Loving at Your Best

What Are Your Relationship Deal Breakers?

Did your man or woman pass your love test?

Did your man or woman pass your love test?

When you met your partner or spouse, did he or she pass your "deal breakers" test? If you are like many couples, the chemistry that drew you to your partner may have been nature's way of cementing the bond between you, and many of the items on your "deal breakers" list may have been tossed to the side. Perhaps the next question may be, how much do "deal breakers" matter down the road, and if the person you fell in love with passed your test without any deal breakers on your list appearing, are you more likely to stay together over the long haul, happily?

Elizabeth Bernstein writes in the November 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal that partners in love relationships focus more on the negative qualities of a partner than positive attributes when considering a deepening of commitment. The potential for risk can outweigh the potential for rewards. Studies published in October of this year show that women have more deal breakers than men, perhaps related to evolutionary factors influencing the survival of raising a child. Participants in the study with higher self-esteems were much more choosy than those with lower self-esteems, having more items on their deal breaker list.

Both men and women in the studies scored a potential mate being "unclean" as a deal breaker, followed by "lazy" and "too needy." Women ranked a partner not having a "sense of humor" as a breaker, perhaps because humor is associated with higher intelligence (men did not score this as a high factor). For men, "low sex drive" and "talking too much" were higher deal breakers (women rated "bad sex" as a breaker). For a long-term mate, the top deal breakers were "anger issues," "dating multiple partners," and "untrustworthy." Shorter-term relationship deal breakers topped off with "health issues--like STDs," "smells bad," and "poor hygiene."

Were you too picky? Or not picky enough?

Were you too picky? Or not picky enough?

Was your list overly picky, or not picky enough? The studies show patterns in mate selection, but may have a more difficult time reading in-between the lines to explain the patterns. My observations as a marriage and couples therapist in New York using the Loving at Your Best plan are that partners usually have high sexual chemistry when they meet, and emotional chemistry builds over time. Initial deal breakers that stop the possibility of a relationship from forming are usually apparent from the start: desire for children, religious or political affiliations, smoking habits, financial and social status, and pet preferences, to name a few filters.

However, the factors that matters the most related to long-term happiness in a marriage or love relationship doesn't include any of the qualities mentioned so far on the "deal breaker" list. The key element for a couple's happiness boils down to two words: emotional responsiveness. This may seem simple, but a lot goes into whether a mate can turn to his or her partner and share even the most vulnerable parts of him or herself, and trust that his or her partner will respond in a way that can help him or her feel better. I have seen many couples where one partner started couples therapy determined not to have a child. After some hard work in the relationship, the couple is able to frame the real block as a matter of trust: can I trust you to still be there for me, that I won't get lost in your eyes if we bring a child into this world together? Usually key relationship experiences in this person's background give them every reason to be wary of having children, and once those reasons are understood and validated, an opening can occur to help the couple identify what is needed to take a leap together.

What are key questions we ask in love relationships?

What are key questions we ask in love relationships?

Reading between the lines of the long-term relationship deal breakers, they all involve key questions we all ask in love relationships: can I count on you to be there for me when I really need you? Can I trust that I am in your mind, that you would not purposefully hurt me? The top deal breaker in the studies of "anger issues" usually is related to how a partner manages his or her emotions in the love relationship, and how the other partner responds to him or her. What some on the outside see as purely an "anger management" issue usually reflects more on a disconnection occurring between the partners that leads to protests in the form of anger: what does it take to get through to him or her? This is a breakdown in the couple's connection. "Dating multiple partners" and "untrustworthiness" are probably related to the same issue of mistrust. A lot of factors influence infidelity, though for most caught in its painful web, a couple has experienced a series of disappointments or even emotional betrayals, and a partner chooses to cope with the hurt by seeking validation or support outside the primary relationship. Certainly there are times when this is not the case, such as a partner who comes into the relationship with a sexual addiction, or a person who is challenged by limits and feels entitled to act however he or she chooses to, though these are the rare cases that I have seen.

