Tag Archives: love

What Lane is Your Relationship in?

Relationships are comprised of a series of destinations, pit-stops..with a dash of road rage and a hint of irony. Life can move so fast that we are susceptible to potholes in the name of love. We unknowingly hurt one another with our words, our individual decisions, and half-hearted “I love you’s.” Relationships are not easy and sometimes they warrant a check under the hood. A look at the coordinates on the GPS device.

One might wonder…”Why?” The answer is quite simple…which is that before you know it both of you will be racing down the highway of life without a clue where to go or how to get there. And, that doesn’t take into account our individual comfort levels. Some of us might like the Sunday afternoon drive while others enjoy the bumpy NASCAR ride while others still yet like the ole’ cruise control approach.

So I will ask you this…do you know what speed your relationship travels at…where your relationship is going and whether or not your co-pilot in life agrees? These questions sound mundane, but they can really be quite scary.

What if your partner disagrees? What if they really don’t like the direction and/or speed? What then? Fixable? Worth it? What about other couples….how do they deal with all of these questions?

I know people who sputter down the road so cautiously that their family and friends are nauseated. You know the ones…the couple that never wants to officially commit yet they have lived together for years. They never want to go further than two steps and one checking account withdrawal from gettin outta dodge.

Then there are other couples that are traveling so fast down the road that you wonder how they can honestly enjoy the journey. These folks met, got engaged, married, had 2.5 kids, got the house, moved up in their careers, AND got their 2.5 kids on the waiting list of grade-A preschool everybody wants in at…and all within a 3 year time period! Whew! Exhausting to even think about it…

Now of course these couples represent the outer edges of society…which leaves the rest of us. Many Normal couples go through ebbs and flows often changing directions and itineraries at a moments notice. There are couples who change seats, drive for a little while until their partner is ready and then re-assume previous roles and directives. Flexible you might say.

The challenge for all of these couples remains the same…can you honestly and with great humility check the particulars of your relationship? Can you evaluate what is and is not working well while traversing through life? You can, but many of you won’t. Harsh? No. Honest? Yes! Status quo and even contentment can be descriptors for a well-oiled machine or they can be indicators of apathy…a relationship that is on life support with no end in site because neither person believes it is worth it to change it up.

Am I describing you? Go ahead…check and see if you are alone in the room…no one is looking over your shoulder….so be honest. Are you apathetic to the current state of your relationship and its growth in the future? Are you emotionally hurtful? Are you limiting the potential of the relationship though manipulative means?

These are important questions even if you are not sabotaging your relationship. Never forget that relationships veer off course not because of the big potholes, but more often from the little ones. Those day-to-day interactions that point to confusion not coherence. Remember the days when doing the little things for our partner was fun? When we actually thought about what they wanted…even needed to thrive.

Tempted to Veer Off Course?

We did all of those things because we wanted our partner to feel loved…to feel special and unique and cared for even when we weren’t around. But, sometimes we forget our collective purpose and even direction. We forget why we chose each other and worse yet we forget that love takes effort…conscious effort.

If we don’t make a point of planning our collective road-trip we run the risk of glancing over into other more desirable lanes. Chevy Chase might have discovered Christie Brinkley in the movie “Vacation” while driving with his family cross country, but we all know who he ended up with in the end.

Images Appearing More Realistic in Your Mirror?

Don’t set a trap for your relationship out of pure fear. Ask the tough questions that will yield growth over time. I, personally, have had great results when I queried my partner on the mutual direction and satisfaction of our relationship and you can too.

If you scoff at this then maybe you already know the destination your relationship is headed for. A wise business man once told me that you never go into a deal unless you are prepared to lose or leave the deal.

Your relationship and its success depend on continued calibration and assessment. No successful relationship ever endured with an approach that celebrated ignorance.

We are all human and it IS Normal to have a change of heart, a change of direction and/or purpose. That doesn’t mean that our relationships have to suffer or end. Don’t be the couple that holds each other down out of fear.

Give each other a chance to drive the relationship and who knows…you might actually find your relationship accelerating in new and exciting ways.

Afraid to Ask for Directions?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Can You Trust Your Husband To Travel Alone?

"You will not bring your husband along!"

Alright fine…you caught me. Yes, I did watch The Real Housewives of Orange County last night. How could I miss it? I mean this was the “cage match” fans had been waiting for…the reunion show that had the wives AND their husbands! Call me shallow. Call me bored…but don’t call me sucker.

