1. CAN A BIG AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE HURT THE RELATIONSHIP?
I'm in love with a great guy who happens to be twenty two years older than me--I'm thirty-one and he's fifty three. He's been married and divorced, and has children not much younger than I am. My family thinks I'm making a big mistake, and have come right out and told me that they don't approve of the relationship. Am I being naive to think our age differences don't matter?
Yes, youíre naive if you think your age differences donít matter. They do, but so do all the other differences in your circumstances and personalities. So ignoring this issue, or any issue, wonít work. The more you insist that there arenít any problems, the more you are probably suppressing your concerns for fear that they will sabotage the relationship. Both you and your partner need to honestly and directly face and discuss all the various problems that have or could emerge around your age difference.
Significant age differences between partners can cause serious problems in relationships. The word "significant" is important here: If your partner is four or five years older or younger, it wonít make much of a difference. however, if your partner is ten or more years older or younger than you, it can cause difficulties depending on your ages and other aspects of your personalities. Iíve found that age differences mean less as both partners get older. For instance, a fifteen-year age difference between a thirty-five year old man and a twenty-year old woman will probably create more potential hazards than that age span in a sixty-five year old man and a fifty-year old woman. The age difference will affect the first couple more, since their maturity and experience levels are usually much more dissimilar than the second coupleís.
Here are the most common issues couples face when there is an age difference:
IF YOUíRE THE OLDER PARTNER:
1. You can become impatient with your mate.
If you are significantly older than your mate, you may lose patience with his level of immaturity, lack of life experience, and learning process. This will be especially true if your mate is between twenty and thirty years of age. After all, you've already gone through a lot of what she's dealing with; you've realized it's not the end of the world when you go through a crisis, because it always works out in the end; you've made mistakes and figured out how to do things the right way. So it's not easy watching your younger partner stumble through these same life experiences.
2. You have a tendency to act like a parent to your mate.
When you have ten, twenty or thirty more years of life experience than your partner has, you will find it next to impossible not to offer advice, correct, and direct him or her. After all , you've been through this before--you know the best way to do it. Of course your intentions are loving; you're only trying to help. But the effect can be very destructive to your relationship. YOU BEGIN ACTING LIKE A PARENT AND TREATING YOUR PARTNER LIKE A CHILD. Naturally, your mate feels as if you don't trust her, you don't respect her, and responds just like a rebellious teenager would--she becomes resentful and pulls away. And this parent-child game will quickly destroy the passion in your sex life, since your relationship starts taking on incestuous overtones.
3. You may be much more financially successful than your partner.
Most older partners have more financial stability, and therefore, more power in the relationship. You've had many more years to build up your income, purchase property and possessions, etc. This financial superiority can create tension between you and your partner in numerous ways--you may feel resentful about being the one who provides more, especially if you are a woman; you may feel like you should make the important decisions (what to spend, where to live, what kind of vacation to take) because it's your money, and your partner might not feel this is fair. You may have difficulty lowering your standards of living to accommodate your mate's.
4. You may be tempted to control your partner because you hold more of the power in the relationship.
All of the warning signs above add up to this one--it's easy when you are much older than your partner to get into a power trip and become controlling . You have more money, success, experience and therefore it's tempting to "pull rank" on your mate.
5. You may be tempted to compromise or sacrifice your interests, friends and activities in order to appear more compatible with your partner.
If your mate is much younger, you may give up interests he or she doesn't appreciate and take on habits that make you appear younger.
If you're involved with a much younger person, here are some questions to ask yourself:
"Do I respect my partner?"
"Am I proud of my partner?"
"Do I trust my partner?"
"What am I learning from my partner?"
IF YOU'RE THE YOUNGER PARTNER:
1. You may put your partner on a pedestal and give up your power.
If your mate is much older than you are, he or she is probably more successful, experienced and financially secure. This may influence you into unconsciously feeling your partner is "better" than you are, and tempt you to idealize him rather than see him for who he really is. When you allow yourself to feel less than because of your mate's chronological advantage, you give up your power. You take his advice rather than trusting your own; you blindly believe his criticisms of you rather than questioning whether or not he's correct; you invalidate your own needs and feelings out of deference to your partner. You tell yourself:
"He's the one who's paying for it, so we'll do it his way."
