Secrets Are Common Even In The Most Open Relationships

By Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.

Not everyone feels completely comfortable engaging in self-disclosure, even to the people we hold most dear. Early in a relationship it seems particularly difficult to know just how much to reveal to the other person. However, you would think that by the time a couple gets really close to each other, they’d be unlikely to hold back in the sharing department.

Intrigued by the question of who keeps secrets, and why, University of Tennessee psychologist Beth Easterling teamed up with her colleagues from East Carolina University (2012) to find out specifically whether sexual orientation might influence the level of disclosure in close relationships. They reasoned that people in same-sex relationships spend more of their lives keeping their sexual orientations a secret to avoid the prejudice and discrimination they might face if they disclosed the truth to others. Therefore, they would carry this tendency to hide things even once they were in a relationship in which they felt comfortable with their partner.

There’s surprisingly little research on secret-keeping in relationships, so in addition to informing us about the role of sexual orientation in this phenomenon, Easterling et al.’s study sheds light on the issue in general.  In essence, the data from Easterling and her colleagues confirm the notion that secret-keeping becomes a basic way of relating to others among people who keep to themselves about their sexual orientation. A lifetime of living in the closet, as it were, makes a person naturally reticent to share openly to someone else, even a close relationship partner. However, also to emerge from this study were some, shall we say, revealing facts about who else keeps their partners in the dark.

Of course, there are secrets and then there are “secrets.” You might not admit to even your closest friend on the planet, much less your relationship partner, how much time you waste playing online games, scouring the sale racks of your local outlet stores, or reading pulp fiction. You might even hide the fact that you don’t cook your partner’s favorite brownie recipe from scratch but instead use a mix. These seem like innocent enough little lapses especially if you don’t allow them to interfere with your time together. Assuming that this is not the case, then such relatively minor foibles wouldn’t be considered “secrets.” According to Easterling and her colleagues, a secret is a secret in a relationship if it “directly affects or concerns the individual but is withheld from the partner” (p. 198).

An obviously example of such a relationship secret might be not telling your partner that you were once married or, worse, still are. Apart from this extreme, other examples of relationship secrets would concern your family (a siblingcommitted suicide) or your own past life (you were abused as a teenager). Secrets about finances would also qualify as relationship secrets if, for example, you have a huge unpaid debt or, conversely, a secret bank acount that you use to pay for things you don’t want your partner to know about.

The participants in the Easterling et al. study completed an online survey about themselves, their relationships, and their secrets. They ranged in age from 16 to 72 (with the average at 20 years old).  Three-quarters were female, about the same percent was heterosexual, and only one-third weren’t in a married or serious relationship.

In general, a large majority (60%) of the sample admitted to keeping at least one secret from their partners at some point in life, and one-quarter said they were keeping a secret right now. On a relationship secret scale ranging from 0 to 355 (based on number and frequency of secrets), the average score was 217.  Apparently, there are important secrets that people do keep from their partners, though not everyone does so to the same extent.

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Overcoming The Road Blocks To Effective Communication

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Communication is the life tool with which we may create and strengthen our relationships, and relationships are all about emotional safety and meaningful connections.

Communication is a tool like no other. Whether verbal or nonverbal, it is to your emotional and mental health, and relationships, what food and water are to your body. You may be wondering, if talking is such a “loving” activity why do you experience so much pain in your communications with one of the most important persons in your life, your partner?

Communication is not the problem; the real problem is allowing your subconscious minds to communicate in your defense, rather than communicating in conscious, deliberate ways that grow you personally because they energize life in your relationship. Just as we cannot not communicate, we cannot not relate. Therefore, it is not a question of whether or not communicate, rather a question of how you relate when you communicate.

How has to do with the emotional signals you are sending, distinct messages about how you feel about one another that either enhance or diminish the quality of your couple relationship. You may not be consciously aware of these signals, however, your subconscious mind is, and hypervigilantly so in situations where it thinks you perceive a threat or danger.

Alas, you are your partner are wired to seek fulfillment in the giving and receiving of your gifts of love. At the same time, you are also wired with a drive that propels you to seek to be known, recognized and valued as a unique individual. This is part of your quest for meaning and purpose in life.

