Monday, September 27, 2010

Being Subservient

Within a few weeks of the commencement of our dating, my husband-to-be made, what I thought at the time, an outrageous statement one that made me wonder whether this was the guy for me.

He said, "I believe a partner should be subservient."

Wanting to make sure I heard and understood him correctly, I queried, "You think that I should be subservient to you?" To which he answered, "Yes."

I looked at him in astonishment while I was thinking, "From what century is this guy?" However, since I didn't know him very well yet, I thought I would try to understand his line of thinking.

With a twinkle in his eye, he continued on. "Not only should you be subservient to me, but I should be subservient to you." Now, I thought, we seemed to be getting somewhere! Slave boy hmmm that could be interesting!

Seriously, though, I thought it necessary for him to define his terms. If I went according to Webster's definition of subservient, which is behavior that is characterized by extreme compliance, abject obedience, or an exaggerated deference of manner, then our budding relationship couldn't end soon enough for me!

He went on to explain that he meant it in the mildest of terms. He believed that if we each put the other's best interests first, then we, in essence, would be making ourselves subservient to each other. And although I didn't care for the usage of the word "subservient" (for to me it brought up negative images), his beliefs were not far removed from my own.

If you consider that one of the tenets of a successful relationship is for each partner to put his or her own every desire on hold for the good of the relationship, then the concept of subservience is practiced every day by couples.

Moreover, if you accept that everything in life is dual in nature, then included in that broad statement is how we perceive situations and words too. On first hearing, usually "being subservient" holds a negative connotation; however, there are also positive usages of that term some of which include:

1.  Being polite even when faced with negative behavior
2.  Not making your partner wrong even when you disagree (agreeing to disagree)
3.  Listening to opposing viewpoints with an open heart and mind
4.  Painting the picture of your partner into the landscape of your life wherever you are and whatever you may be doing
5. Completing tasks you rather not do simply because it will assist your partner and/or relieve his/her stress

In general, if we can take a giant step back and remove the emotional charge normally associated with strong words, it allows us to reach neutral. It is from this place of neutrality where we can look at both the positive and negative aspects of these words/concepts.

Keep in mind, reaching neutral does not mean negating your initial emotions. For example, I was quite taken aback when my husband-to-be suggested we each be subservient, and I allowed myself to react and feel that emotion. However, I was also open to listening to an explanation and this brought me to a neutral place where I could release the emotional charge I associated with the term. In this calm state of mind, I could hear his explanation and come to understand his belief system.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The last in this series of posts is a topic many find scary – commitment. We bandy that term around easily, but what does it truly mean to be in a “committed” relationship? And what needs to happen in this type of relationship?

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Nathaniel Branden states, “Commitment means the acceptance without resistance or denial of the importance of the other person to our life. It means that we experience our partner as essential to our happiness and are at peace with this fact. But it means more than that: it means that our experience of self interest has expanded to include the interests of the person we love, so that the happiness and well being of our partner becomes a matter of our personal, selfish concern.

Without any denial or loss of individuality, there is the sense of being a unit, especially in regard to the rest of the world. There is the sense of an alliance: whoever harms my partner harms me. And more: the protection and preservation of the relationship exists on my highest level of priorities, which means that I do not knowingly or deliberately act so as to jeopardize our relationship. Profoundly respecting the needs of the relationship, I try to be responsive to those needs to the best of my ability.

It is easy enough to see that if this is the meaning of commitment, most marriages exist with far less than a full measure of commitment on the part of those involved. Marriage is too difficult and hazardous an undertaking to be entered into without total, unreserved enthusiasm. And the ability to make the kind of commitment that marriage logically requires presupposes a reasonable level of maturity. It presupposes, among other things, the wisdom to choose a partner with whom sustaining such a commitment is realistically possible.