"I'm sure he knows what he's doing. After all, look how successful he is."
"He knows much more about these things than I do because he's older.
Even if your partner doesn't want to play this role with you, you may be tempted to fall into this pattern simply because of the age difference. And if your partner happens to enjoy his role as the older, wiser one, or actually uses it to control you, watch out--your relationship won't be very healthy.
2. You may set your partner up to be like a parent.
Another consequence of being the less experienced, less worldly one in a relationship is that you may be tempted to re-create a parent/child dynamic with your partner. If you are always asking his advice, counting on him to help you, depending on him for money, using his connections to your advantage, allowing him to make decisions for you, you are, in essence, behaving like a child and giving him the authority to be your father (or if you're the younger man, your mother.) This prevents you from truly growing up, and opens the door for all kinds of Emotional Programming to run itself out.
Even when your partner doesn't control you, you may feel controlled and intimidated just by virtue of the fact that he or she is that much older. You may react by becoming rebellious, withdrawn or difficult. Perhaps this is the relationship you had with your own parents, or you may be acting out the anger you never had the courage to express to them when you were growing up.
3. You may be tempted to compromise or sacrifice your interests, friends and activities in order to appear more compatible with your partner.
If you are involved with a much older person, here are some questions to ask yourself:
"Does my partner respect me?"
"Does my partner treat me as an equal?"
"Do I feel like an equal with my partner?"
In your case, there are two other issues you and your boyfriend must discuss: First, whether or not you want children and expect him to start a second family; and how you both plan to deal with your perspective families (your parents, his children).
So thatís what to watch out for. Now, the good news--A relationship between two people of very different ages can work if both partners avoid falling into the patterns we've just talked about by being aware of them, communicating about their feelings, and making agreements that help create an equal and respectful relationship. The more you have in common and the more committed you are to working on the relationship, the better your chances for survival.
2. WHY AM I ONLY ATTRACTED TO THE WRONG, "BAD BOY" TYPE OF MAN, AND FEEL NO SEXUAL CHEMISTRY WITH THE "NICE GUYS"? ?
For years I have had a series of very painful, dramatic relationships with men who don't give me what I need or treat me the way I deserve to be treated. Some cheated, others were very critical or simply emotionally distant. Finally, I met a really nice guy who is crazy about me. He's everything I ever wanted--respectful, considerate, and really sweet. But there's one big thing missing: I don't feel the sexual chemistry with him that I used to feel with my ex-boyfriends. Lately I've been feeling I should break up with him, because I miss that passion and excitement. Help!!
Youíve come to the right place for help--not only is this one of the questions Iím asked the most, but I used to suffer from this same pattern and wonder what was wrong with me. Why did men who didnít love me the way I wanted to be loved appeal to me so much? Why did I get "bored" in calm, peaceful relationships? Why did the phrase "nice guy" turn off every sexual impulse in my body? It took me years to understand and finally break this unhealthy love habit, but I did it, so I know you can do it too.
O.K., hereís whatís happening. Youíve obviously already figured out that itís no accident that you happen to attract (or be attracted to) men who, in some way, make you feel unloved, and youíre right....thereís a reason it feels "right" when youíre with a man who withholds his love, and a reason it feels "wrong" when a man gives you all the love youíve ever wanted. This reason has nothing to do with what your conscious mind tells you about those unloving partners:
"You know he is wrong for you. Heís just going to hurt you like the last one. Run in the other direction as fast as you can!!" You may know this is true, but something makes that kind of man so appealing, and that something has to do with your unconscious mind and what I call the "Going Home Syndrome".
I came up with the phrase "Going Home Syndrome" to describe how our emotional programming can cause us to seek out emotional situations that are similar to those we experienced in childhood, regardless of whether those experiences were positive or negative. As human beings, we gravitate towards the familiar. Iíll bet you like to sleep on the same side of the bed each night, park in the same space at work, to and go back to your favorite vacation spot. Returning to the familiar is a basic instinct that gives our lives a sense of continuity and safety in a very chaotic and changing universe. Unfortunately, this instinct can work against us when it comes to relationships, in that we may tend to unconsciously seek out emotional situations that are familiar to us.