Thus, the strivings for a deeper connection, on the one hand, and the strivings for being valued as unique being, on the other, create a natural tension in our relationships, seemingly pulling and pressing from opposite directions.
This tension, however, is critical to our well being. It is there, not to torment, rather to nudge us to learn what we need to know to find fulfillment, and realize all we can be as self-actualized beings. A healthy life is much like walking on a tightrope. The opposing pressures are actually invitations to learn how to live life in balance. Power struggles are inevitable in our relationship. They are the schools in which we learn both how to create and influence and make happen, as well as how to stand back, fully accept and let go. Both are essential capacities to cultivate, as we learn to manage our emotional states.

When we embrace painful emotions and fear as teachers, they help us learn how to protect our happiness, a task that is essential to us in order to realize the full richness of life. While this tension is uncomfortable and painful, it is not what produces the problems we face. In fact, suffering is a result of avoiding or not responding wisely to painful emotions we feel. Avoiding pain may be the primary culprit responsible for much of the suffering in couple and family relationships.

The real obstacles are certain meanings our brain has recorded and believes are true, in other words, a host of lies and illusions. What are the obstacles?

1. Fear of painful emotions and fear itself

One of our biggest obstacles is that your parents, like most all parents for many generations, did not know how to regard painful emotions, their own and their loved ones, as important teachers, opportunities to connect at deeper levels of meanings or action signals! Instead, you learned to go to one extreme or the other, either avoid, deny, reject painful emotions or fear—or wallow in them—in order to fulfill your needs to either connect or be recognized for your uniqueness. In either case, your sensory-self is hyper-vigilantly, to some degree, in charge. This means you are in survival mode, a state, where your “fight or flight” gets easily triggered, that you are not designed to be in for long periods of time. Your body burns enormous amounts of energy in survival mode. It is designed to do so to help you survive the occasional crisis. Afterwards, it needs time to repair! When the sensory-self is in charge, it is hyper-vigilantly guarding against enemy attacks in situations where, well, you are just at home with your loved ones!

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The Man Period IS NOT Pragmatic

You can try and figure it out if you want to…..but beware….the man period IS NOT pragmatic.  LOL.  It just happens yall….oftentimes for unrelated, insignificant, and irrelevant reasons.  Yes, we as men spazzz out and get into a funk sometimes that pollutes our whole environment.  The wife can see it and feel it.  The children can see and feel it.  It’s no secret.  It’s not logical. It is what it is.  Please don’t take offense….the man period IS NOT pragmatic.  Listen in and hear how my wife deals with me when I get into this stank space.

For Couples/Individual Coaching or Counseling

with Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at

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Give Your Relationship The Gift Of Radical Acceptance

By Andrea Miller

“Andrea, just love him.” These were the surprising words a wise friend had for me when I called to consult her after having a particularly bad fight with my boyfriend, Sanjay.

I was ready to walk out of the relationship one night when we were at each other’s throats. I yelled at him, “You’re impossible. I love you, but I can’t keep doing this!” I left our Upper West Side apartment shaking with anger and hurt, storming down Broadway until I found a hotel to see if a room was available. I eventually returned home late that night, but realized that I had to do something different or our relationship would not survive.

I explained our drama to my friend, sharing how conflicted I felt. Her advice stopped me dead in my tracks. I suddenly realized the mistake I’d been making my entire life. I had been perpetuating the turmoil in our relationship by continuing to focus on Sanjay’s flaws. Instead, I needed to accept him as he was and commit to loving him. I needed to fully accept myself as well and not let the fear of rejection prevent me from being open and honest with my feelings. I have always been an extremely guarded person. Although I was raised by a loving family, I experienced considerable turmoil when I was growing up and learned to isolate myself emotionally, almost always avoiding conflict as a means of protecting myself. As a result, I had a very tough time opening up and sharing who I really was.

So when I finally met the love of my life, I wasn’t ready.

I wanted to be close to Sanjay, but found it very difficult to do so. I kept finding fault with him. I wanted him to change to fit me. Yet somehow we kept the relationship alive, and, after a few years of dating, we moved in together, choosing a sunny apartment across from the Natural History Museum. We had chemistry galore and loved each other passionately. Yet I would keep him at arm’s length when it got too difficult — which it often would. We fought — a lot.

