Cindy Briolotta, President
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This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for four months. He’s amazing. He is the most emotionally evolved man I have ever dated. He is fun, attentive, sexy, non-defensive, desires me, and on and on. My problem is that I don't know how I feel about him. I feel so guilty for thinking that this relationship might not work. He is ideal for me.
I’m 34 and he’s 36. We both have had plenty of relationship experience. I'm still confused as to how I can feel so unsure. I’m going through the motions, but don't feel “crazy in love” with him. Any thoughts?
Jill from New Jersey
Marcia responds …
Your confusion stems from rushing the courtship stage while feeling an appropriate sense of trepidation about doing so. You say he’s "amazing,” "emotionally evolved," and "ideal," but you've known him just four months.
You haven't waited long enough for the other shoe to drop -- and it will. How does he handle a crisis? Will he be there for you when you’re at your worst? Have you been through any holidays or met each other's families? Have you been ill and needed his care? Have you discussed monogamy, or are you assuming that he likes you as much as you like him?
If he is the one responsible for rushing things along, consider that as a red-flag to be on the look out for exactly why he wants to hook you. What is it he might be trying to get you to overlook that will play out later, once you've moved in together, gotten married, become pregnant, or all of the above?
It'sprobably not guilt you're experiencing, but rather your gut instincts (which will always tell you the truth) warning you to slow down. It's your responsibility to protect yourself by controlling the pace of the courtship while you get to know this man. Honor your feeling of being unsure and give yourself permission to put the brakes on until he reveals more about his character.
Sandy responds …
Not good, right? The man you describe deserves more than this. Real passion cannot be manufactured, and each of us deserves to be in a relationship where both members are passionate. Even the best marriages challenge us daily, and to be in a marriage in which we are not fully committed sets us up for failure. The same thing applies to any relationship.
It sounds as though you have identified much of what is important to you, and I congratulate you for that, but do yourself and your boyfriend a favor. Don’t settle for less than your heart demands. Look for someone who not only embodies your requirements, but who also ignites your passion.
Peter responds ...
There are two questions that might be worth exploring. First, you say you have "plenty of relationship experience." Since you’re the common denominator in all of your prior relationships, it might be interesting to explore what, on your end, brought these previous relationships to completion. For example, what of your needs, wants, requirements may not have been met? And, more importantly, did you have these clearly defined before entering these relationships?
My second question is, What is it that makes you feel guilty? What is the "should" or "ought to" that leads to your confusion? In addition, are you experiencing an underlying fear of some type? For example, you may be reacting to a feeling of making a commitment, a loss of independence, or a changing lifestyle. It might be helpful to explore the inner dialogue that accompanies your confusion.
Consciously exploring your past relationship history and patterns might lead to some insight as to why you’re confused in your current relationship. Is this relationship different from past relationships? If so, how is it different? If not, is there a recurring pattern that you’re seeing? My suggestion is to think about these questions and then continue your exploration of them with a qualified relationship coach to find out what is really underneath the confusion you’re experiencing.
Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. | email@example.com
Lois responds …
Congratulations on attracting a lovely, appropriate, and delightful man into your life. It appears that the law of attraction is at work. I also hear a lot of judgment around your doubt. Nothing will sever access to inner guidance more than guilt or judgment.
Give yourself a hiatus from the "guessing game," and just spend some time in the relationship enjoying yourself, deepening your connection together, and letting yourself know you can trust yourself. Next, I'd explore some possible limiting beliefs or objections that you may have around having a life partner who is "ideal." Try to pinpoint what your objections are and give voice to them. What you resist will persist. Often by articulating these thoughts to yourself, and then to a few people you feel safe with, you’ll gain a great deal more clarity.
Stay curious, open and light. Don't put pressure or judgment on yourself to decide anything right now. Let the focus be on enjoying the relationship rather than deciding if he is or isn't your ideal life partner.
Look at your limiting beliefs around intimate relationships and your feelings around having what you say you most want. Revisit your requirements, needs and wants. Finally, see this experience as an adventure or a journey where you can really trust yourself.
Lois Barth | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mystery of Attraction
By Linda A. Marshall
Biologists notice that we select mates so that our species will survive. Men look for healthy women at the peak of their childbearing years. Women look for “alpha” men who dominate other males and bring home more than their share of the kill. While these attractions were more prominent in our ancient history, there is some truth to this even today.
