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Relationship advice: Explore interests together and apart

When it comes to love, some of us never stop wondering.

If we're not in a relationship, we wonder when/where/how we will find the "right" partner. If we're in a relationship, we wonder whether we're with the "right" partner. And if we decide we are, then we wonder how we might help our perfect partner to be even better.

Why can't we just sit back and enjoy life with our beloved?

Especially for women, falling in love can often come with a tendency to see our partner as we want them to be, rather than as they actually are.

Humorist Dave Barry says it well: A woman wants her man to change, yet he stays the same. But a man wants his woman to stay the same, yet she changes.

Either way, somebody is bound to be disappointed.

Find mutual interests

In the real world, individuals and relationships all change as time goes by. Change can drive couples apart — and it can also bring them together. In healthy relationships, partners accept and celebrate the natural impulse to change and grow.

These changes can be big — or quite small. What if you decide, for instance, that you want to take up ballroom dancing, but your partner won't even watch Dancing With the Stars on TV with you? Or one of you has a yen to go deep-sea fishing, and the other couldn't possibly think of anything less appealing?

Rather than seeing the disagreement as one more piece of evidence that the two of you just don't get along, take a step back. Think about how else you can satisfy your interest. What is it that you want to experience with your partner?

Maybe the real issue isn't dancing or fishing. Maybe what you really want is to rekindle some passion and intimacy. Or maybe you are just looking for something fun and active to do together.

Whatever it is, tell your partner, and work together to find options that work for you both. Taking a cooking class together or pulling the bicycles out for a spin might satisfy what you want, while respecting your partner's wishes, too.

These kinds of subtle tweaks support the natural changes that occur while getting us more focused on what we really want — and why we want it.

And do your own thing

On the other hand, you may discover that what you really want is to learn ballroom dancing. Or deep-sea fishing.

Then do it — on your own.

You may find that satisfying your own interests is a far more effective way of keeping your relationship fresh than always cajoling a reluctant partner.

Striking out on your own from time to time is not about being self-absorbed, and it's not about being disloyal to your relationship.

It is about being self-responsible and self-caring as we identify what fulfills us.

Think of it this way: Why should your partner treat you better than you treat yourself?

Making another person responsible for our thoughts, feelings and behaviors is just a setup for dependency and disappointment. How many people do you know who neglect their own needs, yet get angry when others don't act as they want?

Sounds illogical, but it's depressingly common.

If you recognize yourself in that description, try taking an inventory of all of the ways you treat yourself with love and respect. For example, do you provide yourself with healthy, nutritious and delicious foods? Do you keep your body as strong and flexible as you can? Do you cultivate talents and have activities that bring you pleasure without negative consequences? Are you able to experience joy and humor in life?

Find anything missing? Look for ways to fill the gaps in your relationship with yourself. Give the same support and nurturing to yourself that you would give your best friend. Use an honest and compassionate approach with yourself as you develop one of the most important relationships — the relationship with yourself.

Lori Kleinman, Ph.D., founder of the LiVIBRANCE Wellness Model, is a licensed psychologist and music therapist who provides public speaking, classes, workshops and counseling. Reach her at www.livibrance.com or (727) 824-0909.

Resources

for a healthy self

Getting the Love You Want

by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.

You Just Don't Understand

by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.

A Couples Guide to Communication

by John Gottman, Ph.D.

If the Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm, Ph.D.

How to Be Your Own Best Friend

by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz

Relationship advice: Explore interests together and apart 02/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 3:30am]
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