Keeping The Love Alive

(As Published in the Hyde Park Living Magazine)

The Czech poet, Rainer Maria Rilke said, “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people; that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other”. This would not be a verse on the average Valentine’s card that tells us we should be conjoint if we are truly in love. However, in my experience of working with couples over the years I have found that the troubles in relationships have a lot to do with not accepting the individuality of spouses.

If we are to keep the love alive it takes action on our part. Love has to evolve, no matter how beautiful it is at the beginning. A bud is usually never as beautiful as the mature flower and yet it has to be there before the flower can exist. We need to actively work at helping our love to evolve. Evolve, of course, means to change and we all know that most changes involve growth and pain.

What can I do to feel happy with my partner and ensure that love is the center of our union, rather than a function or a duty? Am I waiting on my spouse to change his or her approach? This is such a common stance and yet it leaves people with such frustration and disappointment. YOU must be the one to try bringing the change about that you desire. We can’t change our partners but we can try to change ourselves and the situation. We have so many defenses up, that predate our marriage, which prevent us from being vulnerable to our spouses and the result can be a deep sense that I am not being understood and am not fulfilling myself.

I need to fulfill myself. I need to let down some of the defenses that keep my wife/husband from truly knowing me. I am the one who needs to talk out about my feelings, needs, wants and desires. Most people do these things when they first meet and yet then get consumed by all the other aspects of married life. Try not to be just another person. Start to work on bringing about what you feel a need for in life. It’s ideal if your spouse will start with you but if they won’t then start yourself and there’s more chance that they will then move with you. It won’t be easy but what’s the alternative? Don’t try to bring huge changes about but do little things that will make a difference for you and the relationship. Maybe it will be taking time off to reflect or showing more awareness of you partner as you part in the morning or return in the evening. You could establish a date night or day each week. Try to touch more or ask more about how your spouse’s day went. Exercise together, etc. Just don’t let you marriage grow old but help it to grow new each day of this busy life.

Tony Fryer

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Struggling to Find Connection

Making connections through family therapy

We can’t find the ultimate causes for the ‘wrong’ things we do or say. We can try to understand the many experiences that lead us to do those things that we avoid doing when we are operating more closely to our true self. Often we focus on the stresses of the here and now. These are the obvious factors/people and we don’t consider enough, the less conscious, internalized motivations from our developmental years.

In my therapeutic experience I encounter clients who have learned, from their childhood, to get on with it; take care of the other person all the time; not show any weak/vulnerable feelings; always work hard and not play; that not winning is not acceptable; that you only get attention if you are emotionally loud; that you are more acceptable when you smile/laugh; etc. These people end up struggling for connection with that person they did once connect with, in courtship. The initial attraction for a long term committed relationship, felt like total acceptance and connection. When we have that experience our defenses are lowered and we open and connect. The world seems different. However, as the relationship matures we realize difference and experience some conflicts that can lead to the resurrection of the defenses and the reduction of connection.

The lack of this connection, which most humans desperately seek and desire, leads to behaviors that further hurt their relationship. If we are not mindful of the damages to our ‘selves’ from the past and it’s motivations to our habitual actions of the present, then we act unconsciously. We ask ourselves, ‘How could I do/say that?’. With these unconscious/habitual actions we feel more misunderstood, alone and disconnected.

Good therapy helps to develop more congruence between who we are and what we do and so we are more able to connect. This is especially true in Couples and Family Therapy where the dynamic can be observed and assisted in live time. Changes are observable/measureable.

Tony Fryer

Try Something Different

Trying something new can foster connections within relationshipsPeople often try to get the connection they strongly desire and cannot understand why their attempts don’t get them what they’ve been looking for. This can be a single person or someone in a marriage relationship. I am not talking about someone with huge problems in life but the average man or woman who feels they are not finding the intimate relationship they would love and that they feel a need for.

As I listen and reflect on so many life stories, from my objective position, it seems that the efforts people put in are substantial but often have remained the same for years. Too often the same action/approach is taken even though that action has never produced what they are looking for. It’s the definition of insanity and it is a common trait.

