Your Partner Is Not Your Therapist

Your Partner Is Not Your Therapist

Your Partner Is Not Your Therapist

love-couple-young-teens-outside-moment-emotionsNobody emerges from childhood completely unscathed. Intimate relationships can be a wonderful container in which childhood wounds and sorrows come to light, are met and held with love, and release their power to cause us pain.

However, when childhood wounds are deep and serious, or when there is a trauma response, it is not reasonable to expect a partner to have the skills and emotional resilience to give us everything we need to heal. Serious wounds require serious treatment and rehabilitation.

Warning Signs of Serious Childhood Injury

How can we know whether our emotional baggage is too much for a partner to carry?

The problem for most people is that we grow up thinking that whatever we experienced as a child is normal. It can take outside input to open our eyes to the possibility that our childhood had some problems, and that we may have some unhealthy coping strategies as a result.

Here are some clues to look for, in ourselves and our close friends, family, and partners.

Relationship Anxiety

Needing constant reassurance, finding separations unbearable, anxiously watching for return text messages, intense fear of abandonment, possessiveness and jealousy, trying to control partners, especially in how close they are to other people emotionally.

aloneAvoidance or Extreme Detachment

Feeling uncomfortable, even “invaded”, when relationships become emotionally intimate, avoiding sex and intimacy, keeping emotions out of sexual relationships, pushing friends and partners away when upset, reacting to uncomfortable situations in relationships by withdrawing, or even leaving the relationship.

Unbalanced Focus on Self

While it is healthy to have a good awareness of our own wants and needs, it is important to give equal weight to the wants and needs of others, especially those who are close to us, either physically or emotionally.

If people are regularly letting you know that you are appearing selfish, or not listening to them, or not taking them into consideration enough, it is worth checking whether you have the right balance of self vs others.

This may manifest as people every now and again unfairly abandoning you for reasons you don’t understand, or getting very angry at you when you don’t think you have done anything wrong.

other focus-1600x900Unbalanced Focus on Others

Focusing on others can be a delightful gift, but not if you lose contact with yourself in the process.

Are you aware of your own needs and wants? Do you regularly express them to the people who are close to you, both physically and emotionally?

Or do people seem to take you for granted, and exhaust you with their constant needs and demands?

Are you afraid that if you don’t take care of everyone properly, their reactions will be even more unbearable than the constant low level frustration and exhaustion that you usually feel?

love addictionAddictions

We may not have an addiction to a substance like alcohol, opiates, or illegal substances, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an addiction at all.

Any activity which causes us to get a hit of dopamine can become addictive.

Many people are addicted to more subtle “drugs”, like gambling (which includes high risk activities like day trading, commission-only sales work, and some forms of entrepreneurial activity), or sex (which can also include addiction to the dopamine highs of infatuation), computer games, or food.

Even socially-valued activities can be addictive – there are many workaholics out there! Working out at the gym, going to church, gossiping with friends, fixing up old cars, building dollhouses or computer programs, doing crosswords, and just about any other hobby can become an addiction when we are using it to escape unpleasant emotions or avoid difficult conversations.

These more socially acceptable addictions can combine with other items on this list, such as avoidance, zoning out, and mood swings, so watch out for combinations!

Zoning Out

Losing time, or not noticing what is happening here and now, can be a sign of trauma. This is a particular red flag if it happens during emotionally difficult conversations, but it can also be a habitual way to get through life. If our life as a child is emotionally difficult, one coping strategy is try as much as possible to “not be there” while life is happening.

It often goes together with not remembering much about childhood before the age of 6-8 years old.

2018-07-06 depressionMood Swings

Some days are great – you’re on top of the world, you get a lot done (or start a lot of things), and you feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. Other days, you don’t even want to get out of bed. You curse yourself for the promises you made when you were feeling great. There is no clear cause for the great days or the terrible days.

And some days start out great, but then something happens – someone rejects you, or something doesn’t go to plan – and for the rest of the day you feel awful.

