Lust? Love? Or Love That Lasts?

1978. South Padre Island. Spring break. Size [much smaller than I am now]. Sun and sand and surf. Shoulder to shoulder college students. And all I could think about was, “Do I love Dave?”

Not the oh-my-gosh-he’s-so-slammin’-hawt kind of love. That kind of love gripped me the first time I saw him (1976. At a high school debate tournament. I beat him.).

The question I struggled with during that infamous spring break trip was, Did I love him with a marriage kind of love?  The kind of love that lasts? (Not that he was even considering marriage at that point….but a gal has to be prepared, right?)

On that trip, one afternoon I happened to have a pool-side conversation with an elderly woman. When I asked her how she knew her husband of 50+ years was “the one,” she said something like, “When you see his face in the clouds and hear his voice in the wind, you’ll know.”

I’ll looked up to the sky. Nope. Nothing.

I tilted my head into the wind. Zilch. Zippo. Thanks, Grandma Moses.

So, how do we know if what we’re experiencing is love—or love that lasts? For decades, researchers have studied the different experiences of love, and they’ve determined that there are basically two kinds:

  • Passionate Love: This love is a wildly powerful emotion that is fueled, in part, by chemicals in the brain and by hormones. The intense sexual attraction and the all-consuming desire for the other person are the hallmarks of this bow-chicka-bow-bow kind of love.
  • Companionate Love: This love is a deep, tender, mature, affection for a love partner. Unfolding gradually over time, this love develops between partners who have known each other long enough to have acknowledged and accepted all of the failings, faults, shortcomings, oddities, and quirks of each partner—and still like them.

Hang out this week, and you’ll learn the differences between lust and the I-forever-I-do kinds of love.

Have you ever wondered if your partner was “the one?”  How did you determine if she/he was or wasn’t? Or was?
Photo Credit: flickr.com

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Attachmentis a developmental phase that we never outgrow.

Our experiences with early attachment relationships to our parents become the foundation on which all future love relationships are built—both our ability to love others, and to allow others to love us in return.

There are different classifications of adult love relationships:

·Secure attachment types: Like securely attached infants, secure adults have little difficulty seeking and maintaining closeness (physical, emotional, affectional) with another. They don’t fear being abandoned or losing their partner. They allow others to get close to them and depend on them. They experience enduring, happy, warm, trusting relationships.

·Avoidant attachment types: Avoidant types feel as though they never find “real” love. They are uncomfortable when too emotionally or physically close to another person. They show discomfort with intimacy and are hesitant to trust others. They find it difficult to allow themselves to depend on others.

·Anxious/ambivalent attachment types: Insecurity is the hallmark of this adult attachment type—it is not a matter of if a romantic partner leaves them, but when. With the constant fear or worry that the partner isn’t really in love with them, anxious/ambivalent adults cling to their partner and push for commitment. They may also withdraw and pull away before they get rejected.

What is your adult attachment style?  Take the quiz here!

Now that you have an understanding of your attachment type, reflect on how this understanding of “love” affects your marriage or your intimate relationship.

In what ways does this help you to better understand and appreciate your love map? How does it help you to better understand and appreciate your partner’s unique love map?



Photo Credit: Northern Star (flickr.com)

Why Is He Always So Analytical?

It’s been said before that the “Y” sex chromosome came about because since the beginning of time, men have been questioning, “Y do we always have to talk about this $#%! relationship?!”

In an earlier post I talked about women’s genderlects, and how most women are taught from an early age to communicate in certain ways with others. So engrained are these behaviors, researchers say that understanding and caring is the context in which women frame nearly every conversation that they have. In short, the underlying message in women’s conversation is connecting with others—and they do this by talking (a lot).

But what about guys? Are boys, like girls, socialized from young ages to stick to certain communication “rules?” Do guys have an underlying genderlect?

Researchers think so!

When men engage in conversations—with family, friends, intimate partners, or lovers—their underlying genderlect appears to be:

  • Problem Solving: From a young age, boys are taught to be independent, and because of this, they often solve problems on their own. While girls are taught to “talk things through” if they have an issue with a friend, boys are often taught to look at the situation “logically.”
  • Advice Giving: Because men are tuned in to problem solving, when someone shares a problem or a concern, men often immediately jump to offering advice or a solution.

Thinking, analyzing, intellectual understanding, facts, logic—this is the way men experience their relationships. It’s the way they assess the status of all of the friendships and interpersonal relationships.

This is probably why your guy is so quick to offer advice or a solution when you share a problem with him.

It may also be why you sometimes feel as though he seems so distant or insensitive, and why he doesn’t want to talk about his feelings or what’s troubling him.

Newer research even suggests that men’s communication behaviors are established well before birth. According to some genetic studies, male and female brains are structured differently—wired differently—because of the influences of testosterone (the masculinizing sex hormone) during the prenatal period. These biological differences cause men to process information and communication messages in different ways.

This new research might also help to explain why guys, when confronted with a problem, will oftentimes make jokes or change the subject.