Yes, the show and its premise are relatively absurd, but the infighting and topics displayed with all the glitz and glam of a red carpet shindig actually provide some interesting talking points about our society. You know that I am all about the redefinition of Normal and this very concept was on full display last night.

One of the original Housewives had previously scheduled an all-girls trip to Florida. No husbands allowed! Well, this was quickly shot down by a number of the women who felt that it was Normal for them to always travel with their spouse. Arguments and whispering ensued…one side felt that it was Normal to have your partner with you at all times and the other ridiculous and wrought with trust issues.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the women who were for their husbands traveling were also the women who are portrayed as subservient to their men. Is this a real issue for your marriage? Do you have concerns when your partner isn’t with you? What are the fears one might have?

Well…let’s look at it from each gender and then…like NBC’s The Marriage Ref we can decide. I will start with the obvious…and I know you’re thinking it…The Men…because those in fear are probably insecure—right?

Men’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. Women cannot protect themselves
  2. Women cannot spot danger ahead
  3. Women together spell sexy clothes, alcohol in excess, and flirtatious communication
  4. The OTHER women will talk poorly of me
  5. My spouse won’t think about or miss me!

Women’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. All men are tempted by the Siren at the airport bar
  2. All men want freedom and when they sense it they make bad decisions
  3. All men are secretive in some form or fashion
  4. Is he really going to sleep or is he going back out…and where? With whom?
  5. Will he think about all of his responsibilities before he makes a bad choice?

Ok…so we have looked at some stereotypical fears. We have looked at fears that have either been supported by real life experiences from our own world or situations we have heard about from our friends. Either way, it is safe to say that we have all been burned by trust. We have all felt that indescribable pain when trust from someone we care about has been shattered. It could have come from a significant betrayal like infidelity or it could have been that teeny weenie trip-up that sent trust down the drain.

They both hurt. They both leave a residue for yourself and your future relationships to clean up. More often than not we act surprised when the big failures hit. We cry out, literally and figuratively, for support. And really what are we doing? We are actually acting like lawyers…detectives if you will. We lay the groundwork so that we garner ALL of the support from our inner circle. We never let on that we had ANY idea trust was sneaking out each night for a metaphorical smoke on the roof. Oh no…not us! Who can blame us? WE CAN!

We are all so deathly afraid of contributing to our own demise that we become proficient in cover-up scams…and we cast ourselves as the lead character. The mere thought that we could have contributed to the series of unfortunate events that killed our trust goes against our very fabric.

Trust can be a very fickle and elusive element in the modern relationship. We watch television…we watch movies like Up in the Air…laughing and crying with our spouse at the overall entertainment value…all the while wondering if what we are seeing on screen is merely art imitating someone else’s life…or hinting at our own.

Can you Trust the Friendly Skies?

The next time your partner wants to go Orange County on you think about the benefits, for you both, of traveling without the other. We could discuss Attachment Theory in the context of child development, but why not apply that to our own…adult worlds? To see a young child thrive with the supportive guidance and trust of a thoughtful caregiver is truly magnificent…no fear…just trust that if I fall I know who will be consistently by my side to comfort and reassure me. The same holds true in marriage—trusting yourself means trusting yours spouse. You can help each other celebrate the wonders of life and marriage without control…without submission…and without the fear that you will be forgotten.

Growth comes in stages for kids and adults. What stage are you currently in and how can you reach the next level?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Avoiding the Pink Elephant in Your Marriage?

Come on…you know you want to read on, but you are a bit afraid that your spouse will see you and ask, “What do you think is wrong with us?” So with that in mind I will “allow” you to channel your inner 8 year old, grab a flashlight and sneak under the sheets to read today’s post. Or, I guess you could be like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle when she goes into the closet to hear Jonas talk about his lonely and grieving father played by Tom Hanks.

Either way…you do what you need to do because the Pink Elephant in your marriage is sniffing you and your issues out like a hot bag of peanuts on Opening Day. And, if I might ask, what is your interest in today’s post? Have you recently gone to sleep wondering why it is that you and your spouse can’t talk about the things that really matter in your marriage? Is it that you have been avoiding a topic for so long that you fear the dire consequences if it ever saw the light of day?

