ONGOING CONFLICT:They continue to treat each other the same way they did when they were teens. Couples in Marriage Counseling often describe behaviors, fighting and resentment. Sometimes it has escalated into being mean, harmful, abusive or violent. They are indicating to me that that they are stuck.
They are stuck because they don’t know how to stop the negativity. They don’t have the knowledge nor the skill to resolve their differences. Even though they love each other, their inability to share their grievances respectfully, is dirtying or carving off pieces of their bond. They don’t now how to solve or resolve their conflicts.
And, sometimes, my job is to say, in the most respectful manner, “It’s time for you both to grow up.” They continue to treat each other the same way they did when they were teens. As a Marriage Counselor, I remind us that it really requires adults…a man and a woman…to build an intimate relationship, a marriage.
Our Ability to Create INTIMACY (Erikson’s 6th Psychosocial Developmental Stage starts in the First Adulthood between 28 and 30) comes AFTER Adolescence.
A Few of the Costs of Skipping IDENTITY (Erikson’s 5th Psychosocial Developmental Stage from 13 to 28) and Trying to Create an Intimate, one-on-one relationship in adolescence before Identity is complete:
Identity – An Integrated Image of Oneself as a Unique Person: A. Try Different Roles, B. Develop a Sense of Self and C. the Meaning of Life through relationships with family, peer groups and out-groups. (NOT girlfriends or boyfriends.)
Should we expect otherwise?
The immaturity and ignorance born of unfinished adolescence saddle us with:
We face a lack of:
With these handicaps, people justify compromising a respect for goodness. I hear the complaints and anguish of loneliness, lost hope, narrowed options, addiction, longing for a mate, tolerating abuse, boredom and emptiness.
GENERATIONAL JOURNEY: Our times expose those with the unwillingness to value adulthood, with its requisite psychological agility, clear identity, responsible achievement, service to society and quality activities. We have been on a generational journey to stay young, to seek stimulus or thrills, sensory distraction in pleasure or numbing and present-moment novelty.
TO CONFRONT, TO OPPOSE, TO EMULATE: Our news media have been reporting incidents which display, as Leo Rosten observed, “what the dissatisfied students were looking for were adults—adults to confront, to oppose, to emulate.” Without education for “Keeping Our Teens On Track,” today’s parents are lost in a snowballing trend to stay young and to avoid growing up.
(See the supporting research done by Diana West in her book, “The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization.”)
GROWING UP: THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF A HEALTHY LIFE
Developmental Psychology has mastered how the brain, personality and character grow and methods to ensure that we succeed with parenting and teaching the next generation. Here are eight basic growth goals:
Today’s mentors and educators are fully prepared to teach all of these natural abilities now. The only obstacle is how to develop enough providers and how to reach the people who are ready to learn. Perhaps the very mediums that deliver the bad news will create innovative means for delivering the information and resources.
by Heather Carlile
Dallas, Texas 2015
INEPT MEN: I think that romance is a skill. Tragically, I see some cultures, North America among them, lack male role models and mentors who show guys the ropes in the relationship arts of being a gentleman, a romantic, and a man who respects women and can court a lady. The female side to this deprivation of romance is just one feminine paradox. Once he has bonded with her as a best friend, he is ready to offer her a home and become her lover.
INEPT WOMEN: And, so sadly, often, a woman doesn’t or can’t develop her flirtatiousness because of certain cultural attitudes, harsh beliefs or hurtful experiences. She learns either to repress her sexiness or to risk being labeled ‘easy’ or worse.
A spouse often ‘strays’ because the woman has been disrespected by her man’s ignorance about how to treat a lady in public, at home and in their bedroom. Usually a woman’s libido naturally shuts down if she isn’t feeling bonded, safe, understood, cared for and validated.
JUST BUDDIES: Her husband may know what he wants but may not know how valuable it is to be a romantic and, therefore, doesn’t know how to tend to her femininity and her sexual response to create the bond between lovers. The wife may be disconnected from her body and her sexuality for various reasons such as childhood harm, low self-esteem, cultural judgements, etc. And they may still be more comfortable with their friends as individuals rather than focusing on developing a new lifestyle as a couple with mutual fun with other couples vs too much of him riding his motorcycle or her in her book club.
Courtney had given up hope that Chris would ever listen to her. He was an energetic attorney who thought he was being a generous husband when he built a lake house so she and the kids could come with him and his friends during fishing season. Until they were in my office and until his outrage at her affair was sobered by my insistence, he had not yet heard nor placed any meaningful value on her complaints.
Courtney wanted what most women need in their intimate relationship: time for affection, validation, personal attention and friendship. The trips to the lake house didn’t provide that, rather she was exhausted by packing up the SUV for their whole family, doing the increased work at the lake of additional family housekeeping and cooking during what was supposed to be vacation. But her gentle complaints fell on deaf ears.
One of the other dads in their country club had noticed that, like him, she was always alone with the kids at the tennis court. He was a professional man in the world of communication and arts. His attention and conversation made her feel like a great mom and, also, a smart and beautiful lady. She enjoyed the easy friendship which ended up turning into an emotional affair and then quiet romantic hours when her husband was working long days and was too busy to notice.
