DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 6)

Posted in Headliners, Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

6. Spoiling what you have by desiring what you have not…

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
― Marcel Proust

The greatest thief of human happiness and abundance is ungratefulness. Any lack in our lives, especially in gratitude (1)relationships, is quite simply the evidence of a lack of gratitude. Sometimes there are no real problems in a relationship, such as resentment (part 1) or jealousy (part 2) or unrealistic expectations (part 3) or not making time (part 4) or lack of communication (part 5) — but there is also no expression of the good things about your partner/friend either. This lack of gratitude and appreciation is just as bad as is the mother of all the problems. Without it your partner will feel like he or she is being taken for granted and will question his or her reasons for being in the relationship in the first place. Every person wants to be appreciated for all they do. And while you might have some problems with what your partner does (see previous blog posts above), you should also realise that those in your life do good things too.

Showing Gratitude to Others:

A lack of gratitude is often at the root of a variety of the ills that plague relationships of all types. When one never shows appreciation towards those most important in their lives, the embers of their love are soon inevitably extinguished. When agratitude2 boss fails to thank his employees for what they do, the employees start to resent both him and their job. On the flip side, nothing can buoy up our relationships quite like gratitude. A warm word of appreciation can instantly thaw the ice between people and even facilitate a long lost reconnection.

How often do we thank our husbands for taking care of those little errands we forgot to do? How often do we thank our friends for how thoughtful they are? When was the last time we thanked our co-workers for helping us get a project ready?

We often make assumptions that people either get thanks from other people or that they just somehow know how grateful we are for what they do. We are usually wrong on both counts.

A new study suggests small, thoughtful gestures and a little daily gratitude toward one’s partner can yield a great deal of happiness and help strengthen relationships.  The findings (conducted by Sara B. Algoe) are published in the June 2011 issue of Personal Relationships.

“Gratitude triggers a cascade of responses within the person who feels it in that very moment, changing the way the person views the generous benefactor, as well as motivations toward the benefactor,” Algoe says in a news release. “This is especially true when a person shows that they care about the partner’s needs and preferences. Feelings of gratitude and generosity are helpful in solidifying our relationships with people we care about, and benefit to the one giving as well as the one on the receiving end.”

What prevents us from showing our gratitude more freely?

Gratitude is inextricably intertwined with the virtue of humility. Gratitude aptly illustrates that we’re paying attention to gratitude1 (1)the acts of service people perform for us and that we truly understand how those acts make our life better, easier, and happier. Amen. The ungrateful woman is callous; she’s come to think that all the good things that happen to her and all the service rendered to her are an automatic/natural response to her unimpeachable awesomeness. She deserves all that stuff and more. Thus, she never takes notice of the good things that happen to her. And she’s never really happy with what she has. She deserves only the best in life, and concentrates solely on the ways in which this ideal hasn’t been met. How tiring this is.

The grateful person is humble. She possesses no illusions of grandeur. She knows that bad things happen to good people. She knows on a very fundamental level how much worse off many others are than she is. She understands the sacrifices others make on her behalf. And she deeply, deeply appreciates them – not just in her mind, but she tells them, she shows them.

Personal Gratitude:

Gratitude is not simply something that we externally share with others. It is an attitude that we live with every day. Some of the unhappiest people I’ve met in my life have also been the most ungrateful. They could only see the things that were wrong with their life, choosing instead, to concentrate  on the things they wished they had and wished hadRose-coloured glasses happened but didn’t. Their constant whining corrupted their soul and made life very draining for those who loved them most. On the flip side, some of the happiest people I’ve known are the ones that truly embraced the virtue of gratitude. Some of them had nothing to their name, or had a loved one battling w/ illness, but they were still filled w/ so much gratitude for what little they did have. They focused not on the things they lacked, but on all the things they had going for them. The things that made them happy. These people were the best to be around. I just found myself naturally gravitating towards them.

Some people think if they had more stuff or better looking partners or a better job or better luck, then they would magically have more gratitude…or that they would have a better life.  But the number of your material possessions or relationships will have no effect on your attitude. Once you obtain those things, you’d simply start thinking about new things you want. Gratitude is an attitude that can be cultivated in whatsoever circumstances you find yourself in. It’s not about good things happening to you, it’s about finding new layers of wonderfulness in the things that you have right now. A brilliant illustration of this is the well-known joke about when life hands you lemons…(fill in the blanks)

How to cultivate gratitude:

(i) Make a list of 10 things that you’re grateful for. Think about really specific things. Not just “I’m thankful for my girlfriend”, but, “I’m thankful that my girlfriend makes me laugh every day.” Not just, “I’m thankful for my friends,”  but “I’m thankful for how happy it makes me when my friends take time out of their busy lives to spend time w/ me.”

(ii) Give “thank yous” to 3 different people in your life today. Again, be specific. Thank your significant other/friend/mother for how wonderful they and mention some specific things about them that you love. Thank your co-worker for bringing donuts.

Rose - GratitudeThe findings in Personal Interest dovetail with the results of other research examining the psychological impact of gratitude and thoughtfulness.  For example, a recent study published in Psychology Science also found that individuals who expressed gratitude were also those more likely to report a strong relationship. Think about that for a few moments…

Take the time to say thank you, give a hug and kiss, perhaps even write a note, make dinner, or give a gift. This little expression will go a long way.

DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 5)

Posted in Headliners, Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

5. Don’t talk to me about lack of communication

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This inexpressible illusion, this ominous denominator, this “sin” affects all the others on this list. An ancient adage holds true: effective communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship. Arguably, then, the chief contributor to a relationship breakdown in most, if not all, relationships is the lack of proper communication. You are either yelling at each other, giving your loved one the cold, silent treatment, or my personal least favourite, being passive-aggressive. Communication 5None of the above are effective in building trust, love and maintaining respect in a relationship. According to Sharon Rivkin, a California licensed family and marriage therapist, when communication breaks down, neither party feels heard, seen, acknowledged or loved. If you harbour resentment (part 1), you must talk it out rather than allowing the resentment to fester and grow. If you are jealous (part 2), it is essential to communicate your insecurities in an open, loving and non-confrontational manner. If you have expectations (part 3), you must communicate them at the earliest moment possible. If there are any problems whatsoever, e.g. when you feel your partner or friend is not making time for the relationship (part 4), it’s vital to let the (expectations) known and come up w/ a collaborative solution suitable to both of you. Lack of communication will undoubtedly lead to loneliness (isolation/disconnectedness), arguments (talking AT one another), end of trust, lack of intimacy and depression.

So, what does this elusive term mean? Communication doesn’t merely entail talking or arguing — good communication is honest without attacking or blaming. Nor does it mean calling your loved one 60 times a day. I think that is what is referred to, in modern parlance, as borderline “cling wrap effect” i.e. being needy. Communicate your feelings — being hurt, frustrated, sorry, scared, sad, happy — rather than criticising or waiting until reaching your melting point before voicing your concerns. Communicate a desire to work out a solution that works for you both, essentially a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or to fit whatever mould you have set for them. What I have learned from my darling sister over the years on this point is to respond thus when conflict arises, “…so, this [whatever the situation] is not working out for us, what can we do to make it better/move forward?” Communicatecommunication - 4 more than just problems — communicate the good things too…like your dreams, goals, an interesting article you read, something funny that happened to you during the day. I don’t know if you have ever had people in your life only make substantial communication when things go pear-shaped in their lives? How about those who only communicate when they need something? Or my personal least favourite, those who are so quick (or slow) to ask superficial questions about your life but are never willing to let you know what’s going on in theirs (EVER!).  Didn’t that make you feel taken advantage of? Or worse, like you were in that relationship all by yourself? No matter how one views it, it is a two-way street. The best way I can describe what communication is, without over complicating things, is: being on the same page…at all times. Your loved one knowing where you stand and how you are…or as I prefer phrasing it, how your heart is (and vice versa)…again, at all times.

Communication doesn’t only entail times of conflict, but it warrants mentioning, since it’s inevitable in any relationship. In order to maintain a strong relationship, parties need to resolve the conflict openly and fairly:

Man shutting his ears and not listening to the persistent yelling of his spouseFight Fair – listen to each others’ frustrations without interruption. (Please read that sentence again before moving on). Active listening is an art. No one is taught how to listen without interruption. I have often found people to either be in an offensive or defensive mode. No one is at neutral – the way you’re supposed to be. There’s always a come-back line that can trigger more outbursts. It should come as no surprise then that some fights are never-ending. In any event, acknowledge any misgivings and seek to better your response in subsequent squabbles.

• Women (and some men) all over the world: PLEASE avoid dragging old resentments into the argument:“…remember that time in 1972, you did the exact thing and that’s why I don’t trust you…” It doesn’t help to resolve current issues at all, is terribly unbecoming and erodes on the trust you had previously built. As mentioned in part 1, learn to forgive and forget. If you have truly forgiven a loved one who wronged you in the past, you don’t hold it against them and neither do you bring it up every other time conflict arises between you. The only person hurt by harbouring a grudge is…you. True forgiveness enhances intimacy and drastically deepens communication.

Respect your partner/friend/family member at all times. You know which button to push to trigger his/her reaction so be the first to avoid taking that route.

• What I have personally found to be of great, GREAT importance in enhancing communication is: (i) Never go to bedCommunic - 6 angry and (ii) Don’t talk/communicate when angry. Whatever you have to do to avoid saying things you’ll later regret, do it. FAST!!! Leave the room, go for a walk/run and calm down before saying anything to whoever you’ve had a conflict with. I find it helps drinking water when angry. Incidentally, my mom started this little trick when I was an infant and I still use it to this day. It works! Not only does it keep you from flapping your gums unnecessarily, but has an incredibly soothing effect on the mind.

The next time you find yourself loading up more ammunition for a fight, resolve instead to verbalise the hurt that you feel in the form of a question. For example, “That really hurts. Why did you say that?” or if for some reason you were unable to communicate it at the time, saying something along the lines of, “when you do/say (fill in the blank…), it hurts my feelings/makes me feel (fill in the blank…)” will go a long way to facilitate the maintenance of a healthy, loving relationship, rather than pretending nothing’s wrong, giving the silent treatment or screaming like a retarded fish wife w/ a political agenda.

Often, most people are better at making assertions than seeking clarification. But with the above statements, your loved one will be left searching for a proper response. Lastly, non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching your partner’s arm communicate much more than words.

DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 4)

Posted in Headliners, Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

4. Ain’t nobody gat time fo’ dat!

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “How on earth am I going to find time for this relationship?”

Yeah. Me too. You are soooo not alone on this one. We all have very busy lives, and relationships take time and effort. A lot of effort. And we get too stressed w/ life or simply become lazy [FACT!].

saying no - watchBetween going to work, keeping fit, chores, family obligations, studying (and if you’re anything like me, the never ending whirlwind that occurs in the creative mind), it can be insanely difficult to spend some decent time with important people in your life. Something that I have come to realise after being immersed in relationship analysis over the years is that there appears to be two primary categories that infringe on paying attention to our relationships: how we choose to spend our TIME and how we spend our ENERGY. If you have clouded up either of these two areas, chances are, your relationship is taking a backseat, and probably suffering.

