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Some of us will say “Absolutely!” Some of us will say “Not for me!” And others may be too confused to decide. The reality is that sex plays a significant role in love relationships. While it promises so much joy and satisfaction, it can also be the deciding factor that destroys very loving relationships.

When we first choose to be in a romance or “fall into” a loving relationship, most of us are so infatuated with our partners. The sex drive is amazing… even through the roof (thanks dopamine). We can barely take our hands off each other. It’s exciting, engaging, enchanting and we just seem to connect on a level that we assume will last forever. So often we dive into a romance head first (Or is it “heart first”?) and the commitment to be together opens up new expectations and responsibilities, many unforeseen and under-discussed… “love is blind”.

Well not really yet it can certainly feel that way.  Diving in head first quickly becoming more committed than our understanding of one another can handle. As the expectations and assumptions increase, the pressure can overwhelm healthy relationship development. When certain steps are missed in almost any project, task or adventure something will usually falter.

Cracks in the relationship appear and couples can be found scrambling to save or salvage what wasn’t really well established in the first place. Many separated couples state that the connection “just isn’t there anymore”. The passion and excitement that was there when they first met is said to have “faded” until they felt like they were just friends, or worse, “roommates”.

Couples often agree that life and children and work get into the way of romance, however, isn’t this denying ownership and personal choice?  After all, who’s making the decisions? It’s about finding the strategy and skill set to balance our lives in such a way that are able to meet all our needs, not perfectly but sufficiently and satisfactorily for both partners.

Separated couples also share, retrospectively, that they become frustrated, disgruntled and then turn away from their spouse.  Gradually withdrawing to other distractions, many find other potential partners and their sexuality becomes sparked elsewhere. Relationship abandonment is frequently preceded by minimal effort, money and energy being invested into reading and seeking help to “tune-up” their run down relationship; finding ways to become new and adventurous in the apparently no longer “forever” relationship.

When couples seek counselling, many find it is often too late which is statistically supported. One or both have already “checked out” of the relationship and are thinking of lives without one another. What contributes to the decisions to give up on what was once a committed relationship, find another partner and go through the same thing all over again? Many factors can be draining on romance so it is important to have a thorough assessment.

Once we find ourselves moving toward a committed relationship, it is imperative to decide to invest time, energy and significant effort toward the ongoing improvement of intimacy skills; communication, sexuality, problem-solving, conflict resolution, assertiveness, moral and spiritual foundations and healthy family values and beliefs.

Don’t be a statistic. When you and your partner want to enhance ALL aspects of your relationship, contact us for a confidential and professional assessment / consultation.

 


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Some may read the title of this blog appalled by the assumption that everyone is an addict. So let’s consider this statement from Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of “What Addicts Know.”

As a culture we’ve become addicted not only to gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex, and other suspects, but also technology and the acquisition of material possessions and every conceivable promise of instant gratification: More is better has become society’s mantra. We eat more, spend more, take more risks, abuse more substances…only to feel more depressed, unsatisfied, discontented, and unhappy. You may know these symptoms firsthand, or recognize them in the lives of people you care about,” (www.Today.com, January 16, 2014).

Given the statement above, we may all be able to identify that we have, or have had at some point, some addictive behaviours. Merriam-Webster’s definition states: Addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). The key word is harmful. In this light, one could even postulate (and we have) people can be addicted to arguing and fighting, thus, also to the chemicals released from the adrenal gland?

Did you know the actual term “addiction” was originally used in the slave trade? (see Drugs, Morality and the Law). When a slave was sold to the “owner”, they were said to be addicted to their master which meant “tied to”. Well, if you and I can be tied to something… yes… we can also be untied! 

When asked in counselling; What is an addiction?, we often respond anything (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) that significantly interrupts or gets in the way of an important area of your life. Harmful may mean persistent thoughts and behaviours “threatening” to healthy functioning in our vocational (work/school), social, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, family, marital spheres. Of course, we may all have a different definition of what “threatening” is as well and the threat may not be immediately evident, recognized or acknowledged.


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Admitting our personal areas that are unhealthy can be difficult enough to do and others generally see the problem before we do.  Owning hurtful behaviour exposes the “dark side” of being human, something few of us are comfortable letting out about ourselves. Many who do admit openly and acknowledge their addictive behaviour, report feeling liberated, relieved and energized with a renewed sense of hope and joy.

