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Romantic Relationships

It would be easier if we had a manual.

Like lemmings going over a cliff, salmon swimming upstream, and other seemingly irrational and impossible phenomena of nature, we all tend to pair up at various points in our lives. Sometimes it seems as though we find the same person time and time and again and proclaim; "Are there no princes or princesses out there among the frogs I keep on kissing!"

The process would be much simpler if we had a care and handling manual to exchange with every person we meet. I mean, even a ten-dollar electric clock comes with a do's and don'ts list. In the absence of such a guidebook, it's hoped that the following information will provide some help as you negotiate that sometimes treacherous process called "relationship development."

Twenty Do's and Don'ts of a Functional Relationship - by Eve Bernshaw

  1. Who you think you are is important. Like attracts like. Do you like who you are?
  2. What you want in a relationship is important, and when you are willing to ask for it, you will be able to create it. But only ask for what you want when you are clear about what it is. Until then, don't go around demanding things you just think you should have.
  3. We get exactly what we focus on. The problem or the solution. We make a choice between them with every decision we make.
  4. Tell yourself the truth about what you want, not what others (family, friends, spouse) say you should have.
  5. Tell everyone else your truth about what you want. Don't be afraid to share your vision and dreams with those you love.
  6. You are not defined by your relationships unless you choose to be. Consider what it says about you if you deed over you soul to one.
  7. Interdependent (two independent people) relationships are the only ones that work, long term.
  8. Truth is the first thing necessary to create trust in our relationships. Respect is earned from trust, and love is earned from respect. Intimacy is the gift we get when we risk telling the truth.
  9. Fear of intimacy is fear of the truth. Your truth is better for you than someone else's. Just get to know what it is, so you can finally own it, and speak it.
  10. If your relationship is not getting better, it is probable getting worse. Life is dynamic and nothing ever stays the same.
  11. Every relationship is unique. It takes what it takes to work. If you want it to work, you have to work it. No shortcuts. No 50/50 deals.
  12. It's not your job to fix your mate, and it's not his or her job to fix you. Take the relationship and what your mate says at face value and stop reading into it what you'd like to hear. We can work with what's real. It's impossible to deal with what's not real.
  13. Unconditional love is an inside job. If you haven't gotten it by now, guess what...start working from within. When you can give it to yourself, you'll be ready to give it to someone else. If you can give it to someone else, you'll recognize it when it's given to you.
  14. If you both are committed to creating a functional relationship, agree to start doing it today, without any judgments about the past. Be willing to work in the solution and let go of your need to control the outcome, moment to moment, one day at a time. Joy can only be experienced in the present moment.
  15. Most of our fears about what may happen in this relationship are really fears we experienced in past relationships, and have nothing to do with this person. Come to grips with what's real and what's Memorex!
  16. When in an argument, ask yourself Does this really PASS THE SO WHAT TEST? For you to be right does the other person have to be wrong? Think about it. Life is short. Don't waste it on arguments that have no meaning or purpose. You can always agree to disagree if you need to. Then laugh about it, and go on to the next thing. Start observing your need to argue as just another dysfunctional, immature habit that needs to be broken.
  17. When we finally learn to say we are sorry (at 3 or 93) we get to finally hear we are O.K. To error is human, and there is great virtue in all forgiveness, ourselves included. The best way to teach our children this lesson is by watching us demonstrate it.
  18. Any negative, hurtful or sarcastic remark is abusive. Like a sharp knife, each word will carve out a chunk of a loving relationship that can never grow back. Please consider the source and outcome of your remarks, before you open you mouth to tell your truth.
  19. Never let a day go by without saying and showing how much your relationship and partner mean to you. Never take a moment for granted. Express how grateful you are for your good fortune, however meek or humble it may be. Appreciation and gratefulness have magic in them. It seems the more we express them, the more reasons we are given to say thank you.
  20. To have a functional relationship you have to be willing to risk loosing it everyday, by telling your truth. If you don't feel free to tell your truth, start asking yourself why you think it's so important to stay, and what else you are willing to loose besides your self-esteem.
  21. For starters, you can ask your mate to tell their truth, and be willing to accept it at face value, without judgment. Now you both get to finally know the truth, and, if you each want a relationship based on what's real for both of you.