The sustaining of romantic love requires two attitudes or policies that superficially may appear contradictory. One is the ability to be in the present, to be in the moment. The other is the ability to hold an abstract perspective on one’s life and not get lost in the concretes that may immediately confront us. We realize that this is not a contradiction when we acknowledge that it is necessary both to see the trees and the forest.

One of the characteristics of mature love is the ability to know that we can love our partner deeply and nonetheless know moments of feeling enraged, bored, alienated, and that the validity and value of our relationship is not to be judged by moment to moment, day to day, or even week to week fluctuation in feelings. There is a fundamental equanimity, an equanimity born of the knowledge that we have a history with our partner, we have a context, and we do not drop that context under the pressure of immediate vicissitudes. We remember. We retain the ability to see the whole picture. We do not reduce our partner to his or her last bit of behavior and define him or her solely by means of it.”

And so ends my rather lengthy breakdown of Dr. Branden's book. I, obviously, feel it is a treasure and can be used as a fountain of knowledge to be sipped many times over. The Psychology of Romantic Love is currently out of print, but can be found at your local library. Dr. Branden has authored many other books too, which can be accessed through his website at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sex As An Expression of Love

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Branden differentiates between love and sex.

“Sex and love, though related, are obviously different. We recognize that sexual desire does not necessarily entail love. We recognize that gratifying sexual experiences can occur without great love. That is not the point. We recognize also that the greatest and most intense sexual experiences occur in the context of love, occur as an expression of love.

When sex is experienced as a vehicle for self worship and for the worship of our partner; when sex is experienced as expression of our aliveness, of our joy in being, then a major road has been opened to the fulfillment of romantic love.

Through the giving and receiving of sexual pleasure lovers continually reaffirm that they are a source of joy to each other. Joy is a nutrient of love: it makes love grow.”

And although a sexually passionate relationship is a wonderful thing, eventually, you do have to get out of bed. And if you don’t like each other out of bed, then even the best sexual gymnastics will not be able to keep a relationship alive for the long term.

Dr. Branden continues,“While acknowledging the importance of sexual passion, the fact remains that sexual passion alone cannot sustain a couple across a lifetime, cannot provide a sufficient support for all the weight a relationship must carry. Only admiration can do that. The admiration between two people is the most powerful support system a relationship can have, the most powerful foundation."

Here is my thoughts on sex and love ...


Making love is a sacred trust given to each other by two committed partners.

It says I am yours and you are mine alone,
and I can feel safe with both my body and mind unrobed.

Without this willingness to let down barriers and defenses,

then one cannot truly experience the ultimate gift of reciprocal love.

This trust allows each time partners come together to be as magical as the very first time.

That exciting moment when skin touches skin fire is ignited as lovers
look deeply into each other’s eyes and slowly the dance of love begins.

Where there is only lust, the body is simply caressed,

but, when there is love, the soul is also nurtured and made to soar.

Serious yet fun.

A time to revel in all one’s senses, and to feel

that you and your partner are the only ones who could possibly feel this alive.

There is no greediness, no embarrassment, no rush for satisfaction,
for your own satisfaction comes in making your partner reach the pinnacle of ecstasy and to have pleasure become a long lasting cascading fountain.

Lovemaking is like the ocean tide, as it slowly ebbs and flow and then reaches its crescendo as the waves come tumbling in -- crashing over each other in exuberance and joy.

And just as the tide goes out to sea and the ocean becomes calm once again,
the lover lies replete
arm in arm — feeling serene, so very safe, and ready to face the world knowing that this island of tranquility exists and can be revisited in a moment’s time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Having and Maintaining a Relationship Your Top Priority?

So many of us are busy with jobs, family and other social obligations. We say we want a relationship, but can’t seem to find the time to look for one and/or develop it if someone interesting is found. Before entering a relationship, one needs to examine his/her priorities and decide if there is a willingness to make time to share life with another.

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Branden states, “You need to make time for each other and for the relationship. When and if you decide that love really matters to you as much as your work, when success in your relationship with this man/woman becomes as much an imperative as success in your career, you won’t ask “How does one find the time?” You’ll know how one does it.

