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Loneliness is a complex problem of epidemic proportions, affecting millions from all walks of life. Verified by Psychology Today. By Rebecca Webber, published January 1, - last reviewed on January 26, Elliott Katz was stunned to find himself in the middle of a divorce after two kids and 10 years of marriage. The Torontonian, a policy analyst for the Ottawa government , blamed his wife.
He gave them their baths, he read them stories, and put them to bed. Before he left for work in the morning, he made them breakfast. He bought a bigger house and took on the financial burden, working evenings to bring in enough money so his wife could stay home full-time. He thought the solution to the discontent was for her to change.
But once on his own, missing the daily interaction with his daughters, he couldn't avoid some reflection. I asked whether there was something I could have done differently. After all, you can wait years for someone else to change. What he decided was, indeed, there were some things he could have done differently—like not tried as hard to be so noncontrolling that his wife felt he had abandoned decision-making entirely.
His wife, he came to understand, felt frustrated, as if she were "a married single parent," making too many of the plans and putting out many of the fires of family life, no matter how many chores he assumed. Ultimately, he stopped blaming his wife for their problems.
You can only change yourself," he says. We are not given the right tools to think about relationships. People need a better set of options. Sooner or later, there comes a moment in all relationships when you lie in bed, roll over, look at the person next to you and think it's all a dreadful mistake, says Boston family therapist Terrence Real.
It happens a few months to a few years in. I go around the country speaking about 'normal marital hatred. What to do when the initial attraction sours?
It's not a sign that you've chosen the wrong partner. It is the signal to grow as an individual—to take responsibility for your own frustrations.
Invariably, we yearn for perfection but are stuck with an imperfect human being. We all fall in love with people we think will deliver us from life's wounds but who wind up knowing how to rub against us. A new view of relationships and their discontents is emerging.
We alone are responsible for having the relationship we want. And to get it, we have to dig deep into ourselves while maintaining our connections. It typically takes a dose of bravery—what Page calls "enlightened audacity. If we fail to plumb ourselves and speak up for our deepest needs, which admittedly can be a scary prospect, life will never feel authentic, we will never see ourselves with any clarity, and everyone will always be the wrong partner.
Romance itself seeds the eventual belief that we have chosen the wrong partner. The early stage of a relationship, most marked by intense attraction and infatuation, is in many ways akin to cocaine intoxication, observes Christine Meinecke, a clinical psychologist in Des Moines, Iowa.
It's orchestrated, in part, by the neurochemicals associated with intense pleasure. Like a cocaine high, it's not sustainable. But for the duration—and experts give it nine months to four years—infatuation has one overwhelming effect: Research shows that it makes partners overestimate their similarities and idealize each other.
We're thrilled that he loves Thai food, travel, and classic movies, just like us. And we overlook his avid interest in old cars and online poker. Eventually, reality rears its head. That's when you discover your psychological incompatibility, and disenchantment sets in.
Suddenly, a switch is flipped, and now all you can see are your differences. They need to get the message about what they need to change. You conclude you've married the wrong person—but that's because you're accustomed to thinking, Cinderella-like, that there is only one right person.
The consequences of such a pervasive belief are harsh. We engage in destructive behaviors, like blaming our partner for our unhappiness or searching for someone outside the relationship. Along with many other researchers and clinicians, Meinecke espouses a new marital paradigm—what she calls "the self-responsible spouse. In mature love, says Meinecke, "we do not look to our partner to provide our happiness , and we don't blame them for our unhappiness.
We take responsibility for the expectations that we carry, for our own negative emotional reactions, for our own insecurities, and for our own dark moods. But instead of looking at ourselves, or understanding the fantasies that bring us to such a pass, we engage in a thought process that makes our differences tragic and intolerable, says William Doherty, professor of psychology and head of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota.
It's one thing to say, "I wish my spouse were more into the arts, like I am. It's quite another to say, "This is intolerable. I need and deserve somebody who shares my core interests. It's possible to ask someone to go out more. It's not going to be well received to ask someone for a personality overhaul, notes Doherty, author of Take Back Your Marriage. No one is going to get all their needs met in a relationship, he insists. He urges fundamental acceptance of the person we choose and the one who chooses us.
With parenting , we know that comes with the territory. With spouses, we say 'This is terrible. The culture, however, pushes us in the direction of discontent. It's a package deal; the bad comes with the good. Further, he says, it's too simplistic an interpretation that your partner is the one who's wrong.
We're fairly crude at processing some information. We tend not to think, 'Maybe I'm not giving her what she needs. Now in a long-term relationship, Toronto's Katz has come to believe that "Marriage is not about finding the right person. It's about becoming the right person. Many people feel they married the wrong person, but I've learned that it's truly about growing to become a better husband.
He's a traditional Christian, I'm an agnostic. He likes meat and potatoes, I like more adventurous food," says Sarah. So Mark heads off to church and Bible study every week, while Sarah takes a "Journeys" class that considers topics like the history of God in America.
And she'll share her insights from her own class with him. But when Sarah wants to go to a music festival and Mark wants to stay home, "I just go," says Sarah. It takes a comfortable sense of self and deliberate effort to make relationships commodious enough to tolerate such differences. What's striking about the Holdts is the time they take to share what goes on in their lives—and in their heads—when they are apart.
Research shows that such "turning toward" each other and efforts at information exchange, even in routine matters, are crucial to maintaining the emotional connection between partners. Say one partner likes to travel and the other doesn't.
If you can accept it, that's fine—provided you don't start living in two separate worlds. You start doing things you're not comfortable sharing with your mate. The available evidence suggests that women more than men bring some element of fantasy into a relationship. Women generally initiate more breakups and two-thirds of divorces, becoming more disillusioned than men. They compare their mates with their friends much more than men do, says Doherty.
He notes, "They tend to have a model or framework for what the relationship should be. They are more prone to the comparison between what they have and what they think they should have.
Men tend to monitor the gap between what they have and what they think they deserve only in the sexual arena. They don't monitor the quality of their marriage on an everyday basis. To the extent that people have an ideal partner and an ideal relationship in their head, they are setting themselves up for disaster, says family expert Michelle Givertz, assistant professor of communication studies at California State University, Chico.
Relationship identities are negotiated between two individuals. Relationships are not static ideals; they are always works in progress.
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