Sanjay had his flaws. I had mine. But he was a truly good guy and we loved each other unremittingly. I realized that if we were to stay together, our path forward to a committed and fulfilling relationship would require a profound approach — or more so, a radical one.

What was that new approach? It’s what I have come to call Radical Acceptance.

I believe radical acceptance is the key to making a relationship not only work — but thrive. It’s been the key to making my relationship with Sanjay incredibly deep and rewarding.

So, what is radical acceptance?

Radical acceptance means loving someone fully for who he or she really is — flaws, short-comings, weaknesses, warts, and all. It signifies loving someone without judgment. It is love filled with empathy and compassion.

Radical acceptance is the essence of unconditional love. It creates so much safety that the “lovee” can truly be him or herself. To radically accept someone means: I know of your flaws, failures, weaknesses, and short-comings. I still love you.

Studies have shown that people feel good about themselves after they have given a gift. Radical acceptance is gift-giving on steroids, thus an immense opportunity for the giver to feel better, because it truly is the most powerful, valuable gift you can give to someone.

Just think for a moment how it would feel if you knew your spouse or significant other fully accepted you — ALL of you? Wouldn’t that be the most liberating and empowering feeling imaginable?

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7 Ways To Make Him Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of Your Mouth

By Marcelina Hardy

Here’s how to ensure that what you say doesn’t go in one ear and out the other.

As women, we all know how hard it is to get our men to understand us. We talk to them and then we get the stare — you know, the one that looks like we just spoke a foreign language. Either he does that or he will respond with something completely off base or something that makes you really upset. This is when the argument begins and ruins the whole night or day.

For the sake of improving your relationship and helping your man understand the women’s language, check out these ways to get your man to understand:

1. Don’t Talk While He’s Busy. Don’t talk to him when he’s playing his video game, watching TV, or doing some other extra-curricular activity. You’ll be wasting your words because he is not listening.

2. Don’t Interrupt Him. Don’t demand he stop doing whatever he is doing to listen to you. All he will do is wait for you to be finished so he can get back to what he was doing before. That also means he really isn’t paying any attention to you. He’s probably thinking about which door he has to try to get into the next level of his PS3 game.

3. Don’t Yell At Him. Don’t yell at him to listen to you before you talk to him. He’ll most likely be thinking you’re about to complain about something he should have done or didn’t do and has already tuned you out. Once you are out, you are out for good.

4. Approach Him With A Smile. Make the conversation one that he wants to be part of and one that he is going to like. To do this, smile and take his hands into yours. Sit on the couch and tell him that you miss him and that you want to talk to him for a while.

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BEWARE Of These 6 Dangerous Thoughts That Are Hurting Your Relationship

by Tiffany Anton

I made a comment recently saying, “No other person is a threat to us unless it’s violence.” Whether it’s your husband’s secretary, the cute guy working behind the reception counter at the gym, a the hot lady dancing near your husband on the dance floor and giving him the eye of interest, or a co-worker and so on, it seems that many women and men have moderate to high levels of jealousy regarding their spouses/partners.

Here are six examples of thinking patterns that support jealous thoughts and feelings:

  1. High-risk Thinking: If my partner finds another attractive, then my relationship is at risk, as they may steal them from me. All others are a risk to my relationship security.
  2. Fantasy Thinking: My partner will never find anyone more attractive than me, I will be his/her end all be all. He/she will never have interest in being with another sexually because they are completely fulfilled, aroused and satisfied by me; therefore, when he/she thinks differently than my fantasy, I am hurt, rejected and threatened.
  3. Fear/Self-Loathing Thinking: Oh, s/he is better looking than I, I am ugly/fat, of course my partner will want another, I know s/he’ll leave me for him/her. I hate her/him!
  4. All Men Thinking: All men lie and cheat, I should expect it. He looked over at her, I know he’ll cheat on me. A man would suck on a cows titty if the cow would let him.

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Verbal Intimacy Is A Key Ingredient In Healthy Relationships

There are hundreds of personality traits and tendencies that make someone “good material” for a successful long-term relationship. But according to relationship experts, there is one trait that is more important that all others. Mastering verbal intimacy is the most important indicator of whether a person is right for you and ready for a serious relationship. For the person who is dating and seeking a partner to pursue a successful relationship, there is no more important task than determining if your current date has the ability to share themselves verbally on a deep and intimate level.

