Being Alone Without Being Lonely, By Ben Martin, Psy.D.

There is a great difference between being lonely and being alone. Many people are alone and lead happy lives. It may behoove us to study some of their traits, because many of us are likely to be alone at some point in our lives. Points to consider:

Our culture has a high divorce rate.

Statistics show that wives outlive husbands.

Our society advocates self-sufficiency and independence.

Contrary to many beliefs, the elderly are not the most lonely among us. It is young people who are most lonely, and herein may lie some of the differences between being lonely and being alone.

Many elderly people have developed traits or habits that help them be comfortable with themselves alone. They have found ways to keep busy mentally. Many rely on good memories of a deceased spouse for comfort while relishing the peace and quiet of a household void of too much activity. They have reached the point where their status quo is calmness.

The young, however, are subject to a wide range of moods. They may be up one morning and down that evening or up and down several times in a given day. They are often bored and restless to the point of being unhappy for no clear reason. When they are not sought after and included in all activities of their peers, their self-esteem takes a hit.

When they are lonely, they blame themselves and resort to activities that exclude social contact or productivity, such as watching too much television.

Being alone can have its advantages. The creative person craves time alone. Any professional who takes a sabbatical and spends some time alone returns refreshed mentally and spiritually.

To reap the rewards of solitude, a person who feels lonely can tune out thoughts of self and seek out activities. They can:

write letters

read

paint

sew

care for a pet

enroll in a correspondence course

A person who is feeling lonely should avoid situations such as:

drinking alcohol alone

using other escapes such as non-prescribed medications

watching so much television that it becomes a substitute for socializing

It may sometimes be good to be alone, but it is rarely good to be lonely.

 

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A counselor’s perspective on what a healthy relationship feels like

A counselor’s perspective on what a healthy relationship feels like

 

Many unhappy clients I have met had no real understanding of how a healthy relationship should make them feel. It’s almost like learning how to create a painting without having a clear idea of what the finished painting should look like, and this, of course, doesn’t work very well!

I write about relationships; but I am not writing only about heterosexual married couples. GLBT couples, monogamous couples, polyamorous triads, and even open relationship arrangements can all be perfectly healthy for everyone involved.  All of these relationships will have key ingredients in common.

  1. Healthy relationships are composed of healthy individuals. Each person has a clear idea of his/her values, ambitions, and has a clear idea of the life he or she wants to lead.  A healthy individual takes time to take care of Self…via hobbies, exercise, nutrition, spiritual traditions, etc. He or she also takes responsibility for all facets of his or her life.
  2. At the very core, a healthy relationship is a pact between two healthy people to travel through life together, to confront challenges together, and to encourage each individual to grow to full self-actualization.  These couples understand that the other person will change over time, and will find joy in discovering change and growth in each other.
  3. Every interaction is based on trust and respect, and positive regard for oneself and the other person. Such a relationship will not experience paranoia or jealousy.  The privacy of each person is valued; secretly searching through emails, cell phones, or Facebook accounts shows fear, insecurity, or codependence.
  4. Your partner is your best friend and closest confidant. The bulk of your emotional support should come from your partner. If issues come up, deal with it with your partner. Infidelity happens when one partner replaces emotional support from his or her spouse to the emotional support of someone else (and sex usually follows).  Notice, however, that I stated that most of your emotional support comes from your partner; not all of it. A healthy relationship also leaves plenty of room for family and friends and awesome coworkers and whoever else you encounter.
  5. Guard the authenticity of your relationship every day. Do not let weeks go by without some form of quality time or connection. If there is an unspoken uneasiness between you, you must be brave enough to discuss it. Many unhealthy relationships I have encountered simply wallow for years in miserable apathy. I suppose that staying with the miserable known can seem preferable to facing the scary unknown, but trust me….being a happy single person is FAR preferable to being miserably together. And who knows…you may find you prefer being single!