This isn’t to say that men don’t have an emotional connection to their family, friends, intimate partners, or lovers—it just means that they do not express these emotions in the same ways that women do.

So, let’s say you come to your guy and describe a problem to him. Because your genderlect is connecting, talking, understanding, and caring, you expect him to respond the same way you would.

When he comes to you and describes a situation (like a problem at work or in class), he expects that you will give him advice and help him solve the problem, because that’s what he would do for you.

Do you see the problem? When he offers advice and you’re expecting understanding, you feel that your feelings are invalidated or that he’s trivializing your problems.

When you offer sympathy and understanding and he’s expecting advice and a solution to the problem, he feels that you’re putting him down.

You may feel that his joke-telling is making fun of your situation. He may feel that your comforting is treating him like a child.

Now’s the time to toss out absolutely EVERYthing you’ve ever heard about or learned about communication (unless you’ve taken my class…cuz that’s the right stuff!).

Here’s the deal: it’s not the words that are the source of lover’s spats (or full-blown arguing).

For you to have ah-mah-zing communication with your partner, you need to stop listening to the words being spoken.

Big. Huge.Important.

Yep, you heard read me right. Stop listening to the words.

Come back next week and I’ll show you what to tune into in your intimate relationships, so you can have the kind of couple communication that very few couples are able to achieve.

Can you think of specific instances where your feelings were hurt because you felt that your guy wasn’t “listening” to you? If you look at the situation again with his genderlect in mind, does this change your perception of his response to you?

Photo Credit: flickr.com

Why Does She Talk So Much?

Do women talk more than men?

As we grow up from infancy to adulthood, we’re taught how to be a “boy” or a “girl,” or a “man” or a “woman” in a lot of different ways. Each day we are bombarded with messages from society—from parents to teachers to friends to the media—that send very clear-cut gender cues, or the “correct” ways we’re supposed to act and think and feel.

And communication is no exception—boys learn how to communicate one way, girls learn how to communicate another way.

According to one researcher, men and women are taught so differently about how to communicate (and in what they focus on when they talk) that it’s as if they understand communication messages in entirely different ways!

In other words—you may think you are clearly expressing yourself, and you just may be….but that doesn’t mean that she’s hearing the intended content of your messages!

Is it any wonder that these different genderlects lead to so many problems, misunderstandings, tensions—and all out shouting matches—between couples?!?

Don’t give up just yet! Once you know how and why women communicate the way they do, you’ll be better able to adjust your communication styles—and responses!—so that tensions and arguments are minimized and intimacy flourishes.

You see, in any type of communication, there’s the message (the actual words spoken), and the underlying message (there’s a ridiculously long research term for this…we’ll just call it the genderlect).

As girls grow up, they’re taught to be the caretakers and keepers of relationships. If there’s a problem with a friend or a relationship, girls are encouraged to “Talk it out.” “Sit down and just hear each other out.” “Just listen and it will all work out.”

In essence, girls are taught throughout their entire lives to:

·Talk about “it”: Whatever “it” happens to be—like being angry about something that happened at work two months ago, or seeing a new pair of shoes that are super cute, or thinking out loud about what she should do next, or asking how your day went.

·Connect: Women are often referred to as “kin keepers” because they hold relationships and families together. They’re taught from a very young age that keeping each other connected in the relationship is their responsibility. This is why they talk, talk, talk, talk, talk—to ensure that everything’s okay and on track with you as a couple.

·Understand and care: Women’s primary means of communication is showing sympathy, understanding, and care. When someone (you, a friend, a family member) is hurting, this shows that they are being 100% supportive (even in situations where it may not make sense to be that involved or caring).

Talking, connecting, understanding, caring—this is the way women experience their relationships. It’s the way they assess the status of all of their friendships and intimate relationships.

<This is probably why gals can’t go to the restroom without a circle of friends!>

It’s crucial that men understand that women have different genderlects than they do: When your gal is upset or has had a bad day or she just wants to talk about nothing in particular, she expects you to respond to her the same way that she would respond to you.

She expects you to respond in a caring, understanding, and connected way. She expects you to listen to every word she’s saying (as long as it takes), because that’s the response that she would give to you or to anyone else that she cares about.

This isn’t to say that you don’t care—it just means that you express your love and care for her in different ways than she expresses it for you.

And that’s why it’s so important that she understands your genderlect.

Stop by in a couple of days and I’ll talk about men’s genderlects, and how couples can best merge their differing communication cultures.

Your thoughts?  Do you think that gender differences are what make guy/gal communication so difficult? Or do you think that there might be something else at play?

Photo Credit: Feuillu (flickr.com)

You CAN Have a Great Marriage and Parent at the Same Time: Realistic Expectations

Even though for most people bringing home a baby is a joyful experience, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of stressors that come right along with her—the happy nature of the event doesn’t even come close to minimizing the fact that a new person has been added to the family.

Family scientists—folks who study families so they can help families live and love to the best of their abilities—have found that children bring so much stress into a couple’s relationship that spouses experience a huge dip in their marital satisfaction (don’t go buy a gross of condoms just yet…there’s hope!).

