When Our Sex is Bad

How to tell him he's lousy in bed?

How to tell him he’s lousy in bed?

We all know that deep love and intimacy seal the deal when it comes to longevity and commitment in a relationship. We also know that relationships suffer from a number of negative issues including poor communication, inattention, infidelity, abuse, boredom and this list can go on. What happens, however, when the sex is really bad? Many individuals may not mind complaining about a cheating, abusive or disloyal spouse but how many of us want to complain about bad sex? On a good day, many of us adults who do have sex behave as if we don’t and even for those of us who do, admitting that we’re having problems in this area is akin to acknowledging some type of adult failure; or so we think.

I was made very aware of this sexual disconnect among adults only too recently. While promoting my book “How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain” it was amusing to note the embarrassed stares, self-conscious giggles or incredulous glances away from the book’s title by a number of adults passing by. This of course included married couples. It was obvious that in spite of our society’s seeming openness about sex, many adults are still uncomfortable confronting their own sexuality. If some of us remain so deeply embarrassed by sex, how then do we navigate the turbulent waters of a sexual relationship where the sex is bad with a capital B? Do some of us even know what bad sex is? Are we even remotely in touch with our own sexual needs and desires? Are we informed by good sexuality education or are we still operating at the level of sexual myths and conjecture?

If we’re to specifically improve the quality of our sexual relationship and if we’re to enhance the overall quality of our relationship with our spouse, then honest communication about the state of our sex is imperative. One of the complexities of relationships is that although we can have a very loving partner who meets our needs in several ways, that individual can still be pretty lousy in the sack. When It comes down to it, however, when we’re in love and our heart is in the right place, great sex is not something we want to experience with someone else; we want to experience it with the one we have committed to. How then can we move our sex from bad to good?

1. Clarify what we want: knowing what we’re looking for in our sexual relationship is the first step on the journey towards ridding ourselves of bad sex. This means being in-tuned with our own bodies, including our sexual needs and preferences. If we’re holding residual shame and embarrassment about how our body looks, if we’ve never looked at our genitals and remain clueless about our own pleasure centres, then chances are, we’re in no position to articulate our desires. Being in-tuned sexually therefore involves acknowledging and accepting our sexuality. This can strengthen our sexual confidence and reduce the sense of trepidation which can keep us silent in the face of dissatisfaction.

2. Communicate clearly but sensitively: Acknowledging our own needs can embolden us to share what is necessary with our partner. Communication in this area should not be designed to humiliate, thereby fostering a sense of inadequacy. We want our guy to know that satisfying us is within his reach and that together, we can learn to enrich our sexual experience for the benefit of us both. If for example, the male partner is plagued with premature ejaculation, working together to overcome this challenge can enhance the quality of sex for both individuals. Communication should also seek to affirm the positive aspects of the relationship first, before zeroing in on the inadequacies. We should never seek to convey a sense of hopelessness.

3. Release Inhibitions: Sometimes our sex is bad because we’re too uptight; we haven’t learnt the fine art of surrendering to the moment. Our inhibitions and skewed expectations can keep us locked into a zone of performance-anxiety which makes our intimate time with our partner both stilted and burdensome. Understanding that our sexual success is not one-sided but demands our own participation and cooperation can be a significant step in the right direction. This can release the burden of responsibility we as women can sometimes place on our spouse to “give” us an orgasm and encourages us to “own” our sexual pleasure. A more participatory approach can add some much needed zest to our love life, opening it up to exciting experimentation, which in turn has the potential to improve its overall quality.

 

8 Signs Your Relationship May Be In Trouble

 

ang couple

Do you know when your relationship is in serious trouble?

Whether your significant relationship/marriage is new or old, chances are it has gone through its fair share of highs and lows. While the traditional notion of “falling in love” may seem a tad euphoric and short-lived, growing in love, according to scientific research, is still a very real and explainable occurrence. Which brings me to the focus of this article.

What happens when our relationships seem to have reached a growth stalemate? Do we even recognize that things have come to a screeching halt in the growth department? Are we even aware of the signals which might suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble? Do we even know what we can do to turn things around? The following list, though not exhaustive, represents some of the common warning signals which suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble.

1. You no longer relish your partner’s company. While there is nothing wrong with some alone time or a girls’ or guys’ night out, if consistently, you would rather spend time alone or with others, instead  of your partner, then this may be a signal that something is not quite right in your relationship. The reason you chose your partner, is because you preferred him or her over all others. When this preference changes, it may indicate that hidden or unresolved issues have begun to take their toll on the relationship. This may also suggest that relationship neglect has occurred which fosters a sense of distance or “tiredness” between partners.

2You negatively compare your partner to other people. Yes; you may have had a physical ideal when it came to a life-partner, or they may have been a set of personality traits which you prefer; if you  have chosen  your partner in spite of the fact that he/she may have fallen short of your ideals, then you owe it to him/her to love completely; flaws, foibles, warts and all; learn to honour your choice and don’t do your partner a disservice by constantly comparing him/her to someone else; real or imagined

3You regularly “forget” special dates like birthdays, valentines or anniversaries or treat them like regular days. Very often a seemingly convenient lapse in memory is our way of deliberately communicating several things to our partner, without actually saying. Among them is our own feeling of neglect (so we do a tit for tat), a latent underlying anger or unforgiveness over some issue, our preoccupation with someone else or a blatant loss of interest in our partner leading to a disregard of their feelings. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially for women who place great stock and sentimentality into celebrating milestones.

