Posts tagged: Premarriage

Calm, Healthy Relationships


Although we certainly like excitement at times, we also crave calm within our relationships. Of course, how to keep gentleness, respect, and positivity in our daily experiences with our loved ones is a huge topic, not easily covered in a short blog post. However, we can revisit some basics.

 

FEELING COMFORTABLE ALONE

In Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly writes, “The fear of being alone is the father of many relationships that never should have been. When we choose to be with someone because we are afraid of being alone, we dishonor ourselves and the other person.” He goes on to say that the cure for loneliness is solitude. “Solitude teaches profound lessons, especially about ourselves. Feeling lonely has value. Sometimes we need to turn inward to discover what we need to hold on to and what we need to let go of. […] Until we learn to be comfortable alone—and more than that, to enjoy our own company— […] we are unconditionally unprepared to be in any kind of significant relationship with another person.”

So, once we learn to be comfortably alone and are ready for a lasting, healthy relationship, how do we choose a healthy beloved? We must search for partners who value our happiness as much as their own and are willing to sacrifice for us, as we would for them. There is no love without sacrifice.

DATING DEAL-BREAKER RED FLAGS:

  • ADDICTIONS – These include substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, as well as gambling. You may love the person deeply, but until (s)he’s in recovery and has been for a long time, (s)he cannot love you enough to give you a happy, healthy relationship. (S)he hasn’t the free will required to commit fully to you.
  • DISHONESTY – A person who does not respect the truth will lie to you as easily as you observe him or her lie to someone else. A healthy relationship relies on trust and this person cannot be trusted.
  • UNFAITHFULNESS – As much as he or she declares love for you, if there is a history of cheating, you are naive to think you won’t be hurt the same way. Be grateful you learned about this character flaw before you married.
  • UNCONTROLLED ANGER – If this person cannot control anger and strikes out in a way that hurts himself or someone else, run, don’t walk, away. Even though you have never seen the anger focused on you, you will. If people hurt others intentionally, even with words alone, they are not going to be part of a healthy relationship.
  • DISRESPECT FOR YOUR FAITH – Our spirituality is an integral part of us. If it’s ridiculed, an important side of you is not respected. To be healthy, all relationships require mutual respect. Think ahead to how his or her opinion would influence your children and their faith life.
  • CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR – A person who wants to make all decisions and who doesn’t respect your independence and opinion is not a partner. The need to be in charge will intensify with time, possibly to the point of becoming abusive.

(If you’re afraid for your immediate safety, call 911. For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224.)

In any relationship, some conflict is inevitable. According to The Exceptional 7 Percent by Gregory K. Popcak, we can strive to—

FIGHT LIKE THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST COUPLES:

  • The argument must move things along to a mutually satisfying solution.
  • There are certain lines the couple simply doesn’t cross no matter how heated their discussion gets. Disallow anything that causes defensiveness or quickly escalates the argument.
  • Maintain your own dignity. No matter how crazy you think your spouse is acting, you must be able to be proud of your own conduct at the end of the day.
  • Is this an argument worth having? Is the fight about something that will stop you fulfilling your values, ideals, or goals?
  • Begin with the end in mind. What changes will I have to make to solve this problem? What do I need to know from my spouse to feel better about this problem? What do I think needs to happen so we can avoid this in the future?
  • Take time-outs to cool down if necessary. If you start to think your spouse is the problem, take a break to think more lovingly.
  • Look for the positive intention behind your spouse’s negative behavior and work with your spouse to find more respectful alternatives to meet needs.
  • Never show contempt whether through gestures or words. This always escalates the disagreement. One of the worst acts of contempt is threatening divorce. It undermines your spouse’s ability to trust you, damages the security of your relationship, and offends the dignity of your marriage.
  • Don’t nag. Solve! Set a deadline for something to get done and if it doesn’t, call for help to get it done or do it yourself as an act of love. Your spouse’s help is a gift that should be freely given but, like any gift, you have no right to demand it.
  • Don’t parent each other. Never deny what your spouse wants to do, but freely negotiate the how and when.
  • L.O.V.E. Look for the positive intention. Omit contempt. Verify what was meant. Encourage each other throughout the conflict.

Unhealthy fighting can erode a relationship to the point of bitterness. Never let the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” enter your marriage or they will work to end it. John Gottman and Nan Silver’s Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: and How You Can Make Yours Last, identifies these 4 destructive habits:

  1. Criticism attacks the person. Complaints, on the other hand, are specific and about one behavior. They can enhance a relationship if spouses are open to growth.
  2. Contempt attacks the person with an intent to hurt.
  3. Defensiveness, or the poor-me stance, relinquishes our ability to accept the challenge of self-improvement for the sake of the ones we love.
  4. When we want to turn our backs (stonewalling), we must keep turning back toward each other.

De-escalate a disagreement by reaffirming your admiration for your spouse, interjecting healthy humor, touching affectionately, stepping back to make a comment about your current feelings, or trying to look at things from your spouse’s point of view.

Wouldn’t we all enjoy calm relationships with our loved ones? The type that comes with easy interactions, interesting conversations, and mutual respect? Of course, disagreements are part of life, and no couple always relates with perfect love, but we can make improvements. Resolving to always behave with respect, no matter our feelings, can bring peace to a conflict.