A good example would be the person who has always tried to look after the needs of others and wonders why someone doesn’t put the same effort to looking after them. I have found that these people have tended NOT to make clear to others what they need/want/desire. They frequently just don’t ask or else explode at a partner when they are frustrated by the lack of caring or understanding. Until they become aware of this tendency and start trying to change it, they will rarely (if ever) have the connection their heart longs for.

It is not a matter of being selfish but of healthy self-care. How can anyone love you if they don’t really understand what you need? The best relationship approaches I have observed are with a people who understand and feel understood, give and take, carry and are carried, etc.

No one knows exactly what YOU need to do differently but we know that doing the same thing, that has not worked, will perpetuate what you don’t want. Trying different things/approaches has more potential for creating the change!

For more information about building better communication and connectivity within relationships, contact Tony Fryer, MFT and ask about couples therapy.

Tony Fryer

Perception is not the Whole Truth!

The way I see things‘, is a good way to talk about my viewpoint. Too often we tend to think that we have the whole truth.

I find that I need to help clients accept that their perception is understandable and yet it usually is not the truth about another person or situation. It is the ‘way’ they see. Often when people are in the middle of an experience they find it very hard to realize that their perception is very limited. We tell teenagers this, when they feel so sure about how they see things, but we don’t often enough, question our own feelings and views. It’s always useful to try step back, pause, reflect, take another’s opinion into account.

Perception in marriage and family counseling

The mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain! Is a very useful phrase to keep in mind. When we have problems we are like the climber who is limited due to his/her proximity to the mountain. Good therapy is one way to expand our view. We need to talk about how we see things and feel about things and we also need to keep ourselves open to different observations.

I have experienced people traumatized by events in their lives and struggling to believe that their view of life and experiences will change. It could be death, illness, extreme conflict with family, an affair, divorce, or one of the other many things that happen in life. At those times I have witnessed how perception can get fixed and stress and pain continue or increase. As people start to work through these experiences in therapy their perceptions are modified and their behaviors too. It’s often hard to estimate how long it will take but when it does begin to occur the change alleviates some of the suffering and stress. The initial problem has not been altered but the perception has. Truth is rarely, if ever, a given but is an evolving thing or process. In that sense, the truth can set us free.

Tony Fryer

My Feelings

Cincinnati marriage and family therapy

Some people say, “Take the feelings out of it” and our working relationship will be better. How does one do that? Unless you are a Robot or Spock, it is not possible. Logic and emotion are not polar opposites. They work in conjunction with each other. When in relationship we can benefit greatly by letting our logic inform our emotions and vice versa. Building awareness is a good way to be in control of our choices. Lack of awareness often means that we will be motivated by our feelings unknowingly and end up regretting things we say or do. Some examples might help clarify:

  • The quiet woman who was always quiet and unemotional may find herself transgressing her usual moral standards because her suppressed needs, wants and desires take her to a place she would never logically choose.
  • Traumas/hurts in our life or relationships that are ‘swept under the carpet’ can often lead to a lack of appetite for intimacy with our partner or to a sense of ‘depression’ or ‘apathy’.
  • The strong woman who has had great success with pushing any vulnerable feelings aside can often end up in a relationship where she finds it hard to connect.
  • The man who got the message, as a child, that his role in life was to take care of everyone else’s needs may be angry that his needs are rarely taken care of in a relationship.
  • People often use substance, work, parenting, housework, sex, food or exercise to distract themselves (unconsciously) from dealing with underlying feelings, needs, wants or desires.

Awareness does not require therapy. Therapy is a great way to develop more awareness and start choosing how to deal with life. Awareness helps us see more clearly and be able to choose a path to take. It helps prevent avoidance. It provides us with options. Having a relationship therapist to assist in building awareness helps us to be more objective in recognizing what we do and what we want to do. Awareness does not totally change our behaviors but helps us be more actively involved in the process of change. The change is not into what someone else wants us to be but to become more aligned with our true essence.

Tony Fryer