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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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How is your marriage or love relationship doing? Take our short 10 question quiz to get a sense of the strength of your bond now. It's complimentary, and there's not obligation.

  1. Simply click on the link, and you'll be re-directed to our couples quiz.
  2. Answer each question (all 10 questions must be answered for the quiz to be valid). 
  3. Once you have finished, you'll receive your total score. 
  4. Your score will be matched to a level that will help you know if you need more help, or if you're doing great in your marriage or love relationship. 

Getting an accurate sense of your relationship or marriage satisfaction can be key in helping address potential problems before they explode. If they already have exploded, you can get a sense of the severity and what to get your relationship back. 

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How Can You Make Your Marriage or Love Last?

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What Does a Lasting Love Look Like? When your marriage or love relationship is in a secure place, you’re able to pause and observe what is happening when you and your partner or spouse are getting stuck, regulating your emotions, and then reflecting on what the conflict between the two of you means for both of you. Once you understand and make sense of the meaning for yourself and your spouse or partner, you can then ask for what you need, and be open to responding to what your partner or spouse needs.

What Does a Distressed Marriage or Couple Look Like? If your marriage or love relationship is distressed, you most likely will have difficulty managing your emotions, understanding the meaning for both of you behind conflicts, and responding effectively with what you both need. In a distressed marriage or love relationship, you’ll likely get stuck in the typical negative patterns of the “Demon Dialogues” described in "Hold Me Tight" by Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy:

  • Attack/Defend
  • Attack/Attack
  • Withdraw/Withdraw

The negative patterns you get stuck in are most likely reactions to the “raw spots” or sensitivities that all of us have in our marriages or love relationships. These sensitivities filter through what is happening in the moment between you and your partner or spouse, using the lens of associations from your past experiences.

What are these Core sensitivities?

 

  • Abandonment
  • Emotional Deprivation
  • Mistrust
  • Defectiveness

When your love relationship or marriage is emotionally secure, you and your partner or spouse may hit areas of sensitivity at times while managing them in a way that can actually be healing. For instance, if you’ve experienced instability in your key relationships, your partner or spouse can work on staying emotionally present with you when your fears arise, helping you to soothe the sense of danger your mind expects from unreliable relationships. As you work to soften your reactions to your partner or spouse, he or she responds in ways that help you know you can rely on him or her, even without being perfect. The expectation in your mind that important people aren't reliable or won't be there for you shifts to knowing from experiencing that your partner or spouse is there for you.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Marriage or Love Relationship? 

  1. Identify the negative pattern that takes over your marriage or love relationship when you feel disconnected or alone
  2. Define the sensitivities you and your partner or spouse have underneath the intense emotions or numbing out that occur
  3. Invite your partner or spouse to "take the elevator down" with you into your deeper emotions (fear, sadness, shame), and help him or her understand your vulnerable side
  4. Identify what you need, based on your emotional state. Ask your partner clearly and directly for your need to be met, most importantly, in an inviting way
  5. Understand your partner or spouse and his or her vulnerabilities, along with the meaning behind what upsets him or her. Invite your partner or spouse to tell you directly what he or she needs

 

Share Your Experience in Your Marriage or Love Relationship

Have you had times when you've realized you've been caught in a negative pattern with your partner or spouse? Do you know what lied underneath the conflict for you and for him or her? Have you found a way to successfully navigate conflicts in your marriage or love relationship? Share your experiences, and help others learn more. 

Need a Marriage or Couples Counselor or Therapist in NYC?

The Loving at Your Best plan for marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC helps couples learn to reconnect and to thrive. Even if your relationship has been stuck in a very negative place for a long time, there can still be significant hope that you and your spouse or partner can get your relationship back. If you'd like more information, contact our office today at 212-725-7774, or schedule an appointment directly online: www.LovingatYourBest.Genbo ok.com

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