.....for optimum results, start doing this in the first five minutes of meeting anyone.

For more information, check out the Transitions Counseling Website.

Ten Ways to Blow a Relationship

What do you do when you've attracted a lovely person into your life and now you're terrified you're going to blow it? Or, terrified it's going to end. Arm yourself with the following strategies, and you're sure to blow it in a relationship right from the start.

  • Assume the person is your soul mate immediately upon meeting or shortly thereafter. Look for signs that faith has brought you together and be amazed by the correlations in your lives.
  • Forget about your life, your friends, your self-care. When you have a soul mate, why would you need a life outside of the relationship?
  • Reveal everything, and test your partner with your worst behavior. Let it all hang out. After all, if this is truly your soul mate, he or she will love you no matter what.
  • Have sex right away. If you are meant to be together for a lifetime, you might as well get started on the fun part right away.
  • Ignore anything about your partner that does not mesh with your values, lifestyle, or belief system. True love can conquer such insignificant differences.
  • Do lots of drama together. Job, family, and life crises are great ways to establish a relationship and test whether or not you are meant to be together.
  • Spend as much time together as possible. When it's true love, you can't bear to let your partner out of your sight.
  • Ignore behavior that crosses your boundaries or hurts your feelings. It's true love, so it's ok.
  • Lavish a huge amount of attention on your partner or expect a huge amount of attention to be lavished on you. How else would you act if you finally found your soul mate?
  • Push the relationship forward and demand that it go deeper, in spite of where your partner is emotionally. You have the right to have the relationship be exactly how you want it to be and your soul mate owes you that.

Suggestions for Improving Communications Skills in Relationships

Top Ten Listening Tips from About Marriage ("Sheri & Bob Stritof - About.com Marriage Guide")May 17, 2002

One of the main reasons couples divorce (or break up if they have not been married) is because they lost the ability or never had the skills to communicate with one another. Poor listening skills lead to the breakdown in communication in a marriage. Here are some tips on how to be a more effective and life-giving listener.

    • Don't Interrupt

Let your spouse finish what they are saying. If this is a problem and you interrupt a lot, find someway to remind yourself to keep quiet. Some people put their chin in their hand as a sign to themselves to not speak till their mate is finished talking.

    • Keep an Open Mind

Don't judge. Jumping to conclusions or looking for the right or wrong in what is being said prevents you from listening. Think before you say anything in response, especially if it is an emotional reaction.

    • Make Listening a Priority

Listen without planning on what you are going to say in response. Let go of your own agenda. Be aware that you need to listen. Make eye contact. Pay attention by not looking at the TV or glancing at the newspaper or finishing up a chore.

    • Use Feedback Technique

Let your partner know that you heard what they said by using a feedback technique and restating what was said. Say something like "I hear you saying ...." Be open to the possibility that you didn't hear clearly what your spouse was saying.

    • Watch Non-Verbals

Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues - both yours and those of your mate. These include shrugging your shoulders, tone of voice, crossing arms or legs, nodding, eye contact or looking away, facial expressions (smile, frown, shock, disgust, tears, surprise, rolling eyes, etc.), and mannerisms (fiddling with papers, tapping your fingers). 55% of the message is delivered through non-verbal signs.

    • Blocks to Listening

Try not to fall into these patterns of listening: mind reading, rehearsing, filtering, judging, daydreaming, advising, sparring, being right, changing the subject, stonewalling, and placating.

    • Stay Focused

Focus on the main points that your spouse is talking about. It's ok to ask questions to clarify what you thought you heard.

    • Gender Differences

Although not true for everyone, men and women generally communicate differently. Being aware can enhance your listening skills. Men often share because they want to give information or solve a problem. Women tend to talk to connect with someone or to get information. Women usually talk more about relationships than men do. Men are often more concerned about details than women.

    • Show Respect

Respect your spouse's point of view, even if you disagree with what is being said.

    • Advice & Talking

Don't give advice unless asked for it. You can't listen and talk at the same time. Feelings are neither right nor wrong.