So, what can we do about it? Well, a lot of things, actually. Remember… this is all about CHOICE. How you CHOOSE to spend your time and your energy. So, saying things like, “I’m just too busy” or “I just don’t like going out/staying in” or “Skype/email/bbm/facebook just isn’t my thing…”  are all excuses. Yes, sue me, I said it. You are making a CHOICE not to engage w/ a friend or partner because it’s not suitable to you so you can focus your ENERGY on something else more suitable to you. Not cool and not good enough. Where and how you spend your time shows your priorities. If you’re saying no- date nightalways working late, your partner will get the message that work is more important. If you never want to go out/spend time w/ your friends, you communicate that they are no longer important in your life. My best friend of 16 years is a mother of 3. I always use her as inspiration for this particular point. I think raising 1 child takes a lot out of you. But she has taught me that nothing is an excuse in this regard (well, unless someone has a gun to your head or you’re incapable of using your mouth, hands or feet). Even w/ 3 kids, running a household, helping her husband out w/ a few things and sleepless nights, she still makes time to email, text, call…regularly and has visited me on a number of occasions…WITH HER KIDS!!! Life and some amazing people I have in my life have taught me that making a conscious effort in your relationships is an absolute must, or you may risk losing them. Sometimes even forever.

You might say that every successful relationship is successful in its own unique way; fair enough, but actually, research has shown that there are recurring patterns in successful relationships of all types, certain sets of behaviours that can help maintain a happy long-term partnership. Everyone’s situation is obviously unique and the demands of a past and futurerelationship will undoubtedly vary depending on the nature of the relationship. One thing, however, stands; regardless of time, distance, life circumstances and the nature of the relationship: a relationship cannot be maintained, or even grow, if both parties do not in some way involve each other in their lives by spending quality time. It’s simply impossible. One thing to note, however, is that sharing your friends/family/partner w/ competing interests such as work is unavoidable. Being second on the list is sometimes inevitable. I assume we are all grown, after all, and don’t need to be breast fed or put me to bed.

So how does one make time for our relationship? It’s an immeasurably vast subject, but here are 7 key things that you can do to make your love last.

i.  Just do it: Make time for your relationship. Don’t assume that as long as you love each other everything’s going to be fine. All types of relationships take time…and effort…from BOTH parties. Neglect something else – work, sport, your social life – to spend time together just talking or doing something fun. If you live far from each other, you have Skype and email and various other interactive social media. I have a dear sister-friend I haven’t seen in almost 7 years. We’ve been very close friends since high school. Life circumstances and pursuit of studies have necessitated our living in different countries…different continents. We speak every single, solitary week. We “cook” together (Skype), listen to music or watch TV shows together and have kept each other company whilst we both studied for exams. Things that we would ordinarily do if we lived closer to each other. Where internet access was a problem, we always had email and phones. Nothing has ever been an excuse for not making time for each other.

Don’t just assume you’ve both still got the same aims and expectations, people change over time, but as long as you both involve each other by making time, your relationship will last.

ii. Examine your commitments: Is there anything you have been saying yes to that you really don’t want to do? Anything that is a “should” or a “have to”? Guess what? All those little obligations that you have committed to that really don’t light you up ARE GETTING IN THE WAY of giving time and energy to those you need to. So what can you say no to?

Saying-Noiii. Start saying “no”: See #2  It warrants repeating. Start saying no so you can start saying yes to hanging out with important people in your life. Setting boundaries will go miles in helping you save your relationship(s).

iv. Figure out where your stress if coming from: Your work? Your family? Obligations? Your schedule? Many times if individuals are really stressed out, not much room is left to cultivate and grow a relationship. Is there stress coming from an area that you could actually take steps to eliminate? Or delegate?  Even a mindset switch about what is deserving of your energy? Oftentimes, we don’t realise that so much of our stress is self-induced. Unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves. Things we make more important. What is it for you?

v. Carve out non-negotiable time for you: You can’t keep filling up everyone else’s pitcher if yours is empty. Decide RIGHT NOW what you need each day or week to honor YOU. Seriously. Could you have 15 minutes of meditation before you jump out of bed? Could you have one hour to read each week on a topic that fills you up? If you are thinking there is no way I can make the time, take an honest look at what you are making more important. Is it really more important than taking care of yourself? Probably not. It may be time for some re-arrangement of priorities. ‘Cause guess what? YOU need to be a priority. I can guarantee you, if you aren’t filled up, you probably aren’t being the best spouse/partner/friend you can be.

vi. Carve out non-negotiable time for the relationship: This is the step where you actually decide that taking care of your relationship is so important that you commit to spending a specific amount of time together each week. You don’t need a week away to Cabo (though that would be incredible – all that sun, sand, breeze, cocktails…I digress…). What you need is to have sacred time EVERY SINGLE week where your relationship IS a priority. Decide what you can commit to. I always advocate a date night, or Skype dates. Instead of going into the “can’t” go to the “can”. Could you have 15 minutes to discuss your dreams/your day/what you’re learning/what you’re thankful for together before you go to bed? Just share your life a bit. If weekly time feels like a stretch, start small. Shoot for 30 minutes a week. Carve it out. Seriously, if this seems like a chore, you may have bigger problems to sort out.Saying no - make time for tea

vii. Pick up the telephoneAnd I don’t mean texting! Pick up your cell and actually press his/her name. Listen to the phone as it rings and feel the anticipation to hear his/her voice. I’m all for texting because it is fast and easy, but please, for the sake of building intimacy and sharing quality time, speak those most important in your life!

Acclaimed clinical psychologist, Willard F. Harley, talks about the ‘promise of time’. He emphasizes this concept with couples about to enter into marriage, but it’s relevant for all relationship types, no matter how long you’ve known each other. It’s basically the promise of spending time together each week giving one another quality, undivided attention. The three parts of Dr Harley’s policy of undivided time comprise of: privacy (the absence of others or things that regularly keep you from making time interfere w/ affection and intimate conversation), objectives (trying to meet the emotional needs of affection, intimate conversation and recreational companionship) and amount (the number of hours spent together should reflect the quality of your relationship).

