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Why we tend to put the needs of others before our own


Q. How can I make things right for everyone? So everyone wins? I asked a friend and her son to come on vacation with me. The problem is that one minute she wants to go and I had better not change it, and the next minute she can't go and is scared to leave the boyfriend for a couple days. Or I want to leave one day and she wants to leave another. The way she talks to me sometimes and the way she just acts around me just makes me mad. Did I do the right thing inviting her?

A. Your friend sounds terribly insecure. If she cannot leave her boyfriend for a few days she will lose him soon by being too clingy and fearful. It sounds as though you have been very patient, but you also need to act in a certain way which won't make people take advantage of you. Once you invite someone to accompany you, and you have changed the details for them once or twice, that's enough. You cannot continue to change every minute, otherwise your friend will just keep changing because of her own fears and lack of respect for the consequences for you.

Best thing to do is to arrange a date to suit you, invite your friend and stick to it. If she cannot go, fine. You go off and enjoy yourself because you are bound to meet people like you. If you live in fear of going off on your own, your friend will always mess you about and you will never go on your holiday. Absence makes the heart grow fonder so your friend should go away with you and allow her boyfriend to miss her sometimes.

Stop changing your dates and start making your arrangements. Your friend will then see that you mean business and will either go with you or hang back. If she doesn't go, it's her loss. But don't let her spoil it for you anymore.

Finally, you can NEVER please everyone and make them happy because everyone has different needs. You can only please yourself, and those who like what you are doing will also be happy too. Perhaps you have been trying to please too much because you really want her friendship, and she is taking advantage of that, which only leads to disappointment all round.

The Single Biggest Killer of Relationships


So you see the man/woman you fancy across the room at a party. You edge nervously towards him/her, wanting to make that crucial impression. You finally make the connection between you and you feel really happy. You punch the air with joy. A few weeks .. or even years .. later, everything stops in its tracks and you can't understand it. End of beautiful romance or marriage. And what killed it, you wonder? Aaahh, those expectations. They just did not match up between you.

Expectations are the biggest killers of all relationships, whether new or established, since unrealistic demands and the search for perfection invariably suck the lifeblood out of a connection. Every partnership that breaks down begins its downfall when expectations go unfulfilled, which then causes frustration, resentment, anger and even violence. High expectations and the desire for perfection in our soulmates gradually erode the love and good feelings we initially have. Disappointment creeps in, a re-evaluation takes place that pushes our feelings toward the negative, and respect is gradually lost.

There are two main kinds of expectations: those that seek to change our soulmates into some perfect ideal of the desired person, and those which are impossible to fulfil because they go against our basic values and purpose. They rob of us our freedom, free choice and unique perspectives. Worst of all, they make us feel inadequate and forever below par. Both kinds of expectations are so unrealistic they are hardly ever achieved, and yet people continue to strive in vain, every day, to realise them. Wherever such expectations are fulfilled, there is likely to be a significant element of controlling, browbeating and even bullying. There is also the anxious kind of expectation which fears commitment and assumes everyone is out to trap us into a long-term relationship, or that they should already have been partnering us!

Gender Conflict in Expectations
There is a saying that men marry women hoping they will stay the same forever while women marry men hoping to change them as soon as the ceremony is over! Expectations that involve seeking perfection are particularly soul destroying. The main trouble with wanting perfection in a relationship is that one partner..s idea of perfection will rarely coincide with that of the other, and so the desire to compete for this elusive state inevitably gets out of hand as the resulting expectations gradually damage the relationship. One can see this perfect ideal long before the two people have settled into the relationship .. at the dating stage, in fact.

It rears its ugly head whenever individuals express the desire not to connect with anyone with emotional or other baggage. They want a perfect being without negative feelings, perhaps without any feeling at all, so long as they are happy! But this so-called baggage contains our pain, hurt and essential issues to be resolved. It also contains our resources from which we can learn to rebuild our lives. It is an inevitable process that is crucial to our development and forms the core of who we are. The ideal situation is to carry this baggage in reducing amounts until we learn from it and let it go. But many people pretend they have no 'baggage' at all. They mask it with a lot of 'fun', humour or unforgiving seriousness while they die inside, becoming unfeeling and insensitive robots.

Every part of our experience becomes a kind of baggage that shapes our perception, alters our attitude and is then put aside in our ongoing development. As I said in my other book on relationships, .."To meet someone claiming to be without any baggage is to meet a bland, fearful idiot, unable to cope with his/her emotions or feelings; someone pretending about their life; who is constantly in denial that nothing affects them unduly while denying others the right to their own emotions and feelings. However, it is not the 'baggage' we carry which is the main problem. It is how we handle that 'baggage', what we have in it, and how long we carry it for!"..(Sihera - Money, Sex & Compromise)

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Conforming to Expectations

A desire for perfection means we are never happy with ourselves or our partners; never satisfied with our lives or our looks. There is always someone, or something, better just around the corner. When we meet the desired one, they have to conform to our expectations by behaving in a prescribed manner in order to merit our attention and approval. We are not prepared to let that person unfold gradually before us, to just be themselves and surprise us with something different, en route to what might turn out to be the same end. Instead, we have high expectations about how the partner should look (like the age old clich of 'looking sexy in a little black number') and how they should act in public ('mustn't drink beer from pint glasses', or must have the right designer car and clothes) according to our identikits.

What many people don't realise is that, should their soulmate change into the perfect ideal required, they both will be seeking different partners! Think about it carefully. People come together because they are attracted to each other .. AS THEY ARE, not what they hope to be. Change one person to something else and s/he will then be looking for a new partner to match the new characteristics they have acquired. That is why people who are promoted and those who undertake self-development, or higher education courses during their relationships, tend to gravitate towards those in a similar situation, if their spouses haven't kept up with them. Their new status would create new expectations.

Moreover, expectations and the search for perfection tend to blind us the fact that we are far from perfect ourselves. There is a lot we too need to do to become 'perfect' in the eyes of others, like lose that 'beer belly', stop smoking, treat others more sensitively, become more caring etc.. The end result is that we continually circle each other with high expectations, but with no capacity to fulfil them. At the same time we miss many opportunities for greater happiness by just being ourselves and enjoying it.

Do You Feel Neglected though you're part of a couple?


One of the biggest causes of breakdowns in relationships is simple neglect of a partner once children appear on the scene. No attention, no affection and, worst of all, no sex, as spouses become lost in the routine and minutiae of child rearing, forgetting how those children came about in the first place! This unwitting form of rejection, especially in the early years of marriage, is perpetuated in many homes and often sets the seal for trouble ahead.

New additions to families have the knack of grabbing all the attention. Daily, many mums strive to accommodate this sudden, pervasive and persistent demand on their time, often in an unnecessarily guarded and protective manner, that gradually excludes their spouses. Invariably, it is men who lose out at this time. Some do not take such exclusion lightly, often feeling jealous of the new rival, but not quite sure how to react in these sensitive and uncharted waters.