Hereís how it works: When you a young child , your home was the main source of love and safety in your life. Even if there was violence or chaos in your household, it was still "home"--it was where you were fed and had a place to sleep and received some sort of attention. So you associate LOVE with HOME. You also associate HOME with other characteristics, based on your experiences at home. For instance, if your parents fought a lot, you might have an equation in your mind that says HOME = CHAOS. If you weren't shown much love or affection your equation might be HOME = LONELINESS. If one of your parents was abusive, it might be HOME = FEAR.
Remember your basic math from school, where you learned:
If A = B, and B=C, then A =C
Let's use this same principle to illustrate "Going Home":
If LOVE = HOME, and HOME = CHAOS, then LOVE= CHAOS
If LOVE = HOME, and HOME = LONELINESS, then LOVE= LONELINESS
If LOVE = HOME, and HOME = FEAR, then LOVE = FEAR.
Your mind will equate whatever associations you have about "home" with what love is supposed to feel like. So if home felt like chaos, you might seek unstable partners who will help you create dramatic, chaotic relationships. If home felt like loneliness, you might seek a partner who doesn't give you enough love, affection or attention, so that you end up feeling lonely. If home felt like fear, you might attract someone who always criticizes you, or threatens to leave, or makes you jealous, so that you always feel fearful. You unconsciously choose what is familiar--YOU ARE GOING HOME.
Obviously, we all have positive associations with home as well, which we also seek to reproduce in our adult life. I've found, however, that it is the more painful associations that can cause the most trouble, because they are usually unconscious. In other words, if you came from a home where your parents showed you a lot of affection, but criticized one another, you might consciously seek a partner who was very loving, but unconsciously attract someone who was critical.
In your case, your previous partners were probably all "home" to you, probably because when you grew up, you either watched your Mom or Dad be mistreated and abandoned by the other parent, or you felt unloved by one of your parents. So for you, it feels comfortable to be uncomfortable with a man! And this explains your present dilemma. You have love, and therefore passion and sexual attraction ,associated in your brain with a sense of danger and pain. Of course you donít "feel" attracted to him--he makes you feel too good!!
As I mentioned, I had a very similar pattern for years of my adult life. When I finally met my husband, Jeffrey, I didnít even realize I was in love for months, because it didnít "feel right." I was used to drama, intensity, fear of criticism and loss, insecurity--all signs of an unhealthy relationship. For the first time, I had developed an emotional connection with a man based on friendship, trust, openness, safety, consistency and true caring, and I hadnít even recognized it because it felt too peaceful to be love!!
It took a little while for me to discover the healthy passion and excitement with Jeffrey, and to literally reinvent my experience of love, but when I finally did, I felt more attracted to him than I had felt to any other man in my life!! So my advice to you is: Donít break up with this wonderful man. Heís the best thing that ever happened to you. Instead, do some work to explore and heal your emotional programming: LEAVE BEHIND THE PATTERN, NOT THE PERSON!!
3. WHY DO I KEEP CHOOSING UNAVAILABLE PARTNERS?
I have a pattern in my relationships that I can't seem to break. I fall in love with people who will not or cannot make a commitment to me. They are either involved with someone else, still recovering from a bad relationship, afraid of commitment, or don't love me enough to want to get really serious. What's wrong with me? Why do I keep choosing people who can't love me?
This is one of the most painful and self-destructive patterns, isnít it? At least youíre aware that you are making the choices, and arenít blaming your partners for betraying you. And remember--nothing is wrong with you that isnít wrong with anyone else. We each have areas of our life where we are the most challenged, and carry emotional baggage from our past.
More specifically, you may be prone to choosing unavailable partners if:
- You felt abandoned by a parent as a child: You repeat this pattern as an adult by finding partners who can't be there for you either.
- You have low self-esteem: If you came from a very dysfunctional home which left you with little self-esteem because you were always criticized or ignored or abused, you may feel you don't deserve to have a mate all to yourself, so you'll take whatever you can get.