Even Dr. Harley admits that it’s difficult to motivate unhappy parties to spend time together; mostly because these arelate people that are no longer in love (or the connection has been lost), and the relationship doesn’t do anything for them as a result. That being said, he has found that if both parties are committed to the relationship, and subsequently put in the time to fulfill one another’s emotional needs for a while, they actually end up wanting to spend more time together as time goes by. They end up back in love or the connection is re-established.

If you missed previous posts in the “Deal Breaker” series, you can read them here: part 1part 2 and part 3. Part 5 coming soon. Keep reading and I’ll keep posting.



DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 3)

Posted in Headliners, Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

I don’t know anyone who consciously desires drama in their relationships. I certainly don’t. In fact, I avoid drama at all costs – but we’ll save that entry for another day when I’m feeling particularly revelatory. If you’d like to read up on what to avoid in relationships (of all types), and especially how to have greater success, here’s part 1 and part 2 from previous blog posts. All this relationship talk reminds me of a conversation I recently had w/ a friend. Our discussion left me reflecting upon the myriad of mini-wars people engage in without even knowing it. I’m a firm believer that behind every human face is a struggling human spirit. Everyone has a story. Sometimes the struggle is rooted in lack of enjoyment of a job or scarcity of finances. More often than not, it stems out of wounded relationships. My friend and I were discussing the variety of demands men and women alike place on the people in our lives, and how unrealistic some of them are.

3. Unrealistic expectations: Mining for diamonds with a spoon?

We quite often have an idea of what people in our lives should be like. I was socialised like most modern African children. My overindulgence of Disney movies and later, R&B slow jams, resulted in an exceedingly warped expectation of how relationships are supposed to play out. I’m not even kidding. In any event, we intentionally or unintentionally expect our friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, etc, to be flawless. We talk of “Prince Charming” or “Mr/Mrs Right”. Our closest friends labels have changed from “best friends” to “BFF” etc. We even might expect relationships to provide us with an unending source Cleanerof happiness (or complete us somehow), for our partners or siblings to clean up after themselves (I know I’m totally guilty of this), to be considerate, to always make us a priority, you expect that you’re “meant to be” (which creates the false notion that relationships should be effortless all the time), to surprise us, to support us, to always have a smile, to work hard and not be lazy…I really could go on. You might not necessarily have the above-named expectations, but more often than not, they are there. And whenever our relational subjects don’t attain these pre-determined standards, we become disappointed, embittered and end up giving up too easily without giving ourselves or our partners/best friend a chance.  Nothing kills a relationship faster than having unrealistic expectations.

Having some expectations is fine…if they’re in the form of standards: refusing to put up w/ drug use or emotional abuse Some-people-look-for-a-perfect-relationshipor expecting fidelity, for example. When you’re considering whether or not someone is right for you, it is vital to maintain your values, goals and lifestyle choices without (serious) compromise. However, sometimes, especially as relationships begin to mature, without realising it ourselves, we set unattainable expectations. Just like the issue w/ failing to forgive (see part 1), setting unrealistic expectations is also inextricably linked with a warped sense of perfection. Nothing in this world is perfect. Especially people and relationships. It is unreasonable to expect them to be cheerful and loving every minute of the day — everyone has their moods and daily challenges to overcome. We can’t expect them to always think of us, as they will obviously think of themselves or others sometimes too.  Even “soulmates” ultimately are 2 different people who are bound from time to time knock heads. No one is perfect.

Happy Family Hugging Each OtherHigh expectations always lead to disappointment and sheer frustration, especially if we do not communicate these expectations to our loved ones. The remedy is to lower your expectations — allow your partner (or whoever) to be himself/herself, and accept and love them for who they are, not who you want them to be. What I have personally found to be helpful is a little introspection. So you want your mom, best friend, partner to respond to your email or text within 2 minutes of receiving it (or whatever the expectation is). Ask yourself: am I the very thing that I expect my mom, best friend or partner to be? If your response is in the affirmative, communicate it to your loved one in a way in which they will receive it best. Making a shopping list of demands will just defeat the entire purpose and will be painful and annoying for everyone involved. However, if your answer is no, then drop it! Love, whatever variety, is not the solution to life’s problems. It takes a lot of work. Reminds me of a quote I once read, “Love is like mining for diamonds. It’s hard work but it’s always worth it.

Look out for part 4 and have a blessed Easter.

DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 2)

Posted in Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

This is a continuation of the “Deal breakers: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins” series. If you missed part 1, check it out here. This edition is for romantic relationships.

2. Jealousy: Mad about you – A symptom of neurotic insecurity?

As emotions go, jealousy is neither subtle nor kind. But it is definitely complex, encompassing a wide range of feelings and reactions. The “green-eyed monster”, as Shakespeare aptly described it – that sickening combination of fear of green-eyed monsterabandonment, possessiveness, suspicion, rage, humiliation and even violence – can overtake your mind at any time (when you are madly in love, when you are snuggly attached, even when you dislike your partner) and threaten your very core as you contemplate your rival: Your sweetheart calls you by another’s name. His eyes linger too long on your best friend. He talks with excitement about a girl at work. And the insanity fire catches.  It equally strikes both men and women when they perceive a third-party threat to a valued relationship. Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is actually a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds— but reality dictates that it destroys them, and can give rise to relationship violence.

Jealousy is among the most human of all emotions. It is increasingly recognised as a fairly universal experience across cultures. At the root of jealousy lies the fear of loss of a relationship you value. It often results in worried and mistrustful behaviors and comes in two very common forms: reactive jealousy and suspicious jealousy.

Reactive jealousy occurs when one becomes aware of an actual threat or danger to the relationship – for instance, when one of the partners realises that the other has, in fact, been unfaithful. This type of jealousy is always in response to a realistic danger. Suspicious jealousy, on the other hand, occurs when your partner hasn’t misbehaved. It is mere perception. There is no proof that a relationship partner has engaged in any conduct that would significantly and perhaps legitimately warrant threat to the future of the relationship. For example, you’re out w/ your partner and notice that an attractive stranger across the way is smiling at your partner. A victim of suspicious jealousy might perceive such a gesture as a threat to his or her stature in the relationship and become angry at the partner for flirting with the stranger.