A bigger time threat comes from our relationships or obligations. The time that we and our partner spend in the company of friends or colleagues can be a source of pleasure, but it’s not a substitute for time spent alone together. Nothing is. Evenings spent with people who do not matter to us, or do not matter nearly as much as the one we love, cannot be reclaimed at a later date, cannot be taken back and relived. It is now or never.”

When a person says he or she wants to find a new partner, I always ask the three questions: Are you ready? Are you willing? and Are you able? The answers to these questions will be a good indication if you are just "wishing or thinking" about a new relationship or if you are "willing" to take advantage of every opportunity put in your path in order to find one.

Next Up ... Sex As An Expression of Love

Friday, September 17, 2010

Conflict: A Chance for Growth

Sometimes we think if we become angry with our partner, this may lead to the eventual dissolution of the union. The opposite is true. The repression of anger eats us up inside; it makes us more angry because we do not feel comfortable to openly discuss our concerns, which leads to more frustration and unhappiness. There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way to discuss a problem. An accusatory manner serves neither party. However, the willingness of both partners to have an open discussion of how certain behaviors make another feel is a reasonable expectation in a good relationship.

The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Branden states, “Relationships are not destroyed by honest expressions of anger. But relationships die every day as a consequence of anger that is not expressed. The repression of anger kills love, kills sex, kills passion. In order to repress anger, we often turn off to the person who has inspired the anger. We solve the problem of our anger by making ourselves numb. Relationships are buried by such solutions.

It is in our self interest to know that if our partner is angry at us, he or she will tell us so. It is not to our self interest to have one who never complains about things that hurt or anger him or her. The willingness to share our pain, our fear, and our anger serves the growth of romantic love.”

Sometimes it is more important how something is said, rather than what is actually said. Remember back to when your relationship started. Weren’t you so polite to each other – always thanking one another for the small niceties? Well, it is important to FOREVER exhibit this behavior. We would never treat our friends like some people treat their partners. Speaking to one another respectfully with care and politeness goes a long way in keeping love alive. Liking, as well as loving, a partner is also so very important.

Dr. Branden goes on to say, “
If we wish to understand why with one couple love seems to grow and why with another love dies, it is instructive to watch how the woman and man talk to and related to each other – how they communicate.

We know that nothing gives us the experience of being loved as much as when we feel that we are a source of joy to our partner. The smile of pleasure on our partner’s face when we enter the room, a glance of admiration aimed at something we have done, an expression of sexual desire or excitement, an interest in what we are thinking or feeling, a recognition of what we are thinking or feeling even when we have not explained, a conveyed sense of joy from being in contact with us or simply from watching us – these are the means by which the experience of visibility and of being loved are created, are made real to us. And these are the means by which we create the experience for our partner.”

Don’t be afraid to be childlike in your appreciation of your partner. Be open and show your love in all different ways. Be excited by and for your partner in all endeavors. Excitement is contagious.

Dr. Branden continues,
“Can anything be more inspiring than to allow our partner to see the excitement that he or she stimulates in us? Unfortunately many of us were raised to conceal such excitement, to subdue and submerge it, to extinguish it in order to appear grown up so we are afraid to let our partner see how much we feel, how much love radiates through us, how much pleasure our mate can inspire. Or perhaps we want to express it, we want to communicate it, and it is our partner who withdraws, who turns us off, who signals that such messages are better left uncommunicated, because our partner is made anxious by excitement, even by the excitement that he or she ignites. But fear of excitement kills romantic love. Never marry a person who is not a friend of your excitement.”

In conclusion, conflict is not something to fear -- as long as it is recognized and addressed properly. If resolved with respect for a partner, it actually will lead to a strengthening of the union. As a word of caution, be wary of a partner who never complains, never says anything is wrong. He or she may very well be a time bomb waiting to explode.