If the swings happen slowly – over weeks and months – you may have bipolar disorder. But if you are having wildly different moods within a single week, you don’t have bipolar disorder – you have emotional dysregulation, which is usually a result of childhood emotional neglect.

SearchingExtreme Sensitivity or Empathy

Can’t walk by a group of people without getting a “hit” of someone else’s emotions?

Find crowds and public spaces draining and exhausting?

Can’t feel happy when your partner or housemate is feeling down?

You are likely to have some childhood wounds or trauma to explore.

Generally, children focus on their own world, and tune out the adults around them until they need something. But if life was difficult, upsetting, or painful, and the adults around were the cause, some children learn to be hyperaware of the emotional state of others. It is a coping strategy, a way of at least having a few seconds of warning before the bad thing happens.

discontent

Yes, That’s Me (or My Partner) – Now What?

Untreated childhood wounds tend to resurface over and over until they are healed. The most common way they emerge is by having us subconsciously recreate the situation where we were wounded.

We are most likely to do this in our intimate relationships, which is what makes intimate relationships so uniquely painful.

 

The number one reason that I have seen relationships end is because one or both people can no longer tolerate the pain of their childhood wounds resurfacing over and over.

This is often a tragic result, because the people concerned love one another very much, and have the potential to support one another in healing – that’s usually what attracts us, at a subconscious level.

But navigating the interlocking childhood wounds of two people in an intimate relationship is like picking your way through a minefield – you just never know when things are going to blow up and cause a whole new type of trauma.

CoachingIt is really important that you have outside support through this process. In severe cases, one or both partners may benefit from individual psychotherapy. Often, though what people really need is a neutral third party who can let them know when they are stuck in a childhood coping strategy, rather than being present and responding to the current situation.

This is where a relationship coach can be invaluable. Not only can they provide useful strategies to improve communication, and mediate difficult conversations, they can also keep you on track with your individual healing, and your support of your partner’s healing.

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Remember – we are here to help. If you’d like personalised coaching at any time, just fill in an application form, and we will schedule a short real-time call to see whether we are right for each other.

Secrets of Sexual Desire

Secrets of Sexual Desire

Secrets of Sexual Desire

happy-couple-1Sexual desire is often presented as one of life’s great mysteries. Who can say why we are attracted to one person, and not to another? Or madly attracted to someone at first, but after a few months or years, the same person leaves us cold?

Many damaging myths and misinformation campaigns have arisen to explain this apparently contradictory, unpredictable beast – sexual desire.

Myths and Lies About Sexual Desire

“Women don’t really want sex; they become willing to do it for a man they love.”

“Men are always up for sex with someone new, but they get bored quickly in monogamous relationships.”

“Treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen.”

“Oh, you just need to spice it up a little – buy some lingerie, or some sex toys. Watch dirty movies together. Have a threesome.”

And, in recent times, courtesy of the Neo-Tantra gurus “You have lost polarity. Spend more time apart and act more like the stereotypical man or woman.”

Sexual-Desire-PullNope.

As a relationship coach, I have worked with many couples over many years, and I can assure you that women can want sex, and men can not want it. People can be monogamous without getting bored in bed, manipulative games are at best a band-aid and at worst a disaster, and “spicing it up” might work for a brief while, but if you don’t address the real issue, the problem will be back.

And “polarity” – don’t get me started on the horrible distortions that I have seen enacted in the name of “polarity”!

The Truth About Sexual Desire: Lust

Sexual desire operates on a number of levels. According to scientists, there is a basic, biological component to sexual desire, based on genetic and immunological compatibility. If this component is present when two people meet, it will be present for a lifetime, because it is based on aspects of the physical body that don’t change much over time.

The one exception to this rule is when women start or stop using hormonal birth control – the hormonal changes affect the desirability of the woman in general, and they change the type of man to whom she is attracted.