How to Rebuild Trust

When infidelity, lies or broken promises invade a marriage (or romance), the trust between husband and wife (or romantic partners) is severely damaged. However, this doesn't mean that the marital relationship (or romance) can't be saved. Here's How:

  • Make a decision to love by trying to let go of the past. Stop obsessing about it.
  • Decide to forgive or to be forgiven.
  • Show that the errant behavior is gone by changing behaviors. That means no more secrets.
  • Together, set specific goals.
  • Both of you must renew your commitment to your marriage (or romance) and one another.
  • The wounded spouse (or partner) must share his or her pain. The other must acknowledge the hurt caused by the devastating experience.
  • Listen completely to one another and with your heart, not just your head.
  • Be honest.
  • Avoid using words that can trigger conflict. Use non-blaming 'I' statements and don't say always, must, never, or should.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions.
  • Be open to seeking counseling to have a better insight into what caused the trust to be broken.
  • Remind one another that you each deserve open and honest answers to your questions about the affair or betrayal.

Tips:

  • Recognize that rebuilding trust takes time. It won't happen over night.
  • It's okay to remember the incidents and the betrayal. You may not forget it, but the pain will eventually go away.
  • Be aware of your feelings.

How to End a Relationship

The ending of a relationship is rarely easy even for the person who wants the romance to end. Here are some ideas to consider to make the transition a bit easier:

  • End the relationship cleanly. Nothing makes a breakup worse than to end it in one of the following ways:
    • Letting the person down easy
    • Just distancing (not answering phone call or e-mails; spending less time together without explanation)
    • Being so inconsiderate that the other person ends the relationship
    • Asking for "space" when your real intention is to end the romance
  • Try to state as clearly as possible your reasons for ending the relationship. While painful, everyone has the right to end a romance that is no longer working. Withholding information "to not hurt your ex-partner's feelings" usually extends the process of breaking up because they sense that they are not getting the truth.
  • Try not to assign blame at the end of a relationship. Sometimes romances don't work simply because there was a bad "fit" that you can discover only after spending time together. Creating a "good guy" and "bad guy" usually generates anger, and nothing keeps two people connected in a negative way like anger or loathing.
  • Remember the good and bad times. Focus on the good may cause you to idealize the relationship while focus on the bad will sour you for future romances. In either case, paying attention to the extremes will make it difficult to move on.
  • Give yourself time to heal and reflect. People frequently jump into the next romance as a way of healing from the last one and find themselves choosing a similar person and/or recreating the patterns that made the old relationship unpleasant. If you find yourself saying things like, "Why do I always attract the bad ones?", "I always end up getting hurt!" or "It's hard for me to be alone.", then you may need to reevaluate how you go about doing relationships. By doing so, you'll increase the chances dramatically that the next romance will be "the one."

Seven Tips for Living Together

By Lacey Michaels

You’ve finally decided to take the next big step as a couple; you’re going to start living together. While you might be excited, you might also be a little scared about the prospect of sharing a living space. Even if you’ve decided to make a lifelong commitment, loving someone in close quarters is never easy! Don’t worry; it’s only natural to be a bit nervous when considering the prospect. Here are seven tips that should make life a little easier when living together.

Those Pet Peeves
Living with someone might be tough if you’ve never done so before, especially if you’re an only child. You might be set in your ways and are used to having everything in your home exactly the way you want it, and now suddenly you’re confronted with socks all over the bedroom floor and the toilet seat sitting up to greet you in the morning. Welcome to the joys of living with your significant other! If you’ve spent a good amount of time with each other before you’ve decided to start living together, you should think about the quirks your partner has that you have noticed in the course of your relationship. It’s a good idea to get together and discuss what pet peeves irritate you both (remember that you’re not perfect either!) and to make a commitment to one another to work on them.

Sometimes though, your partner doesn’t always remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste. There has to be some acceptance of the idiosyncrasies if sharing a home is going to work. If you both maintain an open and understanding dialogue about pet peeves and don’t fall into nagging each other about them, it makes for a much better and loving home. When you truly love your partner enough, these small quirks and pet peeves become irrelevant over time or even something to laugh about.