What initially drew you to your partner can develop into an allergic reaction

What initially drew you to your partner can develop into an allergic reaction

Couples also often identify that the qualities that initially drew them to their mate can become the things that drive wedges between the two in a marriage or love relationship. For instance, Jan claims that Chris's calm demeanor was very attractive, instilling a sense of safety that felt like a reprieve from Jan's childhood growing up with an alcoholic parent. However, as time and experiences showed, this "calmness' that Chris showed became a way to dismiss emotions, and brought out anger and resentment in Jan. The root problem was how the couple connected, not an inherent flaw in Chris. Fortunately, the couple was able to identify the problem, and make strides so that Jan could feel that Chris was safe to go to when feeling vulnerable, and Chris could feel confident to know how to respond in a way that helped Jan feel better. 

The studies also show the notion of a couple magically being sexually connected. We have all seen this in Hollywood movies, and plenty of couples have not recovered from sexual challenges that involve deep emotional themes. Satisfying sex in a marriage or love relationship over time requires the safety to communicate wants, needs, desires, and fears. When the safety is lacking, one or both partners start to withdraw, avoiding sex and intimacy, or becomes overly demanding, which ends up pushing the other partner away. Sex and intimacy that is satisfying and fulfilling in a love relationship requires a safe connection between both partners.

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Does Your History Matter?

help-my-marriage-nyc

What lessons did you learn from your family about emotions? Your caregivers communicated a belief about emotions, whether you realized it or not, that probably affects you today in your marriage or love relationship. How has this emotional philosophy affected you when you've experienced key moments of vulnerability in your life?

How your family and caregivers dealt with emotions can have a significant impact on how you connect with other people in your life today. Your awareness of what you're feeling, your ability to express your emotions, and how you reach out to others for connection all are influenced by your earlier experiences. At the same time, your awareness of what your partner or spouse is feeling, and how you respond to his or her needs are equally influenced by your earlier experiences.

Why Does Your Emotional History Matter So Much?

One of the strongest contributors to how you'll connect with your partner or spouse is your emotional experience, and this helps shape your ability to connect in your closest relationships, unless you're able to realize how the past may be interfering with your present situation. We all respond to situations in different ways, and one of the strongest influences on how we react is our family history. 

Why Not Just Forget About Your Past? If you work on understanding it, won't you just get stuck in it?

Why Not Just Forget About Your Past? If you work on understanding it, won't you just get stuck in it?

Exploring your family history isn't always easy. Why not just forget about the past? In reality, our brain never forgets our experiences, and when those situations haven't been put together in a way that helps us make sense of our lives, we're open to being subjected to the past overwhelming us and being imprisoned by our past instead of responding in the present with a reaction that best fits the now.

For example, when you meet someone for the first time, he or she may remind your of someone significant in your life, like a sibling, a past lover, or a past friend. These associations can have positive or negative assumptions to them that may not fit the actual person in front of you now, yet you may immediately start to treat him or her like the person your brain is associating him or her with. We can see how this could lead to some bad scenarios.

You can work to become more aware of these associations in your life, when you're having an "outsized" reaction to someone or something that doesn't seem to fit what is in front of you. Journal writing is one key way that can help you determine the difference between the past and now. Writing a description of how you are experiencing the person or the situation can often give you insight into what may be reminding you of the past situation, and even more importantly, what is different about then and now.

We use many tools at the Loving at Your Best Plan to help couples work detangle past experiences without becoming mired in or overwhelmed by the past. You can contact one of our therapists and meet with him or her to help uncover what may be holding you back from getting the love that you really need and deserve in your life.

Share Your Experiences

Have an experience when a past event shaped your response to the present? Share your experiences to help others relate to them. If you liked this article, feel free to forward it to a friend or loved one.

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Is a Ghost from the Past Haunting Your Marriage or Love Relationship?

Ghosts from the past can be unwelcome intruders in your marriage or love relationship

Ghosts from the past can be unwelcome intruders in your marriage or love relationship

Are you or your partner or spouse experiencing symptoms in your marriage or love relationship that could be related to a history of trauma? A common dialogue between a couple where one partner has a history of trauma might go like this:

Chris: Don't you dare come up from behind me and grab me like that again! I can't stand that, and you did it anyway.

