compatibility can seriously deteriorate in intimate relationships. It is ironic that mixed messages arise most often in relationships we genuinely value.
Solution. Don’t worry about psychoanalyzing the other person. Eliminate mixed messages by understanding your own feelings.
Also, watch out for these mixed-message syndromes:
Your wish is my wish. This is a false accommodation intended to ingratiate or to avoid conflict. It makes the other person feel guilty or obligated to you.
To love me is to know me. It’s a false assumption that those nearest to us can divine our true wants and feelings. This syndrome is symptomatic of dependent people who dread rejection.
I know what you’re thinking. This is based on an utterly false notion that one can read an intimate’s mind. It enables the ostensible mind reader to project his own thoughts and wants on the other, then blame the partner for not being satisfied.
Family Ties And Holiday Blues
All the needs that haven’t been met, all the goals that haven’t been fulfilled, even the sheer loneliness in their lives, can be ignored for the rest of the year. But not during holidays. On holidays, when merriment is in the air and families are together, the focus on lack of fulfillment is glaring.
Particularly emotion-laden holidays: For some people, Valentine’s Day, their birthdays, even Saturday nights. Christmas and New Year’s affect more people (of all religions) because so much is made of these holidays that they become impossible to ignore. Expectations of family warmth, intimacy, happiness, and appreciation run high.
Most emotionally evocative aspect of the season: Christmas music and aromas, which can bring back strong childhood memories of family intimacy or lack of it.
People most prone to holiday blues are those who:
Have unsatisfactory relationships with their families.
Live alone and are lonely.
Have had negative experiences of the holidays as children. These experiences may cause negative holiday expectations now. These may turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Other holiday traps that affect people negatively: Viewing New Year’s Eve as an omen. People who feel unsuccessful or depressed often regard the end of one year simply as a sign of the bad year to come. New Year’s Day is a punctuation of the year. Sad or depressed individuals use it to criticize themselves for unmet goals. To people threatened by the idea of aging, the passing of another year can be upsetting.
Holiday behavior that’s emotionally costly:
Overdoing gift-giving, party-giving, and similar forms of holiday generosity. Holidays such as Christmas provide the perfect opportunity for people who tend to use up their energies to please others. They give more parties than they can afford, invite more people than they can handle, exhaust themselves shopping for gifts and, generally, put themselves out. The secret hope: To be paid back in love and appreciation from others. All-too-common result: They set themselves up for disappointments.
Uncontrolled holiday highs: Going out every night, seeing more people than usual without the customary rest breaks, drinking more than usual, and getting a lot of stimulation. It all feels good at the time. But the inevitable end to the high feeling is depression. That’s especially true for people who need this kind of busyness to obscure or deny their basic dissatisfaction with some aspect of their lives.
A side effect of holiday highs: After all the over-stimulation, people find they need to withdraw. Problem: Insecure or depression-prone people may see their friends’ healthy need for withdrawal as abandonment. Clincher: Credit-card bills start coming in, adding more weight to these feelings of futility.
How to avert holiday blues:
Plan your expenses to meet your budget.
Redesign your thinking about the holidays Decide now what you want to get out of them. Examine how much you are doing that you don’t want to do. Are holiday invitations being accepted out of duty? Determine whether friends you are spending time with are the people you really want to see.
Determine the most energy-depleting obligations tied in to the holidays and avoid them. Example: It’s possible to give up the burden of sending out hundreds of Christmas cards. Instead of allowing them to pile up at Christmas, try keeping in touch with friends (but only those you want to maintain contact with) over the year.
Plan some new activity for the holidays in advance of the season. Go away to an appropriate resort (one that is sophisticated, relaxing, or scenic, depending on your mood) instead of spending your usual Christmas with Mother.
Monitor feelings closely during the holiday season. Turn down invitations from people you really don’t particularly enjoy.
Bottom line: The holiday blues can be useful to you. Use them for exploring any dissatisfactions in your life and for clarifying what you want that you’re not getting or what you’re getting that you don’t want. Then, with these insights, organize your life more positively.