This is most evident for those with addictions who go through the recovery process (a clearly defined step-by-step program with accountability measures built in). Those who were once showing characteristics those around them would call deviant, deceptive, manipulative, self-absorbed, and disrespectful can come out of recovery having rediscovered long lost gifts of self-awareness, honesty, integrity, grace and forgiveness. In addition, when we overcome a particular challenge, we gain greater understanding into human behaviour and change processes, also gaining an acquired skill set to become the greatest role models and teachers.

So do we all need to be in recovery?

Consider these questions, also suggested from Lawford:

  • Am I generally content with the way things are?
  • Are my emotions mostly on an even keel?
  • Are my personal relationships strong and supportive?
  • Is there enough joy in my life?

Careful before you answer: Those in self-absorbed, manipulative and deceptive modes of functioning even “swindle” themselves to believe they are content and happy with their lives. So another question may also be considered when this is the case:

  • If there is content and joy in your life, why do you have feelings of being depressed, unsatisfied, and empty? (What is fueling this is not always “biochemistry”)

Instant gratification, the main ingredient and greatest influence of our addictive behaviours refuses to remind us of the fact that the satisfaction we experience is only temporary. Short-term gain, long-term pain! If we can consider those questions on a grand scheme of our lives, we may come to realize that we are not truly happy. We have lost sincere human connections with others through a series of poor thoughts and choices. We have been selfish and have neglected the true meaning of love, trust and support for others and for ourselves. We do need help.


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Changing ourselves without input from others doesn’t work. This is the profession of counselling: assisting others to bring out their inherent skills and qualities and develop new ones to effectively improve their quality of life, overcome challenges faced and, thus, develop satisfying and caring relationships with others. We can also get good coaching advice from books and web resources to be used in concert with evidence-based therapeutic counselling.

We can all benefit from quality counselling to improve our lives. Contact us today.

 

Possible and Impossible are Both Possible?

The outcome depends on our thinking. When lies and betrayal have consumed a relationship, it is common and normal for couples to want to end their relationship. Sometimes the decision to separate is not because there is a lack of love. Most times, it is because the automatic negative thought (ANT) is “It’s over”. Second, it might be that couples have little to no idea how to resolve the difficulties and challenges involved. Of course, few of us are really taught, by parents or school, how to resolve such circumstances or even how to have a great romance.

Once an affair has happened, the deep feelings associated with adultery can feel much like open wounds. The couple is in a crisis state and will often act or react based on how they feel in the moment. Communication can fluctuate between over and under talking about pain, sorrow and grief which make resolutions and healing even more difficult. This is not a great time to make big decisions nor will most of us make good decisions in this type of crisis. Many professional counsellors are trained to assist couples or individuals with the journey ahead, regardless of whether that is to dissolve or resolve the relationship.

So how does a couple get back on track if they decide this is what they want? Is it actually possible for a couple that experience lying, hurt, and betrayal to overcome such hardships and continue a healthy, loving life together? It may seem to be impossible, however it is possible to overcome these challenges, rebuild the relationship and even create a better, healthier relationship than you and your partner had previously. Judith Spring’s book “After the Affair” can also assist and guide couples in their healing and recovery process.

Being in a romantic relationship. of course, is not all roses and butterflies. A true romance is quite likely one of the most magnificent relationships we can have yet, it is also potentially one of the most volatile or painful too when infidelity occurs. Couples face many different obstacles (work-related stress, family conflict, extended family pressures, financial strain, and parenting concerns to name a few). As we move through life’s challenges together, we learn that our core values and morals are quite important in working together and supporting one another through struggles.

Clarifying foundational beliefs are essential for couples who want to successfully recover from adultery. A recovering couple must work together, re-assessing values, facing reality and disclosing and discussing difficult truths, feelings, and experiences that may never have been shared before. Overcoming adultery in a relationship may be one of the hardest obstacles to work through, however, it is possible. Once effectively reconciled, these courageous couples can actually have one of the strongest and most resilient romances on earth.

Before making rash and simplistic decisions based on hurt feelings, call us today to consider your options and find solutions together.

Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

Extramarital Affairs Harden Hearts and Threaten Health

It may seem we live in an age where almost “everything goes”.  If it makes you happy, and it isn’t illegal, then it should be your choice as to whether you do something or not. This thinking seems to have made its way quite effectively into marriages. I’m no lawyer, however, taking risks that threaten another’s life and their physical and mental health seems like some sort of crime to me?