Has your love changed for better or worse? Have you gone in circles with your spouse without really bringing up the topic? Avoidance behaviors are learned early on in life and honed throughout to provide us with sample-sized packets of oxygen in a world full of smog. A quick breath and back to real life. Right? Does it have to be that way? Didn’t you and your spouse share everything with each other during the dating phase? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t—what matters is that the Pink Elephant rarely lies dormant for too long. As human beings we are bred to speak out, act out, live out, and shout out our thoughts and feelings. Now, many of us struggle to communicate the elephant in the room and as a result we play silly games with ourselves and our spouses.

We bring up issues that other couples are having in hopes that our spouse will then examine our relationship under the same lens. We get books, read books, and place books in strategic places hoping that SOMEONE in the family will see our silent cries for help. For years I wondered what the heck was going on with cherries! My mother had Erma Bombeck’s best-selling book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits?” I knew my parents struggled to communicate…I just didn’t know what cherries had to do with it and why it sat on our bookshelf. My mother is not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Human beings love to lay a crumb trail to be saved or to lay a trap for their relationships. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not you have been laying traps or maps for you marriage.

Elephants Like Cherries Too

For so many couples the issues are real and devastatingly personal. For many individuals the issues we avoid are often found in the following areas:

  1. Sexual Intimacy
  2. Family Finances
  3. Children
  4. Individual Health for Vanity and Longevity (Weight Gain/Drinking etc.)
  5. In-Laws

Whether we avoid talking about our mother-in-law, how many children we really want to have, how to spend our incomes, or how many times a week we expect to be intimate is ultimately irrelevant to the larger issue in the relationship…which is..Why do we feel slighted or ignored by our loved ones?

Why is it that she can’t notice how hard I am working for the family? Why is it that he always assumes that we are going to be intimate when I just want a hug? Why can’t she protect me from her mother’s meddling? Am I not important? Do you not love me? Are you picking them over me?

We have all been there during moments of vulnerability. We both want to feel as if our spouse can read our minds and act accordingly, and do so in terms of love and mutual growth and not spiteful retribution. We want to go to bed each night feeling thought of and cared for by our partners. And, for men out there that say otherwise they are just fooling themselves and their spouses. Men and women do not want to feel judged or ridiculed for their attempts to navigate life—they want a partner that catches them when they stumble and alerts them when they are about to.What we do not want is to approach life in fear. We should not approach our marriages with an, “I told you so” attitude. We should not our marriages assuming we know or can predict the manner in which our partner will respond. It may be funny for Dilbert, but not for our day-to-day interactions…especially with our loved one.

Avoiding Something?

So…what to do…when to do it….and what can you expect when you try to communicate? The answers to these questions are fundamental and yet require a healthy dose of originality from you. Talking about the pink elephant in the room will not be easy, but it sure will be fruitful for decisions made down the road. Remember this…when you can come to a point in your life and marriage where you can let the chips fall where they may…well, you will feel a sense of personal empowerment. So…without further adieu here are the basic steps to communicating those issues that gnaw at you more than you care to acknowledge…

  1. Choose a time that both parties are at their most relaxed and non-defensive state. Do not attempt to discuss sensitive and possibly shaming issues when emotions are running high.
  2. Begin with a statement about all of the things you love about your spouse, your continued commitment to loving them and the marriage and YOUR desire for continued growth for yourself first…the relationship second.
  3. Provide an acknowledgment of your role in the issue and any back-story as to why you believe your sensitivity levels are possibly higher than expected.
  4. Talk about how you think your behavior or avoidance has impacted the marriage and your partner and ask them if they have been feeling or suspecting the same issues.
  5. And finally…share with them your ultimate fear. Tell them the root fear you have if they reject your feelings (example: When we aren’t intimate I think that you don’t find me appealing and will ultimately look elsewhere).

These are but a few strategies with which to approach your partner. If your partner scoffs at your attempt…let it be on them. Maybe they need time just as you did to muster up the courage to speak in the first place. Don’t take an initial “No” as a long-term deterrent. If, after repeated attempts you get the same song-and-dance then you have the information to make decisions accordingly. Let’s be realistic here…the pink elephant may be very large and significant to the success or failure of your marriage—all you can do is be honest about your role, your commitment to the relationship and partner, and hope for a shared renewal of the values that brought you both together. If your partner continues to tease you with attempts and/or changes before resorting back to the original…then you can at least feel confident in the effort you gave the relationship. Some succeed and others choose to move on. Here’s hoping that you allow yourself and your partner the time to know the household pet you have been avoiding for so long.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Do Women Feel Pressure to be Intimate on Valentines Day?