- You're afraid of intimacy: Being in a relationship with a partner who is unavailable is a great way to avoid true intimacy. If you were sexually or physically abused as a child and had your boundaries violated, or made a decision when you were young that you would never let anyone get close enough to hurt you again, you may find it "convenient" to choose partners with whom you can never have a truly committed relationship as an unconscious method of protecting yourself from pain.
The first requirement you should have for a partner is that he is available. For those of us who like to pretend we don't know what available means, here's a definition:
Available: Free to be in a relationship with you; not involved with anyone else; not married; not engaged; not going steady; not sleeping with another person; alone; single; all yours.
The following are not definitions of available:
With someone, but promises to leave soon
With someone, but he doesn't really love her
With someone, but they're not having sex anymore
With someone, but says he's just staying for the kids
With someone, but she knows about you and it's all right
With someone, and isn't leaving, but wants you to stick around anyway
Just left someone, but might be going back
In other words, STAY AWAY FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE MARRIED, IN OTHER RELATIONSHIPS , OR TELL YOU THEY ARENíT INTERESTED IN MAKING A COMMITMENT.!!!
Until you are emotionally free of the pattern, you might try a Relationship Fast for a while--no dating, no intimate relationships of any kind. This will allow you to become strong in yourself, to spend time healing your old emptiness, and become clear about the kind of partner you need in your life.
4. IS THERE SUCH A THING AS BEING TOO "PICKY" WHEN CHOOSING PARTNERS?
I'm single, in my thirties, and having a hard time finding the right person to spend my life with. All of my friends accuse me of being too picky, and warn me that I'll never find anyone if I don't compromise more. I'm afraid if I'm less careful, I'll end up settling for someone who isn't right for me. What's the answer?
Hereís what "Ďtoo picky" means: You meet a potential mate who has all of the qualities youíve been looking for....except you love tennis and he doesnít, so you disqualify him immediately; or you get to know someone who seems to be just what youíve always wanted....except she could lose about ten pounds, so you end the relationship. See what I mean? A person is too picky when he finds small things about a potential partner that probably wonít affect the core of the relationship, and uses those missing items as excuses to avoid intimacy and cover up his fear of not being enough himself--"Iíll reject you before you have a chance to reject me." So perhaps this describes you, and if it does, take a look at the fear the underlies your hypercritical attitude.
I have a sense, however, that in your case, you are simply being choosy, not picky. You are holding out for the kind of person you truly want to spend the rest of your life with, one with whom you are highly compatible in all the important areas of your life. I talk about ten areas of compatibility that you should look for in a mate:
1. Physical Style: appearance, personal fitness and eating habits, etc.
2. Emotional Style: attitude towards relationships and affection, ability to express feelings
3. Social Style: personality traits, how he interacts with others
4. Intellectual Style: educational background, attitude towards learning, creative expressions, cultural experience
5. Sexual Style: sexual experience and skill, ability to enjoy sex, attitude
6. Communication Style: how he communicates, attitude towards communication
7. Professional/Financial Style: relationship with money, attitude towards success, work and organizational habits
8. Personal Growth Style: attitude towards self-improvement, willingness to work on relationship, ability to be change self
9. Spiritual Style: attitude towards Higher Power, spiritual practices philosophy of life, moral views
10. Hobbies and interests
You donít have to have total compatibility in all these areas, but in the ones that are most important to you, you should have very strong compatibility. (For an extensive discussion of compatibility and how to determine it, pick up my book "Are You The One For Me?")
The truth is, I wish more people were as "choosy" as you. There would be fewer divorces and dysfunctional relationships. So donít let yourself be pressured by your family or friends to compromise what you know in your heart is important. And donít give in to the artificially manufactured social time-clock that says you "must" be married before a certain age. Remember, your soul mate is waiting for you out there. He (or she) doesnít want you to give up looking before you find him. "Hang in there!" heís whispering. And when you find him, I know it will have been worth the wait, and you wonít care how long it took.
