Tag responsibility

Understanding Threesomes

Relationships are the stuff of life. Quite literally, nothing in the universe exists that isn't in a relationship to a whole bunch of other stuff, not to mention (indirectly) everything else in existence too. Of course, we homo sapiens, when we discuss relationships, we're usually referring to the face-to-face, human-to-human variety, which are by far the most complicated of them all. In this article, I'll explain what makes our interpersonal interactions just so mischievously difficult, and what to do about all those threesomes in which we keep unwittingly finding ourselves.

Being the Shore: The Ins & Outs of Emotional Closeness

People are always changing, flowing through shifting emotional states. As we morph throughout time, one of the things that fluctuates is our desire for emotional--and physical--closeness. This phenomenon can really complicate relationships! Your partner might not want to cuddle or have sex or share a meaningful conversation at the exact moment you do, or vice versa. You might want to feel closer to someone who doesn't want closeness, or want more distance from someone who seeks greater closeness from you. An important question then arises: What's the best way to manage these ever-shifting desires for closeness and distance? Here's what I tell clients.

Top 10 Relationship Myths

Conventional wisdom is great for creating ordinary relationships, but creating extraordinary relationships takes extraordinary means, means that replace conventional thinking with a less conventional, more out-of-the-box approach to connecting. In this article, I quickly debunk the top 10 relationship myths I see most often in couples counseling.

Asking for Permission

When we were young, we asked permission quite often. Can I watch another TV show? Can I be excused? Can I spend the night at Bobby's house? Can I borrow the car? When we had parents or caregivers lording over our choices and freedom, asking permission made perfect sense. Since childhood, you've probably been taught that asking permission was the polite, courteous and appropriate thing to do. After all, it seemed a whole lot more considerate--and ultimately less complicated--than sneaking out of the house or stealing the family car without asking. However, if you're reading this article right now, you're likely no longer living with mom and dad, but nonetheless still haven't fully outgrown this pesky habit of asking permission. Maybe you ask your partner for permission to stay out late with your friends. Or maybe you ask your boss permission to take a day off from work. If you have kids, you may even ask them permission to wipe their face clean or put on their shoes. If so, you're bound to have suffered some of the negative consequences that come from asking permission.

In Praise of Manipulation

Manipulation gets a bad rap. In The Two Truths About Love: The Art & Wisdom of Extraordinary Relationships, as well as in my counseling sessions with clients, I explain how each and every one of us has 99% control of every relationship. Upon occasion, a client will remark, "Oh, but I don't want to be thought of as controlling." What a travesty! Such a person has yet to awaken to the limitless rewards that come from being manipulative. My goal, as a therapist, is to change this.

Hidden Wisdom from the TV Show Chopped

Life lessons can be found in the most unexpected places sometimes. This particular one comes from a cooking show on The Food Network called Chopped. In each episode, four chefs compete with one another to impress a panel of judges. At the start of each of the three timed rounds that will ultimately determine a winner (appetizer, entrée, dessert), the chefs are given a basket containing four “mystery ingredients”. Once the clock starts, the chefs open their baskets to see, for the first time, which—usually quite peculiar—ingredients they must somehow include in their dishes. Thus the culinary improvisation begins, as time steadily dwindles.

Love and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Imagine that you are about to embark on a long-distance, solo motorcycle ride across the Mojave desert. The trip is bound to be grueling and, if you know anything about motorcycles, you can be certain that your vehicle is going to break down, probably multiple times, during your journey. Since you’re going on this adventure alone, not knowing how to make repairs along the way would put you in serious peril. In fact, you’d be wise to cancel the trip entirely. However, if you are skilled in the art of motorcycle maintenance, then no problem! You can fearlessly set forth without reservation. When dilemmas and challenges arise, you’ll know just what to do to get yourself back up and running. Relationships are a lot like this. Although it might look like you are going on such an adventure with a partner, in truth you are going alone. You are still you, a separate individual setting out on a journey that, at times, may be grueling and will invariably present you with an assortment of unexpected challenges. Anticipating anything else would be like trusting that your motorcycle will flawlessly traverse the Mojave without encountering a single hitch. The odds of that? Zero.

Boundaries? No thank you!

The issue of boundaries has long been a hot topic in the field of interpersonal psychology and, over the course of the past several decades, much has been written about this important subject. Questions about how to understand and define one’s personal limitations and to communicate these effectively to others so that these are respected and honored are valuable ones to answer. As such, the idea I am going to share in this article is not intended to completely contradict or undermine notions of “healthy boundaries”, but rather to develop this concept one step farther—toward the place where even “healthy boundaries” can be replaced with something, well, even more extraordinary.

There Are No We-Issues

All we do is fight—Our communication skills stink—We’ve stopped thinking about us—We can’t seem to get along—We don’t agree about anything—We’re just mean to each other—We’ve grown apart—We’re at an impasse—We need help. I hear pronouncements like these frequently when couples first come to see me for counseling.

The Dangers of Saying “I’m Sorry”

Most people believe that an apology is a kind and considerate way to take responsibility for one’s past actions. It is common practice for individuals to seek apologies from those by whom they feel wronged, or to apologize when others feel wronged by them. This stems from the notion that apologies have a certain reparative effect, that they have the power to heal emotional wounds. In actuality, this is true. Apologies do heal. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to apologize. Unfortunately, most people apologize in an unhealthy way, a way that, although it may ease some tension within the moment (and therefore seems helpful), actually injures the long-term vitality of the relationship. And this injury far exceeds the benefit. It is like placing a Band-Aid on a scratch, only the Band-Aid is laced with lethal toxins. Since this idea—that an apology can be harmful to relationships—goes mightily against the grain of normal thinking, let me further explain.