At last, when her husband, Chris, agreed to learn to spend time paying attention to her, to listen to her concerns, to talk with her, to touch her in the ways that made her feel loved rather than in trying to get what he wanted, it was easy for Courtney cut off the affair. She genuinely wanted her husband and was grateful that, at last, the man she really loved wanted all of her and wanted to learn to make her feel adored in her marriage. It took Chris months to get over his feelings of being betrayed even though he understood that his wife’s affair was due to his lack of romantic skills. Their marriage counseling was complete as they built a new intimate bond through friendship and romance.
INTIMACY LOST: Romance before its time gives only the illusion of intimacy. I believe that our generation has unintentionally skipped parts of the six natural steps of full psychological development. When we are unable to continue the family bond of learning and adventure through adolescence, our teens find bonds with each other and plunge into intimacy before they are prepared.
USE TECHNOLOGY ARTFULLY: Our parents and grandparents were not equipped to keep us on track to adulthood in the current environment. They couldn’t have been ready. One example: our great inventors and visionaries couldn’t foresee that a purely technical manual for our televisions, telephones, video games and computers couldn’t inform us of how to use our technology with wisdom and artfulness to maintain our children’s growth and a healthy family lifestyle.
Those of us who devote our professional lives to knowing people well are starting to have access to the research data which points out the value in choosing how to bring the media into our homes and hands for wholesomeness.
DATE NIGHT: For more help with knowledge, I recommend focusing on date night. And, go beyond the basic choices. Dinner out, movies and drinks will always be there. Consider the favorites either of you have or which the two of you share. Your dates don’t even have to be a night…just together. Searching online for date ideas could be a date in itself.
1. The Invisible Ways We Lose Our Romance and How to Get it Back
2. Arousing the Romantic Bond – Novelty
3. Chemistry – Arousal is More than Sex
4. Sexual Intimacy in a Marriage – The Universal Panacea.
Reading even a couple of chapters of a book or studying a few websites on relationships, watching a couple of videos on You Tube can make a startling difference in the quality of your friendship, your intimacy (sexual, mental and emotional), your home life and your parenting. Dozens of sources have good information on gender difference, communication, love languages, sex, family traditions and personality styles. If you haven’t found my You Tube channel, you can go to: youtube.com/heathercarlile. I created 33 different subjects to help people with their intimate relationships and their home life.
But, my opinion is that seeing a marriage or relationship counselor is a fast-forward. When I can work privately with a couple, I can determine which elements of relationship abilities I need to teach first and can help to make a difference in a couple of weeks. It saddens me when people feel a need to look for love away from the one closest to them and don’t make an effort to look for solutions with experts before they harm their current bond.
The Strong Leader and The Spunky Lady: Ron and Kathy called me from Wisconsin. They had been married for 27 years; they were resentful and angry at each other and had no sex life. Ron had begun to get his needs for a romantic best friend through an emotional affair with an intelligent and extroverted woman at his workplace. He was rationalizing that elements of the personality quiz typically used on-the-job which he and Kathy had taken showed that Kathy was so opposite to him that she couldn’t love or understand him anymore.
The truth was, they’d been growing apart for years and lost their sexual intimacy but, for logical reasons. Kathy was very angry that Ron dominated her and their children and disrespected her because she was more introverted and less active than he was. I agreed to counsel them; so they drove to Texas for a Marriage Intensive with me.
I learned their history and scheduled prep interviews via 5 hours of phone sessions. When they arrived in Dallas four couples counseling, we worked for 12 hours in my office. Kathy and Ron got to the place where they were smiling and holding hands. One thing they learned was that their differences actually complemented each other–beautifully–provided they knew enough about treating each other with respect and handling their differences with kindness and good humor. Their differences were largely in their personalities revealed by their Enneagrams, their need for company vs solitude, their differing emotional needs as a man and a woman, and their gender differences in terms of getting their love needs satisfied.
Their last nights in Dallas while working with me were a lot more fun than they’d had in a decade. They wished they’d taken action sooner and asked if they could come back next year. I said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
For more help with knowledge, I recommend John Gray’s classic: Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus!
And, my series of teaching videos on You Tube:
1. Love Needs Female vs Male http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UHHzpqWAyU
As a marriage counselor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples. Each relationship is unique and yet I can describe four general patterns that are at the root of most infidelity.
POWER AND CONTROL: People compensate for under-developed emotional robustness by using defense mechanisms to achieve power and control over others. There are five major categories of being defensive or throwing tantrums with emotional victimhood:
1) The Fawning Caretaker,
2) The Whining Martyr,
3) The Pouting Runner,
4) The Revengeful Judge
5) The Raging Bully.
1) The Helper
2) The Visionary
3) The Peacemaker
4) The Exemplar
5) The Achiever.
Two manipulative styles based on fear and control which create behaviors that are either too self-centered or too driven to please:
1) The User/Taker vs
2) The Pleaser/Giver.