5. WHY DO I ALWAYS FALL IN LOVE WITH PEOPLE WHO NEED RESCUING?
Iím presently dating a woman whoís basically a mess. She has major financial and emotional problems, and I spend a lot of my time playing "Daddy", trying to help her. I canít believe Iím in this kind of relationship again--itís the third time in a row Iíve gotten involved with "victim type" women. Why am I doing this, and how do I stop?
Why are you doing this? Because you like rescuing women. You like feeling strong, important superior...you like being in control. Rescueholics are drawn to wounded, fragile, unloved partners like flies to honey. These relationships suck you in, and once youíre in, boy is it hard to get out!! The good news is that youíve finally recognized the pattern, and sound desperate enough to change it.
Remember--in all co-dependent relationships, the rescuer needs the victim as much as the victim needs the rescuer. If you are an " emotional Robin Hood", always finding partners in need of your help, you may in fact be completing unfinished business from childhood, acting out your little boyís unfulfilled need to fix or rescue Mom, Dad, or another family member. Or maybe youíre attempting to rescue yourself as you felt when you were small. The problem is that like all rescuers, you are mistaking sympathy for love.
You already know from experience that this sort of relationship is doomed. You end up acting like a parent, tiptoeing around your partner in order to not upset her, and making excuses for her behavior. Ultimately, your resentment grows and although you want to leave, you feel trapped, too guilty to leave and hurt this poor wounded person you wanted to heal even more. When you do inevitably leave, you feel like youíre abandoning your lover, and beat yourself up for "failing". Sounds like lots of fun....
You asked me how you could stop. My answer: Just stop. End this relationship before it gets any worse; encourage your girlfriend to get help dealing with her need to be rescued, and take some time to look at your own issues and needs that have addicted you to this kind of unhealthy love pattern. Make a list of all the qualities you want in a woman; make a second list of all the warning signs that someone is a potential "victim" type mate. Read these lists constantly. Put copies everywhere. When you go out on a date with a new woman, read the lists before, during and after the date if you have to. This will help you resist the temptation to get involved with another rescue job again while youíre healing on the inside.
6. WHAT SIGNS SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN THE BEGINNING OF A RELATIONSHIP TO MAKE SURE I DONíT END UP WITH SOMEONE WHOíS BAD FOR ME?
I recently ended a really unhealthy relationship that took me years to get out of. I want to start dating again, but Iím so scared that Iíll pick another person who will hurt me, and will end up going through the same cycle all over again. How can I tell when I first meet someone if he will be bad for me or not?
Iím so glad you asked! In working with thousands of men and women over the years, Iíve learned that so much of the hurt, heartache and disappointment we experience in love could be avoided if we just paid more attention at the beginning of the relationship. You need to ask lots of questions, look for the warning signs of potential problems, and stay focused on what youíre looking for in a partner and what you are trying to avoid.
As you already know, there are people out there who have what I call "fatal flaws", characteristics that can cause severe problems in a relationship. None of us is perfect, and itís obvious that we each have flaws or imperfections that affect our love life. However, some of these characteristics are much more dangerous and destructive than others, and those are the "fatal flaw" you need to watch for in a potential partner. Here they are:
As Iíve already mentioned, relationships with people who have an addiction (drugs, alcohol, pills, gambling, etc.) are guaranteed to hurt you. Look for signs that there may be problems in this area, and donít minimize what you suspect may be an issue in order to have a relationship with this person, no matter how lonely you are.
Living with an angry person is like living with a time bomb: You never know when itís going to go off. Anger is a terrorist--it holds the people it comes in contact with hostage. Spotting someone who has potential problems with anger is one of the easier Fatal Flaws to detect. No one turns into a rageaholic overnight. Youíll see warning signs: he gets angry when little things donít go his way; he has little patience, and becomes easily annoyed; he has extreme mood swings; he is defensive; he raises his voice often. If you spot these signs, get out before you become the object of his pent- up rage.
3. Victim Consciousness
Itís often difficult to spot a victim because none of us really mind hearing out partner complain to us about his or her past relationships. But if your partner has a habit of blaming others for his circumstances and not taking responsibility for his part in problems, watch out: You will be the next person whose fault everything is. Victims see life as an adversarial situation--"itís the world against me. They ask "Why is this happening to ME?", instead of "Why is this happening and how can I change it?" If you find yourself feeling sorry for a potential mate and getting sucked into his complaints about his life, relationships, health, etc., itís time to leave.