Next Up ... Is Having and Maintaining A Relationship Your Top Priority?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Is The "Honeymoon" Over?

At the start of a relationship, or, as some people refer to it, the “honeymoon period”, partners look at each other with stars in their eyes. Annoying habits may be regarded as cute; no one is rocking the boat; both are enjoying the excitement of early courtship; and all the layers of the true self have not been revealed. When this “fantasy” world is eventually brought to ground, if reality is not as pretty, then the relationship can falter.

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Branden states, “One of the clearest requirements for a successful romantic relationship is that it be based on a foundation of realism. This is the ability and willingness to see our partner as he or she is, with shortcoming as well as virtues, rather than attempting to carry on a romance with a fantasy.When and if we choose to see our partner realistically, not deceiving ourselves, love, if it is real in the first place, has the best of all opportunities to grow."

Feeling safe to disclose one’s inner thoughts is a hallmark of a deepening relationship. It is, of course, necessary to be in touch with these inner thoughts and truly understand them yourself.

Allowing another to see all sides –- the dark and the light -– and sensing an acceptance as a complete person who has human failings, creates an atmosphere of trust. With that inherent trust and acceptance, love can bloom.

To go one step further, trust and acceptance do not necessarily mean agreement with a partner’s thoughts and actions. Dr Branden says, "You can’t expect a partner to applaud your every action – only to offer an atmosphere where we can express ourselves without fear of moral condemnation or attack – in an atmosphere of respect and acceptance. We can only give our partner what we can give ourselves."

Next up ... Conflict: A Chance For Growth

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Me, Not You!

In relationships, it is really important not to take things personally. Remember, sometimes it just isn't about YOU!

Each individual has his/her own “stuff” with which to deal and unless you are privy to it, you cannot possibly know why he/she responds in a certain manner. Sometimes this is referred to as “pushing one’s buttons.” Due to past hurts or familial patterns, no matter what you say to someone, he or she will react badly.

Additionally, in a healthy relationship, there exists a sense of individuality as well as a partnership entity. At times, one individual might be preoccupied with his/her own thoughts and not focus on the relationship. This should not be taken as an affront or a time to panic and think that the relationship is faltering (unless this is a continual occurrence).

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Branden states, “In the best of relationships there are occasional frictions, unavoidable hurts, times when individuals miss one another in their responses. The tendency of non-autonomous, immature individuals is to translate such incidents into evidence of rejection, evidence of not really being loved, so small frictions or failures of communication are easily escalated into major conflicts.

Autonomous individuals have a greater capacity to roll with the punches, to see the normal frictions of everyday life in realistic perspective, not to get their feelings hurt over trivia, or even if they are hurt occasionally not to catastrophize such moments.

Further, autonomous individuals respect their partner’s need to follow his or her own destiny, to be alone sometimes, to be preoccupied sometimes, not to be thinking about the relationship sometimes, but rather about other vital matters that may not even involve the partner in any direct sense, such as work, personal unfolding and evolution, personal developmental needs.

So autonomous individuals do not always need to be “center stage,” do not need always to be the focus of attention, do not panic when the partner is mentally preoccupied elsewhere. Autonomous individuals give this freedom to themselves as well as to those they love. This is the reason why, between autonomous men and women, romantic love can grow. And this the reason why, between non-autonomous men and women, romantic love so often dies; panicky clinging suffocates love.

No matter how passionate the commitment and devotion autonomous men and women my feel toward the one they love, there is still the recognition that space must exist, freedom must exist, sometimes aloneness must exist. There is the recognition that no matter how intensely we love, we are none of us “only” lovers – we are also, in a broader sense, evolving human beings.”

These are important points to keep in mind for those who are entering new relationships after having been single for quite some time. Singlehood has taught you how to be independent. It has given you time to fully concentrate on yourself without regard for a partner. And, even though you might have been lonely, it is easy to become accustomed to this "me" thinking. You might like to continue to have some time when you focus on yourself and not on your new relationship -- and that's perfectly healthy when in a relationship with another autonomous person. This is part of your evolution into the "new you."

