Friday, April 1, 2011

Sex and Money

You have probably heard many times that sex and money are the top two issues about which couples fight. However, since there are only two core emotions in the universe (love and fear) and all other emotions stem from these two, it seems likely that at the root of sexual and financial issues is fear.

In regard to sex, partners may harbor a fear of rejection; of not being confident in their physical appearance; of true intimacy; of aging issues; of physical limitations and on and on. This fear may manifest by pushing your partner away, even though what you long for is to be close. (As an aside, did you ever say to your partner, "Not tonight, honey. I have a headache." It turns out that sex is one of the best remedies for a headache. As it pulls the blood towards "other" body parts, the pounding in your head soon subsides!)

Money issues also stir up a lot of fear. For example, if one person is a spender and the other a saver, the former may feel the need to satisfy urges in the moment, while the latter is afraid of not having enough funds to last a lifetime. Looking beyond the issue, the spender may be a fatalist who feels his/her days are numbered and fully enjoying the present helps to assuage that fear. A saver may have had a poverty consciousness ingrained in his/her head as a child, and, therefore, is very afraid of not having more than enough of a financial cushion. So each partner comes to financial discussions with his/her own fears and the conflict about money is really not about money at all.

So underneath the excuses for conflict, if relationship issues are really about fear -- what else stirs up the pot in the relationship arena?

Here are three big issues.
1. Taking a relationship for granted.
2. Actions misunderstood and underappreciated.
3. Allowing conflict/arguments to spiral out of control.

Let's discuss how to avoid these pitfalls.

Taking A Relationship For Granted
We all have busy lives, and it is very easy to become overwhelmed by one's responsibilities and slip into mindless routines to get the job done. One of the fastest ways to douse the flames of love is to accomplish your tasks by putting your relationship last on your "to do" list. Love needs to be nourished and partners need to be reminded as to why they fell in love and with whom they fell in love.

One suggestion is make a date night. You don't have to even leave the house! Make a special dinner, watch a movie, cuddle up and talk. The point is to give your undivided and uninterrupted attention to your partner. Here's a simple date night in which my late husband and I participated. On Fridays, he left work a little early and we went out for an early dinner. On the way home, we would do our weekly food shopping. We would stroll down the aisles, hand-in-hand, and decide and plan the menus for the following week. We would stop for dessert at the bakery and sit for a few moments and connect. Remember ... it doesn't matter the activity; the important thing is that you and your partner are doing something TOGETHER! 

Actions Misunderstood and Feeling Underappreciated
Most are familiar with the Golden Rule, which states "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." In essence, you should treat others the way you want to be treated. In relationships, I believe you should take this one step further and also institute the Platinum Rule. This rule states that you should take into consideration what your partner truly wants and provide it for him/her, instead of simply giving what would make you happy or what you "assume" would make him/her happy. 

Here's an example. Suppose you are the type of person who likes to be left alone when you are sick, which means burrowing into your cave by not talking to anyone, not being pampered, etc., while your partner is the ultimate caregiver. So, even though out of love and concern, the caretaker wants to bring the partner chicken soup, fluff the pillows, etc, he/she must respect the other's need to be left alone. That is doing what the partner wants/needs rather than satisfying his/her own innate need to give comfort. 

The bottom line? If you want to be understood, clearly state what you want and need and don't ASS-U-ME (because you know what that means!) your partner has that information. No one is a mind reader. If you want to be appreciated, help your partner in a way he/she finds most comfortable and not the way you want to show your love. Moreover, remember to use your manners with your family members. Being polite and saying please and thank you goes a very long way towards making one feel special.

Allowing Conflict/Arguments To Spiral Out of Control
All couples have conflict. It's a natural consequence of living intimately with another person. If you are exactly the same as your partner, one of you would be unnecessary! Consequently, conflict isn't the problem -- how we handle it, though, can create a multitude of issues.

It's always good to cool off before speaking to your partner about an issue. Ask to set aside a time when you can discuss. In this way, you don't ambush your partner by putting him/her on the defensive by stating those ominous words, "We have to talk."

Words said in the heat of the moment tend to be harsh and blame rather than look for solutions. Search for ways that you and your partner can both be right or, at a minimum, agree to disagree. If you are wrong or can rethink your position after listening to your partner's side of the story, don't be afraid to admit you made a mistake; that shows great character. Finish your discussion with good feelings about each other's ability to work out conflict and forge compromises.

In conclusion, when issues arise in a relationship, I suggest to look below the surface to discover the "real" issue and what fear is being ignited within you by a particular set of circumstances. Find ways to quiet the fear and conflicts can be resolved in a peaceful, healthy and successful manner.

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