4. Control Freak
A control freak is the opposite of a victim--someone who must make all decisions himself, avoids asking for help, and needs to be in control of his life, and eventually, yours. Donít mistake this Fatal Flaw for the qualities of self-esteem and confidence. Ask yourself if your potential mateís tendency to "take charge" of everything, which may make you temporarily feel taken care of, is really how you want to live. Control freaks will try to talk you out of leaving them, so donít do too much explaining!
5. Sexual Dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction doesnít mean problems only with sexual performance, such as impotence, or inability to have an orgasm. It can also mean sexual obsession, or lack of sexual integrity. This Fatal Flaw is much more difficult to spot at first since (hopefully) youíre not having sex on the first few dates, but it can be deadly once you encounter it. Youíre going to need to have some frank discussion in order to discover whether or not your partner is addicted to fantasy, pornography, compulsive sexual behaviors, throws his sexual energy all over the place, has an aversion to sex due to molestation, rape or childhood abuse. I know this sounds uncomfortable, but believe me, itís better than finding out about this Fatal Flaw in the middle of a relationship. Some sexual problems arenít necessarily fatal, but they will be if your partner wonít deal with them.
6. Your Partner hasnít grown up
Watch out for the charming, childlike person who makes you feel you want to take care of him or her--they may not have grown up enough to have a healthy relationship. Look for signs of financial irresponsibility, someone who is unmotivated, undependable, and avoids taking life seriously. Unless you want to feel like parent, find someone else.
7.Your Partner is Emotionally Unavailable
I could write an entire book on this Fatal Flaw. All you need to know is: STAY AWAY FROM PARTNERS WHO ARE EMOTIONALLY SHUT DOWN! There are so many people in the world eager to love. Why choose someone who has a hard time opening up and spend your time trying to pry open that personís heart? Some people just arenít ready to have a relationship because they are too emotionally blocked. They will have a difficult time talking about or showing emotions, and will resist opening up and trusting. Find out through frank conversation how comfortable your potential mate is with loving, observe his behavior ,and as the relationship progresses, make sure heís capable of giving you what you want before you decide to commit.
8. Your Partner Hasnít Recovered From Past Relationship(s)
We all carry emotional baggage from our past relationships into each new one. But sometimes that baggage can be so overwhelming that itís fatal to your love affair. Watch out for someone who still carries tremendous anger and resentment toward his previous mate, someone who feels guilty and responsible for his previous mate or someone who is still traumatized from being hurt or abused in his past relationships. It may be this person hasnít healed enough to be ready to love again. Rescuers beware! You will find these kinds of mates very attractive.
9. Emotional Damage from Childhood
All of us have some emotional issues originating in our childhood. But some people have emotional damage that is so severe, they will have a difficult time having a healthy relationship. This is especially the case when a potential mate isnít aware of the emotional damage and isnít working on himself to repair it. If you meet someone with one of the following issues, that doesnít necessarily mean it will be a Fatal Flaw. It does mean you should be cautious, talk openly about your concerns, and assess how well your partner is dealing with the past or present problems. Here are some of the more dramatic childhood issues that may be warning signs, and should be dealt with:
- Sexual abuse and sexual trauma
- Physical or verbal abuse
- Parental abandonment: divorce, death, adoption, suicide, emotional distance
- Eating disorders
- Parental addiction to alcohol, drugs, etc.
- Religious fanaticism
7. CAN LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS WORK?
Last year I met a wonderful man at a friend's wedding, and we've been having a relationship ever since. The problem is that we live in two different parts of the country, two thousand miles away from each other. Does our relationship have a chance? How can we keep it working when we are so far apart?
Of course your relationship has a chance, but since it is a long distance romance, you have to be aware of the possible problems and do what you can to avoid them. The very same factors that make a long-distance relationship so exciting also make it hazardous. Itís easy for you to think the relationship is much better than it is because you donít spend consistent quality time together.