When the demands of the child constantly interfere with the normal togetherness and intimacy the couple enjoys, it is difficult to maintain a positive, romantic or even sympathetic perspective. Inexperienced, anxious mothers are primarily concerned about their new and vulnerable charges, while excluded fathers are reduced to the role of helpless bystanders, often withdrawing emotionally from the situation while constantly fretting on the quiet. It won't be long before they look elsewhere for comfort and affirmation, judging by the disproportionate number of divorces in the UK which involve young children under 11 years old (65% of all UK divorces in 2007 – 25% with children under 5!).

Two individuals trying to live harmoniously together is no easy feat and sometimes we unwittingly set a train of action into motion, blissfully unaware of the consequences until it flattens us to a pulp. Like this routine-looking scene in my local park one Sunday that masked many anxieties. Running noisily around a park bench was an animated group of children, with a male and female guardian in their thirties. Three very lively youngsters buzzed around the woman, competing with one another for her attention. Seemingly concerned, she sat very still, holding on tightly to the youngest child, cradling his head against her warm body as if she could not bear to let him go. With her head bowed in a sort of reverie, she seemed oblivious to the merrymaking and intermittent noise around her, and was equally oblivious to someone else standing in front of her.

Signs of Frustration

A man of similar age, rather windswept and miserable, looked down at her longingly. Sporadically, he looked away at the people around him and back to his companion in a cycle of futile expectation. Her lack of response unnerved him. He seemed trapped by the situation, in which he was expected to give attention to children wrapped up in their own game while feeling decidedly excluded himself. Perhaps he was her lover, or her husband. Either way, these simple signs of frustration pointed to a relationship heading for trouble.

The haunting look in his eyes as he tried to appear nonchalant, when he clearly wanted her attention, and perhaps a cuddle too, was not difficult to see. He scoured the park for similar situations; for the reassurance that as a man he was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. But the reassurance was not forthcoming and the look of bewilderment on his face betrayed not only a desperate kind of wonder at what he could do next, but also his increasingly obvious feeling of being unwanted and on the periphery. The young toddler might have required attention at that precise moment, but the woman was so focused entirely on his needs, everything else appeared to be in suspended animation. That scene has been indelibly etched on my mind.

With children in tow, this couple is likely to be married. And, with this type of relationship providing the most up-to-date statistics on living together, it is easy to see the downward trends in the length of marriages once children are on the scene. Love is universal in its effects and emotions are always predictable be they personal, individual, peculiar or particular. Any two committed people sharing the same space can expect a repeat of what happens to many other couples, especially with new additions to the family. The advent of children, even as a welcome third party, could spell doom for most couple's relationships unless they are strong, knowledgeable and mature enough to deal with the new situation sensibly. Often this is not the case, as no one has prior training for such sensitive times. The results can then, sadly, be seen in the courts.

9 Tell-Tale Signs of Poor Communication between couples


Poor communication is the most common complaint by couples (as stated by 68 per cent of couples seeking counselling). Apparently, the average couple talk for only five minutes per day! Yet communication is the most important aspect of a relationship. Once we stop communicating, stop being affectionate and stop making love, we no longer have a relationship. There are many partnerships that lack those three essential ingredients and are still limping along to infinity, with two very unhappy individuals.

Communication is not just verbal. It includes every message, feeling, desire and thought we convey to the other person by way of eye contact, emotion or body language. The secret of communicating effectively is knowing how to avoid the unhappy, harmful interactions. Poor communicators tend to compete with one another in discussions, to blame each other constantly, to boost their egos and to find scapegoats. Everything is a competition for them and they are more interested in being right than having a successful relationship. They perceive themselves to be all-knowing, never giving an inch to anyone, while consistently demanding their own right of way.

They are not usually focused on the relationship they share, only on the arguments, tending to be secretive, self righteous and in denial, so conditions tend to be tense as they compete for control. It is mainly about who 'wins' and who is 'right' or 'wrong', with little acknowledgement of the other's feelings or fears. In their eyes, there is only ever one way of doing or seeing things and that is their way. No one, or any other method, is ever valid or accepted.

Characteristics of poor communicators are the following:
* Criticism: They usually have a steady flow of criticism, put-downs or blame for their partner. But the trouble with blame is that it keeps us focused on our partners to prevent us seeing, or accepting, our own faults.

* Defensiveness: Neither partner feels cared for or listened to. They are both too busy defending themselves in the abusive onslaught and fighting to get their points in.

* Denial of Discussion: They respond to criticism with defensiveness, often denying everything even discussion, making excuses and accusing their partner of being 'emotional', 'stupid', 'silly' or 'mad'.

* Gift of Sanity: Poor communicators are usually the ones who claim to be 'sane' and 'reasonable' and 'caring'. They always feel put-upon and the victim.

* Biased Perception: Individual perception is usually biased, distorted or contradictory. There is also likely to be lots of exaggeration and anger instead of compromise.

* Straying from the Issue: They tend to stray from the main issue and find no solutions, especially when it is not going their way, throwing all kinds of complaints and insults at their partner, but without aiming for anything constructive.

* Mind Reading: They tend to mind read' and/or 'psychoanalyse' their partner excessively, as well as name-call and show contempt by mocking, rolling their eyes, being insulting, counter-attacking and interrupting constantly.

* Holding Out: There is a determination by poor communicators 'not to give in', only to show they are right, with lots of anger, and, eventually, deadly silence.

* Stonewalling: When the attacks get too much, or when they hear something they do not like, there is likely to be no response (stonewalling), unless it is more of what they have given before

Why do I feel so insecure with my partner?


Q. My husband recently began to talk to a work colleague on his mobile phone where I saw three calls registered. I did ask him not to talk to her when I first met her. He has acknowledged talking to her, but should I ask questions to find out what they have been talking about? Or should I leave it be since I know that this will cause a huge argument?

A. The main killers of many relationships are a lack trust, jealousy and a lack of space. Many wives do not realise that the more they watch a spouse, question him and want to know about the routine things he does, is the more unattractive they appear, the more claustrophobic the relationship becomes and the quicker they send him into the arms of someone else.

Many partners do not also appreciate that they cannot be all things to their spouses who need stimulation, perhaps intellectual, leisure or otherwise, from others. If couples love one another and trust one another there is no need to spy on one another. Problems begin when there has not been much attention and appreciation between couples and suddenly one partner seems to be giving that attention somewhere else. It is easy to demand that a partner stop such connections but much harder to make it stick because something could be missing from the home and the action will merely be repeated quietly later on because the real cause is not being addressed.

Instead of asking any questions, let it be and begin to review your parts in the relationship. Could you do more things together? When did you last praise him? Or he praise you? When did you last send gifts to one another, play silly games, have a night of wild passionate love? What I am trying to say is that many relationships die of sheer boredom, of taking each other for granted and doing the same old things all the time. Along comes a person who seems exciting, who makes the partner feel relaxed and different and whammo! Problems afoot. But focusing on that person will not make the problems go away, if there are any. He will just switch to someone else down the line because you would be focusing on the symptoms, not the causes, whatever they are.

