Beliefnet
Make Your Relationship Work

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Since I’m paid to give people advice on the Internet, I take some time out of my day on a regular basis to wander around and read relationship advice elsewhere in this great digital infodump of ours.  And I find some truly great, informative information.

I also find some really, really bad ideas, often from websites that look like they’re from 1996.

Crying

I’m not a guy from the “crying is blackmail” school of thought when it comes to relationships: if your feelings are hurt, your feelings are hurt.  The problem is, and we’ve all met them, there are people who open the waterworks whenever something isn’t going their way or there’s a conversation they don’t want to have.  Because that solves everything, not having a difficult conversation!

To me, I find this idea problematic because honestly, not talking about a problem doesn’t make it go away.  If it did, we’d have nothing but fluffy bunnies and surfing squirrels on the news.  I’ve known a few criers in my time, and honestly, their relationships have ultimately not ended well because, well, you can’t talk to them about anything difficult, and in any relationship, difficult questions are going to come up.

Passive Aggression

“That’s fine.  Whatever.”  Three words any adult dreads hearing from whoever they’re dating.

Being passive aggressive has two major drawbacks.  First of all, when you’re not saying what you want and how you feel to who you’re with, odds are pretty good they’ll miss the hidden “NOT!” at the end of every sentence.  “Oh, sure, you can go drink beer with your friends if that’s what you want to do.”  “Great, thanks, see you later!”  “No, wait, I meant-!”

Secondly, it’s just begging to start a fight over something stupid.  I’ve seen this far, far too often; one person says something passive aggressive, and the second person chooses to either be passive aggressive right back or blows up at the other person for being passive aggressive.  It’s a fun argument to be trapped by when your roommate and her boyfriend are having it in front of the bathroom.

Clinging

I have literally come across websites that state “never let your boyfriend out of your sight.”  How?  He’s got to pee sometime.

In all seriousness, clinging is a bad idea and not just because it will annoy whoever you’re with into dumping you.  It’s a bad idea because it’s emotionally exhausting.

I’ve never gotten men or women who have to be in constant contact with their squeeze.  Sure, checking in on Facebook once or twice a day, maybe a phone call, but constantly?  How do you have time for anything else?  Don’t you have a job?  Friends?  The interest in seeing a movie once in a while?

And, of course, it can also turn into paranoia: “why hasn’t he/she called me back?”

In short, it’s too exhausting to be worth it.  Although I suppose some people have limitless energy in this regard.

giulia-bertelli-99776-unsplashThis question showed up in my inbox the other day: Why do men cheat? This is not the first time I’ve gotten this question. It’s not even the tenth time. I’ve probably gotten the question more than twenty times in the last four years, but I never had a good answer for it until now.

Before we get to that, let’s be clear about one thing: The real question isn’t why men cheat, but why anyone cheats. Though figures vary among the numerous studies, almost all researchers confirm that the percentage of women who stray from committed relationships is growing ever closer to the percentage of men who cheat. So let’s be fair and put the question like this:

Why do people cheat?

The brainy folk over at Psychology Today claim to know the answer. Here’s an abridged version of their article.

Lack of sexual satisfaction. The most common reason cited by individuals in the study. Both women and men who have affairs are hoping to improve their sex lives. They may love and enjoy their partners in other ways, but the sex is inadequate in quality and/or quantity.

Lack of emotional satisfaction. Seeking emotional intimacy can be nearly as compelling a reason to have an affair as seeking physical intimacy. Participants who stated the need for emotional closeness in an affair felt they were lacking this connection to their primary partners.

Desire for more sexual encounters. This was a relatively infrequent reason cited by cheaters in the study, perhaps because it is not a very socially desirable wish to articulate. One man who admitted it said he felt he needed more sex as a reward for performing well at his job.

Need for emotional validation. Being appreciated is a key factor in the emotional connection that partners feel toward each other. Partners may grow apart and, as they do, fail to acknowledge the needs that both have in their relationship. Some will seek to meet those needs elsewhere.

Falling out of love with your partner. This was a relatively insignificant reason in the study, perhaps because “love” is so difficult to define. In the grand scheme of things, having sexual and emotional intimacy seems to trump love.

Falling in love with someone new. Though another infrequent response in the study, some people did claim that falling in love with another person was the cause of their infidelity.