Pat: What? Are you serious? I just came up and gave you a love squeeze. Why are you freaking out so much? You're impossible. I don't want to be with someone who is so cold and frigid. Ice queen... that is who you are.

Trauma is like a ghost from the past, an unwelcome intruder that many times can be strongly affecting a relationship without either partner seeing it. With a keen awareness, you'll notice these ghots come up through specific symptoms that may include a partner or spouse re-living the past trauma without knowing the partner is going through a trance into the past, numbing and detaching after being exposed to the thing that reminds him or her of the trauma, avoiding situations that are somehow linked to the trauma (a common source of sexual problems in a marriage or love relationship), being hypervigilant around the cue of the trauma, and experiencing irritability when something is connecting with the trauma.

When a trauma survivor is able to turn to his or her partner or spouse and ask to be held and comforted during a flashback, rather that to detach or hurt himself or herself, a new trust and sense of hope can emerge for the survivor.

Traumas involving key caregivers are "violations of human connection" (Herman, 1992). More than anyone else, your partner or spouse has the ability to help you heal from past relationship traumas. A partner or spouse can have the most effective healing power over past traumas for the person who has experienced past relationship betrayals and abuse. Partners or spouses can become healers.

If you are in a safe and secure marriage or love relationship, your immune system is more likely to be functioning well, and your ability to cope during stressful life events is significantly increased. In a distressed marriage or love relationship, both partners in the couple likely experience more depression and anxiety symptoms. The sense of community usually decreases in a distressed relationship, so your body needs the help of your partner or spouse even more.

In a secure connection, you are able to face your fears and maintain a strength that helps you cope, regardless of the stress. If you feel isolated and alienated from the larger world, you are much more vulnerable to outside dangers.

When you or your partner or spouse have been subjected to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, your health may be impacted in each of those areas. Re-experiencing physical sensations can be effectively treated through exposure therapy, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Relationship symptoms do not respond in the same way to CBT, but are much more likely to respond to relationship therapy when a partner or spouse can serve as a source of comfort and safety. It is a partner or spouse that lies next to the survivor of trauma in the middle of the night, a time when anxiety is often peaking, as memories are being processed in the mind. If a partner or spouse doesn't know how to respond in key moments when threat is perceived, he or she may become part of the problem instead of offering key elements of healing.

At the Loving at Your Best Plan, the therapist works to address the symptoms of the trauma, and much more. A focus is to help create a safe and secure emotional bond between the couple in the marriage or love relationship, a connection that promotes safety and calms danger and threat. A history of trauma intensifies the need for a safe connection, and trust is the basis for a secure relationship.

Relationships where one or both partners have trauma in their histories are more likely to have intense negative patterns of interacting with each other, and without an effective intervention, these patterns can kill the relationship. Therapists at the Loving at Your Best Plan integrate top-rated interventions for couples with difficult and challenging histories, especially trauma. These therapies include schema therapy, emotionally focused therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Do you or the person that you love have a history that includes trauma on an emotional, physical, or sexual level? If so, have you found ways to effectively navigate the symptoms in your marriage or love relationship in NYC? Share your thoughts.

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Source: Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors: Strengthening Attachment Bonds by Sue Johnson, PhD.

 

The Loving at Your Best Plan: It's How You Love That Counts

The Loving at Your Best Plan: It's How You Love That Counts

What are the 4 S's of a Healthy Marriage or Love Relationship?

How Can Your Marriage or Love Relationship in NYC Improve?

Daniel Siegel's new book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, is for more than just teenagers. In fact, understanding how the brain, the mind, and relationships interact can help everyone improve their marriage and love relationship. 

Watch this broadcast the Daniel Siegel presented recently underlying the key concepts that Brainstorm outlines. Daniel Siegel is the creator of the practice of mindsight, the ability to see inside yourself, empathy for others, and the ability to integrate the two with compassion and kindness, honoring the other's vulnerability.

The teenage brain has a lot in common with the adult brain, and dramatic differences. How can a book about teenagers help adults in their marriage or love relationship?

The teenage brain has a lot in common with the adult brain, and dramatic differences. How can a book about teenagers help adults in their marriage or love relationship?