He has been open about talking to her. He hasn't hidden it. Furthermore, she is a work colleague and they could be talking about anything on earth. Over to you now to have the courage to examine what could be missing between you by having some communication with him and start focusing on you both. It is easy to start blaming others for things going wrong, but the third party is never important. It really is about the two of you and what you wish for your relationship. You cannot afford for him to see you as unattractive (you mentioned him getting 'an earful'). If that is all he has to look forward to, he will look elsewhere. Once attraction goes, it cannot be manufactured and often couples concentrate on the negatives instead of simply loving and valuing their partners.

Look at it realistically: He answers all your questions and tells you what they have been talking about but you're still not happy? What then? You cannot curtail his movements like a child and you will only make the situation worse with your negative stance. I would ask him just one question: "When can we go away for a wild weekend together? We need some time to ourselves, just do something different, don't you think?" Then also have a long chat on that weekend to see how you both can get more from the relationship and build it from there. Otherwise any other negative action will merely leave you feeling stressed, anxious, vulnerable and very insecure as you cannot watch him 24/7 and he might simply retreat from you to avoid the confrontations.

Is it a bad thing to be really 'needy' in a relationship?


In a single answer, NO. If you are regarded as 'needy' by the person you are with, or you regard a partner as too needy for you, then you are in the WRONG relationship.

I went to a seminar last week, mainly to see how other people talk about relationships. But I wanted to scream out half-way into the event when one of the presenters (who obviously knew very little about the subject!) started telling everyone how we shouldn't be too 'needy', especially women. "It isn't attractive and men hate that", she informed us helpfully! What crap, I thought to myself, and walked out later when it was clear that the presentation was long on speculation and subjectivity but pretty short on real knowledge.

The starting point is that we all have needs when it comes to others. That is why Nature made us in such a way that we have to relate to each other, both in the physical and emotional ways that we complement one another. We cannot exist by ourselves, otherwise we would simply go mad through isolation, loneliness and a feeling of having no value. Our validation, identity and existence come through the presence and acknowledgment of others. Hence we always have a need for interacting with other people in some way, no matter the extent we feel is appropriate for us.

If we are 'needy', it is simply that our needs have been interpreted by other people as more extensive than their own and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when we are mismatched with someone whose needs are far less and who finds our expectations and behaviour overwhelming. But when we find someone who is equally 'needy', wanting everything we've got to give, and to reciprocate in turn, it is a match made in heaven!

Relationships depend on one key thing to be successful:MUTUAL ALIGNMENT. Most relationships present no problems at all if we could only find the person that matches up, or aligns, with us in four key areas:





Where we seem to be highly mismatched most of the time is in Item 3: Capacity to Love. People who have had little affection from parents and others tend to find it hard to reciprocate when they meet very loving people. Not having been affirmed themselves, they are often mean with outward praise, displays of affection and letting the other person feel really valued and desired. For those reasons, they would not share expectations or aspirations, hence the ensuing disappointment that is bound to arise in the relationship once the honeymoon period is over.

Second, people who have been abused in their life tend to be high on the 'needy' scale, wanting carers rather than lovers. If they find a caring type who wants to look after them, bingo! No problems in that. Finally, people who fear the development of their relationships, who are seeking perfection in them and wish to control them to avoid being hurt would also be 'needy' in assurance and guarantees. They would be constantly on alert for the possible failure they expect. Their 'need' is difficult to meet because it requires guarantees that are often impossible to give. However, matched up with a similar fearful person, that relationship could work as they would feed off each other's fears, while that kind of need would irritate someone who was less fearful, like me, and wanted things to unfold instead of making assumptions.

The most successful relationships thrive on sincerity and expressiveness, i:e, being ourselves. By being exactly who you are and showing your particular need you will always attract the right kind of people for you, the ones who want a similar kind of feedback, but you will also repel those who don't like it. If you hide your true self at the beginning, in order to appear different from how you are, or to please someone else's expectations, you are likely to attract the wrong type who is expecting the false you, not the real one. Not surprisingly, further down the line when the pretence is over, there would be rude surprises in store for all. They might suddenly discover how 'needy' you are!

The thre main relationships in my life so far have been amazing mainly because I am an extremely loving person who wears her heart on her sleeves. It means I tend to attract only similar types to me who want to receive my love and give me tons back in return, which has been heavenly. The others who are less expressive can pass me by, which makes my relationships truly affirming, loving and fantastic. I certainly cannot complain!

The message here is to be as 'needy' as you like. That's YOU, and you have to be you to be authentic and sincere. Don't allow yourself to be labelled with false terms to suit other people's inadequacies and insecurities. If you are told that you are 'too needy' by the person you are with, you need to get out of their orbit, fast, and find someone who matches you better, one who really wishes to celebrate you as you are, and share in what you have to give.

Can you ever have 'Fair Shares' in relationships?


Many people, particularly older ones who have been married for a while, tend to take their partners for granted. They also believe there is nothing new for them to learn about life or love. But if we have not been taught how to communicate and solve problems, it is always useful to learn. Most parents are not able to teach their children the skills for handling difficult times, yet those skills are essential for keeping the romance from dying in relationships, especially on days when the children are crying, money is tight and the job is boring or demoralising.

New ideas and fashions relating to social interaction are always being introduced so, as we go through life, we will change, our partner will change and our relationship will change. Staying open to accepting change means we can grow from it rather than resisting it. Learning about ourselves and our partners, while building an enjoyable and mutually sharing environment, can be a wonderful, empowering experience.

No matter what the past teaches us, there is still an awful lot to learn and to anticipate. Developing and reviewing our coping skills, no matter how old we are, is important for keeping the relationship alive over a long time. Some of the key skills required in these situations include: building self-esteem, understanding and supporting your partner, communication, creating ground rules to avoid conflict, handling anger, a willingness to compromise and keeping the love fire burning. Taking action in your own self-education, while including your partner in the process, will allow you both to benefit from a successful relationship.

Some people come to the partnership believing that, as long as they do their 'half', their 'bit' or their 'fair share' all will be well. However, our perception of a genuine 'half' can be someone else's idea of 10 per cent - a discrepancy which causes the most disagreement in relationships. There is no such thing as a successful long-term relationship where each partner gives only a personal interpretation of their half. The inevitable truth is that, after a while, the differing perceptions of sharing will result in cries of "Selfish!" or "Unfair."

Fair Shares in Relationships
What is genuinely fair is usually decided between both parties in advance of living together, or soon after moving in with each other. True halves have to be negotiated to become the couple's reality. Better to come to the union expecting to give 100 percent and find that much less is taken from you, than prepare to give 50 per cent, only to have it regarded as insufficient! If you know that your partner is contributing more than their perceived 'fair share', it's easier for you to do the same too.