In an article titled; “New Hampshire lawmakers look to get rid of 200-year-old adultery crime” (The Associated Press December 14, 2009), a contemporary lawyer argues, We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.  The article goes on to point out history;

“Convicted adulterers years ago faced standing on the gallows, up to 39 lashes, a year in jail or a fine of 100 pounds. The punishment has been relaxed to a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,200 – with no jail time.”

  • Remember that extramarital affairs are a chargeable offence under the United States Code of Military Justice.
  • As of 2011, adultery was still considered illegal in 23 of the 50 United States.
  • A joint statement by the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice states that: “Adultery as a criminal offence violates women’s human rights” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery).

Although the District of Columbia and approximately half of the states continue to have laws on the books criminalizing adultery, these laws are rarely invoked. Traditionally, states advanced three goals in support of their adultery laws: (1) the prevention of disease and illegitimate children; (2) the preservation of the institution of marriage; and (3) the safeguarding of general community morals.     (found at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sexual+infidelity).

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ‘adultery’ as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband”.

The bible defines adultery more broadly, indicating significant concern should be given to even the act of lustfully looking. In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus states;  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In his National Post article in support of current Canadian laws criminalizing not telling a sex partner about having HIV,  Matt Gurney says, “It is a crime for a reason, and should remain so”. He adds the following rationale;

“The issue is not really about how likely someone is to become infected with HIV, or any other serious sexually transmitted disease or infection. It’s about who gets to make the decision to expose someone else to that chance of infection, whether it be 100% or 1%. How severe the risk is irrelevant — each of us should have the right, and expectation, to know what we are getting ourselves into. None of us should have the right to decide for someone else whether they are exposed to a potentially deadly disease. The only person qualified to make that kind of decision is the person accepting the risk. If they are denied the opportunity, they have not consented. That’s a crime.”      Matt Gurney| 08/02/12 | Last Updated: 08/02/12 11:15 AM ET.

I leave you to consider this matter for yourselves, of course, yet it seems strange to me that some of the things we actually charge people for are significantly less damaging and hurtful than the familial destruction and emotional devastation that most often accompanies adulterous behaviour. The long term impact on both adults and children, the loss of productivity in the workplace and the extensive use of mental health and medical services is a drain on society. While we may not want to place judgement on people or look down on them for their choices, it may be about time we reopened responsible discussions about adulterous behaviour, breach of marital trust and placed some judgment on this behaviour. Through these conversations, we may even develop more effective solutions and preventative strategies to incorporate into our legal, social and educational institutions?

“My Dog Treats Me Better!”

“After years of lies, betrayals, and secrets paired with infidelity and inappropriate sexual behaviours, I ask myself why I’m still here. Why am I still in this relationship? He says he loves me, and I actually trust that he does; however who cares? My dog loves me and treats me way better than he does…and HE’S A DOG! I have never experienced such a magnitude of hurt from any of my family or friends, so why do I put up with this guy?”

We all may be able to relate to “Stephanie” to some degree. Romantic relationships are difficult to maintain and even more difficult to cope with when the relationship is in trouble. When trust has been broken, couples spiral through a crisis and without healing and recovery work, often begin the dynamic or pattern of living crisis to crisis. This is often referred to as a chaotic or crisis-oriented relationship.

Stephanie’s dilemma is common in that we tend to compare our romantic relationships, albeit without sufficient facts or data, to those of our friends, family members and even to examples from popular media and literature. Our perceptions and misperceptions of others’ relationships colours our view of “what intimacy should be”, often leading to us setting the expectations for our relationships too high. With limited and inaccurate information, our expectations can easily become unrealistic, gradually contributing to worsening and even quite hurtful communication.

Of course, when our intimate relationships are in a crisis state, like Stephanie, we start to question why we are still in the relationship. By obtaining more accurate information about relationships and doing some analysis, we can improve our understanding and thus our ability to resolve relationship troubles. Robert Sternberg from the University of Wyoming, proposes the “love triangle” framework in which he presents love’s three main dimensions: intimacy, commitment, and passion and the seven relationship types below have more or less of these qualities (Psychology Today).