To have a healthy relationship, you need the 4 S's of Attachment: To be Seen, to be Safe, to be Soothed, and to be Secure. The most important factor in your ability to have a healthy marriage or love relationship and also to be a healthy parent, is how you have made sense of what has happened in your life, not the actual events that you've experienced. How do you understand your story? If you've made sense of your experiences in a compassionate and loving way, you can then give the closest people in your life what they need. Can you be present with what happens in your every day life? If you've made sense of your story, you're much more likely to be able to stay in the present rather than getting carried off into the prison of your past.

 

 

 

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For more information, contact us at the Loving at Your Best Plan at (212)725-7774 or email: lovingatyourbest@gmail.com We offer marriage and couples counseling, individual therapy, and group therapy in Midtown Manhattan.

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Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies: Released Today!

We are excited to announce the publication today, July 29, 2013 of "Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies" by Brent Bradley and James Furrow, a nice supplement to "Hold Me Tight," the book by the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, Sue Johnson. You can purchase your copy in paperback now by clicking on the book below (directing you to the Barnes and Noble website), on Amazon.com, or your favorite local bookstore. (It is not yet available for download on Kindle or iBooks) 

Overview from Barnes and Noble Description of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies:

You may purchase Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookstore.

You may purchase Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookstore.

A practical, down-to-earth guide to using the world's most successful approach to couples therapy

One of the most successful therapeutic approaches to healing dysfunctional relationships, emotionally focused couples therapy provides clients with powerful insights into how and why they may be suppressing their emotions and teaches them practical ways to deal with those feelings more constructively for improved relationships. Unlike cognitive-behavioural therapy, which provides effective short-term coping skills, emotionally focused therapy often is prescribed as a second-stage treatment for couples with lingering emotional difficulties. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy For Dummies introduces readers to this ground-breaking therapy, offering simple, proven strategies and tools for dealing with problems with bonding, attachment and emotions, the universal cornerstones of healthy relationships.

  • An indispensable resource for readers who would like to manage their relationship problems independently through home study
  • Delivers powerful techniques for dealing with unpleasant emotions, rather than repressing them and for responding constructively to complex relationship issues
  • The perfect introduction to EFT basics for therapists considering expanding their practices to include emotionally focused therapy methods
  • Packed with fascinating and instructive case studies and examples of EFT in action, from the authors' case files
  • Provides valuable guidance on finding, selecting and working with the right EFT certified therapist

From the Back Cover of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Dummies on Amazon.com

Learn to:

  • Grasp the basics of emotionally focused therapy (EFT)
  • Work more effectively with the emotions essential to lasting love
  • Mend complex issues in your relationship

A down-to-earth guide to one of the world's leading approaches to couple therapy!

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) helps you find deeper satisfaction and more effective ways to connect with your partner at a profound emotional level by teaching you powerful ways to transform negative patterns and to build a stronger bond. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies will introduce you to this ground-breaking therapy, which has been consistently proven to be one of the most successful therapies for couples wanting to improve their relationships and resolve chronic couple distress and dissatisfaction. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies is your one-stop resource to this increasingly popular approach to healing relationships.

  • Start with the basics of EFT — understand the power of emotion in your relationship, and identify the three levels of emotional experience
  • Delve into the intricacies of your relationship — find the common patterns of couple conflict and the roles you play within them
  • Develop a solution together — become familiar with how to find intimacy in your relationship in new ways
  • Identify when you may need couple therapy — know which questions to ask therapists before you make an appointment

Open the book and find:

  • The fundamentals of emotionally focused couple therapy
  • Exercises to try at home with your partner
  • Ways to stay away from negative patterns and roles
  • The three fighting styles, and how to work through them
  • Tips on dealing with infidelity
  • How to find an EFT therapist that's right for you
  • Ten myths about sex

About the Author

Brent Bradley, PhD, is Associate Professor of Family Therapy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and president of The Couple Zone (www.couplezone.org). Dr. Bradley is a certified emotionally focused couple therapist, supervisor, and trainer. James Furrow, PhD, is Professor of Marital and Family Therapy at the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. Dr. Furrow is executive director of the Los Angeles Center for EFT and a certified emotionally focused couple therapist, supervisor, and trainer.

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