According to her, a husband or wife is not responsible to provide ongoing excitement and exhilaration. This is why we have friends and an independent mind that makes us curious about the world.
Our closest relationship is more about attachment bonds. If we grew up in a house where the bond between parent and child was constantly threatened – by rejection, abandonment or addictions for example – then we will search even more for a secure person to connect with who can provide stability and safety. This need often creates ambivalent relationships: even though safety (which is the main factor in wanting to be with someone) is given, there may not be a lot of other things a couple has in common, which leads to doubts and distancing.
The safety is being threatened when a couple engages in a pattern of critical attack by one partner and non-responsive withdrawal by the other, or both. This kind of distance and rupture of the attachment bond are detrimental to a relationship, maybe even more than explosive fights that remain unresolved.
That means that the most important element in a long term relationship is to stay connected to the other, even when one person or even both people are angry. What makes it hard is when one or both partners feel that the bond is broken because it implies that they are turning away from the relationship.
“Sustaining emotional engagement, rather than other factors, such as the ability to resolve arguments, predicts long-term marital satisfaction”, concludes Johnson. If you can make it clear that the relationship is not in danger, even when there are arguments and disagreements, then your partnership will most likely survive for a long time.
… to question the beliefs we hold about it. Do you believe that money is something hard to attain? That you have to give in to the daily grind and won’t get out until you’re retired, if ever? So many of us operate out of the assumption that we live to work, and that it is impossible to create contentment and abundance with the resources we already have.
Frequently, our self esteem is tied up in material wealth. Many people fear that if they come from a less than ideal monetary background they will have little opportunities, and might even be judged as someone who has little worth.
The rise of the material focus is intimately connected to the loss of a deeper connection to spiritual life. Many people have lost faith in religion. They rightfully don’t want to subscribe to the dogmas of the past, and sometimes find little meaning in life. Society tells us that making money is what makes us happy, so a lot of energy goes into trying to attain material resources.
That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your desire for financial stability. Of course it is important to feel secure enough to know where your next paycheck is coming from. It simply means to examine consciously what kind of life is really important to you, as opposed to the single minded focus on acquiring wealth as we know it.
Changing your relationship to money also means to repair our own attitude when it comes to deserving. So many of us have learned to believe that we are not made to live a life free of worry about the future. Many of us are simply unable to receive. Many women, especially, are so programmed to give to other people that we neglect to even tune into the energy of receiving.
But the truth is that we are already valuable. Simply by being ourselves. By paying attention to other fellow human beings, to our kids, our pets, our plants. This by itself makes us deeply valuable human beings.
Healing your Relationship to Money is part of the upcoming course Feminine Power Rising
The answer lies in the quality and depth of the engagement. When I ask the women I work with as a psychotherapist about their biggest challenges in relationships, one of the word most mentioned is “trust”.
A lack of trust typically points to previous trauma, or insufficient role models. Many women have been in abusive relationships. Their trust was betrayed over and over. Their mothers lacked to confidence to pursue their own goals. Many had entered codependent relationships, where their will became secondary in the service of another person’s needs.
As a mental health counselor, I talk a lot about boundaries with my clients. We discuss how to keep an overprotective mother (or father) in check, what it looks like to have healthy boundaries in a relationship with an addict, setting limits how much to give to your colleagues, and so on.
We must validate the need for safety in order to provide a space where fears and doubts can be explored. But have we gone too far? Are we overemphasizing safety concerns (and what another person’s dysfunctional behavior can actually do) in the service of self protection, and inadvertently open the door to loneliness and self isolation?
Of course it is not only an issue discussed behind the closed doors of therapy office. The messages of self insulation are glaringly visible in many facets of public life: Putting up fences. Driving to work alone. The permeating silence among the riders on a subway car. Electronic devices that give us control to chose carefully who we want to interact with, and on what level of depth. Of course there are good reasons for these phenomena in an age of endless work hours and overcrowded spaces. But it is the myth of the individualism this country is built on that provides the foundation for our exaggerated sense of boundaries.
We have to ask ourselves: Are our collective personalities really so fragile that we can’t imagine having a good debate with ___ (fill in the blank) and come out unscathed, with the relationship in question still intact? Is it so hard to communicate how we really feel without fearing that the person on the other end will either disappear or steamroll over us?
In this age of easy come, easy go relations, it is very tempting to simply discard people that don’t fit the bill. I am not advocating to nurture close relationships with severely out of control people (which do exist, of course). But we need a new vision of what healthy boundaries really mean.
Healthy boundaries - redefined - means to find the strength to authentically speak your mind, and say what you feel without shaming or blaming. It means to have the courage to have that difficult conversation you might have avoided for a long time. To face the possibility that you might lose something, or someone who can’t take responsibility for their part of the story.
And most importantly, it means to rebuild trust in yourself. To remember that you have everything it takes - the strength, the self worth and the wits - to turn your life around. I can honestly say that I have made that switch.
You too can get the support you need, if you start looking in the right places. Support groups are one of the best places to start. For more information click here.
One way to change that is to rely on a group of like minded people who have been through similar situations, and who you can learn to trust. That is why Al-Anon, the support group for family members of alcoholics, is so successful: everyone knows exactly what it’s like to walk in each others’ shoes. Everyone has been in that boat at some time. And everyone is helped exponentially by the support and generosity of the community.
People who participate in support groups realize that they are not alone with their struggles, which in itself lifts a huge weight off their shoulders. Participants slowly become more comfortable showing their authentic self in the safe space that is provided. They work through relationship issues and become more connected, more confident and more energetic.
I will start a new weekly online support group for womens’ empowerment in January. Check back for news here: https://www.gertischoen.net/feminine-power-rising.html
PS: My in-laws are much better now. The husband has recovered, and the wife is taking care of herself (with a few hints from me). Growth happens when we let it.
With time, I have learned to slow down, and how to smell the roses (even though at times, I still rush by them).
Often, the pressures to take on more work, more responsibilities, more care taking, come from outside. But all too often, they take hold inside our minds. Unconsciously, we have accepted the many roles placed on us, without asking for compensation (monetarily or otherwise), and without taking what we deserve. “Taking” in itself it bad, isn’t it? We don’t take the time to relax, and we don’t take time to play - we don’t even know how to play any more half the time. Everyone and everything else is always more important.
This is one way women can begin to empower themselves: To stop over burdening ourselves, or quietly accept one more thing to do. We have to stop asking for permission to take time off, or ask for a raise, to sell that too-big home of yours, or refusing to have one more child.
In her book “The H-Spot - The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness“, writer Jill Filipovic describes how men tend to have it easier “making it”, because our society was built on masculine ideals: competition, getting ahead, a thirst for adventure (there's nothing wrong with any of these. But they're out of balance). So often, women end up in the supporting role of propping these values up without spending energy on pursuing their own ideals.
But what if we asked to focus on female values instead? “This is not a place that was built for us to thrive”, writes Filipovic. “The answer is not to simply try to be better at the tasks set before us. The answer is to ask, What would we make if we had all the tools? What do we want?”
And here is where we have to take a good look at ourselves. Too often, our identity is defined by relationships to others - being a mom, a sister, a wife. What would we do if we stepped out of these roles? How can women tap into their creative force and take charge in their own way, sweeping away outdated values, and building a better life for all of us?
The answer is - as always - we start with ourselves. What makes you happy?