Regardless of whatever type of jealousy, just like resentment, it is a relationship poison. Jealousy can go seriously awry, seriously fast. Some people, for no apparent reason, become consumed by it, undermining their self-esteem, and even driving their partner into another’s arms — the very outcome they had initially feared. A little jealousy is fine (methinks) but when it reaches a certain level and turns into an insatiable need to control your partner, results into unnecessaryjealousy fights, and makes both parties unhappy (nice little recipe for a toxic relationship), it becomes necessary to address it. Stat!

If you have issues with jealousy, instead of trying to control your partner, it’s important that you examine and deal with the root cause, which is usually insecurity in yourself and the relationship. Below are some simple but effective tips for both the “jealouser” and “jealousee” to overcome the green-eyed monster:

1. Be honest. Figure out if there’s a legitimate reason for your jealousy. If there is, it may be time for a heart-to-heart conversation about the future of the relationship. Communicating about jealousy is a two-edged sword. If you communicate in a way that is perceived as accusatory, or as possessive and controlling, this can inevitably drive a relationship farther apart. In a mature relationship, sharing insecurities, attractions, and the vulnerable feelings associated with jealousy can help increase the trust and intimacy of the relationship.

2. It may sound trite, but how about you believe your partner? Yes, take them at their word. If they do lie to you, then they are not making a fool out of anyone but themselves – remember that. It has been mentioned elsewhere that trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. It’s therefore very insulting for your partner to have you continually doubting their word or decency of behaviour. When they tell you they’re at work or that they love you, believe them. Constant questioning by you can even be as destructive as having an affair in the long run.

self-confidence3. Build self-confidence. It is important to recognise that expressions of jealousy may have nothing to do with you or your behavior. In situations where there is no factual basis for your partner to be jealous, the existence of jealous feelings may suggest that your partner may be suffering from a lack of confidence. They may be insecure about some aspect of their own situation. Encourage your partner to spend time with friends and family who think they are great, or to master something new.

4. STOP.COMPARING.YOURSELF.TO.OTHERS!!! Some (not all) jealousy is driven by low self-esteem. “How could they love me? I don’t understand how someone like them could be attracted to someone like me!” None of us are supposed to understand exactly why someone loves us. That’s the mystery of love, isn’t it? Does the Mona Lisa painting know why it is so valuable? Of course, you may be able to appreciate attractive qualities in yourself, but consider this: There are (and will always be) better looking, richer, funnier, smarter, younger people around than just about all of us, but these are qualities of a ‘product’. If he or she loves you, it will be because of an extra, indefinable quality you have that they couldn’t even explain – some deep part of your humanity they connected to which transcends looks, youth, wealth, and so forth. Some of the most loved people in history have been well down the list when it comes to looks or wealth. Stop trying to ‘work out’ why they can possibly like you.

5. Don’t, just don’t, play games. Jealousy is excruciatingly uncomfortable for everyone involved. People sometimes try to make themselves feel better by attempting to make their partner jealous (perhaps as a reaffirmation of their feelings for them? I’ll never know). Don’t do this. Flirting with other men or women all the time in front of your partner; constantly saying how attractive, fun, and witty someone you work with is; and going out of your way to talk about past lovers just demeans you and won’t make either of you feel better in the long run.

6. Stop confusing make belief w/ reality. Jealousy, like many psychological problems (from hypochondria to paranoia), is driven by the destructive use of the imagination. Imagination is awesome…if you use it for your own benefit, not if it messes with your mind. I recall watching a YouTube video of a dog becoming very angry – with its own leg. The more its leg moved, the angrier it got with it – not realizing that it, the dog, was moving the leg. We laugh when we see a dog do this, but psychologically people do a variation of this all the time. It’s a waste of your imagination.jump-for-joy

7. Gain independence. Jealousy also can occur when partners are too dependent on the relationship to define how they feel about themselves and their self-worth. Persuade them to gain some independence from you and the relationship. The more their definition of self is tied to their own accomplishments and experiences apart from the relationship, the less jealousy they will experience.

8. Listen carefully. Don’t dismiss your partner’s feelings and fears. It probably wasn’t easy for your partner to fess up and express his or her concerns or worries. It often makes a person feel vulnerable and not in control. We all have those moments. If you can, try to understand, empathise and listen. If jealousy emerges during the early stages of a relationship that you care to preserve, it is okay to be there to support your partner as he or she gets to the bottom of what is behind these feelings of jealousy. At the same time, the changes that need to occur must be from within that person.

Jealousy tends to destroy the foundation on which healthy relationships are formed. It is important to remember that strong foundations are not built overnight. In cases where there is a desire to improve the relationship and to deal with normal feelings of jealousy, it is often not the feeling of jealousy that is harmful for our relationships, but the way in which we respond to this very natural emotion that matters.

Look out for part 3.

Insights from this article were gleaned from Helen Fisher, Phd, and Mark Tyrel.

DEAL BREAKERS: The Seven Deadly Relationship Sins (part 1)

Posted in Relationshipping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2013 by Joie de Vivre

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” – Emily Kimbrough

While I can’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert on relationships, I am confident that one of the greatest gifts I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying for many years are the beautifully rich relationships I share w/ my family, friends and yes, even ex-boyfriends. Some have spanned decades, while others, a few short years. What they all have in common is they have matured me in ways I never previously anticipated.

fightingI’ve obviously failed at relationships before – who hasn’t? But the mistakes I’ve made, and those I’ve observed others in my life making, have immeasurably helped me make better decisions and enjoy the richer, stronger, long-lasting relationships I enjoy today. I’ve learned the ‘deadly sins’ of relationships, how to recognise, avoid and remedy them. They are many, but I’ll limit today’s entry to only a few.