Give Me Some Space!
Even though you are going to be living together, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own private space and some time to yourself. Many people (especially men) are afraid that they won’t be able to do things like play videogames or watch football alone after all the boxes are unpacked. This is a valid concern and one that must be addressed quickly. You both need a little spot to call your own where you can go off and do your own hobbies or pursue your own interests so you don’t grow tired of constantly being around the love of your life.

Ideally, you should each have your own room to decorate however you want. A second bedroom, a basement or a garage are all places that can become good personal zones where quality time can be spent away from your partner. When space is limited, a room that’s split by a privacy screen could suffice in a pinch.

Bills, Bills, Bills
One of the biggest fuels for arguments in a relationship is money. Now that you’re living with your spouse or significant other, arguments over money matters can get heated to a nuclear meltdown faster than you can say Chernobyl. Make sure the two of you work together to come up with a plan of how your finances will be handled. Some financial experts recommend not combining your checking accounts or getting a joint checking account when you first begin living together, but that choice is really up to you. Either way, you must figure out who is going to be responsible for paying the bills, or how the bill paying duties are going to be separated.

The most important thing is to have the person who is the most organized and responsible with money handle the paying of the bills. Also, make sure that the two of you are on track when it comes to your finances. Money matters and it should be an open and honest subject. There’s nothing worse than finding out your loved one is secretly using a cash advance loan service to give you money for the rent.

Who’s Taking out the Trash?
Unless you’re Mary Poppins, chances are that you don’t like to clean. When living together, consideration must be taken for how the regular household maintenance will be handled. The best way to go about this is by splitting up the chores. If you are particular about how the laundry is done, then you could take that task while your partner could be put in charge of dishes or something else they don’t mind doing as much. Another way to handle this situation is to trade off chores—you vacuum one time and your partner takes it up the next. An even better option is to make the chores a shared experience. By doing the dishes together (if you don’t have a dishwasher) or doing the laundry with your partner, a sense of teamwork and accomplishment can add a rich dimension to the relationship.

The Guest Policy
This is one issue that not a lot of couples think about, but it can become a point of contention with some couples if not addressed early enough. When is it okay to have friends or family over and when is it not? If one partner is used to having a revolving door with guests and the other partner likes a little more privacy, things can get pretty dicey. Try to work out a safe zone when it’s okay to have guests over, or simply get into the habit of asking your partner if it’s okay before inviting your friends over at three in the morning for drinks after the bar. There is of course give and take with this tip as with everything else, but it’s good to have some sort of guest policy worked out before living together. Know who is welcome and how long they are welcome to stay.

Ruts
One of the biggest pitfalls of moving in with your significant other and one that many people fear is falling into a rut. When this happens, your relationship becomes a dull cycle of coming home from work, watching television, and then going bed without doing any of the fun stuff. Just because you are sharing, a living space doesn’t mean that you can’t date each other! Make sure to make time with each other to keep your relationship strong. It’s very easy to find yourself in this sort of trap, so you have to make an effort to avoid a relationship black hole by making time to be a couple. Recognize when you might be falling into a rut and shake it up a little. Go out for a movie, a picnic, or a dinner date to avoid the relationship turning into a boring grind.

Communication and Compromise
There are two Cs that will lead to a lot less stress in your new adventure together: communication and compromise. These are a part of all of the other tips and incredibly important ones to remember in and of themselves. You’ve got to keep the lines of communication open. If you and your partner don’t talk about issues involving the apartment, or even about your relationship, the relationship can degrade fairly quickly.
The two of you must become diplomats in order to live in perfect harmony. If you can’t communicate with your partner and work out compromises and solutions to the problems that arise, perhaps it’s best to question whether living together is the right choice. However, if you are willing to make some sacrifices and be willing to talk anything through then moving in together is the best decision you can make when you have reached that level of commitment.

Moving in with your significant other can be a challenge, but with these seven tips, you’ll be more prepared for the exciting road ahead and all the rewards that can come with living in the same space. Living together is a big step, so before you start packing or making room in your dresser, talk about these issues. Remember, new and difficult issues are bound to arise every day. Go into the situation with a clear and open mind, and you should be able to work through any problems with the person you love.

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Last Updated 2/21/12