Your goal becomes trying to see one another again, rather than to really take a close look at the relationship.
There are three major problems in long-distance relationships:
1. You donít get to see what your partner is really like.
You know that if you have three days to spend with your lover, you are going to be on your best behavior and so is he. Itís easy to hide the difficult parts of your personality for seventy two hours, and leave feeling wonderful. But you never really get to know one another, because you donít see your mate under pressure, in a crisis, when he is ill, when he is frightened. All of these situations reveal a lot about someoneís character, an essential part of determining compatibility. You need consistent time to discover these dimensions of a person.
2. You avoid dealing with problem areas.
Let's imagine that you haven't seen your long distance lover in two months, and he's flown in to spend the weekend with you. Over dinner that night, he says something that annoys you. Now you have to make a decision: Do you confront him on what is upsetting you, and risk ruining your weekend, or do you forget about it? Most people choose to avoid the confrontation, fearful that by the time they get through the argument and hurt feelings, half of the weekend will already be over. The problem with this habit is that you and your partner never learn to problem solve together, or advance the relationship to deeper levels of communication and harmony. The unresolved issues and the unexpressed resentments just sit there like Emotional Time Bombs, waiting to explode. It may look like you have a great relationship on the surface, but you haven't allowed it to move through the transition stage every healthy love affair must experience.
3. You have an unrealistic view of your compatibility.
Long distance lovers often don't even know how little they have in common because they are too busy entertaining themselves. If you only have three days with your partner, you will treat it like a mini-vacation--you'll spend all your time together; you'll go out to restaurants, movies, shows, etc, you'll have lot's of sex, and you'll avoid friends and family. This gives you a very unrealistic picture of your relationship. You may actually enjoy the excitement of the fun weekend more than you enjoy your partner and not even know it. Many couples find themselves extremely disappointed when they finally move to the same city or decide to live together. "It doesn't feel like it used to, " they often complain. Of course it doesn't. It's not a twenty-four hour a day party anymore. It's a real full time relationship, and if you and your partner aren't truly compatible, you'll find out real fast.
For a long distance romance to evolve into a healthy, lasting relationship, both partners will eventually have to live in the same place. That's the only way you can truly know if you are compatible, and develop the level of intimacy you need to sustain your love. But while you're still apart, the most successful long distance affairs are those in which the couple treats the relationship like it is a full time romance. So:
- Donít try to make every moment together special, but do normal things together
- Donít try to hide difficult parts of your personalities, but be yourselves
- Donít don't edit how you feel, but allow yourselves to communicate honestly and deal with conflicts as they come up.
8. HOW IMPORTANT IS SEXUAL CHEMISTRY IN A RELATIONSHIP? IF ITíS NOT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WILL IT DEVELOP OVER TIME?
People who ask me this question are usually involved in a relationship they wish were different. They feel love for their partner, but don't feel sexually attracted to them. They don't want to leave, so they try to rationalize their lack of sexual chemistry and make it "O.K.".
My honest response to this question is:
"NO, I DON'T BELIEVE IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE A HEALTHY, LASTING, ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE WHOM YOU AREN'T ATTRACTED TO, at least for me or anyone else who wants to include sexuality as a part of our lives." After all, it is sex that distinguishes an intimate relationship from a friendship. Perhaps if a couple met when they were both quite elderly and no longer had an interest in sex, they wouldn't need more than a strong friendship as a foundation to live together happily. But there is no reason people in their seventies and even older can't enjoy active and fulfilling sex lives, so I don't even like to use this example. Besides, it's not sixty or seventy year olds who usually ask me about love without attraction--it's men and women in their twenties, thirties and forties.
If youíre not attracted to a partner, can the sexual chemistry develop over time? That dependsÖ For instance, if you arenít normally sexually attracted to nice guys, you could develop sexual attraction over time by doing some emotional healing. However, if this pattern or any kind of sexual dysfunction or abuse hasnít been a problem for you, and you simply havenít felt sexually attracted to your partner from the beginning of your relationship, youíll be unlikely to develop it over time.