 

 

So to sum it up, a healthy relationship feels SECURE. There is no second-guessing. Neither partner feels like he or she must perform or somehow earn the other person’s love (This is a major red flag….get thee to counseling). Spending time with your partner emotionally rejuvenates you, refreshes you. You can talk about anything under the sun and explore controversial topics together (most of your conversations should not center on household issues like bills or chores. That’s how the “roommate” feeling is created).

There is lots of laughter, peaceful silences, a balance of closeness and independent space, and each person is free to express his or her thoughts, desires, joys, and fears without fear of rejection or judgment. There are lots of sexual and nonsexual touches. Your home together is warm, inviting, and reflects both of your personalities. You talk about the future and plan it together.  You have adventures together, and can laugh about past mistakes.

 

Stop Living for the Approval of Women, Wayne M. Levine

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Wayne M. Levine, M.A. [1]

No one wants to admit they’re not funny. Have you ever met a man who willingly confesses to it? Now, you know he’s not terribly funny, and everyone else can clearly see that he’s not funny. But he still cracks his bad jokes as you all groan. In the end, though, there’s usually little harm done as a result of his state of denial.

Now, how many men will admit to needing the approval of women? Have you met many? As men get older, and they’ve suffered long enough, they’ll start to admit it and work toward change. But what about your buddies? Have you seen them shackled by this need for approval? What about you? Have you had the courage to honestly take stock and see where your need for approval is preventing you from being the man you want to be? Ready to stop denying and start growing up?

First, let’s define approval as it relates to our relationships with women. Approval is her permission for you to take an action. Approval is her acknowledgment that she won’t take you to task for your choice…maybe. Approval is giving away your power to do as you see fit. In other words, needing the approval of women makes you a pleaser.

Stick around for a moment and you’ll learn how curing yourself of this tendency to please will actually allow you to be happier in your own skin, be more respectful, be more respected, be a better partner, more compassionate, more present, a better example to your kids, and be more of the man she actually wants you to be.

Where Did It Start?

Where does this need for the approval of women come from? As with most of our emotional, psychological, and relationship challenges, the seeds were planted a long time ago in a galaxy [2], seemingly far, far away…your childhood.

In your home, with your parent(s), you learned more than you might have realized. You learned what a man is and how one behaves. You learned what a woman is. You learned what a marriage or relationship between the two looks like. It looks just like mom and dad, or mom and boyfriend, or dad with girlfriends, or either…alone, unhappy.

You learned how to treat women. You learned how to get what you feel you needed. You learned how to cause chaos, how to avoid crisis, how to calm the waters, how to medicate your pain. In a nutshell, you learned how to be the man you are today primarily from what you saw in those early days.

What, precisely, did you see and you learn? How did your father, or lack of dad, mold you? What did you learn about how a man behaves with a woman? If you’re a man who currently seeks the approval of women, you probably learned it from dad. Either he demonstrated the same behaviors, or he was just the opposite (neglectful, abusive, etc.) In this case, perhaps you learned how to behave differently with your mom so that she wouldn’t take her anger and unhappiness out on the other man in the house, you. You learned how to survive, to avoid pain. It was a good thing. You coped. But now you’re stuck in that behavior while your circumstances have probably changed considerably.

Now you’re a man. You fear confrontation. It’s intolerable for her to be upset with you. You’ll go to almost any length—and you have—to please her, to make your discomfort disappear…for the moment. Sound familiar?

The ugly truth.

What exactly is it that you do to protect yourself from her displeasure? You send up trial balloons to see if you can get a tentative approval by tentatively suggesting a tentative idea you had. You edit yourself and avoid saying or doing what you know will provoke her. You spend an inordinate amount of time and energy concerned about how she feels and how she’ll react. You’ve been rationalizing, compromising, second-guessing, playing it safe, and avoiding confrontation. As a result, you’ve slowly forgotten what really matters to you, what you were once passionate about, how you truly feel about issues, yourself, and others. Meanwhile, if you’re a dad, you’re passing this all onto the next generation—your legacy.