Psychologists emphasize “verbal” intimacy, the sharing of our deepest fears, dreads, joys, and inner experiences as a great way to learn about the interior of our potential partners. They also share 3 things, which must be present for true verbal intimacy to begin and flourish.

#1 You must know who YOU are.
Many adults, and especially men, are complete strangers to themselves. When asked to describe their feelings on certain subjects, they are unable to answer, practically unable to even understand the question. This kind of numbness often starts in childhood when children are told to “act like a man” or to “stop crying” because “you’re not hurt.” These messages tell children to ignore their inner signals. Over many years, these individuals will become oblivious to what they are feeling. To be able to share yourself deeply you must know what you’re feeling. It is vital that you understand yourself before you have the capability to be an equal partner in a satisfying, verbally intimate relationship.

#2 You must have a desire to know each other.
We all know certain individuals that seem fixated on themselves. These narcissists may momentarily ask an inane question about you and your life, but they quickly direct the conversation back to their accomplishments. This tendency is also often a result of a childhood imbalance. If you grew up in a home where no one really seemed interested in you, you may have developed into an adult that loves to talk about yourself. When you meet someone who has a great desire to sit and actively listen to you talk about yourself, this is an excellent sign that this person is geared towards expressing verbal intimacy.

#3 You must make space for verbal intimacy.
Verbal intimacy is most likely to flourish when stress is low, relaxation is high and the phone is off. No one needs to be reminded about how cell phones, pagers, and computers have made it easier for us to carry work home and elsewhere. Time that used to be personal time by default can now be turned into work time. For verbal intimacy to grow, the frantic pace of our lives must be slowed. We must make time for long walks and quiet dinners. Sometimes we feel guilty for making this space in our schedules, but no relationship can become a brilliant one without a dedication to the verbal intimacy concept. A relationship can start without verbal intimacy. It can continue for months and sometimes years without either partner giving time or consideration to its benefits. However, over time almost every relationship will go flat, that is lose it spontaneous excitement, unless both partners commit to enhancing their verbal intimacy.

3 Truths That Will Transform Your Relationship TODAY!

 

These 3 Truths will transform your relationship today if you internalize them and operate as though they are your norm. The Mrs. and I have been happily married for a long ass time and these 3 truths are consistently present in our reality. If you’re struggling with this…I challenge you to release the need for it to make sense and simply receive. It has worked in our relationship and in the relationships of the thousands of couples we’ve worked with. As always…Stop Playing and Start Pushing.

To Get our FREE GUIDE Inside The Head & Heart Of The Opposite Sex:
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How To Forgive, Forget, And Set Boundaries In Your Relationship

By Dr. Lisa Love

Is it really possible, or practical, to forgive and forget if someone is only going to repeat abusive and harmful behaviors? It is, but it requires a little more clarity on the entire process of boundary setting in conjunction with forgiveness.

In the past several years I have become even more savvy on the dynamics of abuse. I have also become aware of how abusers pretty much count on people forgiving them and forgetting about the harm they cause as a way to escape from the consequences of their destructive behaviors.

Which is why I want to draw upon the Christian teachings I was raised on. Because to me Jesus is a major example of forgiveness. Yet, when Jesus famously forgave those around him, at one point he also proclaimed, “Go and sin no more.” In other words, all of us, when we are given the blessing of forgiveness, have at the same time a responsibility to become more conscious of our destructive patterns. And, once aware of them, we need to actively move to change our behaviors so we sin (or harm ourselves and others) no more.

What about forgetting then? Though I have no idea what the roots are of the words forgiving and forgetting, it has not passed by me that the words can easily be broken into “for – giving” and “for – getting.” Looked at this way I can almost imagine acient folks looking at two people who have harmed each other, and then telling them to both step into the center of the room for the purpose of “giving” and “getting.” Or, to put it more simply for the sake of apologizing and making restitution with each other so the scales of justice (or karma) are set right.

Yet, sadly forgiving and forgetting has often turned into, “Ok, I’ll be a nice person and let you off the hook entirely. You don’t have to get conscious. You don’t have to change your behaviors. I’ll just let the whole thing go. And, you can go on being hurtful like you were before.” Quite frankly this is the fundamental reason why abusive relationships continue. Abusive people never have to suffer any consequences for their destructive behaviors. And, their forgiving spouses (who continue to ignore the abuse) end up getting hurt again and again and again.