If youíre in a relationship with someone youíve never been sexually attracted to, here are some things to think about:
1. You are avoiding true intimacy. A sexual connection binds a couple together in a very special way. There is nothing more intimate than taking someone inside your own body, if you are a woman, or putting a part of yourself into someone else, if you are a man. Especially when you are making love, and not just having sex, you create tremendous intimacy between yourself and your partner. Although it may look like you are avoiding sex, becoming involved with someone to whom you aren't attracted may actually be a way you are unconsciously avoiding intimacy in your life. Since you know you aren't going to have a strong sexual relationship, you are naturally protected from feeling too vulnerable with your partner.
2. You are avoiding sex. Some people aren't just avoiding intimacy by selecting mates they aren't attracted to--they are avoiding sex. If...
- You have experienced any form of sexual molestation or abuse
- You have been raped
- You have felt sexually controlled by previous partners
- You were brought up with negative sexual programming
...Then you may unconsciously fall in love with people who don't turn you on sexually. This way you get to avoid sex. You may not be aware that you have these sexual issues. You may even bemoan the fact that you keep attracting partners in whom you're not sexually interested . But if lack of chemistry is a recurring theme in your relationships, you may need to do some work on healing your sexuality.
3. You are trying to maintain a position of control. When you feel sexually attracted to someone, you are, in a sense, giving them some control over you. It's as if your mind is saying "You affect me so strongly that you make me want to lose control around you." If you have issues with needing to be in control, or being afraid of being controlled by others, you may choose partners towards whom you feel no or little sexual attraction in order to keep yourself "safe." Because you don't feel a strong sexual pull towards them, you get to maintain a certain emotional distance, creating the illusion that you hold more of the power in the relationship.
This issue is one of the most difficult, yet most important a couple should face before getting seriously involved. As painful as it may be, think carefully about everything Iíve said, and make your decision based on what you know in your heart to be true.
9. CAN A RELATIONSHIP WORK WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH YOUR PARTNER'S POTENTIAL?
A few months ago I met a man who I really care about. We get along really well, but he's going through a really difficult time right now. He's just recovering from a serious drug addiction and a bad divorce in which his ex-wife got most of his savings. I know he has a lot of anger and mistrust from his past, and he has a hard time showing any affection, but inside, he's a very sensitive, talented person, and I feel like he needs someone to believe in him. Can this relationship work?
I wouldnít call what youíre in a relationship--itís closer to gambling, and Iím sorry to say the odds are against you. You arenít in love with who your boyfriend actually is; youíre in love with who you hope he could become. You even talk about him like he is a project, a "fixer-upper." Youíre describing someone who is barely capable of loving himself right now, let alone you.
Obviously, every relationship between two people involves some hopes and dreams of how youíd like to see your partner grow and improve. But the key is feeling satisfied with how your mate is today, not living for the future. Having a healthy relationship with a person means loving him for who he is now, not loving him in spite of his situation, or in hopes of who he will change into tomorrow.
Inside, you know all this, yet you ignore the facts because something about this situation is so appealing to you, almost irresistible, and very hard to walk away from. Thatís what we need to talk about. People who fall in love with their partnerís potential tend to have several of their own issues that attracts them to this kind of situation:
1. You need to be in control in relationships. When you love someone in order to improve him, you get to feel superior. Perhaps you felt controlled or criticized for never being good enough as a child, and now you unconsciously are attracted to someone whom you can turn the tables on.
2. You get to avoid your own life and dreams by focusing on rehabilitating your partner. When youíre busy looking at how someone else can improve, you donít have much time left over to face your own sense of inadequacy or your own fears.
3. You made a decision as a child that you couldnít get what you wanted. If you felt rejected or unloved as a child, you may have decided you canít get what you want from people you love, and so you unconsciously seek out a man who doesnít give you what you want. Youíre "going home".
If you care about this man, end the relationship now. Does that sound strange? Well, hereís what will happen if you donít. Soon you will end up feeling angry at him for letting you down, bitter that you wasted so much time with him, and guilty for rejecting him after you promised undying love and patience. Ending it now will free him to do the healing he needs, and will open you up to attracting someone you can love and respect as he is today.