Now, let’s take a step back in time. When you first met her, none of this was seemingly a problem. You were “in love.” It was easy to dismiss little issues. After all, you’re a master of denial. And, you were, hopefully getting laid all the time. Life was good.

But then things began to change, or was it her? You found yourself less happy, more irritable, frustrated. You agreed to see your buddies less often back in the day. Why? To please her. But now your buddies are calling you “whipped.” They’ve lost respect for you, while you’ve lost respect for yourself. In addition you’re probably a bit lonely, angry, and now blaming her.

What to do next.

Now what are you supposed to do? How do you change course after all these years? You’ve thought about these things many times. But you can’t, for the life of you, imagine how anything you do could lead to a better relationship with her. After all, you know her and you know how she is. Things won’t change. Not true. When YOU change, it all changes. Will she still want to be around when you’ve made the change? Too soon to tell. But really, if you want to be happy, confident, proud, successful, if you want to be a great man, father and husband, do you really have a choice but to change?

Let me suggest a few action items. There’s a level of awareness you need to achieve, while you take steps to change your behavior. Although the process can feel overwhelming, all I can tell you is that many men have succeeded in becoming better men starting at the same spot you find yourself in today.

Take risks.

Pleasers are not known for their risk-taking. For some, a risk might include jumping out of an airplane. Skydiving may seem like a cakewalk to a pleaser compared to, let’s say, letting your wife know exactly how you’d like to handle the discipline the next time your son is disrespectful. Or, making reservations for a restaurant you’d really like to go to and then taking care of your woman without worrying whether she’ll approve of your choice.

Create a new context.

Ever been in the presence of an extremely confident man? You know almost immediately when he’s entered the room. Everyone does. The energy he’s putting out is palpable, and it’s affecting those around him. People respond subconsciously to that energy.

As a pleaser, you emit your own kind energy. Again, those around you respond to it. That’s why you often don’t have a voice—you’re too busy accommodating those who have pegged you as someone who will satisfy their needs. That’s why it’s critical for you to begin to consciously choose a new path.

Your context is where you’re coming from as you enter the room, begin a discussion, plan an event, or go out on a date. Imagine yourself wearing a sandwich board with your context written on it for the world to see. Because that’s how obvious it is, already, to everyone who meets you. This is your mantra, this is your attitude, this is the man you want to be in that very moment.

Let’s say your woman asked you to pick up something from the store for dinner. Try as you might, you couldn’t find the exact item. So, you bought something close. Your current context as you arrive home might sound like this: I hope she doesn’t give me a hard time. A better context would be: Dinner is going to be great and I love you. Hear the difference? This attitude will change the way you walk into the house, the way you give her the alternative item, the way you’ll respond to her criticism, the way you’ll continue to be the man you want to be for the entire night. Rather than having your tail between your legs, you’ll have let it go. Instead of worrying about not pleasing her, you’re available to be the dad you want to be with the kids, or simply present with her in a more confident, attractive way.

Even if she’s unable to let go of her disappointment, it is vital for you to maintain your context. Ultimately, your new attitude has the potential to change how she responds to you. Depending on the state of your relationship, this could take some time. But for many, the change could take place quite quickly. There are a lot of women out there who are desperately waiting for their men to show up as men. You may be surprised to find that you’re with one of these wonderful, patient women right now.

Don’t do this alone.

To successfully make changes in your behavior, you’ll want the support of other men. Whether it’s a buddy, men’s group or counselor, support is essential. That support includes being held accountable to your commitments. You’ll want to have specific goals, and you’ll want to have your ass kicked when it’s difficult and you want to quit. And you’ll enjoy receiving a pat on the back when you’ve hit a homerun.

In becoming this new man, you’re asking a lot of yourself, and of those closest to you. It’s not an easy process. Prepare by having your support network in place. That’s how you’ll set yourself up for success, rather than failure.