Additionally, you might recall that after losing your partner, it was necessary for you to switch from couples thinking to singles thinking. Now, you must adjust your thinking again -- back to couples thinking so that you can start painting the picture of your partner into the landscape of your life. And he or she always remains there, even if you take a small respite to think about you!

Next up ... When Is The Honeymoon Over?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Can Being In A Relationship Solve Your Problems?

We all “know” that if you don’t feel good about yourself then jumping into a relationship is not the answer. Remember that the universe is a giant mirror and all that we reflect comes back to us. So if we have low self esteem, we will only attract those who feel similarly about themselves. Not a good combo! If you want to be in a relationship with an emotionally healthy individual, then you must reflect the same characteristics. When you are a person to whom you would be attracted, then others will be attracted back.

Dr. Branden talks about how important self esteem is in a relationship in The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies.

He states, “On the various factors that are vital to the success of romantic love, none is more important than self esteem. The first love affair we must consummate successfully is the love affair with ourselves. Only then are we ready for other love relationships.

It has become something of a cliché to observe that, if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love anyone else. This is true enough, but it is only part of the picture. If we do not love ourselves, it is almost impossible to believe fully that we are loved by someone else. It is almost impossible to accept love. It is almost impossible to receive love. No matter what our partner does to show that he or she cares, we do not experience the devotion as convincing because we do not feel lovable to ourselves.

Self esteem as a psychological phenomenon has two interrelated aspects: a sense of personal efficacy and a sense of personal worth. It is the integrated sum of self confidence and self respect. It is the conviction or, more precisely, the experience that we are competent to live and worthy of living.

... To experience that I am worthy of living means an affirmative attitude toward my right to live and to be happy; toward the assertion of my own wants and needs; the feeling that happiness is my natural birthright."

He goes on to explain that an overwhelming amount of people suffer from self esteem issues. This gives rise to questions such as, “Am I enough?” or “Am I worthy of being loved?” Although on the surface a person might espouse that he/she feels worthy of giving and receiving love, deeply ingrained patterns in one’s subconscious might say differently. It is that little voice inside of you that may sabotage a relationship.

When you don’t believe it is your God-given right to be happy, then you consciously or, more likely, subconsciously disrupt a relationship. And, of course, there are always the drama queens who are never happy unless there is a crisis. So, if your relationships are faltering (and not just your romantic ones), look deep inside yourself and examine childhood patterns that might have you questioning your self esteem and self worth.

Dr. Branden says, “For a great many people happiness-anxiety is a very real problem and a powerful barrier to romantic love. You are with someone with whom you really care and you’re feeling very contented very fulfilled and then feelings of anxiety or disorientation arise and you feel the impulse to stir up conflict or to make trouble. You can’t keep out of the way and allow happiness to happen. You feel the need to throw a little drama into your life. People interrupt their own happiness – sabotage it do anything to escape the fact that they can be happy right now. If only they will accept the moment, not fight it, not resist, just yield to the joy of being, yield to the joy of each other, yield to the ecstatic potential of romantic love. They study, go to therapy, etc – accumulate information so they can make themselves happy in the future – at an unspecified time that never comes.”

To keep a relationship alive, it most certainly requires effort. However, if, even with effort, they all seem to falter, take the time to evaluate your core belief about happiness. Remember, "happiness is not a destination -- it's a way of traveling the road of life." (R. Goodman)

Next up ... It's Me, Not You!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Rhythm and Energy of Relationships

Another important part of a successful romantic relationship is rhythm and energy. I found this fascinating (and have experienced it to be quite true). I know I am more comfortable with someone who moves through life at my speed! For example, I enjoy quick repartee, and if I have to explain all my inferences, it's just not as much fun.