Everyone knows that improving a relationship is a disfficult task. However, genuinely identifying the problems will lead to their root causes which, if addressed in a caring way, should ultimately lead to solutions. The key in all this soul-searching has to be what people want in any relationship. What, exactly, do they hope to come out of it? One cannot have an improvement if one is not sure what is lacking or what could make things better. So, perhaps the best place to begin the search for improvement is with a series of surveys conducted by AboutMarriage.com. Their Marriage Qualities Survey Results collated 932 responses from their readers to identify the top ten essential qualities for a long-lasting marriage. The most popular selections, in descending order, were: honesty, love, communication, trust, respect, commitment, humour, support, compassion and being dependable.

I was surprised at the number one choice being honesty (selected by over 700 people). I thought love or respect would top the list. But, it seems most of us just want openness and transparency. We do not want lies or stonewalling. At least, with honesty, people know where they stand in any relationship. However, when asked about the qualities of a successful marriage, love shoots right to the top. It seems that there is a subtle distinction between having a long-lasting relationship and a successful one. Perhaps being long-lasting and unhappy is not regarded as successful. Either way, love and communication head the list of our needs in any relationship with others.

So how does one go about securing a successful relationship in the first place? This must be the primary question occupying many single minds. It obviously begins with finding the right person.

Would you care if your spouse lied to you?


Q. If I found out that my spouse had been lying to me, it would really hurt a lot. Sometimes, he does keep little things from me. He doesn't tell me about problems on his job and I wish he would. That way, I'd know if he were about to lose his job and could make other arrangements. I don't really consider that a lie. It's more like an omission. But what do you think? Would you be mad if your spouse lied to you or didn't tell you something? Would it be a deal breaker?

A. Yes, I would, but it is often a lack of understanding of each other and fear of the consequences, rather than a desire to be malicious, why couples feel the need to lie.

Most women often expect men to tell them everything they think or has happened to them. That is unrealisitic. We all like to keep a part of us hidden in case we feel exposed. In their perceived role of providers, most men feel that they have to protect women from unpleasant things. They feel that it is their responsibility to bear the brunt of any bad news, and prefer not to tell their partners the truth of a work situation. In that misguided way they genuinely believe they are protecting their family until things blow up! Their sense of value and pride is also tied up in their desire to keep secrets from their spouses. For men who might be low in confidence, an admission of anything going wrong appears to them as a kind of failure on their part. So they keep it quiet, with the hope things will get better and then they can have the credit for the improvement.

Again, some men do not like the idea that their partners might even be able to provide better solutions to the problems as their self esteem would not be able to cope with it. This is especially true for controllers who like to be in charge of everything that happens in the household, especially if one partner doesn't work. So there are various reasons for men being economical with the truth, but we will never change them in that regard.

Men will always do things their way, no matter how idiotic, just as women will always expect things to be done in a certain way too. You could call it a major gender difference! Only regular communication and a genuine desire to see the other person's point of view will help the situation. What a lot of men won't accept is that a problem aired is a problem shared. Their partners might even come up with a solution they haven't even thought about because two people working on an issue is much better than one person struggling with it.

As to lying, in general, no one should have to lie in a relationship. Where there are deliberate untruths, it means someone fears the consequences of discussion or communicating the truth, and so chooses to hide it instead. It points to a lack of genuine interaction, trust and comfort with the partner/situation. The trouble with lies is that once a person starts to tell one, it usually needs more lies to sustain that first lie. So things gradually ge worse.

No, I wouldn't expect a spouse to lie, otherwise it will be ringing alarm bells about the relationship. The most important question that would then go through my mind is: If he has lied about one thing, what else is he lying about? Yes, it could be a deal breaker, but it depends on how strong the relationship is, how much trust is in place and what the lies are about.

The Two Deadliest Hurt Within Relationships


The first is Dishonesty & Betrayal. This happens in a relationship when there is infidelity, abuse, lies, lack of support, broken promises or violation of privacy. The foundation of any relationship is trust. Cheating and lying breaks down the basis for a relationship, often resulting in its demise. Resolving such a problem must be a top priority if the relationship is to survive. However, of all the elements of betrayal, infidelity is the most lethal and difficult to deal with because it goes to the heart of trust and appreciation. Trust is immediately lost, and this is coupled with a sense of abject rejection, of being inadequate and unwanted, which is hard to face and to accept. In these situations, counselling is highly recommended to defuse tension and facilitate the changes required.

The interesting thing about sexual betrayal is that it has a different effect on the genders. Women, being more emotional, are much more frightened of their partners falling in love with someone else, especially someone younger, who might replace them totally; while men, being more physical, are more afraid of their spouses having sex with another person. Quite a big difference there. It could have something to do with the fact that women feel totally rejected in instances of betrayal – their looks, body, charm, skills, personality, their whole person. They fear being replaced entirely by someone else more attractive; they dread being insignificant and unwanted.

For men, not being desired is interpreted as a powerful rejection of their penis - in essence, their manhood - the core of their being. The thought of someone pleasuring their partners in ways which they have been deemed unfit to do (especially using penises imagined to be far bigger and better than their own!) immediately becomes a rejection of them as men. It throws them into competition with other men in ways they feel impotent to affect the situation and dramatically lowers their self-esteem. Men fear betrayal even worse than women. They often go on a lot about having been hurt but everyone gets hurt at some time. Life is not a bowl of cherries for some and hard knocks for others. It depends on how we deal with those crises which makes the real difference to our recovery.

Resist Being a Martyr

The second is Self-Neglect. This is a tendency to put yourself last and to stress self-sacrifice. But martyrs are seldom happy and where there is only gloom, there is little satisfaction. More often, such martyrs are likely to be depressed, angry, resentful, bitter and burnt out with work and worry. This is not to say that you should not consider others and be thoughtful in meeting their needs, but not at the expense of your own. Having a healthy relationship involves factoring your own needs and desires into the equation. You have to teach people how to treat you, and, if you act like a doormat, you can't completely blame someone if they wipe their feet all over you. Learn how to stand up for yourself, practise assertive communication, ask and allow others to meet your needs, and take care of yourself as much as you take care of your loved ones. You will be around much longer to serve their needs!

Other common problems include jealousy, being taken for granted, criticism and nagging, clinging dependency, bullying and loss of love, to name a few. There are many challenging barriers to having a good marriage/relationship, so the last thing one would expect any relationship to be is easy! That is why long relationships need to be encouraged, helped, applauded and used as role models for the sheer stickability of the partners in the face of continuous obstacles, rather than treated as the expected norm or taken for granted.

Please remember that what is wrong in a relationship can often be put right, especially if the negative aspects are used as lessons rather than beating sticks. We can choose to learn from them, and find a better way to live, or ignore them altogether and perish. Each of these major issues is related to one or more negative patterns of thinking and feeling that are outwardly expressed in selfish behaviours; patterns which are usually learned in childhood and then perpetuated during one's lifetime. They are not exclusive to certain people. Everyone has these patterns which are no longer appropriate or productive. Only self-awareness, self-help and improvement will help us to cope in conflict situations and point us in the direction of where we really want to be with the ones we love.

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The 4 dangers in relationships with people who cling


Relationships with people who cling are never enjoyable affairs for either party because they consist of some well known patterns of behaviour of which there are four.