The bigger picture.

We’ve been discussing your need for the approval of women. But this issue goes beyond women. You care too much about how everyone thinks about you, maybe even strangers. You’re a pleaser in all areas of your life. You may disagree. But take the time to examine how you really show up at work, with your extended family, or with your friends. Are you really making your own choices? Or have you adapted for so long, you’ve forgotten what being you would even look like?

Once you become more masculine in your relationship with women—and lose the need for their approval—you’ll begin to see how this new man has a place in all areas of your life. And it’s not about pissing off people. You don’t have to be inconsiderate to be the man you want to be, to stop being a pleaser, though some people around you may feel you’re being a jerk. That’s to be expected. You’re changing the game on them. No one likes that, especially insecure (and therefore controlling) people, like, perhaps, your wife. This is simply about finding your voice, telling the truth, considering other people’s needs and feelings, but not at the expense of honoring your own.

At the end of the day, remember this: You can’t ask for permission to be the man you want to be. Throughout this process with your woman, continue to honor and cherish her. Not being a pleaser doesn’t excuse you from your responsibilities. You still need to listen, not argue, and run the sex and romance departments. And believe me, when you stop being a pleaser in bed, she’ll REALLY be pleased.

____________________________________________________________________

Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. Check out Wayne’s book, Hold On to Your N.U.T.s—The Relationship  Manual for Men [3] [3]and see how you can become a better man at http://w [1]ww.bettermen.org/ [1]

©2010 BetterMen.org

Article printed from The Art of Manliness: http://www.artofmanliness.com

URL to article: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/07/18/stop-living-for-the-approval-of-women/

URLs in this post:

[1] Wayne M. Levine, M.A.: http://www.bettermen.org/

[2] galaxy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_galaxy

[3] Hold On to Your N.U.T.s—The Relationship  Manual for Men: http://www.bettermen.org/better-men-store.asp

No Sense of Place, adapted from book by Joshua Meyrowitz

No Sense of Place

No Sense of Place,Joshua Meyrowitz’s breakthrough book, explores how electronic media displace our notions of what it means to be present, thus causing dislocations in our social behavior. The essential message of the book is that electronic media are dissolving the historic connection between physical place and social place.

Meyrowitz brings together sociologist Erving Goffman’s concepts of how social settings influence roles with the mind-popping work of Marshall McLuhan who describes media as extensions of the senses. Communications technology sets the stage for a whole new roster of roles as place expands into the ether.

Goffman says each role has two sides. Using the metaphor of a play, he describes the role as presenting its public face to the audience and its private face “backstage” where the actors and director develop, rehearse, and discuss performances. Historically, belonging to a group means being able to go backstage. New people socialize into the group through their gradual introduction to the backstage. There they gain “inside” information. Promotion in a hierarchy means moving to ever more exclusive and private places.

Since time and place historically have been coincident, Goffman simply assumes the obvious, that groups communicate primarily face-to-face. Until now the more subtle relationship between physical space and social effect has been obscured.

“It is not the physical setting itself that determines the nature of the interaction, but the patterns of information flow,” Meyrowitz writes. If the social setting is an information system, then new media dramatically change the roles people play in how “groupness” is achieved. He places roles in three categories essential to virtual teams:

  • Identity;
  • Socialization; and
  • Rank.

Identity

For the team to have its own unique sense of identity, its physical location matters less than its “shared but secret information.”4 Members have access to this privileged information where and when the group gathers, providing them with a core sense of belonging. Such information separates members (“us”) from others (“them”) who do not have the same access. Backstage, the team discusses options, resolves conflicts, and makes decisions.

Suddenly, in the electronic era, people no longer must gather in physical places to “belong.” Virtual teams tend to have very porous boundaries and may have little or no backstage. As private group places become public ones, group identity, an elusive quality hard enough to establish in the virtual world, blurs.

