Terry Real and the New Rules of Marriage: Great is What you Deserve!

Happy smiling middle-aged couple outdoors  Terry Real in “The New Rules of Marriage” Terry says in his book that ” people may tell you what you’re looking for is unrealistic. I don’t think so. Well meaning friends and family may focus on your need to compromise. I don’t want you to. Your relationship is too important for compromise. Your work may be rewarding, your kids great, and your friends wonderful, but in the end, your bond with the person you live out your life with- the one you grow up and grow old with- is the single most important connection you will ever have. I want you to go after what it is you want-with skill and with love- and get it.”

As a therapist I want to turn your bad relationship into a good one, and a good relationship into a great one. How do you get one like this? You build it day by day with thoughtfulness and skill. I teach these skills. It is truly my passion at this point in my career.

Read his book, see a therapist trained in relational methods, give yourselves this chance to have the relationship of a lifetime!

Putting on other people’s shoes

We all have particular social roles we fill in our everyday lives. We may occupy several roles at different times throughout the day. For example, you may be a waitress, a teacher, a husband, a brother, or a mother. Each of these roles is seen as having specific associated behaviours. In our initial encounters with other people, we often view them as their role, rather than as an individual acting in that particular role. This is what Daniel Goleman refers to as the It-identity. Goleman suggests that any time we are expected to engage with someone in terms of their social role alone, we treat them as a one-dimensional It, disregarding their human identity.

Although this is socially acceptable, even necessary, for many of our encounters with other people with whom we have superficial relationships, it is detrimental to our close relationships. We feel rejected by those we care about when we are treated more as a thing than as a person. It is important that we are able to attune to the realities of our loved ones, showing them empathy.

Goleman argues that empathy is the key to healthy communication within relationships. He describes being the target of true empathy as ‘feeling felt’. In such situations, we sense that the other person understands how we feel. This is a crucial element of healthy relationships.

Through sessions, we can work together to help build your empathy skills. We can discover tools and strategies to assist you in effectively looking at a situation from another’s perspective, strengthening your ability to see things from another’s point of view. We can work individually, or as a family or group, to share perspectives and uncover the benefits of empathic relationships.

Credit: Goleman, D. (2007). Beyond IQ, Beyond Emotional Intelligence- Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships. New York, NY- Random House Publishing.

Four phrases that can strengthen your relationship

Often, people are afraid to say important words to the people they love- words that can change and improve their relationships. This is true for lovers, siblings, parents, and friends.

Ira Byock, a medical doctor and writer, has worked in hospitals her entire career. She often witnesses people and their relationships in the last breaths of live. This experience has taught her that, in peoples’ last moments, their feelings are not that of hatred and resentment, but rather of love and forgiveness. She argues that there are four sayings that can help improve any relationship, and that it is never too early, or too late to use these sayings to strengthen the relationships with others in our lives. After all, it is the relationships that we have with others that give our lives meaning and offer us acceptance and love.

Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.

Byock argues that these four short phrases can help you to begin to mend and strengthen your relationship. In sessions with me, we can work together to build the courage to use these words more often with those you care about and you can begin to discover the healing power of words within your relationships.

Credit: Byock, I. (2004). The Four Things that Matter Most: A Book About Living. New York, NY- Free Press.

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Has your too-good-to-be-true relationship turned toxic? Authors Cynthia Zayn and Kevin Dibble offer words of wisdom to help you if you found yourself to be a victim of narcissism.

Narcissistic personality disorder can be found in both men and women. Zayn and Dibble suggest that narcissist people are drawn to others who exhibit co-dependent tendencies. They offer a checklist to help you determine whether you exhibit co-dependent tendencies and are more likely to fall victim to a narcissistic relationship:

  • Do you base your feeling of self-worth on your partner’s approval?
  • Are you careful not to provoke your partner’s anger?
  • Have you lost or significantly reduced contact with friends and family since entering into your relationship?
  • Are you afraid of rejection from your partner?

Narcissists use their partners’ fear of abandonment to gain control over the relationship and have the ability to manipulate and blame the other for problems that may arise within the relationship.

Using the steps outlined in their book, Narcissist Lovers: How to Cope, Recover, and Move On, combined with counseling sessions with me, we can determine if you are involved with a narcissist and develop tools and strategies to move your relationship from that of control and fear to that of a more satisfying and meaningful partnership.

Credit: Zayn, C. & Dibble, K. (2007). Narcissist Lovers: How to Cope, Recover, and Move On. Far Hills, NJ- New Horizon Press.

How do I ask my spouse for a divorce?

Our entires lives are a process of changing and developing. Although we promise to remain married forever, it is not always possible to keep the promise. Usually, the decision to divorce is made after months and even years of silent deliberation. It is not made lightly, but even so, our spouses are rarely prepared to hear the words. As Shakespeare put it, “Though it be honest, it is never good / To bring bad news.”

It takes courage to end a marriage. No one wants to hurt a partner intentionally, and there is no way to do it without causing pain. However, when you are certain that the marriage is over and the words must be said, it is better to get it over with quickly. Few people are lucky enough to end their marriages without some emotional trauma or conflict, but it is better to move through it quickly rather than endure the long, drawn-out anguish of a dying marriage.

Inflicting pain on your spouse is often difficult to do. After all, you once loved this person deeply, and if you’ve shared a number of years with your spouse, chances are that you will not want to cause him or her pain, no matter how things have changed between you two. It may be that your reluctance to speak about problems has led to things being left until they are insurmountable, but don’t let guilt hold you back now.

Speak about it before something sparks a crisis or an affair. These are devastating ways to learn about the end of your marriage. If therapy is not possible and you know it’s too late, say so. Don’t hold out false hope if you know there is none. Don’t wait until you say the words in anger. They will be less credible and easily ignored in an argument, and when emotions are high, your guilt will be easy to manipulate.

Be honest. If you are not happy in the marriage, you can spare your partner a lot of pain if you let him or her get used to the idea gradually. Take responsibility for your share, be clear and direct, and give your spouse time to hear you and understand that you are firm.

If you are afraid that your spouse will not accept what you have to say, or will threaten you with emotional blackmail (using the children, threats of suicide) or financial blackmail, you need to be prepared. Always take the threat seriously, but don’t give in to it. This means that you don’t have to stay with a partner who is making threats, but you should always be watchful and act with tact and sensitivity. The first few days after telling your spouse, or of your leaving, are often the most anxious, so make sure your spouse has support available. Friends and family should be called upon to provide support. You can’t provide effective support at this time. Don’t give in to blackmail. It makes you a prisoner and only postpones the inevitable.

This article was written for DivorceMag.