Social psychologists focus on the “exchange” theory. This is the idea that we select partners more or less our equals in terms of physical appeal, financial status, and social rank, as well as personality traits like kindness, creativity, and a sense of humor. Most of this sizing each other up is unconscious, and we do it with lightening speed. This also moves us beyond mere biology to allow for attraction to someone outside the biological criteria.
The field of analytical psychology focuses on the “persona” theory, which maintains that we are attracted to someone who will enhance our self-esteem or our self-image. We put on masks to show our best selves to others, and we don’t want to be embarrassed by who we are with. Rather, we want to experience a sense of pride.
Hendrix notes the shortcomings of each of these three theories. What he noticed in his own experience as a relationship and marital therapist was that we all appear to be compulsively searching for a partner with a very particular set of positive and negative personality traits. He points to the unconscious forces in our minds to illuminate the mystery further.
One of the three parts of our brain, our old brain, plays a powerful role in our selection of a partner. One of the characteristics of the old brain is that we are largely unaware of its functioning. Neuroscientists have determined that the major concern of the old brain is self-preservation. It addresses the main question, “Is it safe?” With its hazy awareness of the external world, it scans our environment and gathers data from images, symbols, and thoughts produced in the new brain.
The result is that people are lumped into six basic categories. Is the person in front us someone to 1) nurture, 2) be nurtured by, 3) have sex with, 4) run away from, 5) submit to, or 6) attack? The subtler distinctions like neighbor, relative, parent, or spouse slide right by. Our old brain compares the image of the person before us with other observations from our past and determines if this person is safe and will give us a pleasurable or a threatening experience. This all happens at lightning speed, so we’re unconscious of all the scanning and comparing that is going on.
Furthermore, what Hendrix found is that the positive and negative traits we compulsively search for, match the predominant character traits of the people who raised us. The old brain is trying to re-create the environment of our childhood so that we can complete it and return to our original state of wholeness and relaxed joyfulness. The root words for “family” and “familiar” are the same. We are often looking for the person who provides us with a familiar (seems safe and may not be, depending on our family of origin) experience. The trick is to choose wisely enough that we don’t recreate our worst case scenario.
The primary purpose of the Partners in Life Program offered by RCI Coaches is to help people who think they may be right for each other to take a more objective look at their relationship. It’s designed to take the mystery out of the attraction. In fact, Jill who wrote our “Ask Our Coaches” question might find working with one of our coaches to be helpful in assisting her with sorting out her particular situation.
Linda A. Marshall, RCI Director of Couple’s Programs
Ten Principles of Romance
Most people think romantic love and romance are the same thing, yet surprisingly, there is quite a difference.
Romantic love is that early period in a relationship when we begin to fall in love. It is a predictable, altered state of consciousness. While it is a delightful period of euphoria, it is fleeting and short-lived. It’s purpose is to bond two people together emotionally and physically. This bonding prepares them for the hard work, going forward, of building a life together.
Romance on the other hand is an on-going expression of love between two people, even when seeing each other in a less favorable light than might be expressed during the romantic love period. This is where the real work of a relationship begins.
10 Principles of Romance
#1 Be intentional every day, taking the time to please your partner in ways meaningful to them.
#2 Be mindful and attentive of your interactions with each other.
#3 Add an element of surprise that is pleasant and thus meaningful.
#4 Go the extra mile with your time, rather than with your money.
#5 Show mutual respect for each other, listening well with focused attention.
#6 Be playful and flirtatious, two key ingredients in romance.
#7 Be vulnerable, showing your sentimental and sensitive side. Be compassionate and tender with each other.
#8 Design special occasions and celebrations, creating your own rituals of connection with symbols that are meaningful to the two of you.
#9 Include romantic sexual encounters.
#10 Know your partner’s history intimately and pay homage
to their past when possible.
~taken from Hot Monogamy by Patricia Love and Jo Robinson
Linda A. Marshall, RCI Director of Couple’s Programs
RCI recently completed a seminar series called "The Miracle of Connection" with Hedy Schleifer that is now available by recording, FREE to our subscribers:
Program #1: Growing our Passion
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Linda Marshall, M.Div. | Director of Couples Programs Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
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