When partners have two different speeds, unnamed and inexplicable friction sometimes occurs. If you are sensing constant irritation with a partner, without concrete instances to which to point, examine how each of you approaches a specific situation. Is one you a tortoise and one a hare?

Dr. Nathaniel Branden in The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, states, “Biologists have discovered that every person possesses an inherent biological rhythm, determined genetically and only slightly modifiable within the first two or three years of life, almost never thereafter. Biological rhythm shows up in speech patterns, body movements, emotional responses, and is part of what we often call “temperament.” Closely related to the foregoing is the fact that some people are naturally and inherently more energetic than others, physically and/or emotionally and /or intellectually: they move, feel, think faster or slower; they react faster or slower; they seem to experience different relationships to time.

Sometimes two people find a subtle, often mysteriously continuing friction between them. They cannot explain it. They feel strangely “out of sync” with each other. They often feel irritated and have difficulty accounting for their feelings. In such cases, the barrier to their successful relationship may well be incompatible differences in biological rhythm and inherent energy level.

The person who is naturally faster feels chronically impatient; the person who is naturally slower feels chronically pressured. Often, the faster of the two responds by becoming faster and the slower becomes even slower. Each tries to force the other to accommodate to his or her natural state, unaware that what is being demanded is more or less impossible. Not understanding this phenomenon, they will commonly invent reasons to explain their quarrels and disagreements; they will look for faults in each other; and when they break apart they will explain the break in terms of those alleged faults. They will remain unaware of the deeper reasons for their incompatibility.

The happy side of this equation is when the partners do feel in sync. There is a marvelous kind of resonance between them as if they are moving to the same silent music."

This rhythm of which Branden speaks is also apparent at the inception of a relationship -- starting at the very first meeting. Relationships often take off or die depending on the momentum. Even if there are mutual feelings of "like", if there are long periods in between meetings, these feelings never get a chance to take hold. If you find someone with whom you really connect, you might try to keep the contact going until real feelings get a chance to take root. If this is not accomplished, you could be faced with the 'out of sight/out of mind syndrome.' Then each time you see each other, those good feelings need to be recreated instead of just being built upon established feelings. And, as a rule, it's usually easier to continue then to start fresh.

Next up ... Will Being In A Relationship Solve All My Problems?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Complete Me or Complement Me?

When searching for a new relationship, you want to find someone who complements you rather than feeling incomplete if this person is not in your life.

There should be a happy medium or a balance of similarities and differences. You don’t want to find a clone of yourself because that would be boring and might lull both partners into complacency for want of mutual challenges of the mind and spirit. What you really want is enough similarities to feel comfortable tempered with enough differences that complement each other. It should be like a puzzle that fits together with ease.

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why if Sometimes Dies, Dr. Nathaniel Branden states,“When a man and woman experience differences as complementary, they experience them as stimulating, challenging, exciting – a dynamic force that enhances feelings of aliveness, expansion and growth.

For the successful intimacy inherent in romantic love, a man and a woman must experience their differences as mutually enriching, as capable of drawing out untapped potentials in each other, so that their encounter is an adventure in expanded consciousness and expanded aliveness.

Differences can be complementary and can contribute to the success of a relationship only when the traits of each individual are valuable and desirable. Values and disvalues are not complementary (i.e. It would be difficult to have a passionate love affair between a person with high self esteem and low self esteem; or one highly intelligent and one aggressively stupid). One way to gain deeper insight into a love relationship is to ask: What parts of myself does my lover bring me into fresh contact with? How do I experience myself in this relationship? What feels most alive within me in the presence of this person?”

Sometimes opposite attract and, at the beginning of a relationship, you might mistakenly believe these differences are complementary. The best advice is take it slow because over enough time the truth will come to light. Being with your opposite might be exciting, but, in the long run, it makes for a difficult living situation.