Socialization

New people become members of a group through “controlled access to group information,” the formal and informal processes of socialization. Orientation and training are formal processes of socialization, while hints, tips, and suggestions convey crucial “how it’s done” knowledge informally. People grow into groups over time. When access to a physical place governs availability of information, the whole group can watch as new members transition into full participants through their rites of passage.

Since it is physically impossible to be in two places at once in the face-to-face world, access to new places also used to mean that you had to leave old places behind. The electronic era suspends the Newtonian laws of motion. Here people do not have to desert old places in order to access new ones. You can simultaneously be in numerous online places, joining new groups while weaning yourself from old ones.

You even can “parallel process” interactions: Attend your team’s meetings by video conference, push mute and take a phone call, check your e-mail, and talk to someone who walks into the room. Where exactly are you during the meeting—or are you dipping in and out of multiple meetings simultaneously? Far fetched? How often have you checked your e-mail while on a conference call?

Meta Greenberg, an organization development professional, reports on just how far people have taken the idea of multiple presence. “I have two clients at a telecommunications company who made a tape of ‘ums and ‘ahs,’ rustling papers in the background. Then after a few hours on a long boring con call, they started the tape, left the room, and no one realized what happened. Boring meetings will not be cured just because they’re not face-to-face. If anything, sabotage gets even more intriguing.”

As physical places give way to virtual ones, new members can instantly gain access to all of the group’s information. Not surprisingly, traditional patterns of socialization are collapsing as transition stages become more difficult to discern.

Rank

According to tradition, authority depends heavily on access to exclusive places that house special knowledge. Elite clubs are obvious locales that demonstrate the power that comes with place. University libraries are another; if you belong to that particular academic “club,” you have access to its special knowledge that can literally make you an authority on a subject.

Indeed, the higher the group is in the hierarchy, the more these socially remote places convey a sense of “mystery and mystification.”5 Inaccessibility is a measure of status (or lack thereof). Members jealously guard backstage areas and carefully script performances.

Since the Nomadic era, new media have increased the ability of leaders to segregate and isolate information systems. The consequence is that they extend their control. Here again, the electronic era is challenging these bastions of privilege. While it still may cost many thousands of dollars to join the country club, you need only pay your monthly Internet provider fee to enter into conversation with countless numbers of experts everywhere in the world.

Likewise, anyone with a connection to the net and a web browser now can visit thousands of university library home pages without ever registering for a single university course. Yet if that same person shows up at one of these libraries without an official identification card, access would likely be denied.

Another irony of the electronic era is that an anti-status symbol of the past is now an important tool to sustain authority in the future. Typing, once considered the province of the hired help, is a key skill in the electronic world. The effect of broader access to once-exclusive information has been felt nowhere more profoundly than in the upper ranks of hierarchy

Relationship Questionnaire, adapted from text by Elizabeth B. Brown

Relationship Questionnaire

Adapted from “Living Successfully with Screwed-up People”, by

Elizabeth B. Brown

The following questions will help you determine if you are marching in the wrong direction in your relationship. Even one ‘yes’ answer is unhealthy and suggests that there is dysfunction in the relationship.

1)      Do you base how you feel on what he or she does?

2)      Do you worry about whether the person is attentive enough, cares enough, is supportive enough?

3)      Does his or her periodic praising of someone else threaten you?

4)      Do you store up the wrongs he/she does towards you?

5)      Do you finish the statement, “You make me feel…” with negatives?

6)      Do you feel hampered and controlled by the relationship?

7)      Do you constantly worry and fret about your relationship?

8)      Are the problems in the relationship eating you alive?

9)      Are you overwhelmed with guilt about what you do or don’t do?

10)   Are you seething over issues that swirl off the other person?

11)   Do you feel unappreciated most of the time?

12)  Do you feel what you do is futile in the relationship?

13)   Do you do things you hate because it is expected of you?

14)  Do you resent any time he/she spends helping others?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may be forfeiting your power and ability to think, feel, and act independently.