Five principles by which to pattern your life.
Ten good qualities about yourself. Post them so that you don’t forget them.
Ten things about yourself that disappoint you. Single out those you can change and work on them. Forget the rest.
Five long-range goals you want to realize. Then enumerate the immediate steps necessary to attain each.
High anxiety can precipitate jealous attacks. Three ways to reduce stress:
1. Relax in a way that’s been successful for you in the past. Possibilities: Exercise, meditation, a bath.
2. Imagine the situation that is about to occur. Foresee the possibilities for jealousy. Conjure up positive resolutions.
3. Recall your past achievements. Restore your self-esteem by reminding yourself, “I’m fine the way I am.”
Jealous fits between mates can be controlled through reassurance and emotional support. You and your partner must share confidences
Bottom line: By and large, a trace of jealousy can perk up a relationship. It keeps both partners alert to the desirable qualities in the other.
The betrayed partner perceives infidelity not just as a transgression against sexual loyalty, but as a deep emotional betrayal. Result: What’s under attack, and often destroyed, when infidelity is discovered is one of the cornerstones of a marriage, the trust that the other partner can be relied on.
Who is likely to be chronically unfaithful:
Narcissists, both men and women. Those who have to supply themselves continually with objects and proofs of their own value and strength. Their problem: A disorder in the regulation of their self-esteem. This makes necessary continual nurturing of their self-image from outside sources.
Men who have a need to split women into two groups: Wives, who are pure, and mistresses, who are prostitutes. Their problem: Wives are closely identified in such men’s minds with their own mothers; whereas, women outside the home can be regarded as sex objects. Trap: Only sex outside the marriage seems to work. Wives are revered and loved, but can’t be experienced as real sexual partners.
Least likely to be vulnerable to affairs:
Homebodies. People most comfortable in the bosom of the family and a home setting.
Having an affair or two isn’t necessarily indicative of a psychological problem. What it is a sign of: Yearning for some fulfillment that is not being provided by the marriage itself or by the partner.
Aspects of infidelity that most affect a marriage:
Desire to have an extramarital affair and acting on that desire.
Communicating the infidelity to one’s spouse.
Of the two, communicating is far more damaging to the marriage. It’s usually the ultimate in hostility to one’s spouse, however rational the reasons may seem for telling, or however accidentally the evidence was left around.
Even if you are planning a divorce, it’s wiser not to reveal that the reason is another person. If up to that point you haven’t told, don’t add unnecessarily to the pain of breakup and divorce by telling. Preferable: Make the reason for seeking divorce general incompatibility. Advantage: Lessening of pain all around, particularly for children of the marriage.
When infidelity is discovered:
Avoid giving the spouse details, however much they may be demanded or however rational, objective, or just curious the jilted one may feel about the rival. And don’t rationalize that it’s better to tell everything. The less said, the better, about details of the other relationship, the rival’s personality, work, age, talents, problems, and feelings. The more the betrayed partner knows about the affair, the greater the pain and rejection.
See a counselor or therapist together with the spouse, at least initially. It enables an airing of some of the grievances that may have led to infidelity in the first place in a controlled and objective setting.
Project an attitude of acceptance about the distrust and questioning you, will face at home, possibly for an indefinite time to come. Be matter-of-fact when confronting regular queries like: Where were you tonight?
If there are children, reassure them that they are still loved. Reason: Children are primarily self-centered. They view the news that one of their parents has been unfaithful as a withdrawal of love from themselves, rather than from the betrayed parent. Handling older children (adolescent and up): Be calm and honest in discussing the matter. But don’t go into details. Ask for their understanding. Caution: Don’t expect it. All children tend to sympathize deeply with the betrayed parent, particularly if it is their mother.
Marital Stress On Vacations
The problem arises because vacationing couples tend to spend more time in closer proximity than is normal. Another aggravating factor: Constantly changing surroundings lead to frequent, unintentional violations of the other person’s space. How to deal with it: (1) Plan shorter trips. (2) Include other couples. (3) Don’t spend a lot of time in cramped areas like cars, boats, campers, or hotel rooms.