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May 06 2014

Can A Relationship Be Sacred To One But Not To The Other?

cat and horse

 

Let’s look more closely at this and we’ll start with the least sacred way of thinking I can imagine: cold, impersonal, chemical interactions inside the brain. Ah, psychology has a way of getting to the heart of things, don’t you think? The presence of loved and loving partner, may I say, “the sacred presence,” triggers a specific brain chemical called oxytocin.

 

Now it would be a great mistake, if not a modern one, to reduce all this to oxytocin and say, “Well Really, it’s just a change in brain chemistry.”  I cringe. That would be like saying that the chemical level is the only level that really matters. But still, in the presence of the Sacred, we do have a change in brain chemistry and this change makes a change in the way we experience life. Oxytocin makes us get personal and gushy. Oxytocin is the cuddle neurochemical. It appears in the brains of babies and mothers during nursing. It’s in lovers in their sweet afterglow. It appears in the brain when two become as one. It appears when we become part of something bigger than just ourselves.

 

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Oct 02 2010

Hatred, Emotional Baggage, the Book of Jonah, and the Lessons of Yom Kippur in Dealing with an Ex.

Sometimes intimate relationships fail because the partners grow to hate each other’s company. “Hate.”  It’s a strong word.

Hatred is wild and strange.  I’ve counseled people who are dealing with an ex who is intoxicated by hatred.  Such people are willing to use children, the legal system, and vandalism to make a former partner’s life miserable. They do it in a gleeful frenzy. They are scary because they feed off their hatred and there’s no stopping them except by going to war against them and defeating them thoroughly.  Most of us don’t like going to war.

For most of us hatred is  uncomfortable.  For most of us, when we are angry we are angry about a principle, a value, something that seems bigger than the issue at hand.  But when anger shifts to hatred it’s because we’ve made the issue personal. Often people who like to hate are also proud of the fact that their values are so personally held.

Because hatred is a personal matter and because the pain associated with it is often so close to the surface, most folks shift from hatred to disgust.  Disgust is the way we put distance between our self and the thing we hate.  In disgust we don’t have to resolve the hatred. We can simply go past it and seek the more comfortable state of denial.  We resolve to simply never see, speak or think about the person we “used to” hate.  We do this for our protection, and sometimes for their protection. We cut them off.

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Aug 17 2010

Physical attraction?


It’s not the only factor in choosing a mate. Probably you could sort all the reasons why you would want a relationship with someone into three categories.

First, there is just the animal connection. Every creature on earth, bugs, fish, birds, marsupials and mammals comes in two sexes. The animal connection is important and it is deep. But it’s not all.

We are also social animals and we live in tribes and families and communities and cultures, all with intricate demands which we honor. Any mating of two people has to answer to social realities.

And finally, we are spiritual animals. We each believe that our individual lives do matter and we care about how we use this gift of our life.

So in the great scheme of things, as important as physical chemistry is, it is not the whole taco. Even so, it is not to be ignored. Here is a quiz to help you think about some of the aspect of physical chemistry. All the answers are based on psychological research. Answer each question, true or false.

1. Physical Chemistry (PC) develops over time.
False. Relationships can develop over time. Social and spiritual considerations can outweigh matters of physical chemistry. But PC is immediate. It is an animal response. It is connected to immediate sense perception, and it is based on mechanisms which evolved over the million years when humans were just another kind of wild animal.

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Aug 03 2010

Is Your Boyfriend a Werewolf?

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that mayseem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.
Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse. But here’s the key part: He wants to be released from his curse and the only way that can happen is for someone who really loves him to shoot him through the heart with a silver bullet. He has to be in a relationship with someone he really loves and she has to see the darker side of who he is and then she has to destroy him.
Someone who approved this script said, “That’s right. That makes a certain kind of sense.”
How does this weird lesson apply to the successful creation of a long term relationship?

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May 20 2010

The All Important Difference between Forgiving and Trusting

“He cheated on me. I forgave him. Then he cheated on me again and I forgave him again and then he cheated on me and I can’t forgive him anymore.”


People confuse forgiving someone with trusting someone. You can forgive someone without trusting them. You can trust someone without forgiving them.

A forgiving person is someone who calms down quickly. It is always a shock when someone you trust and care for does something mean or hurtful to you. Your first tendency is either to run away or hurt them back. Somehow or other, you have to absorb the shock and resist the temptation to just react. You need time to think and calm down.

One time, almost 25 years ago, I started to rage at my youngest son. He was ten. His older sister stepped between us and slapped me in the face. She was protecting him.

Time stopped. I don’t know which of us was more shocked. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I didn’t know what to do. The temptation to slap her back wasn’t all that great, thank goodness. But at the same time, I knew that I had to do something. I said to her, “This is important. I need time to think. I want you to be grounded until you and I talk about this. Not today, though, and maybe not tomorrow.” I think that was the first time I understood forgiveness.

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May 20 2010

Have You Been Dating a Werewolf?

Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that may seem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.

Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse.