First of all is a lack of self-love. People who cling to others do not like themselves very much. They are very insecure, tend to be victim-like and negative, and lacking self-belief. They expect their lovers and friends to compensate for their personal lack of self-love by loving what they themselves reject. They tend to find it difficult to attract partners and when one does come along, they are likely to feel they do not deserve the person or the love they get. That engenders a feeling of fear for a potential loss of that love. So they cling on to that person, in ways which make them feel secure, but which is often claustrophobic for that partner, because of the second pattern - possessiveness.

Clingy people tend to be very possessive. They are so pleased to have someone's love and attention they tend to believe no one else will want them and so they hang on for dear life, questioning every movement of their partner, wanting to know every detail about their actions, doubting their love and commitment to make them feel guilty. They fret when the person is not really there and seem incapable of doing anything by themself or on their own. Inadvertently, they can become controlling and dictatorial in order to feel more secure.

Third, there is always jealousy in clingy relationships. With the marked absence of trust between the couple, either one, or both parties, will never feel adequate enough in themselves and tend to resent any attention their partners get from anywhere else. They are often so afraid of losing that love, that being jealous and possessive is the only way they know how to control their situation and this can often go to excessive lengths in some relationships, even to violence and curtailing movements.

Finally, in a clingy relationship there is always one person needing constant attention, to be looked after, always taking a lot and not giving much back, until it becomes almost a burden for the other party. There is a major imbalance in such relationships because there are rarely two givers in this kind of partnership. If one person is clinging on, they are likely to be stifling the other. The ultimate effect in such a situation is that either both will end up being dependent upon the other, to a large extent, or one person will come to resent being so closely tied that they have to leave the relationship to regain their independence.

The Silent Destroyer in Relationships


Two people become attached. That is accepted. People change from infancy to adulthood. That is also accepted. When two people come together in marriage or a relationship they will change over time during that relationship and, depending on their perception and aspirations, the change could be dramatic. That fact is seldom acknowledged by society or the parties involved. Instead the couple are viewed, and also perceive themselves, as static robots who will remain almost the same in behaviour and outlook, from the day they move in together until they part or die. We do accept some change in partners but, to maintain our comfort levels, we expect them to be minuscule, to be in a vacuum and entirely unrelated to anything else!

But human beings do not remain fixed at any given point. As we mature in life, our attitudes, values and character change too. We actually evolve with every moment of our existence. With life being a journey, ongoing personal exploration and development is inevitable, even if it is resisted. It follows that if someone marries young, the maturing process will ensure that their view of the world, their expectations of life and their feelings about themselves (which are all shaped by personal experience and the presence of others) will be different a few years later than when they first started out on their adult journey. This means a natural change in desires over the years which will also include a change of perspectives regarding partners!

Thus making vows on our wedding day to live happily ever after, for better or for worse, to love each other no matter what, is sheer pie-in-the-sky, and wishful thinking, which ignores life's essential evolution! A fine pledge for that exciting and unreal moment in time, when hot love and the desire for perfection move us to make such promises, but it often becomes a meaningless, emotional straitjacket when applied to the rest of our lives. The two people making such rash commitment will be very different by the familiarisation stage of the relationship, especially if there has been significant personal development during that time, like acquiring new skills, or a higher qualification, which tends to significantly change our perception.

It follows that, when two people become an item, any unfolding relationship actually speeds up the evolutionary process. This is because we do not stop in our tracks once we pass our teens or we meet someone. Adulthood actually defines our development. Significant experiences, like accidents, illnesses and career progression, shape our existence. They build a unique life story that is different for each adult but, like DNA, is related to everyone else through generations.

Changing Expectations
Thus all new partnerships along our journey bring consequences of adjustment which are bound to affect us in some way, often negatively, as we adapt to our environment and seek comfort in it. We also encounter different experiences at the various stops, or what I would label 'staging posts', along that journey. At each of these staging posts (which are dictated by age, personal development and sporadic crises), our expectations will either change or regress as we come to terms with who we are and what we seek as individuals. Much also depends on how successful we are in resolving the two key issues of personal identity and attainment. With life being fluid, change is thus guaranteed in order to do justice to our physical, emotional and intellectual growth.

When you set up home with someone, it is inevitable that the relationship itself will evolve, either positively or negatively, as the parties adjust to each other. The nature of that change is usually dependent upon how mutually validating and satisfying the union becomes. As we pass from one age to the next, often with some difficult periods of transition, we learn and mature in the process. If we acknowledge and work through the issues of each successive stage, we are likely to become more confident and effective individuals. If we find it difficult to cope, we then get stuck at one stage, especially when we fixate on only one point in our life, perhaps sunk in a mire of regret, and find that we are unable to move forward on our individual journey.

Given the fickleness of human nature, to expect no change in emotions, while everything else changes, is highly unrealistic. It is far more sensible to have reaffirmation vows regularly, with limited objectives throughout the partnership, ones that are easier to manage and execute, than idealistic promises which won't be kept and merely breed guilt and resentment. Otherwise there will follow a painful realisation that one cannot continue to have the same feelings for another when both parties have evolved into very different beings from the ones who took the vows!

The desire for security, stability and unchanging human emotions has been responsible for causing the most angst, disappointment and feelings of failure in many relationships because they always ignore inevitable changes caused by that silent but deadly destroyer – adult evolution.

Would you still stay in a relationship if you were unhappy all the time?


I think I would find it difficult to understand why someone would stay in a relationship when they are completely unhappy. The first rule of any relationship is that it makes the persons involved very happy and enhances their lives. Otherwise, why get involved with someone when one could be much better off on one's own?

The reasons why people stay in very unhappy relationships is that they are either controllers or they are passive people, lacking self-love, and believing that is the best they deserve. If they are controllers, they do not care what state the relationship is in so long as there is someone for them to dominate and control, to keep in line and under their thumb, in order for them to feel superior and to boost their ego. Without that partner to control, they would feel very insignificant. It won't matter too much to them how the other person feels because that would not be a relationship of give and take. It would be a situation where one person is dictating and the other is accepting, or where both persons are controlling and take it in turns to dominate each other. So long as the controllers feel on top of the situation and enjoy that power over their partner they will seek to continue the relationship as long as possible.

If they are passive people lacking in self love, they would feel a constant sense of intimidation, with continuing fear about their present and future, but more hesitant of taking action because they fear the consequences. They are likely to worry about what will happen when they leave the situation, or to minimise the hurt they are feeling, while they die slowly inside, and also to make excuses constantly for the way things are. Such people have a need for others to love them to compensate for the lack of personal love they feel for themselves. They are likely to feel grateful for how they are treated instead of accepting how unhappy they are and doing something positive about it. Eventually they become so dependent on the relationship that it becomes more painful to think of ending it rather than to improve the quality of their life by getting out of that situation and giving themselves the opportunity for more fulfilment.