A few friends have asked me over the years to share tips on how to make relationships work. I’ve run out of excuses. So here I am w/ my first entry after 3 years and 2 months. It would be over-simplistic of me to narrow it down to some sort of magic formula (sorry, it does not exist); in any event, here’s an inexhaustive list of tips that have helped me immensely:

  • Spend time together. In the absence of that, communicate. Be involved in their lives, allow them to be in yours somehow.  Be there! Consistently.
  • Appreciate each other
  • FORGIVE!! (I cannot possibly stress this enough)
  • Be a man or woman of your word.
  • Share and give. I once heard that the success of any relationship is 100% – 100%. Never 50% – 50%. And certainly, nothing that would tip the scale in either direction.

But just as important as what you should do is what you shouldn’t do — and I’m sure many of us have fallen into these pitfalls many a time. I certainly know I have. If we can avoid these seven pitfalls, and focus instead on doing the five things listed above, then strong relationships will inevitably ensue. I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I’d give you great odds  🙂

1. Resentment: The gift that keeps on giving

Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goad or anger us. We don’t replay a cool litany of “facts” in resentment; we re-experience and relive them in ways that affect us emotionally, physiologically and spiritually in very destructive ways. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing a disintegrating intimate connection, family rift, or severed friendship. This is a poison that starts as something rather minuscule (“She didn’t email me back” or “I’ve paid bitterness and resentmenttwice when we went out and she didn’t”) and builds up into something big. The molehill-mountain effect as I like to call it. In most cases, the end result has nothing to do w/ what caused the resentment in the first place. Resentments embody a basic choice to refuse to forgive, an unwillingness to let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet. We review and rehash our painful past, even as we profess to want to let go of it. Often times, we also displace our resentment onto unsuspecting loved ones. For example, Mandy hurts you, so every other relationship after Mandy pays for what Mandy did through resentment. We do so because we believe the illusion that by belaboring our resentment, we will somehow achieve the justice we believe we are due. We cling to a futile need to be “right,” which overrides the capacity to heal and be at peace with ourselves. Resentment is exceptionally dangerous because it often flies under our radar, so that we don’t even notice we are harbouring resentment(s), and our partner/friend/family member doesn’t realise that there’s anything wrong. I once read something along the lines of, “…living w/ resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy gets sick.” Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Yet, this is how many of us enter and continue to be in relationships.

If you ever notice yourself harbouring resentment, you need to address this immediately, before it gets worse, and especially, if you have any aspirations to enjoy your relationship. Nip it in the bud, so to speak. There are two excellent ways to deal with resentment: i) breathe, and just let it go…water off a duck’s back — accept your partner/friend/family member for who she/he is, faults and all, because none of us is perfect. This essentially involves forgiveness. The most difficult thing to do, but the easiest to withhold from someone else. I have often found that lack of forgiveness is inextricably The-Breakuplinked to an unreasonable expectation of perfection –  in ourselves and especially, in others. Once you truly realise that nothing and no one is perfect, including yourself, it becomes much easier to accept another person, to forgive and truly let go (forget). What has helped me is asking myself  “do I want to be right or happy?”  An honest answer to that will set us on the right path to ridding ourselves of any built-up resentment. While I’m not advocating repressing matters for the success of any relationship, I believe battles ought to picked wisely. You will often find that combative people or those who constantly seek to be right (or to uphold some “justified” notion of “high moral ground”), generally do not have an impressive relationship record. If your focus is more outward, you’re inevitably bound to enjoy better relationship success than when you’re battling your egos with the person who (perhaps) wronged you in an effort to be the one who is found to be right. It’s not worth it. It never is.  ii) Talk to your partner/whoever about it if you find the reasons for harbouring resentment unacceptable, and try to come up with a solution that works for both of you (not just for you – this is not a battle of the egos, remember?); try to talk to them in a non-confrontational way, in a way that expresses how you feel without being accusatory.

End of part 1. Look out for part 2 in a short while. Until then, here’s some food for thought:

“The moment you start to resent a person, you become his slave. He controls your dreams, absorbs your digestion, robs you of your peace of mind and goodwill, and takes away the pleasure of your work. He ruins your religion and nullifies your prayers. You cannot take a vacation without his going along. He destroys your freedom of mind and hounds you wherever you go. There is no way to escape the person you resent. He is with you when you are awake. He invades your privacy when you sleep. He is close beside you when you drive your car and when you are on the job. You can never have efficiency or happiness He influences even the tone of your voice. He requires you to take medicine for indigestion, headaches, and loss of energy. He even steals your last moment of consciousness before you go to sleep. So, if you want to be a slave, harbor your resentments!” – Mark Sichel (Psychology Today)


CURSE or BLESSING? – The late 20s, dating and finding Mr Right.

Posted in D8ing & Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by Joie de Vivre
Think about the men you dated in [High School or your early 20’s] versus [the men you date in your late twenties]. Aren’t you glad now you didn’t get married back then?! I know I am!

There is something about the number 30 that strikes fear into any woman hoping to get married and have children. Apparently, studies show that when a woman first dreams of Prince Charming, she’s somewhere around seven (a lie from the pit of hell: I was four….or 5 and ¾) and by the time she reaches eighteen (another lie, I was sixteen), her image of perfection is so well tuned, even Michelangelo’s David pales in comparison.
It is during those bell weather years of ‘18’ to 30 where she defines herself, takes her chances, makes mistakes and refines “David”, starting over with clay this time rather than marble. Clay after all can be moulded easily, allowing for alterations as reality redefines fantasy and fantasy fades into oblivion.