Next up ... The Rhythm and Energy of Relationships

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Relationship Basics: It Feels Like Home

When we find someone who seems to be on the same page as us, communication seems to flow more easily. You don’t have to explain yourself because that person just “knows.” They are coming from the same place. You have a similar vision of the world. This is an intrinsic part of the often talked about chemistry.

In The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, Dr. Nathaniel Branden states, “When we encounter a person who thinks as we do, who notices what we notice, who values the things we value, who tends to respond to different situations as we do, not only do we experience a strong sense of affinity with such a person but also we can experience our self through our perception of that person. All the forms of interaction and communication among people — spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical -- combine to give us the perceptual evidence of our visibility in one respect or another."

"A friend, says Aristotle, is another self. This is precisely what lovers experience to the most intense degree. In loving you, I encounter myself. A lover, ideally reacts to us as, in effect, how we would react to our self in the person of another. Thus, we perceive our self through our lover’s reaction.”

It’s this inherent knowing – the same sense of life – that seems to make us feel comfortable right away with one person and not another.

Branden says, “At its core, romantic love entails a profound and shared sense of life. A sense of life is the emotional form in which we experience our deepest view of existence and our relationship to existence. It is, in effect, the emotional corollary of a personal metaphysics reflecting the subconsciously held sum of our broadest and deepest attitudes and conclusions concerning the world, life and ourselves. ... (We feel connected to another) when we ... sense how (an) individual experiences him or herself, the joyfulness, or fearfulness, or defensiveness of his or her approach to life. We sense the level of excitement or the level of deadness and our body and emotions respond faster than thought can take shape in words."

Friendship, like love, flourishes with the shared sense of life about which Branden speaks. At the foundation of all good romantic relationships, I believe you will find a rock solid friendship. Here are some of my thoughts.

A Friend First and Always

To me every relationship is built on friendship,
so I want to like you before I love you.

You find that people are so accommodating to their friends
... they go out of their way so not to annoy them
... they want to spend time with them
... they confide in them
... they share good news and bad news
... they can be themselves without any pretenses

You are my best friend, and I can be all those things with you.
Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, whatever decisions I am making --
I always paint you into the landscape of my life.

We are linked together through our common goals and we strive to reach the finish line together, rather than with one of us winning and one of us losing.

Our friendship has grown into a magnificent love affair built on
mutual respect, caring and a similar vision of the world.

I value you as a person, as well as love you as and partner, and together we must nurture our relationship and always remember to see the positive aspects of the other.

Next up ... Complete Me or Complement Me?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Understanding The "New You"

Dr. Branden, in the The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, talks a lot about visibility – the ability to understand (perceive) another person for whom he/she truly is and for them, in turn, to understand you.

Sometimes we hold a false self perception – that is we do not see ourselves clearly and as others do. We may have changed or grown, and our vision of self has not caught up with our outward behavior. When we see ourselves reflected in another’s eye (and this is reinforced by many viewers), this can allow us to take pause and evaluate our feelings about who we are in this moment. Merging the old pictures and the new pictures we hold of ourselves gives us a better understanding of our "new single self."

Dr. Branden states, “Our psychology is expressed through behavior through the things we say and do, and through the way we say and do them. It is in this sense that our self is an object of perception to others. When others react to us, to their view of us and of our behavior, their perception is in turn expressed through their behavior, by the way they look at us, by the way they speak to us, by the way they respond and so forth. If their view of us is consonant with our deepest vision of who we are (which may be different from whom we profess to be), and if their view is transmitted by their behavior, we feel perceived, we feel psychologically visible. We experience a sense of the objectivity of our self and of our psychological state of being. We perceive the reflection of our self in their behavior. It is in this sense that others can be a psychological mirror."

Some individuals may erect a façade when meeting new people. For a variety of reasons, they are unwilling to reveal their true selves. So what happens? They come together with a false knowing of each other and when the true self eventually emerges (and it always does!) problems and questions arise, such as "Who is this person with whom I’m involved, for I really don’t know him or her."