For those tempted to remain in the relationship because of the children, that is a bad decision because the kids will merely pick up the negative vibes around them and become insecure in themselves too. It will not make them emotionally happy, though the physical situation might remain unhanged. Parents in such stressful situations tend to forget that children learn by their actions and all they are teaching their kids at that time is how to live desperate lives of unhappiness. It is always better to have two separate loving parents available for the children than two warring, resentful or unhappy ones on and on to infinity.

Unhappy relationships are the biggest causes of stress in our lives, and stress eventually kills. If one is unhappy and have tried to remedy the situation with no avail, they should get out of it as quickly as possible, if they truly value themselves and their existence. After all, the longer they stay in it, the more they are depriving themselves of finding another suitable partner, not to mention the deterioration in emotional and physical health they will suffer because continued stress lower our immunity and exposes us to more illnesses.

I was in a very long marriage which was increasingly unhappy. It took me a while to find the courage to leave it, but it was the best decision I made. I am now a different, more wholesome and extremely happy person for it. A wonderful feeling of contentment which would not have been possible by remaining stuck in fear.

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How Disillusionment Destroys Relationships


Some time after a relationship settles down - it can take weeks or months - disillusion tends to set in. The most noticeable thing at the start of this gloomy stage is that the old courting glasses have lost their rosy hue and are now crystal clear, with extra zoom lens added to focus on every tiny detail as the differences in each partner become magnified and appear far less attractive. With disillusion setting in, you suddenly see your partner as human. That romanticised notion, and the specialised vision you've had until now, crumbles away to reveal a real being, with real faults, real pain, real problems and real emotions.

But often that is not what you are quite ready for. That reminds you too much of the real world and brings new anxieties. At such a time it is very easy to get on each other's nerves, which is an essential part of the familiarisation process, nothing special or unusual, and no one is exempt from it either. But how we cope individually depends upon our expectations, our level of confidence and personal aspirations - the invisible forces we bring with us to a partnership. As someone once said, 'On the other side of disillusionment comes the real marriage'. This stage of remorse and regret builds the foundation upon which the couple can live out their chosen relationship, but first comes a lot of nit-picking and fault-finding as many expectations are dashed.

At times you seem to have so little in common, everything the other person does is wrong. Little irritations that were 'cute' during the dating period are suddenly 'yuck' now, and you wonder how you fancied her in the first place! You begin to notice that he is untidy while he notices that you're very stubborn. There is some pulling away from each other, a need for space, a chance to breathe, as life slowly returns to normal and your work, leisure activities or college commitments assume importance again.

That is when you might discover that you are behnd in your project, or in the book you are desperate to write! He could also find out that his finances are in trouble – due to wining and dining you so much, or that he has missed important sporting matches and the antics of his football heroes: things he suppressed in the 'besotment' stage that you didn't even know mattered to him. But that is only the beginning as his real personality emerges. Reality rapidly sets in, but a new kind which requires some understanding, acceptance and commitment from both parties. Your partner is now an extra person, perhaps with children in the picture. From where you're sitting, that means a whole new perspective, and perhaps a daunting one. How you cope with this new situation will dictate everything else in your life.

Faults, Problems and Raw Emotions

One reason for this encroaching anxiety is that the adrenaline rush of Stage 2 in the courtship, which helped you to become so loving, begins to decline. As we regarded the other person as the source of our good feelings, so we now blame him/her when we don't feel as good! Things you once liked about your partner now become sources of frustration and hurt feelings. It sometimes feels like love is dying. You begin thinking, or even saying, things like: "Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?" while becoming apprehensive and adversarial instead of trusting and cooperative.

Sometimes it feels as if you are walking on eggshells because little molehills so easily turn into big mountains. Frequently, one or both of you will engage in blame, criticism, sarcasm and put-downs as anger and resentment build up. The key words here are "He used to..." or "She used to..." which indicates something of value is no longer there and is sorely missed. Moreover, even though you dream of intimacy and closeness in a relationship, once you actually have it, it can start to rub a little and small irritations add up to large ones. There is now a wonder at the loss of privacy and a yearning for it, but privacy is always the first thing to go once you move in together or formally tie the knot.

How does one get from angst and frustration to accommodation, from conflict to resolution with one's partner?


The simple answer is that you set up realistic expectations of the relationship.

But that is not so easy because, in order to do this, you have to first adjust your own expectations of BOTH the partnership and your partner. It means you have to stand back objectively and make changes in yourself to actually change what you expected that relationship to be, which is rather difficult.

Next, you have to rebuild the spark that united you in the first place. When you recognise that you are just disillusioned, that you don't really dislike your partner, you will also recognise that you need to rekindle the fire of attraction before it is all burned out between you. But rebuilding an acceptable relationship is not something you can do on your own, especially when the partner has ceased to be attractive or appealing in your eyes, or has rejected you emotionally and that valuable chemistry is missing.

The only way to start is to know what you both want and decide together to acknowledge mutual hurt and fears and then set realistic goals. That acknowledgement to potential hurt is crucial to moving on yet so many couples find it difficult to do. Obviously, communication skills are very important here. Talk, listen, ask questions, clarify responses: all are essential, but can be very difficult if the other person does not want to reciprocate or finds it hard to air their feelings. However, if the two people really want to continue with the relationship, talking and listening are keys to getting rid of the tension and acknowledging and accommodating each other's viewpoint.

Seven years average for marriages!
Aligning together later in life after many years together is considered to be the beginning of the best part of the relationship. Conflict resolution becomes the key to the rest of the union and the emphasis is on awareness of both parties' needs, caring for each other and expressing and displaying love and commitment. Even real satisfaction in sex begins at this stage because the couple is likely to understand their emotional needs better in terms of quality rather than quantity, which is more important than just sex for its own sake.

This is the point, the resolution phase, when a truly happy and successful marriage is possible based on a more realistic footing. What matters most now is time together; spending time doing things you both enjoy and which add quality to your life. Next is treating each other with equality and respect, especially the realisation and acceptance that both partners are important to the union.

No one is greater than the other, or anyone's job more superior. You complement each other in everything you do because that's the purpose of a partnership. Without both partners the relationship would not be there, so each partner deserves appropriate respect. But, if there is a problem with this aspect, it could be that you have to love and respect yourself first before you can actually reciprocate with someone else. Yet you may not have reached self-love because of low esteem caused by a lack of achievement, past unsuccessful relationships, personal fear and/or insecurity.

When couples move to this stage of a relationship (the alignment phase) they will have spent a significant time together (perhaps 12-20 years) and wish to spend their future in each other's company - a near-impossible feat when the average duration of any marriage currently is just 7 years!

Are you living in a virtual war zone in your relationship?


Relationships go through five key stages and the second one, familiarisation, can often be rather brutal as the parties get used to each other's foibles, faults and focus, and gradually realise the real person they are with. The beginning of this familiarisation stage in any relationship is basically a war of wills. Each individual, being used to doing things his/her way, must now try their hardest to adjust to the ways of their partner. Each one will attempt to force the other to fit their expectations for the relationship, even though these may be unspoken and highly unrealistic.