A person’s twenties are about definition and getting Mr. Right to notice you while you prove to the world you can take care of yourself. Your twenties are about test driving your emotions, test driving men (and I don’t mean in the literal (physical) sense), and defining oneself. The adjectives used to define Mr. Right at 20 generally include: tall, fun, handsome, great car and awesome in bed. Well, a car has never really been on my requirement list but I hear these are the general requirements at that age. My requirements at that naïve age had an outlandish tone to them. He had to: speak a foreign language, know how to dance, play guitar or a musical instrument, cook, sensitive, and must love “Dances w/ Wolves” or anything w/ Kevin Costner, John Cusack or Denzel Washington etc…and other specifics I won’t bother mentioning, lest I humiliate myself in the process. At 20, a year is a very long time and for most women, the person she is at 20 is drastically different to the woman she becomes in her late twenties. I’ve found this to be true as most items on my requirement list have narrowed down to 3 or 4 fundamental things. No, I will not mention them here. Ok, ok…wait 2 paragraphs for that.

By your late twenties or even thirty, Mr. Right grows up, puts on a few pounds and has better things to do with his time than drink beer, go clubbing/pub-crawling, work out and live just for the moment. Now, as a woman you realize that substance exceeds aesthetics and a guy with six-pack abs usually spends too much time in the gym and too little time involved in the world around him. We don’t want that. Or, do we? Still, it’s great to be with someone who takes good care of themselves but not excessively so. Let’s not underrate physical attraction while we’re still at it.

The new adjectives now reflect my own maturity and include more concrete ideals such as an active walk w/ God, integrity, a passion for living, sense of fun, principled, goal-oriented, considerate, compassionate, communicative, a man worthy of leading a home, and of course, loving. He still must love Kevin Costner, John Cusack and Denzel though. Some things are non-negotiable, you see. By your late twenties, you realise it’s not whether he wants you, it’s whether you want him. In your late twenties, depending on your chosen career, you sometimes forget what year it is because time now goes by so fast. For example, I never quite crossed over into 2009 and 2010.

The Eligible Women Shortage
Of course no amount of maturity stops the panic. If you’re still single you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Why is it so many women who are not attractive, smart or funny seem to have no problem finding Mr. Right? Don’t men like women with brains, looks, a sense of humor and well-honed maternal instincts? If so, where the heck are they?
In truth, your Mr. Right is probably thinking the same thing about you. Where are you? It’s hard to believe, but there is actually a shortage of healthy, mentally-sound, non-addicted, heterosexual late twenty-somthing females looking to get married. Once you reach 35, male or female, only 50% of the dating pool is healthy. Healthy means no addictions, mental diseases or other impediments to a successful relationship I.e. STILL watching that thriller cartoon I so loathe: ‘Spongebob’, the sexually inappropriate ‘Teletubbies’. [deal breakers – LOL!] ‘Batman‘, ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ and Disney movies are allowed and would not serve as detriments though. Jus’ sayin’…

The Wall Street Journal featured an article on the women shortage (in this cohort) a few years back. They reported that many men waited until their late thirties and early forties to marry, wanting first to get their careers off the ground and become financially stable….get all their ’ducks in a row’, you know? The women they date between 2 and 10 years younger(?) These women are part of Generation X, an itty bitty generation by comparison. Basically, single, childless, late twenties to thirty-something women who for the first time in history have three eligible straight bachelors a piece looking to marry. Unfortunately the article neglected to mention where to find them. They’ve gone into hiding. Like Bin Laden. Never to be found again.
Many studies also enquire on the ideal time to get married. It seems for women to be age 32, which is also the year she hits her sexual peak. The philosophy behind this stated that at 32, a woman has finally come into her own, confident in who she is and makes choices based upon fact rather than fantasy.

At 32 she is still open to new ideas, but steadfast enough that she is not easily fooled or manipulated. The segment went on to explain that after 35 it is very difficult for a man or woman to marry because by that point, both are so set in their ways, compromise, an essential element to successful cohabitation (whether within or outside of marriage) is difficult to achieve. No, I don’t believe that this is a rule set in stone. I just find it VEEEERY interesting.

Does that mean at 28, 29 or even 30, a woman is over the hill? And if you’re in this age group, how do you cope and open yourself to love?
Personally, I agree with the 30+ scenario but still open to finding love wherever it may lie: whether at 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, heck even 33. Though in my early – mid 20’s while I was panicking, it would have been of little solace. My almost 90-year old grandma doesn’t agree though. But we don’t talk about that. What I’ve discovered is that if I really wanted to be happy, regardless of marriage, I first have to learn from my dating experiences in my twenties by acknowledging the good and the bad. Then I need to redefine Mr. Right based upon reality rather than emotion. Finally I have to accept my situation and for me that means relying on faith I.e. in God, that He would bring the person I‘m meant to be with in my path AT THE RIGHT TIME. And most importantly, use this time in doing all the things that I wouldn’t otherwise do were I attached (travel extensively, finish my education, swimming w/ sharks, bungee jumping etc. and all that ‘living on the edge‘ stuff) and also using this time in becoming Mrs Right (for me, that’s undoubtedly the Proverbs 31 woman), becoming the woman I was intended to be as opposed to constantly being on the prowl for unsuspecting Mr Right(s).

The Dating Lessons of My Twenties

At this juncture, I should clarify that dating in this context does not equal having sex. Dating to me means you spend time with someone, get to know them and share experiences. In a committed relationship that can change. Personally I don’t consider the relationship to be committed until after a few months with mutual agreement and exclusivity. In most cases, dating relationships never get this far. The whole purpose of dating is to get to know someone and see if a future is a possibility. Sex too soon tends to remove objectivity, screwing up the gradual developmental process (establishing and cultivating a friendship) and thereby  replacing it [objectivity] with emotion.

I look at the men I’ve dated from 15-26 going back to the first: He was an 8-week relationship, the most popular boy in his high school, tall, star rugby player, had an 8-pack, his father assumed a prestigious position in the legal fraternity, and I was a naïve idiot. Last I heard he was in the process of being indicted for fraudulent activities. The last during this period was a psychotic (no, really) 30 year-old successful IT engineer who was convinced after 2 dates that I was destined to be his Mrs, had unilaterally made the decision to involve his parents, was ready to quit his successful career, move to Finland and the UK w/ me and anything short of that, well, was reason enough for him to end his life (see, I told you he was demented). That is not my portion. I bolted. Yeah, like lightning.