Revenge. In a relationship that is already suffering, the desire to hurt a partner who is (or is perceived as) cheating seems to raise the stakes significantly from mere lack of intimacy.

Curiosity. People who cited this reason felt that they wanted something new, but this motivation seemed to go beyond curiosity and into a need to measure their sexual prowess.

Does this list seem complete to you? Can you think of other reasons why someone might cheat on his or her partner? Let’s hear them.

It’s no secret that the key to successfully dating (assuming success means ending up in an actual relationship) is finding that person who matches phuoc-le-330455-unsplashwhatever intangibles that you’re looking for in a mate. For some people it’s financial stability, for others its loyalty. Point is, everybody’s looking for something.

Well, amid the roughly 3 million relationship conversations that I’ve had, I’ve come to one very simple conclusion about what we’re looking for: Men are looking for exceptional women, and women are looking for accessible men.

Common sense really could solve 90 percent of the world’s problems, I swear.

Let’s start with the menfolks. Men are not wowed by degrees, how many houses you have, or how many power deals you’ve brokered. That’s great and all but it doesn’t necessarily make us want to introduce you to our mothers. It is impressive though. Keep that up. We’re all looking for a woman who has that special something that makes us not want to be away from you. Something…magical.

Most of us can’t really describe it you just know it when we feel it. We feel like we’ve got the one snowflake that stands head and shoulders above the rest. The “exceptional” woman that induces us to tell all of our friends and family members that this one’s “different.” From what? Who knows, but she is. And it has nothing to do with her degrees or her accomplishments, its solely about her and that something about her that draws us in and makes us think we’re special because we found the special one. The exceptional woman.

Women on the other hand will likely live without an exceptional man by woman standards. What are woman standards? Glad you asked. In general woman standards tend to be resume driven and focused. His financial stability and security. His loyalty and devotion to a cause. Basically the sum total of a man’s goals in life. His substance. Women will tend to sacrifice a lot of that as long as the man she’s dealing with is accessible.

What do I mean by that? Well, as long as he’s able to love her in a way she wants, and is open and honest and communicates with her when necessary and makes her feel like she matters, she’ll never leave. Of course sexual intimacy and bedroom accessibility matters here too. Not sex just for sex sake, but actual love. In a nutshell, women need to be able to have access to man’s vulnerable and human side and be made to feel like he feels like she’s the only woman who matters. Emotional accessiblity.

Again, common sense.

Men want a woman who stands above all others and women want a man to make her feel like she stands above all others. It should be simple math. But because we’re people we suck and play games.

What’s the solution? No clue. I’m like a consultant. I’ll tell you what the issue is and you get to solve it.

But I’m pretty sure it all starts with a hug.

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I get a lot of questions about what guys say versus what they really mean.  So I thought I’d take a moment to answer them, all of them, because, simply, it doesn’t matter what he “really” means.  What matters is what he’s saying to you.

Simply put, if somebody you’re in a relationship says something to you, you generally need to take it at face value.  Why?

Because life’s too short to do otherwise.

Let’s start with what this question usually centers around: it’s less about what he “really means” and more about “please tell me I’m not hearing this correctly”.  Sorry, but you probably are.  It’s an understandable reflex; everybody’s had that moment where they hear something nasty or heartbreaking or just awful and they can’t quite believe it.  That was a mistake, right?  You didn’t say what I thought you said.

Unfortunately, denial isn’t a useful tactic (really, it’s never a useful tactic, but that’s another post).  You need to deal with what’s going on in your relationship, instead of worrying about something else that might be happening only in your head.

This isn’t to say men aren’t capable of playing emotional games: everybody is capable of playing emotional games.  Despite the stereotype, if we know anybody well enough, we’re more than capable of pushing each other’s buttons.  But emotional games suck, and the only way to “win” them is not to play them.

Say he meant something else by whatever he said…so what?  You still need to take it at face value.  Communication is the foundation of any relationship: if you can’t communicate, you don’t have a relationship.  So trying to deliberately confuse things by telling a person one thing while meaning another is a crappy thing to do.

One way or the other, the gameplayer needs to learn that, and the best way to do it is to refuse to play.  If a guy tells you something awful like “I don’t love you anymore”, it doesn’t matter if he thinks he still loves you.  He doesn’t, or he wouldn’t be pulling a stunt like this.

So, in the end, whether he really means what he’s saying, or he doesn’t, take what he’s saying at face value.  In the end, what else can you do?