It is a necessary risk (but holds a high reward) to reveal yourself – to let your true self be known. As much as we might long to be "seen" by a partner, we cannot expect to be understood if we present a false self to the world. Branden says, "When two human beings encounter each other, the willingness and ability of each person genuinely to see the other determines, at the most fundamental level, the degree to which each will experience visibility."

Love requires visibility, and, as Branden states, "Our desire for love from others in inseparable from our desire for visibility. If someone professed to love us but when in talking about what he or she found lovable named characteristics we did not think we possessed, did not especially admire, and could not personally relate to, we would hardly feel nourished or loved. We do not wish to be loved blindly; we wish to be loved for specific reasons. And if another professes to love us for reasons that do not bear any relation to our self perception or values or standards, we do not feel gratified, we do not even feel really loved, because we do not feel visible; we do not feel that the other person is responding to us. To feel understood is the essence of visibility. It is not unconditional and unseeing support that we need, but consciousness, perception and understanding. ... Visibility does not necessarily entail love. But “love” devoid of visibility is delusion. ... We want others to see us as we actually are – even to help us to see it more clearly – but not to invent us out of their own fantasies.”

For all these reasons and more, it is important to spend time by yourself after the loss of a partner from death, divorce or break-up. Your life experiences have made it virtually impossible for you not to be a changed person. Through deep introspection, you need to figure out this new person you have become. Unless you take the time to do that, you will remain confused about why a prospective partner might love you, for you are not able to recognize the new you.

Next up ... How To Tell When Love Feels Right

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Creating Boundary Spaces

You hear people talk about the concept of boundary space – that a relationship works well if two individuals come together and there always remains some space in between those two personas.

I think it is important for a person to spend time alone to discover him/herself before embarking on a relationship. Introspection and a time of stillness to look deep within your soul allows one to learn to listen to his/her own inner voice – a voice that never lies to you.

You also must be comfortable being with yourself before you can be comfortable with another. And once you discover who you are as an individual, it is necessary to not lose yourself in a relationship. It is that strength -- the ability to be complete and whole by yourself -- which makes you attractive to another. Don’t think you have to give up yourself to be with another.

Dr Nathaniel Branden, in The Psychology of Romantic Love, What Love Is, Why Love Is Born, Why It Sometimes Grows, Why It Sometimes Dies, states

“To be alive is an individual. To be an individual who is conscious is to experience a unique perspective on the world, at least in some respects. To be an individual who is not only conscious but self conscious is to encounter, if only for brief moments, if only in privacy of one’s own mind, the unalterable fact of one’s aloneness.

Aloneness entails self responsibility. No one can think for us, no one can feel for us, no one can live our life for us, and no one can give meaning to our existence except ourselves. To most people; this fact is terrifying. We are all parts of one universe, but within that universe we are each of us a single point of consciousness, a unique event, a private, unrepeatable world. If we do not understand this, we cannot understand some of our most enrapturing experiences of union and fusion. We cannot understand those extraordinary moments of serenity and bliss when we feel ourselves to be one with all that exists. And we cannot understand the ecstasy of romantic love.

The tragic irony of people’s lives is that the very attempt to deny aloneness results in denying love. Without an “I” who loves, what is the meaning of love? First, a self—then, a possibility: the exquisite joy of one self encountering another.”

My take on creating boundary spaces ....

Precious Moments

You are the person with whom I want to spend the most amount of time.
When I am with you, I feel joyful inside.

It doesn't matter what we are doing.
It could be as simple as running errands, and you bring out the best in me.
When I'm with you, and even when I am not,
I strive to be a person of whom you would be proud.

I also understand that there must be spaces in our union.
I never want to smother you with my love and attention, and,
in fact, I want to do just the opposite.

My love should complement you --
set you free and allow you to soar to greater heights.

I will be there to applaud your self-confidence, self-reliance,
and all your accomplishments.

Please know I am your greatest fan!

Next up ... Being Able To See Ourselves