Each dating experience was a notch up as I realized what I did like and most importantly, what I didn’t. Along the way I’ve had several types of relationships: The rebound, the arm candy, the ’Bring home to Mamma’ the ‘older guy’, the complete ‘dysfunctional type’, the ‘younger guy’, my ‘first love’, even the “what the heck are you doing with him?” What was I doing with him? La Joie, NOT.COOL!

Each of these rungs on the ladder taught me something invaluable: 8-pack taught me that gorgeous, “I’m-so-full-of-hot-air’, and stupid is a road to nowhere. ‘Dysfunctional‘? Showed me that a man will always show you who he is when you first meet him but we‘re too stupid to realise. ’Bring home to Mamma’ taught me in 5 years the importance of compromise, loving a man for who he really is as opposed to who you want him to be (WOMEN, oh women, hear me on this one!), how to love and be loved, importance of loving your self first: I.e. coming into the relationship as 2 WHOLE beings as opposed to the famous romantic notion of two halves, commitment, hard work in maintaining a relationship, forgiveness and I could go on. The ‘older guy’ taught me the importance of being w/ someone with whom you’re on the same wavelength, especially when it comes to “religious” values/principles. SO much hinges on that. SO MUCH! ‘First love’? Well…that was not a dating relationship as such but it taught me the utter importance of exercising a little self-control and not saying everything that initially comes into your head, letting go of “traditional” notions in relational set-ups and really listening to everything that is not said. And no, I won’t give a list of all the men I’ve dated.

When I look back on my dating education from my twenties, gratitude engulfs me. Thank you God, thank you God! Thank you God for not allowing me to marry then. Four times I was proposed to and thrice I declined! If I had married then, ‘8-pack’ and I would’ve been “Bonnie & Clyde”. I’d be in jail, no doubt. ‘Psycho’ would’ve driven me into an asylum…right along w/ him. ‘Bring home to Mamma’ and I would NOT be happy pandas, ‘Older guy’ & I would no doubt be living in France, wearing a hijaab, no doubt covering my face, and would live w/ the constant fear of being repudiated or having our 4 kids taken away every time I made the wrong step. ‘First love‘? Well, I’ll never know but that’s all behind me. As for the various “What the hecks”? They’re not worth the detail. And I’m getting bored just thinking about 2 in particular. [YAAAAAAAAAAWWWN!!!]

Still Single in Your late twenties/thirties?

Here’s Hope:
The good news is by their late thirties, men tire of the game and discover what love is about. With maturity they tend to appreciate a woman for who she is rather than solely for how she looks. Most women still single in their late twenties – thirties aren’t desperate. Most have decided their lives are full without a man. This is not a feminist stance, just one of a woman coming into her own. Much as they may desire it, marriage isn’t the goal these women chase. If marriage were the goal, most would have married when asked in their twenties. For these women the goal is a lifetime of love, companionship, shared experiences with an occasional challenge to keep things interesting. A ring doesn’t deliver this. Only love does. A ring is the cherry on top.

Over the past 7 years I’ve watched close to 29 never-married female friends between 21and 35 fight the panic and ultimately come to terms with being single forever and never having children. A miraculous thing happens once each accepts this. Each meets her husband within the following two years, in most cases, within months. He looks nothing like her previous boyfriends or crushes. In many ways he is a composite of all the qualities, character and traits she’s come to respect only the packaging is different. Most will admit she never dated men like that because they “Weren’t her type” visually. He turns out to be the perfect match and totally her type.

How I Changed My Situation and Attitude:

Why am I glad I didn’t marry in my early twenties? Had I, I would have never been where I am in life today. Though I’m still a work in progress, my personality and certain relationship skills such as patience, forgiveness, unconditional love and compromise, just to name a few, would not have been honed as they are now. As I was then, no serious guy intending to commit would have dated me either: I didn’t love myself or respect myself as I do now. And frankly, I wouldn’t have given any guy worth committing to a second look.

But you couldn’t have convinced me of that in my early twenties. I had to grow up first and learn what was important before my Mr. Right could enter my life. I needed time to develop into the type of woman he is attracted to. The type of woman God intended for me to be to HIM! The key for me is three-fold and I have faithfully followed the advice of my friends. The solution for each of them, and later (hopefully) for me was/is the same: prayer, acceptance and maintaining an open mind.

For nearly 3 years, each night I’ve asked God give me the strength and peace of acceptance if it was His will I remain single. I also asked that if my husband was out there, could He please bring him into my life soon? (and preferably before gravity takes its toll and my chocolate skin loses elasticity…haha! Just kidding). Then over the past 10 months, I’ve made a practice of appreciating what life has given me. Part of this included analyzing my past relationships both the good and bad parts. Finally, I remained open to “any” [there’re some non-negotiable criteria here] man who expresses an interest.

This willingness to date outside of “your type” is crucial. That insurance agent, gym trainer, lawyer, fireman, businessman, construction guy, you sit next to on the plane/bus/train or person you call for research just might be your Mr. Right. That is if you are open to giving him a chance and mature enough to keep an open mind.

Lastly, like I said: it’s SO important during your single days to focus more on making yourself Mrs Right than constantly being on the prowl for Mr Right. Building your relationship w/ God during this time is of utmost importance.

All the best girlfriends (and guy friends reading this ;))
Before some of you send me hate mail, we all have different journeys. There are some of you who met said Mr Right while still in High School or in your early – mid twenties. This piece is for those who still haven’t. Now, that that’s out of my hair, anyone for coffee and a brownie?

** Research gathered from Wall Street Journal, December 2001, Good Morning America (2000?), chats w/ few lovelies and article on singlehood by B.D. Devine.