OK, so maybe your current flame isn’t sporting the wild hair and teeth, but something about the werewolf does remind me of certain stories I hear about people on the dating scene. Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of psychological “werewolves”:

  1. They seem to have two personalities; one is glamorous, charming, vulnerable and winning, while and the other may be spoiled, envious, vindictive, petty or mean.
  2. They want to believe — and want you to believe — that only the nice personality is who they really are. That other part? That is just a curse, a condition or a product of a disturbed childhood.
  3. Behind their words, you will hear and be moved by this emotional howl: “Love me. I am lonely! Save me. I am suffering! Be careful. I am dangerous!” The bottom-line message? “Be with me but be willing to make some sacrifices for love.”
  4. They like you. They do. They appreciate your company. Yet they have an addiction — whether it’s gambling, drinking, flirting, shopping — and they want you to ignore it.
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May 20 2010

Physical Attraction True False Quiz

Physical attraction?

Very important.

It’s not the only factor in choosing a mate. Probably you could sort all the reasons why you would want a relationship with someone into three categories.

First, there is just the animal connection. Every creature on earth bugs, fish, birds, marsupials and mammals comes in two sexes. The animal connection is important and it is deep. But it’s not all.

We are also social animals and we live in tribes and families and communities and cultures, all with intricate demands which we honor. Any mating of two people has to answer to social realities.

And finally, we are spiritual animals. We each believe that our individual lives do matter and we care about how we use this gift of our life.

So in the great scheme of things, as important as physical chemistry is, it is not the whole taco. Even so, it is not to be ignored. Here is a quiz to help you think about some of the aspect of physical chemistry. All the answers are based on psychological research. Answer each question, true or false.

1. Physical Chemistry develops over time.
False. Relationships can develop over time. Social and spiritual considerations can outweigh matters of physical chemistry. But physical chemistry is immediate. It is an animal response. It is connected to immediate sense perception, and it is based on mechanisms which evolved over the million years when humans were just another kind of wild animal.

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Apr 25 2009

When All Else Fails, Tell the Truth

Published by under Advice

The premise of the Dating at Midlife research project is that as people go through a midlife transformation, they change the way they create intimate relationships.

It’s hard to catalogue all the changes. One of the big changes is that people become more honest with themselves. When I was younger, in a moment of supremely naïve arrogance I complained that I couldn’t understand why people found it so difficult to be honest with themselves. That was before I began my own midlife project.

Lying is a strange business. Many animals use deception for survival. A momma bird will pretend to have a broken wing to draw predators away from a nest. Many predators use camouflage to capture prey. Wild female birds will mate with one male but bond with another for child rearing. Among humans, there is no necessary connection between what is said and what is done. To deceive is natural.

And then there is television. Almost everyone you see on television including news people are actors. The more hours you watch television the fewer hours you are interacting with real people, people who aren’t always performing for you. Our infotainment culture has dulled our talent for truth detecting.

When we get honesty and fearless self-disclosure, we often aren’t sure how to handle it. We aren’t even sure we want it.

Most relationships are a cocktail of truth and lies. For example, less mature, and less honest people often perform a strange mental trick with their intimate relationships. They divide them into two opposing categories. Category one: predictable, but maybe dull. Category two: fascinating and romantic, but dangerous.

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Apr 25 2009

Hey You Dropped Your Baggage

Published by under Advice

The top three dating complaints of single men in their 50s:

· Dating partners who have a lot of “baggage” (42 percent)

· Women who “become difficult to get along with” after the first few dates (28 percent)

·Women who want to get too serious too fast (18 percent)

The top three complaints of women:

· That baggage thing (35 percent)

· Not having a clue where to meet men, and meeting too few new men (23 percent)

· Overeager guys who want to get real serious real fast (21 percent)

· Have not had a date in the last year. (43 percent)

The other figures are interesting but we’re talking about baggage. You’ll notice that all the men’s complaints come down to baggage and the first and third of the women’s complaints are about baggage.

(I don’t know about you, but I also noticed that 70% of men complain about baggage and 35% of women. Twice as many. What’s that about? Let’s bookmark that question.)

“Baggage” is not really a technical term and so it’s one of those things that we all know what it is when we see it but are hard pressed to say exactly what it is.

I’m not going to do a survey of literature, but I do want to acknowledge that what I’m going to say here is only one position in discussion, a discussion in which soothing voices of healing professionals can become quite sharp.

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Apr 25 2009

Men, Women and Dancing

Published by under Miscellaneous

You have to imagine this scene; 500 men and women in sexy, casual dress at a big conference hotel for three days of socializing, flirting and dancing to swing music. This was the annual Boston Tea Party at the Framingham, MA, Sheraton, There are weekends like this all year long, all with the same format: lessons all day Friday and Saturday, dancing all night, until three or four in the morning, more of the same on Sunday.

For the lessons, the huge hotel ballrooms are cut in half by fold-out walls and about seventy five couples are arranged in a line snaking up and down, up and down. Skilled teachers with big personalities and cordless headset mikes lead the crowd through new steps asking the couples to change partners every two minutes. By the end of the lesson every leader has danced with every follower. It’s like non-verbal speed dating.

A good rule for meeting someone interesting is to make the first encounter brief and pleasant. Then, when you meet them the second time, they already know you. They are more open. Dancing with someone in a lesson makes it easier to ask them to dance later, at the open dances. By the end of the days’ lessons, people have had a hundred or so brief encounters. Talk about working a room.

The evenings are for dancing, performances, contests and more dancing. Two different ballrooms, one with old fashioned, welcoming swing from the thirties, forties, and fifties, and the other room thumping with glitzy, do-you-want-to-do-me, eighties and nineties disco music. It’s a study in flirtation.

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