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5 Fears that can kill a relationship

by Jamie Beckman


Are you letting one of these things ruin your relationship?


Relationship worries, like the five below, are often symptoms of a fear of abandonment, which manifests in different ways. You might even be subconsciously reacting to something that happened years ago. Read on to see if any of these fears sound familiar — and how you can stop random freak-outs in their tracks:


“Thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies,” says Michelle Skeen, PsyD, author of Love Me, Don’t Leave Me: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships. “When you let your fears and worries get out of control, you regularly communicate those messages, and they become toxic to your relationships.”


1. “He’s going to leave me.”


If you’re constantly fretting that he’ll split without warning, that fear can rear its ugly head via “chronic anxiety about the closeness and distance in the relationship,” says intimacy expert Sheri Meyers, PsyD, author of Chatting or Cheating: How To Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship. More specifically, you’re “hypersensitive and reactive to [your] partner’s need for space.” For example: He innocently wants to spend some time with the guys on a Friday night, and you worry he’s pulling away.


“This fear can have you avoiding relationships altogether, clinging to the other person as if your life depended on them, pushing the other person away or the classic ‘push/pull’ — alternating clinging with rejecting behavior,” Skeen says.


2. “We’re getting too close.”


A fear of being vulnerable can cause you to keep your guy at an arm’s length. “You stay so busy, distracted, unavailable, preoccupied by all the to-dos, that there is very little quality time left over for closeness and connection with your partner,” Meyers says.


The issue goes deeper too. You might subconsciously think that you, at your core, are defective: AKA, “If I get too close, he/she will see me for who I really am and he/she will leave me,” Skeen says. “Another way to look at this is the belief that you won’t get what you need emotionally from the other person. This can get triggered as you get closer to someone.”


3. “He’s cheating.”


He tells you he’s going on a work trip; you immediately assume he’s got a side piece in Chicago. He comes home from the office late; you’re certain he’s been sidling up to the cute administrative assistant. It’s exhausting for you… and for him. “If this is a frequent thought with anyone you date, even if they have given you no reason to believe that they would cheat on you, then you probably have a mistrust/abuse core belief,” Skeen says.


4. “I’m not good enough for him.”


A continuous loop feeds through your head: “I’m not pretty enough, sexy enough, smart enough, organized enough…” Because you feel like a failure, you find yourself “needing your partner to continually validate your worth in order to feel good,” says Meyers, and that puts stress on your relationship.


5. “He’s not good enough for me.”


He can’t do anything right, whether it’s foreplay before sex or loading the dishwasher. “It is a sabotaging thought that is often a defense against your own feelings of defectiveness or failure,” Skeen says. “In this situation, you react by rejecting before you can be rejected. You leave before you can be left.” Signaling “chronic disapproval to motivate change” in your partner isn’t productive, Meyers says. Instead, it shows up as complaining and blaming.


What you can do to silence your fears:


If you recognize any of the above thoughts, that’s the first step to change, Skeen says. Simply be aware that you’re feeling this way, and then you can mentally wriggle your way out of that negative place.


“Stop yourself and bring yourself to the present moment,” Skeen says. “As soon as you have that thought and feeling, you are immediately transported back to a past experience that has you viewing the present through a distorted lens. Don’t react immediately. Allow yourself time to get control over your thoughts and feelings… Once that emotional storm has passed, and you can recognize that this is a present-day situation that has nothing to do with your past, then you can respond in a way that is helpful — not harmful — to your current relationship.”


Further, put in work to create a secure, intimate and loving relationship with yourself, Meyers says, and that will best set you up to give and receive love from other people.


“Name three very specific actions that facilitate a feeling of safety, trust and love. For example: ‘I need more loving attention, appreciation and affection in my life.’ Great. Do it! Give yourself a megadose of the three A’s daily… By understanding ourselves and becoming emotionally responsive to our needs, our fears diminish, and our ability to give and receive love grows.”


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Fighting with your BF using an app — Is there actually something to it?

by Zlata Faerman


The role apps play in your relationship


Think about a relatively important conversation you recently had with your significant other in person. You were able to hear their voice and tone, feel the emotion behind their words, and maybe even connect through touch.


Arguably, these are the most important elements for interpersonal communication. Abby Aguilera, dubbed The Relationship Guru, says that research shows only seven percent of the words we say makes up a conversation, 38 percent is the tone of voice and other vocal elements like pauses, giggles, changes to our voice, etc., and the remaining 55 percent is all about body language. This tells us that while we may be effectively communicating over tex, body language — the chunk that makes up most of a conversation — is missing.


But in a recent survey released by Durex, nearly 50 percent of people said they feel more confident communicating with their partners through phones. Innately, we know that face-to-face communication is best, but when (or how?!) would an app be helpful?




This app claims to help you be truly heard by your partner. The iPhone and Android app creates a safe and effective place for the two of you to have important conversations that are needed to grow relationships.


Through a structured communication environment, CouplesCom prevents those difficult conversations from spiraling out of control, all while creating a safe and comfortable environment for both parties to be able to express and be heard.


If, as the aforementioned study shows, people feel more confident communicating digitally, could this app be the solution to their problems? Jay Cadet is a relationship coach based in New York who believes the CouplesCom app is “great because it actually guides you through healthy communication techniques like mirroring, validation and making clear and specific requests from a partner to meet their needs. This app walks you through the process step by step.” All that said, CouplesCom can be a great stepping stone for a couple to build strong face-to-face communication, but not as a replacement.