These Users and Pleasers play Dominator or Doormat in order to avoid living with emotional intelligence. They haven’t been taught how to handle and resolve hurts, guilt, grief, forgiveness and anger. They may have hardened the heart so that:
a.) sexual behavior is no longer connected with intimacy or
b.) the libido can be re-activated only after there is no risk of attack and the wounds in the heart are healed.
The Suit and The Artist: Jonathan was committed to providing for his wife and children. He was a bright executive and used to interacting with professionals at work in high-level problem solving. He valued intelligence, knowledge and solutions and he saw feelings as weak and useless. He was critical of Holly because she was too emotional for his taste and she seemed to be content to be a pleaser.
Holly was invested in the roles of wife and mother and didn’t engage in dialogue or conversations with him other than about parenting and running the household. Jonathan judged her as being less intelligent but a good mom. Holly was an artist and deeply sensitive. Her way of coping with Jonathan’s disrespect and criticism was to withhold her thoughts and avoid interacting with him verbally and sexually. She turned to her girlfriends for friendship and understanding.
Jonathan found himself stimulated by a social relationship with an outgoing and intelligent married woman. His fascination with her, despite his desire for fidelity to his wife, tipped his emotional affair into a sexual liaison.
To his surprise, when Holly found out, she cared; she was very articulate and passionate. She felt abandoned, violated and angry.
When they came for counseling, they weren’t sure if they wanted to be married. Our work revealed Holly’s intensity, intelligence and secret longing for emotional intimacy with Jonathan. She had been afraid of his rejection and hadn’t been open and honest with him.
As they worked with me in marriage counseling, they started their new openness and honesty in my office and they made some changes in their lives. Holly got a job in an advertising agency and felt more energized. She had more to share with her husband. Jonathan respected her actions and was willing to take Holly on dates and to engage in dialogue and conversation with her to see if they could find a peer friendship. As Holly opened up her thoughts and opinions, Jonathan opened his heart and soul.
They surprised me with the strength of their courage and empathy in the new emotional and intimate bond they built. For the first time, they became romantic best friends. And that, I believe, is an intimate relationship or a marriage.
For more details on Emotional Intimacy, you can watch my You Tube Video: youtube.com/heathercarlile
WHEN SKILLS DON’T SOLVE THE CONFLICT: What helps us make progress when couples counseling isn’t enough? Many of my clients come to my private practice office when they are in conflict and want to find their way back to happiness, trust and intimacy. But, after I work with them on their problem-solving abilities, communication, gender difference empathy and many of the other relationship skills, I find something which won’t improve. When the fear, defensiveness, hurt and conflict continue, the problem is usually at a deeper level.
TIME FOR HEALING THERAPY: Most of us feel most comfortable and at peace at home and, if we have an intimate relationship, with our Beloved. And, that comfort can be the place where our wounds show. When we open our hearts, the emotional forms of love we carry are exposed. Our heart holds all of the feelings, the happy ones and the uncomfortable ones. I think of it as our heart’s door opening wide revealing, to our mate, the joys of loving and the agonies of our injuries. And, if we are devoted to staying in the intimate bond, our best friend/lover will experience our woundedness, too. Sometimes this is the natural way of finding arms that hold us while we grieve and heal. And, sometimes grieving can’t heal because it isn’t enough when the injury was so profoundly harmful that it is a trauma. In my opinion, only in this decade are we able to sincerely understand the distinction between a wound and a trauma. And, the means of healing from trauma are not commonly understood yet. It requires more than just talking.
My friend, Wynne, said it beautifully when she wrote this:
TRAUMA RE-ENACTMENT: “When trauma occurs, the traumatized person sometimes seems frozen in time. Others, not having experienced their difficulty, can not understand why this person cannot “get over it.” When in relationship with such a person, it is helpful to remember that the scale and intensity of a person’s behavior is in direct correlation to their unresolved feelings and/or the fear, conscious or otherwise, they have that the traumatizing event is ongoing, or may yet reoccur.
“When we feel safe, we can connect without trauma re-enactment. In such instances, what occurred in the past is able to remain in the past. However, if there is no acknowledgment of the trauma (from oneself or from others) nor remedy perceived and embodied by the traumatized person, they will likely continue to subconsciously recreate the traumatizing event in hopes of -this time- being protected from it.
“One of our challenges as human beings is to realize that we have ALL endured some degree of trauma and the connection we crave is the safety we wish had been afforded us at that time. Meditation, Prayer and Mindfulness, allow us to be the safe place, the thoughtful responder, the loving protector, for another traumatized human, and for our own selves, today and every day.
HEALING TRAUMA: Helping people heal the results of a traumatic experience is not just talk. We have been studying and creating new methods for trauma survivors. Many of those methods are so new that most people haven’t encountered them. My first recommendation, which is available for use at home, is guided imagery audio tracks from the best source: Health Journeys. Belleruth Naparstek is one of my heroes. Her visualizations have been carefully written and recorded for countless problems…even Post Traumatic Stress.
I’m always looking for more methods. If you know about something great, please let me and my readers know.
When the trauma is healed, there may be no remaining conflicts in your relationship. The two of you are free to create a happy life together again.