So, what is the better way to forgive? First, it is true, when you don’t forgive you remain stuck in the past. Your thoughts spin negative. You are not able to create a more positive future for yourself. In many respects you continue the abuse cycle. Only this time instead of the other person harming you, you are harming yourself. That is why forgiveness primarily helps YOU. It helps you let go, move on, and move forward in your life free from the negative impact of the person who wounded you in the first place.

But, it is also true that forgiveness requires being able to stand in a place of spiritual power. As Jesus conveyed, now that the other person has been given a second chance, they now have a responsibility with that chance to become a better person. I am reminded of the famous play and film Les Miserables, which is a major story of forgiveness. In this tale Jean val jon steals silver from the home of the priest and is caught. Though the priest could have easily sent Jean val Jon back to the labor camps, he did not. Instead, he forgave Jean val jon. But, in forgiving him he also requested what he now wanted from Jean val jon (which was the priest’s way of saying what he would be “getting” in return). He said, “With this silver I have bought your soul for God.” Meaning he now held Jean val jon responsible for waking up, setting things right, and becoming a better human being from now on. Thank God, Jean val jon did.

As I see it then real forgiveness requires a great deal of spiritual power and spiritual perspective. To get to this point you do need to use forgiveness to heal enough to embrace more your own value and dignity as a human being. Letting go of your pain will help you get there, which is why forgiveness is a tool that mostly helps you. Once healed and free from the wounds of the past as a powerful and dignified human being, you then have the responsibility to learn about how to better protect yourself from such hurtful behavior. Then, you need to develop the capacity to set boundaries so you prevent that person from wounding you anymore. And, if you can manage it, you can even learn to develop enough spiritual power that with dignity and grace you are able to convey to the person who has harmed you, that in being forgiven, they have a responsibilty to wake up and become a better person.

With these steps everyone gives, everyone gets, and balance is restored for the good of all.

Dr. Lisa Love is the founder of LoveMovies! and also the best-selling author of BEYOND THE SECRET: Spiritual Power and the Law of Attraction; ATTRACTING REAL LOVE: 4 Steps for Finding the Love You Want; and SOUL SUCCESS: How to Create Joy & Prosperity in Good Times or Bad; MEDITATION: The Path to Peace.

It’s Not WHAT You Say….It’s HOW You Say It

By Lisa Merlo Booth

When it comes to being an effective communicator, it’s not just about what you say…it’s also about how you say it.  Regardless of whether you’re talking to your boss, employee, child, lover or friend, if your energy is off, chances are you will not get the results you’re looking for in your relationships.

A key clue that our energy is off is a sharp tone.  We could be saying the most innocent thing in the world, yet if we say it with a tone it changes the entire message.  For example, try to say the following statement out loud, imagining you’re feeling the emotion named:

•    Annoyance: “What are you doing?!”
•    Contempt (thinking that the other person is stupid): “What… are you doing?”
•    Curiosity: “What are you doing?”

If you listen closely, you should be able to hear how a change in tone can change an entire message without changing one word.  Our tone and our energy are a huge part of communicating.   When speaking, we want to make sure our energy matches our words.  We also want to make sure that our energy is clean (respectful, grounded and honest) regardless of whether we’re angry, joyful or sad.  We can be furious with someone, yet still be clean in how we speak to them.  We can also be firm without being abusive or harsh.

When it comes to being an effective communicator, my motto is “Don’t let a great message get lost in the delivery.”  It’s in your best interest to speak in a way in which the other person can hear you, so clean up your side.  Your words, energy and body language all need to match up and all need to be respectful.  Say it straight, be honest and lose the tone.

CHALLENGE: When speaking to others, pay attention to your tone, energy and body language.  All three need to be sending the same message.  That message should be respectful of the other person’s dignity as a fellow and equal human being in order to be effective.

Lisa Merlo-Booth is a relationship coach. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching and has worked with individuals, families and couples on a variety of life issues. She earned her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Pepperdine University in 1991 and has received her coaching training from Coach University. Lisa is the Director of Training for the Relational Life Institute owned by the renowned author, Terrence Real. Check out Lisa’s blog on relationships at http://lmerlobooth.typepad.com/