Psychologist Michelle Skeen is another fan of the app, since it includes three key communication skills she also highlights in her book Love Me Don’t Leave Me: active listening, validation and empathy. She likes that a user can formulate a request from their partner and prompt them to give positive reinforcement when the partner has completed the request. “Genius!” she says. “While this may offend my fellow therapists, I think this app is preferable to sitting in a therapist’s office and practicing communication skills in front of a third party, and it’s much easier on the wallet.”


Mary Jo Fay, “the Voice of Dating, Mating and Relating,” likes the app if couples were to use it at the time of an argument, particularly while you’re sitting next to each other so that you get the body language at the same time.

Conversely, Dawn Reid, owner of Reid Ready Coaching and a doctoral candidate, thinks that while CouplesCom is an interesting tool and template for communicating messages, it still cannot address emotional context and nonverbal cues. “It does not convey voice inflection, facial expression and body language, which are all strong components of communication that’s lost in any text or email message, regardless of how neutral and assistive apps may be.”


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Does ‘Satisfaction’ predict the future of relationships?

by Jamie Beckman


Modern concerns are new and now


Modern life means modern relationship problems. In USA Network’s new original drama series Satisfaction, a couple at their marriage’s midpoint is wrestling with issues many American couples face: work stress, the monotony of suburban life, and what happens when having it all is not enough. We talked with a relationship expert about how these sticking points can affect relationships — especially in our post-modern world.


It’s been more than 50 years since Richard Yates wrote Revolutionary Road, but suburban discontent — with its sexual monotony, work/commute stress and general malaise as a result of conformity — is rearing its head again. Could this be the future of relationships? And could an unconventional sex life be part of the solution?


Modern relationships and stress


In our economy, it’s getting harder and harder to get by just by putting in a nine-to-five workday, not to mention the added pressure and financial responsibility of raising a child. The impact of stress on a relationship can be far-reaching, especially in 2014, says Michelle Skeen, PsyD, author of Love Me, Don’t Leave Me.


“Part of the problem is we don’t get a chance to shut down anymore, and that’s what’s changed,” Skeen says. “Everyone’s expected to be available, and everyone has some type of smartphone device — they can reach you by text or email or Facebook — and there’s an expectation that you should respond quickly. One of the ways that stress manifests is that the sex goes away. If you’re overstressed, you’re more than likely tired and distracted.”


How to fix that, Skeen says, involves more scheduling — but this is the kind of meeting you’ll want to block off. “Sex dates actually do work,” Skeen says, suggesting perhaps a lazy Sunday morning or regular Tuesday night takeout-and-sex-in-bed dinner. “Even if it’s not anything great — it doesn’t involve lingerie or rose petals on the bed — integrate it into your schedule, even if you don’t feel like it. Afterward, if you recognize what’s happening hormonally, there’s a great release of oxytocin, which is the chemical which creates bonding.”


Another way couples can connect when they’re not beneath the sheets is coming up with their very own decompressing activity after the partner with high stress arrives home, Skeen says. It could be as simple as a walk to talk over the day’s events or a sweat session at the gym. No matter what, you’ll be doing it together and reintegrating your partner into your busy routine.


Money causes problems, even when you have it


Even without most Americans’ fear of not being able to put food on the table or going broke, couples who are financially solvent can also face troubles, especially if one partner isn’t working as much as the other, says Skeen. Money isn’t the magic bullet that fixes everything; in fact, it can be quite the opposite.


“I see a lot of couples who have lost sight of their relationship and are disconnected because it’s easy to hire people to do things,” Skeen says. “You’re not in the garden, you’re not cooking together, or you have a food delivery service.”


To keep your relationship in the sight lines, “I think it’s really important to reconnect with your values,” Skeen says. “What are your values as a couple, and if you have children, what are you communicating to them verbally and nonverbally about what you’re doing? I’ve seen people who want their kids to be really comfortable, and as soon as they get their driver’s license they get a new car — they never experience the life their parents had as they were building their financial nest egg.”


Infidelity and open relationships


Could going elsewhere for one’s sexual needs, while technically still loving your spouse, be an effective solution for boredom with the same-old, same-old? Maybe.


“Everyone is really interested in [the concept of open relationships], it’s kind of a crazy idea, and there’s some kind of fascination, but I think very few people are actually wired in such a way that they can do this without being jealous,” Skeen says. “Monogamy is different for everyone. For some people, if you’re even flirting with someone, you’re betraying them, or if you’re a guy and you’re talking to a woman about your feelings, that’s a betrayal. Now it’s so easy — with email and texting and Twitter, there are all sorts of ways to find people and flirt with people and engage in inappropriate behavior. You need to sit down and state what matters for you — what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. A lot of times, after you get married, the spouse can be surprised by how things have changed — you feel a little bit like they’re your property. The best idea is to be really clear what works and what doesn’t, and set up this contract in such a way that no one is being violated.”


With traditional infidelity (rather than an agreed-upon contract), though, emotions and blame usually run high. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the relationship’s death knell.


“I actually feel really strongly that couples can pull through infidelity and come out stronger. Some can go through difficult times and have a bigger picture of the situation. A couple of decades ago, I’d have said absolutely no, it’s a deal-breaker. But I think people make mistakes, just like people make financial mistakes, but that’s only one thing they’ve done. You still have all these other aspects of them and the relationship.”


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