But that is not the issue with the vast majority of couples I work with. The basic biological polarity is in place, and it doesn’t change.

cropped-happy-coupleThe Truth About Sexual Desire: Romance

The next level of sexual desire is attraction. This is the fascination we experience in the early stages of a relationship, when we (almost literally) can’t keep our hands off each other.

This is the level at which visual and behavioural cues bring us together. Holding the gaze for a little longer than usual, playing with the hair, moving into one another’s personal space, and so on. These “flirting” behaviours are often gender-specific, with the female version being more coy on average, and the male version more assertive.

The big mistake is to imagine that the attraction between two people is caused by these gender-specific behaviours. In truth, the attraction is communicated by these behaviours. The cause of the attraction lies elsewhere.

The seeds of this level of attraction lie in the social self – the persona that has been constructed since early childhood, based on messages from outside.

This is where we get our exaggerated images of the “ideal woman” and the “ideal man”. The ideal woman was a stick-figure in the 1990s, an hour-glass in the 1950s, and a voluptuous, curvy goddess in Raphael’s time, and the ideal man has always had muscular shoulders, and a square jaw, and only recently has come to require a six-pack.

The ideal woman is soft, kind, and never argues. The ideal man is masterful, understands intuitively what his woman needs, and surprises her with thoughtful gifts on a regular basis.

When we are in the romantic early stages of a relationship, we are motivated to do all sorts of things to express our love and appreciation for our partner. We say loving words. We shower them with gifts and acts of service. We can’t wait to see them again. We touch. A lot. Especially sexually.

The thing is, this motivation arises from the reward/punishment centre of our brain, not the emotional centre. We think of it as love, but it is, quite unromantically, an addiction to our own reward chemical, dopamine.

This crazy, obsessive romantic period has a time limit. We can’t perpetuate the species if we are staying up late and ditching work to be together every day for the rest of our lives. What will we eat? And how will we pay the rent? At some point, we need to settle into a more sustainable pattern of relating, so we have the energy for feeding and housing ourselves (and the offspring that evolution intends us to have).

The Truth About Sexual Desire: Love

The third type of sexual desire is so different from the first two that many people aren’t even aware that it exists.

Sexual desire in the context of a long-term bond is based on feelings of safety and comfort. Your partner might have “love handles”, and not have shaved for a few days, and you would never look at them twice in a singles bar, but you feel warm and comfortable in bed with them on a Sunday morning, and one thing naturally leads to another …

This is almost the exact opposite of the crazy highs that come from dopamine in the romantic phase. Dopamine is heightened by risk-taking, so someone who is “bad for you” in some way can be even more rewarding, because it is a more risky situation.

In a long-term relationship, the opposite is true. Someone who hurts you unpredictably might make an exciting lover. You might enjoy the passionate reunions and make-up sex after a big fight. In a long-term relationship, over time, that unpredictable hurtfulness will totally kill sexual desire.

holding handsThe Unromantic Secret To Keeping Sexual Desire Alive For A Lifetime

It all comes down to this – does your partner feel SAFE with you?

Do they feel loved, wanted, and accepted, just the way they are, or are you forever trying to change them “for their own good”? Do you see them for the unique soul they are, or are you casting them as the enemy in your unresolved childhood dramas?

We all have patterns wired into our brains from our childhood, and those patterns run our romantic partnerships. So check your patterns – are they healthy, constructive patterns, or are they patterns that hurt your partner from time to time?

  1. Purify Your Relationship Patterns. Make sure you are consistently showing up as an empowering, supportive, affirming partner.
  2. When You Mess Up, Clean Up. Nobody expects perfection. You will have bad days, discover new dysfunctional patterns, and go through periods of intense stress, illness, and other issues. All these things make you less patient and your partner less resilient.

If you handle it well, you can heal the emotional wound before it undermines the sexual desire in your relationship. Sit down, take responsibility for your part in the hurt, listen, give empathy, apologise, and, if necessary, do something to make amends.

Your reward? A lifetime of rich, fulfilling sex on tap!