Interdependency is spinning into codependency when relationships exhibit these traits:

v  Extreme emotional dependency (one person feels he/she can do nothing without the other person)

v  Excessive worry and preoccupation (centered around one person’s choices)

v  Constant reactive behavior (one person reacting to what the other does or does not do)

v  Consuming mental, physical, and emotional energy directed at changing one person

v  Blame assigned to someone (other than the person committing the acts or having the feelings)

v  Interactions devoid of laughter and lightness

Knowing whether your chaotic relationship is caused by your unrealistic expectations or by a really toxic person is critical to appreciating what is possible within the relationship. The following exercise will help.

Think of the person who is driving you crazy. Check off the traits in the following list (toxic behaviors that the person is manifesting). If you check off 5 or more, you are in a difficult relationship and must be extremely careful not to be sucked into dysfunction. Add up the check marks and fill in the bar below to the number that equals your total score. The closer to 1 your line is, the healthier the relationship; the closer to 20, the more dysfunctional.

 

Healthy——————————————————————————————-Toxic

1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    11    12    13    14    15    16    17    18    19    20

The person who is driving me crazy———–

  1. Refuses to hear my side of an issue.
  2. Turns molehills into mountains and minutiae into significance.
  3. Demands the controls.
  4. Is self-centered and self-absorbed.
  5. Is opinionated, or is self-debasing and self-depreciating with no opinions.
  6. Often exhibits self-destructive behavior.
  7. Will not listen to reason.
  8. Repeats the same negative, fearful, or controlling behavior.
  9. Can’t be depended upon.
  10.  Feels superior or inferior.
  11.  Justifies his/her criticism by superior knowledge, experience, genes, etc.
  12.  Does not see the connection between his/her behavior and the chaos it engenders.
  13. Encourages conflict.
  14. Causes chaos.
  15. Blames others.
  16. Uses shame and guilt as weapons.
  17. Never apologizes for anything or apologizes profusely for everything.
  18. Refuses to take responsibility for his/her choices.
  19. Controls through manipulation, guilt, money, power, etc.
  20. Believes the ends justify the means.

http://www.amazon.com/Living-Successfully-Screwed-Up-People-Elizabeth/dp/0800757084

 

Being Your Own Person: How to Maintain Your Individuality as you Bond with Another, Rinatta Paries

Being Your Own Person: How to Maintain Your Individuality As You Bond with Another

by Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries on November 26, 2007

in Articles For Singles,Articles on Dating,Articles on Marriage,Articles on Relationships

 

People often compromise or lose their sense of self in a relationship.

They may do this to be liked, to be loved, or to please their partner. Some people may compromise what’s most important to them and to their well-being because they believe they have to. Some people may lose themselves in the relationship because it feels good to merge with their partner. Some stop taking care of their needs as they become the last on the list, after family and relationship. And some people get lazy, thinking that now that they have a relationship, their partner will give them all they need. Finally, some people get so wrapped up in getting their partner to meet their needs that they completely lose the self they once were.

There are many reasons people stop being themselves in a relationship. Regardless, the loss or compromise of the sense of self leads to the forfeiture of self-care and often contributes to the later breakup of the relationship. However, a strong sense of self and self-care on each partner’s part matter in the long-term survival and happiness of the couple. In other words, you must keep the “you” strong and well “fed” in order to have a happy relationship.

You enter the relationship as whole person, not only with your own interests and life, but more importantly with your own preferences, boundaries, likes and dislikes. Your partner is attracted exactly to this part of you – to your strength, your individuality and your sense of self. It is this self that your partner wants to be with and chooses the relationship for. When you start to lose or surrender your sense of self, your partner starts to lose the person he or she got into a relationship with – a big problem. The more of your self you lose, the less your partner will want to be with you.