Intimate Expectations are a Killer!

Are you ready? Have you geared up? Have you truly thought about how you will act and respond to your partners overtures this weekend? Remember this is the weekend of love…the weekend where couples have to be reminded to make one another special. Even if for just a day or night we are told to put our partner up on a pedestal.

For some men and women the best in creativity and expression come out in a magical way. For others, the holiday highlights all that is wrong with our relationships and emphasizes the clunker of a sex life you actually have. And though you might have gotten your hopes up that you could trade your clunker in for cash this year…you quickly realize that Valentines Day is one of your least favorite holidays.

Valentines Day is the only holiday where sex and intimacy are actually promoted, kids are demoted from activities, and dinner is most often prepared by others at a restaurant and not grandma Sue. This is a holiday that promotes procreation, separates the nuclear family, and lightens the checking accounts of millions of Americans on gifts and gadgets meant to be stored in cool-dark out of the way set of dresser drawers.

Pressure? For whom? Men? Women? Both? YES! An astounding number of sexless marriages exist and the number has probably skyrocketed since the recession. A mandatory holiday can be just the thing that sends us to divorce court.

Have you actually ever thought about that? Forced intimacy with the person you are supposed to be in love with can be one of the most treacherous endeavors this side of sanitation work. No one wants to make their partner feel bad, less than, and/or not loved unconditionally even if you are mired in a marital pothole. And the devastating part is that most couples know that they really don’t want to be intimate but both parties feel pressured to be intimate. It becomes a challenge of immense proportions to discuss your fears with your partner when you are supposed to be celebrating your union.

How do you go from arguing a majority of the time to making love the next? You could be one of those couples that lets sex communicate for you. You could be one of those couples who are collaborating on the hoax of your love by saying, “…he/she is my partner and sex really isn’t a big part of our relationship.”

Either way most men and women dry heave at the thought of forced expressions of love. Nobody wants to be told when to hug, to caress, say the right things, act the right way, and/or pray that this year will be different when you haven’t seen the proof in over ten years. We all want love to be and feel organic, spontaneous and wrought with explosions of passion. Life happens though, we choose partners that we are only lukewarm to, and fantasize about characters in books and movies that live a life filled with excitement and passion.

What we want is to feel like we did when we were teenagers. We want to bubble up with excitement…with pride for the surprises we have planned for this glorious day. But we aren’t 15 anymore and the memories of yesteryear dissipate…for some they even bring back all of the terrible Valentines Day’s of the past. I remember asking out and breaking up was actually planned around Valentines Day. You see, many men might not share this with you, but a great many have and continue into adulthood to think about the financial costs of the holiday and the commitment it implies.

Men think in practical terms, are guided by thoughts of sexual prowess and conquest, and ultimately weigh their romantic options on a financial scale. If you are new to us and we just met you in January then we might think twice about the gift we give and the sappiness displayed. So many men worry about what messages will be sent and the commitment we think you expect from us.

On the flip side…a number of boys and men breakup with their girlfriends prior to Valentines Day for the exact same reasons.

The Breakup Girl can Help!

They are broke and are afraid to ask for forgiveness. They are not keen on re-upping their love commitment and fear another Valentines Day will send the relationship up another tier on the ladder of love…and some are foolish enough to desire freedom to date another women and spend the money they didn’t want to spend on you.  Yes…we men are ridiculous.

So on this, the weekend of love I hope that you have done your due diligence and expressed your concerns to your partner prior to the big day. I hope that you have shared your fears of inflated expectations and demonstrated compassion for your relationship. If you haven’t and are deathly afraid of waking up the day after Valentines day in puddles, then I suggest you sit down and think about your relationship—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Due a status report on where your love meter is at and what you have or have not done to contribute to today’s challenges. You and your spouse probably aren’t as bad as you might think and probably not as great as you might think either. Love takes work, compassion for your self and your partner, and a commitment to service it more regularly than Jiffy Lube suggests. Shouldn’t you service the check engine light of your relationship?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Why Do Men Treat Women Like a Love Transaction?

Honey...I mean CFO...I mean...