 

Recognizing Relationship Danger Signals

Betty blue bordered (2)Last week we discussed differentiating true fear from anxiety and worry. Sadly, sometimes people get so used to true fear that they ignore it. In The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker writes, “People who ignore their intuition, their mind and body’s warnings of danger, either through self-doubt or groomed desensitization, can find themselves in very imminent risk of harm or death.”

You may know people in difficult relationships or be in one yourself, and with de Becker’s permission to quote directly, I include his list of pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence or murders. Perhaps it will help you to help yourself (or someone you love) recognize an unsafe situation, take control of your life, and leave safely. Or maybe a controlling person may recognize himself and seek help before it is too late. (Note that sometimes the genders in these warnings can be reversed.)

“The signals won’t all be present in every case, but if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern.”

  1. The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
  2. At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.
  3. He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
  4. He is verbally abusive.
  5. He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.
  6. He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.)
  7. He has battered in prior relationships.
  8. He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
  9. He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct. (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy.”)
  10. His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery.)
  11. There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things.)
  12. He uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of his wife/partner.
  13. He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a “tight leash,” requires her to account for her time.
  14. He refuses to accept rejection.
  15. He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life, “always,” or “no matter what.”
  16. He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.
  17. He minimizes incidents of abuse.
  18. He spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about his wife/partner and derives much of his identity from being her husband, lover, etc.
  19. He tries to enlist his wife’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
  20. He has inappropriately surveilled or followed his wife/partner.
  21. He believes others are out to get him. He believes that those around his wife/partner dislike him and encourage her to leave him.
  22. He resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.
  23. He identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction or history. He characterizes the violence of others as justified.
  24. He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry, or depressed.
  25. He consistently blames others for problems of his own making; he refuses to take responsibility for the results of his actions.
  26. He refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.
  27. Weapons are a substantial part of his persona; he has a gun or he talks about, jokes about, reads about, or collects weapons.
  28. He uses “male privilege” as a justification for his conduct (treats her like a servant, makes all the big decisions, acts like the “master of the house.”)
  29. He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.
  30. His wife/partner fears he will injure or kill her. She has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of her death (e.g., designating someone to care for children.)

“With this list and all you know about intuition and prediction, you can now help prevent America’s most predictable murders. Literally. Refer the woman to a battered women’s shelter, if for nothing else than to speak to someone who knows about what she is facing, in her life and in herself. Refer the man to a battered women’s shelter; they will be able to suggest programs for him. When there is violence, report it to police.”

One may ask why a person has stayed in an abusive relationship. De Becker writes:

“Being struck and forced not to resist is a particularly damaging form of abuse because it trains out of the victim the instinctive reaction to protect the self. To override the most natural and central instinct, a person must come to believe that he or she is not worth protecting. Being beaten by a “loved one” sets up a conflict between two instincts that should never compete: the instinct to stay in a secure environment (the family) and the instinct to flee a dangerous environment. […] The instinct to stay prevails in the absence of concrete options on the other side.”

Sometimes people who won’t leave for themselves can be convinced to leave for their children’s sake. However, leaving must be done carefully and with advanced planning, if at all possible, because women are most in danger while, or right after, trying to leave. Women’s shelters can give the best advice.

Violence in relationships is widespread. In today’s Oregonian, Amy Wang writes that 20% of teenage girls who date say they have been victims of violence in their relationships. This could be you, your daughter, or granddaughter. Know the signs. Find help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  or www.thehotline.org

Dating Abuse and Domestic Violence – “loveisrespect” – call 1-866-331-9474 (24/7) or text loveis to 22522

 

How to Stop a Bad Relationship Before It Starts

 

You’ve met someone charming, but how can you tell if it’s just an act that later will give way to the true jerk within?

In an Oregonian article Saturday, April 28, 2012, Katy Muldoon interviews Stephen T. McCrea, whose work with survivors of domestic abuse prompted him to write Jerk Radar: How to Stop a Bad Relationship Before It Starts.

He writes tips for avoiding The Jerk:

  1. Go slowly: Most jerks rush to get you involved and committed because it gives them more control over you.
  2. Beware extreme charm: He may be trying to overwhelm you with romance so you don’t examine him too closely.
  3. Maintain friends and family: If he doesn’t like it dump him quick. He’s more interested in control than love.
  4. Watch for hostile humor: If he puts others down, look out. Eventually he’ll put you down, too.
  5. Listen for blame: If he blames others for his trouble, he’ll soon blame things on you.
  6. Ask about the ex: Trash-talking a former partner is a bad sign. He’ll whine about you to his next girlfriend.
  7. Check his reputation: If he’s had lots of stormy relationships, has a rep for anger, has been a womanizer, frequently loses jobs, or has been in and out of prison, you’re probably buying trouble.
  8. Don’t try to “fix” him: If you don’t like his behavior early when he’s putting his best foot forward, it’ll be downhill from there. You’re his girlfriend, not his counselor.
  9. Say “no” to addicts. Don’t buy “I’ll quit for you.”
  10. Be yourself: Don’t change who you are to make him want to be with you. Don’t worry about rejection. If he does something that bothers you, say so. If you think he’s being disrespectful, tell him. If you thing he’s trying to make you feel guilty, don’t give in. If he moves on because you can’t be manipulated, that’s a good thing. It is better to be by yourself than to be with a jerk.

McCrea stresses his book is designed to help people detect abusive tendencies early in a relationship. Those in longer term relationships who feel scared or intimidated by a partner, or trapped and unable to get away should call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-7999-7233.

To see the full article click http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2012/04/jerk_radar_author_shares_advic.html

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