Because of the conflict involved in this mutual independent stage, you are now likely to see your partner more negatively than others would, a complete reversal of the 'besotment' stage when you couldn't have enough of him/her! The reasons you were unconsciously attracted to them in the first place may become the very irritants you now moan about, like a woman complaining that her once carefree husband, who appeared so cute before in his laid back manner, is really irresponsible. 

Conflict kept within proper boundaries usually leads to greater understanding between spouses and the problem being resolved. However, if couples allow their arguments to degenerate into endless criticisms of one another and character assassination, the arguments soon strike at the very core of the other person and are strongly resisted. Such arguments are most destructive and painful precisely because they destroy the sense of trust and intimacy that has been built up.

If arguments regularly lead to personal attacks, over time a couple will consider the atmosphere unsafe for openly discussing their inner desires, fears and needs, which means less and less talk. The only antidote to this destructive kind of act is to take turns listening to each other, to refrain from personal attacks and unending blame and be willing to risk speaking directly about genuine concerns. This familiarisation stage in the relationship is necessary in order to relate to each other as individuals; to see the union as an opportunity to journey together; to learn how to serve each other's needs; to fight fairly and to allow win/win situations with dignity, while guarding individuality. It can be a scary time, but it is a normal one which everyone goes through and deal with in their own unique way.

Differing Perspectives of Progression

Another source of conflict at this time is the possibility that one partner, who might fear commitment, is still in the second-stage attraction/'besotment' mode while the other has graduated to this territorial phase, seeking more stability and reinforcement. This mismatch can be painful for both parties, especially if any remedial action (like giving gifts to compensate or being too flippant or lighthearted) is perceived as not really addressing the issues, or are meant to be controlling the other partner even more – perceptions which are likely to lead to a demand for even more space between the couple!

At this stage winning and being right becomes more important than working together and building the loving, fulfilling relationship you both want. Demonstrations of love, respect and appreciation decline and might even disappear, first from neglect and then from hurt feelings. If enough distress builds up, you may just avoid your partner as much as you can. Or you may turn to something else: to work, to children, or any possible thing to meet your needs and avoid the distress. For some couples this stage can get to the point of desperation where they've tried everything they know and it seems the only option is to get out of the relationship – temporarily or permanently.

But conflict can be a door to healing and personal growth because conflict is not the problem – it has a root cause. What you do with it can be the big problem and finding a new partner often does not solve the 'problem' either. If disagreements have not been addressed, you are likely to recreate the same 'problems' and climate because of the expectations you carry with you to each relationships and the type of person these are likely to attract. For example, if you tend to attract abusive types, specific problems relating to such a match are likely to repeat themselves in everyrelationship you have, especially if the roots of such problems are not addressed with honesty as early as possible. Hence it is better to try to gradually resolve the issues with your partner at this time, through mutual acknowledgement and respect than to throw in the towel at the first opportunity.

Why negativity stalks some relationships


Negativity does not build, it only destroys, but what is really destructive about it is the debilitating way it eats into any relationship and saps that partnership of its vibrancy, positivity and purpose. There are three main reasons for negativity within a relationship.

First is a lack of self love. When we do not love ourselves we expect a partner to compensate for that by loving us instead. But no one can love what we reject. Any kind of love has to begin from within us. No matter how someone treats us, it will never be enough because we will never accept that we deserve their love and attention. Instead, what is likely to happen is that the more someone loves us when we don't love ourselves is the more we demand of them, the more we find fault with their actions and the more we believe they do not care about us, or that they are being insincere.

Second is individual fear and insecurity. People bring a lot of fears and anxieties to their relationships, especially when they have been in unfulfilling partnerships or have been hurt badly. They tend to live the rest of their lives in a victimlike state, expecting more of the same. They expect the hurt to repeat itself and even subconsciously engineer it through their own negative actions. It is difficult for them to trust others in such situations and so their own fears tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more they expect the worst to happen, the more their actions become negative, the more frustrating it is to live with such an individual and the worse the relationship becomes. This state is very obvious between parties who have different levels of confidence. The more confident party is likely to have high hopes of a better relationship and act it, while the more fearful party will tend to behave much more negatively, lacking the self belief that they have the power to make the situation the way they genuinely wish it to be - a disparity that will become bigger as the relationship becomes more negative.

I am a very confident individual, a pioneer, in fact, who loves taking risks and finding new frontiers, while my ex was more reticent and introspective, desiring security in his life. It did not dawn on me until I left my marriage how insecure my ex must have felt watching me starting different projects, failing and succeeding in equal measure, achieving my dreams and trying to find my purpose, when all he wanted was a quiet life and a stable situation. Naturally, he came to regard everything I achieved as a negative action which was soul destroying especially when I was very supportive in what he did.

The third reason for negativity in a relationship is a lack of self-belief. When we have no self-belief we are inclined to have low self esteem, low confidence and low expectations. In order to feel significant and valued, we then put partners down and belittle them too by being highly critical, fault-finding and fearful in our approach. It is very difficult for others to please us and so negativity becomes the order of the day, which serves to justify the original low opinion we might have of ourselves. A relationship should enhance us and make our lives more rewarding. If negativity is the main element within it, that's no relationship at all. Just two unhappy people using each other to feed their fears, their insecurities and their egos.

Would you go to a wedding alone if your partner could not come?


Q. Let's say a friend of yours invites you to his/her wedding but your partner (boyfriend/ girlfriend, wife, husband) is unable to attend it, so you have to choose. Would you go alone to this wedding or would you politely decline the invite and say that you can't go?

A. Yes, I would certainly go for several important reasons, especially if we were close friends.

First of all, it's my friend's special day. They don't get much more special than a wedding. It would enhance it for her if my presence was there. She would get a quiet thrill at having the support of people who are really her friends in deed and not just in name. So I would have to be there to support her and help her celebrate this special moment, no matter what. That's what real friends do.

Second, when we marry someone else, we don't immediately become their clones and do just exactly what they do. The essence of a relationship is two strangers, two whole human beings, coming together to SHARE a life. Not to make each other over into caricatures of what they are. It means there will still be some things they can't always do together, perhaps because of personal preferences or simply lacking the time to meet up. That should be appreciated and understood; hat they are STILL two completely different individuals in how they see the world and what they choose to do. The best relationships operate on a 25% personal choice each, and a 50% shared life. In that way, each member of the couple has the space to develop in their own unique way without having to depend on their partner for everything, while being together whenever they can.

Third, giving space to each other in a relationship is extremely important. It means you never get tired of each other, you will both have something interesting to say to one another at the end of the day, something the other has not experienced, and you can both keep your personal interests going while sharing quality time together. It also carries an element of respect for what each person values.

Fourth, one is also never sure one partner is trying to control the other by not going, which would prevent that partner from going too if he/she didn't want to upset their spouse. It is better to accept that no couple can be everywhere together and go alone, if the situation calls for it. It prevents one partner seeming to dictate the activities. After all, if he/she doesn't acknowledge such an important day for your friend enough to help you celebrate it, what message is that giving too?