When couples consider their place in this model, they can identify their relationship to one of 7 types of relationships (Psychology Today):

  • Consummate (the highest form): a high regard on all three dimensions of the love triangle
  • Infatuated: high on passion only
  • Fatuous: high on passion and commitment
  • Empty: high on commitment only
  • Companionate: high on intimacy and commitment
  • Romantic: high on intimacy and passion
  • Liking/friendship: high on intimacy only

Some couples experiencing a crisis in their relationship escape, withdraw or give up. Consideration toward getting assistance and more research-based analysis helps individuals and couples understand the dynamics underlying their dilemma. This then helps us negotiate the type of relationship we want to achieve and navigate the journey to it. Couples counselling can create a space to work together to heal the hurt, achieve goals, rebuild trust and, ultimately, get the loving relationship you want.

Let us help! Book your appointment with us today!

One Common Symptom of Poor Communication

Effective communication during disputes and disagreements is an essential component of high-quality and enduring relationships. Couples, even managers, employees and others, who are seeking to have amazing relationships are well advised to learn, develop and practice positive communication and interpersonal skills (especially conflict-resolution skills) in order to avoid destructive breakdowns like the one described by this young wife and mother below:

My husband and I have been dealing with disagreements, lies and affairs for the past 6 years. We got together when I was fifteen. Everything was awesome (obviously) but as we started to get closer, I started noticing things about him I did not like. So, of course, I tried to change him. He was very abusive, not physically but mentally and emotionally.

I looked for someone else’s comfort. As a teenager, I feel I didn’t know what I wanted in life so I cheated with an acquaintance.  When my husband found out, I told him the truth and told him I could no longer be with him.   I left him and started dating the man I cheated on my husband with. As time went on, the man I started seeing ended up in prison for a year. When he went to prison, I started to miss my husband, and we ended up back together six months later.

Well, after the man had served his sentence, he got out and I notice my husband still has not changed so I started dating this man…again. Four months went by and this same man ended up back in prison, for even longer. I got back with my husband, and ended up pregnant. I felt now, I have no choice and I need to make things work with me and him. I felt I tried my best to make things work, but they still weren’t working. This man got out of jail and I started seeing him again, while I was pregnant.
This time, our relationship was not sexual. I no longer had feelings for this man as I wanted my family to stay together. So, I would see him after school 3-4 times a week for about two hours and we would spend time at the libraries or just sitting and talking…nothing sexual (not even holding hands). I made it clear to him that I just wanted a friendship and felt he wanted the same. A few months later, he finally broke down and told me he was madly in love with me and would take care of me and my baby. I declined. I knew the relationship would never work.  I was in love with the thought of having someone there for me, as I didn’t feel this way with anyone before, he would make me feel safe and always had interest in what I had to say.

I cut off our relationship when my husband found out I was “sneaking” around to see the man while he was at work. So I stopped, and went to get professional help for this situation. Years go by, and last month is when I was at my worst. I stopped eating, no sleep, couldn’t even enjoy my dad’s vacation up here, and the way I react with my children changed. They could see and feel I was stressed out.

WE CANNOT STOP ARGUING!

We’d argue about things that didn’t even matter. I got so fed up one day that I made the biggest mistake that I’m still living with right now. I contacted the man again. I sent him a message through Facebook asking if he’d received the card I mailed him for his birthday. My husband had a suspicion I would go try to contact him again due to my history, so he checked the computer and saw the message. He was extremely upset. I did delete the message before the man would receive it. All I could think of was “What the h*ll have I done to my family”. I did this all out of anger, because my “Stinkin Thinkin” was thoughts like “Who cares about his feelings”, “Look at how he treats me”, “My kids won’t know they are too young to understand”, “He won’t leave… just do it anyway” and much, much more.

We talked about it. He was determined to leave but I broke down and I tried to explain that I was not happy and things need to change in our relationship. The talk we had that day was the most emotional and loving conversation that we’ve ever had. We discussed things he didn’t like that I do, and I explained things that he did I didn’t like. At the end of the conversation, we were both crying and I could feel that he loved me, for the first time. Now, we still are not perfect but I’ve noticed I have less “Stinkin Thinkin” and try to remain positive for my children, my husband and myself. I will remain positive now and not let “Stinkin Thinkin” choose my actions.

Help to develop and improve relationships is available at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc., a counselling agency in Durham Region. To receive supportive assistance, coaching and effective communication skills training, contact us today!

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