Why do men treat women they court as a deal, a transaction, a competition? Can we trace it back to the days on the savanna? Can we blame Chuck Woolery for forcing competition on The Love Connection? What about Hallmark? Should we blame them for creating holiday after holiday to supplement dumb men who forget to communicate their love on a regular basis?

…and we haven’t even talked about competition between men for women! Are my muscles bigger than his? What does he drive? Do? Where does he live? I have a better head of hair! He has bad teeth, manners, hygiene, and is a sloppy drunk! I listen, shop when I don’t feel like it, mow the lawn regularly, know about and take care of both nose and ear hair…pick me!

How Can You NOT Call it a Transaction?

It can be very competitive for men and we, as a gender, have been trained to understand the value of money and the art of the transaction in the sea of love. We are pretty good at scoping out the future value..i.e. what it will be like to be in a relationship with you after successfully navigating the gauntlet. And, it is for this reason and the right to be the Silver-Back of the group that we allow some pretty odd and outdated traditions to take place…

Why else would we allow ourselves to be poked and prodded by your family and friends? From getting approval from dad, to polygraphs for Raymond Focker, the landscape may have changed but the supporting characters and media fodder have not when it comes to pursuing love. We have been shaken by centuries of doubt, judgment, and gossiping. The impact has been significant…

Mrs. Degree? How Much Will That Cost?

In fact, we are actually quite dainty hunters…even a tad moody. We don’t like to feel pressure. We don’t like to feel rushed or told how to hunt. We want to be celebrated for every effort we make because…well…quite frankly we have very thin skin. Men of all dispositions, Normal and Nut-Job, hear the calls from women and their mothers wondering when they will step up to the plate. We have been conditioned to think that money and material goods are the way to your heart. Are we wrong? Should we take another approach?

Maybe…maybe not. Women…if I might say…you have also played a role in the manner with which we court you.

We pay attention even if for a brief moment between video games, belching, and adult kickball games meant for males to recapture their testosterone crown and understand the seriousness with which you approach love and commitment…shoot, we even hear some women talk of getting their Mrs. degree.

An actual Marriage-Hunting Bra?

We see commercials that spew messages like cold weather, blustery nights, diamonds…and then hugs. We get it. You get it…and the struggle is breaking the transactional approach once we both have committed to each other.

Normal Males understand the barren wasteland of actual good men or should I say candidates for women today. We will concede to our other halves. The question I pose is this:

What role do women play in transactional love?

How can we keep the notion of value and competition for something precious while also valuing the effort and the man for who he is and not what he can do for you?

Trust me when I say that most Normal Males would be just fine if the expectations and practices of courtship changed…even slightly. It can be overwhelming to even the best men. And, I believe that the current system actually sets couples up for failure. Women are led to believe, from media and those around them, that love is something you buy and it is about both quality and quantity. I have heard this over and over with the couples I used to work with…”John used to buy me flowers, buy me gifts, etc.” The woman has every reason to feel let down and the man every reason to feel under water. She fell in love with a man who understood the currency of courtship, equated it to land ownership and attainment of goods, and brushed off his hands as if to say, “ok…what now?” She felt beautiful and special. He felt like a winner…and each waited for their gold medal ceremony to begin and never end.

Love is a One Step-at-a-Time Venture

He felt like he had earned something. Something akin to buying instead of renting. This may sound crude or brash, but men’s brains think and act like this. To rent means to constantly pay or fear being kicked out…i.e. “What have you done for me lately?” Owning a home symbolizes hard work, a history, and fruits of his labor. Why would a man want to subscribe to a relationship where, in his mind, he has to constantly prove himself for fear that he isn’t good enough.

It is no wonder why men fear commitment. Many men peer into their future and fear an unwieldiness of love, money, proof of life, and bottom-line economics. Daunting to be sure when you add in the little tidbit that males struggle to share their feelings and experiences with other males–we often fail to see that we are not alone and that what we are thinking, feeling, and experiencing has been felt by other males for centuries.

Both genders contribute to the problems associated with transactional love and it will take a constant and steady flow of thoughtfulness to break fear-based love, negative gender stereotypes, and family patterns. As we approach Valentines day, I wish all of the women well and hope that your days are filled with romance, conversation, and activities not based on money, but honest appreciation for each others lives. Guys…leave some flowers and a clever card for yours truly as I have yet to purchase the holiday necessities. 😉

Remember the TRUE meaning of love?

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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