A relationship is a two-way thing, not just doing what one person desires. I would certainly go to the wedding because, if I miss it, I might have a feeling of regret later on at not sharing that magical moment, not to mention how it might be negatively perceived by my friend.

Do you wonder about being single again? There's a strong reason for that...


Q. I love my fiance and want to be with him forever. But the advice I need is to know if it's normal to think about some of the things I think about. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be single again, to have the excitement to just go and do what I please. The excitement to sleep with whom I want. I wonder if there is someone even better for me out there. These thoughts just crowd me sometimes.

A. If you wonder about being single, it means you need change, or a new challenge, in your life. You are bored with your life and are trying to convince yourself, by saying how much you love your boyfriend, that you are happy. But you clearly are not. When people get together they forget about natural evolution in their lives. We are forever growing, every day, week and month. So the person you were when you met your boyfriend is not the person you are now. You will always need new challenges and stimulation to be a whole person.

Stop resisting that change and seek it. If you are not married, then the whole world is there for you to explore on your terms, not someone else's. If you do nothing about those feelings, you will regret it. Further down the line, when you are older and things might be much worse, you will wish you had acted! Take note of those thoughts going round in your head. If you were truly happy and secure, they would not be there. It could be that you are simply missing your life with your friends, especially at such a young age, and that can make you wistful.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to start going out, say, once a week with your pals, to give you and your boyfriend some space and not make the relationship so claustrophobic. You probably won't feel so closed in and will begin to feel that you are not missing out on anything. Then you won't feel the need to leave your friend in order to feel better. Otherwise you will regret this time of your life as you watch other women having the freedom you are now yearning for.

Good luck.

Key differences between Men and Women in their perceptions of life and relationships


Once a couple settles into a relationship it is easy to believe that they will both be seeing eye to eye on routine matters, or they hold similar perceptions on life. But this is what damages relationships in the end, the failure to acknowledge the key role perception plays for individuals, especially two strangers, of different genders, who are trying to appreciate one another in a new friendship in a confined space.

Perception emerges as a result of our experiences and learning, a sort of fictional movie of our life, which is more commonly referred to as our 'reality','beliefs' or 'values'. These are influenced by the customs or culture of our particular environment so that someone from a Christian community who chooses to live with a Muslim, for example, would find that the perception of individual behaviour, and resulting expectations of each other, would differ until each learns about the other. Initially, while the two parties try to come to terms with each other, it would be almost automatic for each to expect complete conformity to one another's perception until a shared experience proves otherwise. Because our individual needs greatly determine the view we have of ourselves and the world, our views will always differ from one another.

Thus, if a person is hungry and poor, she is going to regard money in quite a different light from someone else who already has lots of it and uses it mainly for luxuries. The perception in each case regarding the value, usefulness and urgency of money would markedly differ. As the singer, Mick Jagger, once said, "A person who is hungry is not going to worry about the morality of war. They would be too busy trying to get food."

The capacity to define situations, to communicate, solve problems, make decisions and manage stress is thus affected by our perception. The power of such perception in any relationship, particularly where the partners know very little about each other, often make or break relationships. For example, men who have been wronged, especially those who caught their spouses in an act of betrayal, provide excellent examples of what personal perception is all about.

Men being betrayed
Men who have been betrayed in this way tend to have a singular 'victim' viewpoint of what happened. They continually blame the spouse (and later all women) without wanting to really find out why the partner might have behaved like that. They would never admit that they might be boring whingers, who are also lousy with sex or emotion, especially when people tend to seek what they lack elsewhere. They are likely to cite what a wonderful husband they were, who worked all hours in the day to keep their home intact while the hussy of a wife was disloyal.

But to many women, homemaking, no matter how good and luxurious, is just one aspect of a relationship. The physical, emotional and intellectual sides are all important to keep that union intact. Often it is sheer boredom, neglect and a lack of love, attention and affection why any partner strays. As psychologist, Carl Jung, says, "To be appreciated is one of the strongest basic human needs." When a person is not valued, or perceives herself to be unappreciated, no matter how worthy the partner is, trouble is not far behind.

Men tend to see themselves in terms of career and material success, while women tend to judge their value on emotional, nurturing and physical attributes. So long as men believe that to be a good husband is to provide for material needs – to look after hearth, home and family – while women expect emotional and physical bonding, there will be a conflict of perception between the sexes, there will be hurt through differing perceptions and they will always be at loggerheads about valuing each other.

How Madonna and Guy fell Victim to The Greatest Cause of Stress in Life: Relationships


Madonna and Guy Ritchie announced their divorce after much denial. The Daily Mirror gleefully claimed to be ahead of the 'competition' in knowing that they were about to break up. But what is there to be smug about when any relationship breaks?

The pain is probably even more because everything is played out on the public stage, robbing them of the privacy other members of the public take for granted. So the couple are likely to focus, initially, on how they are a perceived than on the real issues they need to sort out. There will now follow a severe time of stress for them, especially where young children are involved - and there are three in this case.

Stress affects everyone to some degree, but severe stress is a feeling of being unable to cope and is a reaction to excessive demands and pressures made upon the individual. It is most likely to be maintained by a feeling of personal rejection, insignificance and worthlessness. If it was an amicable mutual split, then the stress won't be too much.However, if one of them wanted the split more than the other, that's where the main problem will lie: dealing with that sense of rejection, and that could be pretty stressful. Stress robs you of your good looks, your disposition, your health, your youthfulness, and can even take your life. It is particularly unpleasant and harmful when pressures build up or are prolonged indefinitely; when we are unable to control the demands placed upon us, when we are constantly anxious, and when support is not there when we need it.

Most of the focus has been on reducing stress in the workplace. However, what has escaped everyone's notice is the lethal level of stress caused by simply moving between relationships, especially where the desire for a break is not mutual, or where one is stuck in a relationship which makes one or both parties feel impotent, unhappy or simply miserable. These situations occur on a regular basis, often taken for granted as a necessary part of life, yet causing incalculable emotional damage in their wake.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

With many relationships lasting only between six months and a year, most people can expect some additional resulting trauma on at least three to four occasions in their lifetime. These are problems which most people try to avoid without ever quite succeeding, because the mere notion of expecting relationships to fail ensures that they do, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Stress from a break-up is thus the worst kind of stress because it contains personal rejection, momentary insecurity and loss of status/esteem for at least one party, not to mention the financial costs which may be attached. Yet it has been underestimated in its effects and overlooked by government provisions.

When we feel rejected, controlled or unappreciated, everything else in our lives pales into insignificance because we lose our sense of belonging, joy and worth. This affects whatever we do until we feel better. Bereavement of any kind and moving house might come top of the list of any stress-inducing activities, but being stuck in an unwanted relationship, which affects at least 20 per cent of couples, or being momentarily rejected by a partner, should go right to the top of that list because of the ongoing consequences they have for everyone involved.

Madonna and Guy are going to need all the emotional support they can have over the next few months because being a celebrity does not make them immune from the effects of a break-up. In fact, that actually makes them more exposed to its consequences as they come under increasing scrutiny.