But more importantly, you start to lose yourself and likely start blaming the relationship and your partner for the loss. The more of yourself you lose, the more miserable you will feel. You will likely become angry, resentful, and not at all pleasant to be with as a result. This is a one-two punch sort of thing – as your partner starts to miss out on having you around, you may add unpleasant, resentment-filled behavior to the mix, which makes you unpleasant to be around. You can see how this can create distance in the relationship.

If both people are doing this dance, which they often are, it’s no surprise that many couples drift apart.

What can you do to save your relationship?

Let’s first talk about three common ways people compromise their sense of self. Then we’ll address how to maintain your own individuality in your relationship, so that there’s enough of you in your relationship to make both you and your partner happy.

There are three main ways people compromise their sense of self: the subtle surrender of self, the manipulating for or trying to “buy” love and the obsession with the other rather than self-care.

The Subtle Surrender of Self

The subtle surrender of self is the most common way people in relationships compromise their sense of individuality. It is not as if people consciously decide to sacrifice themselves for the relationship. Over time, the integration of two lives and two lifestyles into one takes its toll and certain compromises are bound to occur.

Compromise in itself is a desirable trait of a good relationship. But compromise of that which is essential to one’s sense of self can eat away at the relationship over time.

When people surrender what is essential to them, what nourishes them, they lose inspiration, passion and grounding. This is how someone who enters a new relationship full and dynamic becomes one-dimensional, settled and unhappy once in the relationship.

Trying to Buy Love

Do you feel you have to buy love? Some people readily give up money and share their living space or other possessions with virtual strangers in hopes of getting love. Sound unbelievable?

What would you do if the person you have been dating for a short time, but with whom you thought you could have a great future, needed money or a place to live, or a car? Would you be as generous with a new friend in the same situation?

Most people would not be as generous with a new friend or even with an old friend or a relative as they would be with a new lover. In these instances it is clear they hope to trade generosity for gratitude and love. Unfortunately, in these situations neither will be readily forthcoming – if you try to buy love, what you will buy is resentment and likely the end of the relationship.

Sometimes an act of giving up of self for love is subtler. Some people do nice things for their partners not because they want to, but because they think giving will engender loving feelings.

On an even subtler level, some people suppress dark parts of themselves, such as anger or sadness, and only reveal the sunny side of their personality to get love.

The fact is, most of us do try to manipulate in this way to get love. It isn’t pretty, but it is human nature – we treasure our relationship and want to make sure we keep it. The trick is to know that manipulation seldom works to nourish love, and to keep our tendency to manipulate well within view and at bay.

Obsession with the Other Rather Than Self-Care

Many people get into a relationship and soon get consumed with what they are not getting from their partner. Often the partner is seen as a perfect fit for what the person wants, except his or her behavior is not perfect at all. Most often what’s missing are attention, affection and wanting to be together.

These are the kinds of relationships people often get caught in like a fly in a spider web. They can’t leave, because they see the partner as a perfect fit. They can’t stay and be happy, because their needs are not getting met. They spend most of their waking hours trying to figure out how to get their partner to meet their needs.

Meanwhile, in the obsession about the other person, the person obsessing looses track of him or herself. Personal needs and wants are brushed aside, friends and interests are forgotten and self care goes out the window.

This only makes the situation worse. As the person gets caught up in the web of such a relationship, no one is tending to the person – not she herself, or the partner. And that eventually makes for one very miserable person.

How to Be Your Own Person in a Relationship

Here are some ideas for maintaining your individuality as you build and develop your relationship.

1. Before you enter any relationship, realize that you may have a tendency to give yourself up to the relationship. Determine ahead of time what is essential in your life – what, if given up, will negatively alter who you are. Then determine the minimum action you must take to maintain what is essential.

For example, if fitness is essential, determine ahead of time that you will go to the gym or run no matter what is happening in your relationship and stick to that self-promise. That means that if you would rather hang out with your partner, you will still go exercise.

And even if your partner and you are having a fight, you will still go exercise, even if you think it would be better to stick around and fight some more.

