Open, closed, and everything in-between.
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One of the keys to a satisfying relationship is understanding what is required to create one with your partner. This differs depending on your needs and your partner’s needs. Opening up about your needs is important so that the neither person sacrifices themselves in the relationship. Sometimes it might even be helpful to spell out and negotiate these needs on paper so you don’t lose sight of them. In this article, Catron opens up about how creating a relationship contract that addresses everything from who walks the dog when to number of sexual encounters per week has helped her create a satisfying and sustainable relationship. Writing out a relationship contract might not be for everyone, but having the needs conversation is a must.
Mandy Len Catron
Society idealizes passion. Chasing that feeling of “falling in love” can be like a drug: seductive and exciting in the moment, but draining the long run. Healthy relationships cannot depend on love and romance alone. In fact, unrealistic expectations that “love will conquer all” can ultimately sabotage the relationship. While romance in relationship is important, this article lays out some sobering truths that should be considered for a successful long term relationship.
Based on attachment research beginning with John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1960’s to current research looking at the neuroscience of attachment, it is understood that the love we feel from another person has a profound effect on our physical and emotional health. In fact, MRI studies have found that partners can tolerate pain better when they are holding the hand or even imagining a loved one! Dr. Sue Johnson explains the three attachment styles: secure, insecure-anxious, and insecure-avoidant. While these styles often begin in childhood, they can also be created within an adult romantic relationship. The most common problem that couples face is emotional disconnection. Thus, when a couple is not attuned to one another, they can be insecurely attached, causing partners to behave in ways that are often primal (i.e. fight, flight, or freeze). Emotion focused couples therapy, developed by Dr. Johnson and based on the research on attachment, has been shown to effectively change couples’ attachment styles and brings them from disconnection into a more securely attached and connected relationship.
While this book is directed for heteronormative couples and the impact that gender norms have on relationships, Terry Real describes essential skills and clinical wisdom that can apply to every relationship. It is one of our top recommended books because it so clearly states what is okay and not okay in a healthy relationship. Most of us are seeking partners that can both be a lifelong lover as well as a companion and we need new rules for this new kind of 21st century relationship. The book is entertaining and Terry Real keeps it real (pun intended). He cuts to the chase and is direct and often confrontational with you, the reader, and his couples that he illustrates in the book: all the while still using humor to soften the blow. The book also provides exercises for you and partner to practice new ways of relating and communicating.
Why do we love to blame? Because it makes us feel better in the moment, but at the expense of our partner. This humorous and wonderfully animated video explains how blame erodes our relationships and why we need to cut it out.
This moving, beautiful, haunting and slightly creepy true story is narrated by a woman who voyeuristically watches her neighbor couple across a courtyard and into their bedroom. What she initially sees as a sexy and passionate romance evolves and eventually devolves into something deeper and much sadder. The tale both captures the way we often idealize young love or other relationships as well as how tragedy truly changes a relationship. This podcast still lingers on in our heads years later.
Love and Radio
This article starts with a sad but not shocking statistic that only 3 in 10 married couples stay happily married. Most stay unhappily married or divorce. Are we then doomed or is there a recipe for long-term marital happiness? According to research the key to a good marriage is practicing kindness (even in anger), while contempt will spell the end for many couples. How do you do it? Be kind and responsive, don’t automatically assume your partner has negative intentions, and genuinely share in the joy of your partner’s successes. We might add something about sexual intimacy to this list but overall it seems like a good set of relational ingredients to follow.
Emily Esfahani Smith
We love this book because it is not your typical self-help book full of cliches. Sue Johnson integrates the science and existing body of research explaining our “primal code of attachment.” She describes the development and research of her own therapy model, Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), and takes the reader through seven different conversations to have with your partner that is essentially a primer on the 9 steps of EFT. For couples striving for deeper connection in their romantic relationships, the book is helpful in providing exercises, examples of couples that illustrate problems and ways to address them, all the while maintaining an entertaining yet scholarly voice. Given EFT is one of the most successful forms of couples therapy, we highly recommend the book as an effective tool for you and your partner.
Infidelity is seen as the ultimate betrayal, a deal breaker, that leaves us heartbroken, lost, and spiteful. And yet most of us at minimum have fantasized about an outside relationship and many of us have acted upon it (somewhere between 25-75%). In this Ted Talk, Esther Perel unpacks why people cheat, describes its impact, and explores a new framework of posttraumatic growth and intimacy for couples that have experienced infidelity. This video is important for anyone who has ever been cheated on, cheated, thought about cheating, or is open to a new way of understanding relationships.
If you don’t know about attachment theory, it’s about time. The theory has been rigorously studied and explains the ways our early attachments in childhood influence how we behave as adults. Essentially, we seek relationships that are familiar, even if it goes against our best interest. This article gives a wonderful explanation of what attachment theory is all about, including our different attachment styles, and the possibility of correcting our unhealthy patterns of the past with new healthier relationships.
Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer asked 400 married American seniors to give their advice on love and relationships. Learning to communicate and working as a team were important to sustaining their 30 plus years of marriage. These couples said they treated marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment. When choosing a partner, these couples advised getting to know your partner very well before getting married and choosing someone with the same core values. Sometimes we can be quick to end a relationship when passion fades or tensions arise, and sometimes that’s a good call. However, as these senior couples know, there is hope and the possibility in times of conflict and disconnection.
Our ideas about romantic relationships are changing. As Tammy Nelson points out, we live long lives and finding the one soulmate to fulfill our needs throughout a lifetime is a lot of pressure. Open relationships are not for everyone but they might be for more people than we think and might even be for you. In this article Tammy interviews people about their experience in open relationships, providing a window into the benefits and challenges of a non-monogamous set up. Done right, open relationships are transparent, communicative, and can fulfill desires and needs. Read with an open mind.