If we drew an illustration of what happens to a couple’s marital happiness once kids enter the scene, it would look something like a U-shape.  High levels of marital satisfaction are usually present in the early stages of the marriage, dip to all-time low stages while we’re raising our kids, then gradually climb again as kids become more independent in adolescence. Once teens are launched into their young adult years (college), couples again regain the levels of happiness they had earlier in their marriages.

There is no question that the transition to parenthood is a challenging, often difficult, stage in the developmental course of a family. But the research offers good news: If parents hold realistic expectations going into parenting (and while they’re actively “doing” parenting), there is less stress on them and their relationship.

Boobless But Not Broken

It’s Pinktober. That most wonderful time of the year, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The time of year when you can’t find a roll of white toilet paper at Target, much less an orange M&M or an Oreo with white icing.

That time of year where people everywhere remind people everywhere else that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.

To be perfectly pinkly correct, I thought it might be a good idea to take a little detour to share something with you about my life. But as I sit here and think about it, we’re not really going off course at all….because what I have to share with you is as much about love, intimacy, sex, and relationships as it is anything else.

I’m the boobless girl behind the pink ribbons.

Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an intraductal breast carcinoma. I was 36-years-old. At the time I had four boys all under the age of 12, and I had just begun work on my PhD. And just two years prior to my diagnosis, I buried my mother who died of cancer (at the age of 57). Her sister died from breast cancer at the age of 39, her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 52, and a cousin, diagnosed with breast cancer just a few months after me, died at the age of 43.

Talk about a crappy roll of the genetic dice.

Ironically, it all started on a perfectly pink October day. And once it started, it was a runaway train…..

I found a lump and went to the doctor and he said “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, I’m the doctor and I’ll do the worrying for you, come see me in 6 months,” and I thought “You’re crazy, I just buried my mom you [expletive], I’m not waiting!” so I found another doctor and [skip forward about 4 months of maaaaaaany tests and scans and needles and oh-so-painful biopsies but I still needed to be a good parent and an “A” student and a good little Christian who counted it all joy] she said, “Come into the kiss and cry room and I’ll give you the dreaded diagnosis, the diagnosis I know you know is coming because you saw my face when I drew the fluid out of your breast,” and so Dave and I sat in the low-lit room that had nothing but a box of Kleenex on the table, and we looked at each other and knew and she came in and said, “Both breasts need to be removed immediately to save your life!” and she expected us to cry but we didn’t even need the Kleenex because we were so dumbfounded and confused nothing made any sense so there were no tears and she explained how the breasts that fed all of my babies and gave my husband and I so much pleasure would be “removed” and how the surgical “procedure” would take about 12 hours and how the treatments would start about 4 weeks after the “procedure” and I had the “procedure” and the pain was indescribable and parenting and loving and living with 12 glass drain tubes and two IVs and 100s of stitches was ridiculously unbearable and insanely hilarious all at the same time and like every woman who had cancer before me, and every woman who has had or will have it since me, we took it minute by minute and sometimes we were incredibly strong and other times we were incredibly weak but we did it.

Whew.  We did it.  And that’s what Pinktober is all about.

Boobless, but not broken.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share what we learned about love through the process.
Kelly
(Which, ironically, in Gaelic means “Warrior Princess.” In breast cancer survivor speak it means “bad ass”!!!)

Who Wrote Your Love Map?

A critical step in creating a long-lasting, satisfying marriage is exploring the path that guided the development of your love behaviors and patterns.

When it comes to love and loving, we all come into this world as blank slates.  Over time, each of us “loves” in certain, established ways because our past experiences always influence/shape/direct our present experiences. So–who are the authors of your love map?

You can create an instant snapshot of your family’s love and relationship history by creating a genogram:

1. Sketch out the family you were raised in: Use squares to represent males and circles to represent females.

2. Map out relationship dynamics: By using symbols (such as, ……. , used to denote an emotionally distant or indifferent relationship), you can map out the emotional connections between family members. Your genogram can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The idea is to get an at-a-glance understanding of your partner’s and your own relational histories. This site helps you to create your genogram. (At first it might look a little intimidating–don’t let this freak you out! Again, you can make your genogram as detailed or as simple as you want).

3. Identify the authors of your love map: Looking at your genogram, identify those who are the most influential people in your family history. When it comes to love, loving, and intimate relationships, who are the most positive influences in your family history? The most negative?

4. Share your genogram with your partner: For most of us, this is the toughest part of creating a genogram. Partners are oftentimes afraid to disclose these types of things, because it leaves them feeling vulnerable to rejection or scoffing—especially if they experienced hurtful, abusive, shameful, or conditional love relationships in their past.

Have you ever given any thought about why you love the way you do? From your genogram, were you able to identify positive influences you’d like to continue to carry on? Are there any negative influences you hope never to repeat?

Feel free to email me if you want to talk about your genogram!
Photo Credit: Grunge Textures (flickr.com)