2. Resist merging with your partner for some of the time. Merging is that feeling you often get at the beginning of the relationship, when it feels timeless and you feel fully connected with your partner. This is a wonderful feeling, and yet this is where people most often lose themselves. When you are in this part of your relationship, spend extra time working on No. 1 above.

To do this, consciously build in “apart time,” when you will be out of contact and will focus on you and your life. This may mean that at work you do not text, e-mail or call each other for four hours at a time, or that every day you meditate alone for an hour.

3. Do not buy love, on any level. Cultivate the spirit of generosity and a pleasant disposition, but do so because it suits you and contributes to your vibrancy. Do not manipulate your partner into loving you, needing you, etc. If you do manipulate, it will backfire, and you may end up with less or no love.

That means that if your partner needs money, you tactfully and lovingly communicate that you do not feel comfortable lending it, but will be supportive in any other way – with ideas, motivation, resources, networking, etc. It also means that you give gifts because you truly want to, not because it has been demanded of you or because you think you will be treated better as a result.

4. When the relationship is not meeting your needs, meet your own needs. No relationship is going to meet your needs 100 percent of the time, and even the best of relationships will sometimes fail to meet your needs.

When you are struggling with wanting more from your partner, do the counterintuitive thing first. Pull back and examine what you need and want and why you may not be getting it. See if there’s something you can give yourself so that you can stop suffering and trying to get your partner to do something for you.

Take care of yourself and make yourself happy first before trying to fix your relationship. A happier you will more easily get what you want from your partner or will more easily walk if you need to.

5. Strive for personal satisfaction and happiness, not for just feeling OK. Keep asking what you need from life order to be fulfilled. Be responsible for how your life is turning out.

Your partner may help with this by being a mirror, or someone to bounce ideas off of, but the work of making your life for yourself is your own.

People lose themselves in relationships all the time, and often the price they pay for this surrender of self is twofold: They lose the relationship and temporarily the self. Don’t be a victim of this losing strategy. Keep your individuality and sense of self intact in your relationship, and both of you will be happier for it.

Being Alone Without Being Lonely, by Ben Martin, Psy.D

Being Alone Without Being Lonely

By Ben Martin, Psy.D.

 

There is a great difference between being lonely and being alone. Many people are alone and lead happy lives. It may behoove us to study some of their traits, because many of us are likely to be alone at some point in our lives. Points to consider:

  • Our      culture has a high divorce rate.
  • Statistics      show that wives outlive husbands.
  • Our      society advocates self-sufficiency and independence.

Contrary to many beliefs, the elderly are not the most lonely among us. It is young people who are most lonely, and herein may lie some of the differences between being lonely and being alone.

Many elderly people have developed traits or habits that help them be comfortable with themselves alone. They have found ways to keep busy mentally. Many rely on good memories of a deceased spouse for comfort while relishing the peace and quiet of a household void of too much activity. They have reached the point where their status quo is calmness.

The young, however, are subject to a wide range of moods. They may be up one morning and down that evening or up and down several times in a given day. They are often bored and restless to the point of being unhappy for no clear reason. When they are not sought after and included in all activities of their peers, their self-esteem takes a hit.

When they are lonely, they blame themselves and resort to activities that exclude social contact or productivity, such as watching too much television.

Being alone can have its advantages. The creative person craves time alone. Any professional who takes a sabbatical and spends some time alone returns refreshed mentally and spiritually.

To reap the rewards of solitude, a person who feels lonely can tune out thoughts of self and seek out activities. They can:

  • write      letters
  • read
  • paint
  • sew
  • care      for a pet
  • enroll      in a correspondence course

A person who is feeling lonely should avoid situations such as:

  • drinking      alcohol alone
  • using      other escapes such as non-prescribed medications
  • watching      so much television that it becomes a substitute for socializing

It may sometimes be good to be alone, but it is rarely good to be lonely.

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