4. There is an absence of meaningful conversation between you and your partner. When your relationship goes silent or if the only things you ever talk about are the kids, the bills or your horrible boss at work, then this may be a sign that your communication channels may need some work. Yes; some talk is better than none at all but special couple-time should also be allocated to sharing about your relationship, your individual or couple goals, your disappointments and of course the communication of how much you love and appreciate your partner.  An absence of meaningful conversation usually means that your partner is being taken for granted.

5. You are flirtatious with others or over-step emotional or sexual boundaries. There is no greater sign of relationship neglect than treading into an area which should be exclusive to your spouse. Being sexual with someone of the opposite sex does not have to include the actual sex act. We are usually sexual long before the penis and vagina interface; so inappropriate behavior can include anything from lustful ogling or undressing with the eyes  to staring deeply into the eyes of another to communicate desire, touching, caressing, sexting, grabbing private parts, kissing, suggestive talking and  the like. Such behaviour is inherently disrespectful to the one you should be committed to.

6. You never see yourself as being at fault in any couple-disputes and so you never apologize. If you can never, ever say sorry or you think you are always right, then this points to emotional under-development and is likely to retard the progress of the relationship. This is especially so since the last time your partner checked, they were probably no perfect people around (so where exactly did you come from?)

7. There is an absence of touch or physical displays of affection. Touch is the barometer that gauges the temperature of the relationship. So the absence of hand-holding, hugs, affectionate squeezes, affirming pats on the back, kisses, playful tickles or even the biggie; sexual intimacy, spells that your relationship is likely to be in some pretty big trouble. Who wants to be close or intimate with a spouse they really can’t stand?

8. You no longer say “I love you”, ever; nor do you attempt to demonstrate love in ways that are meaningful to your partner. This needs no further explanation; love is an action not a lofty ideal which exists in the thoughts; to be felt it must be demonstrated in a love-language or preferred way that is understood and desired by our loved ones.

If your relationship is plagued by one or more of these characteristics and nothing seems to be changing, then this may indicate a need for intervention through counselling, relationship coaching, or through serious dialogue and confrontation with your partner. If you choose to work through this on your own, the emphasis should be on communicating your concerns in a firm but loving way which ultimately conveys your concern for the life and longevity of the relationship.

Are You Trapped In The Relationship Maze?

Are you trapped in a relationship maze?

Many women today, from various walks of life, are making the same complaint; they can’t find a decent guy to settle down with. Most of my single girlfriends voice the complaint, that there seems to be a shortage of good men. Not to be left out of the fray, many males by their defining behavior seem to believe that the girls should perhaps just learn to share. And therein lies the problem. One of the defining characteristics of the male has been his propensity to be fairly generous in his affections and this happens to be the one trait which most of us women find intolerable! We love generosity but not when it comes to intimacies like love and sex.

So what should a girl do? Should she settle? Relax her standards a bit? Get rid of that old, never to be fulfilled impossible list? Accept the “generosity” of her erstwhile male friend? Forget her idea of an exclusive relationship which will lead to marriage? Or should she just settle for spinsterhood? Certainly, critical questions requiring critical answers.

Like any other aspect of life, relationships and our perception of them have the power to define us. From which ever quarters we gather our information, most of us have a fair set of defined standards and I’m not here to suggest that we lay them down by the riverside. It is important that we know what we are looking for, especially in the area of a life-partner. However, having had a couple of conversations with men, I am not at all convinced that the good breed has become extinct. Somehow I believe that the lines of communication have become crossed between today’s men and women and the result has been a polarization of both species. We think we know what each others’ problems are, so we have perfected the art of accusation without pausing long enough to really listen to each other. As it stands, the guys with the really canine activity get all the attention and the really decent ones get branded with the same brush and could perhaps be overlooked time and time again.

In the war of the sexes the fight is not always fair.

Now I really believe that men and women appear to be at cross-purposes because we have easily become locked into exclusive communication styles designed to keep each other out. We have developed an adversarial “us versus them” mentality which deepens our mutual suspicions and keeps each other at arms’ length. But let’s face it, in the war of the sexes, the fight is not always fair. So then how is a girl to spot a decent guy in this crazy relationship maze we have created? More so, how can such a guy get through to a girl without having his tail whacked in a trap as it were? Have we perhaps become trapped in a complex maze of our own making, guaranteed to keep us apart?

The relationship maze speaks in fact to the walls which are built between men and women, as a consequence of our flawed perceptions and mindsets; walls of misunderstanding, distrust and generalization. If we are to surmount the relationship barriers which we have erected, we first have to recognize, understand and then hopefully circumvent them in our quest for true love. Here are a few examples to go by:

What Women Say What Men Think
  1. I’m confident, independent and capable of making my own decisions.
  2. All a man wants from a woman is sex.
  3. I’m not yet ready to take our relationship to the next level.
  4. My biological clock is ticking.
  5. I wish you would be more supportive.
  1. You don’t need a man because you have it all going on; so I’m not that important to you.
  2. You don’t plan to give up the apple without a fight.
  3. You think I just want to use you.
  4. You’re ready for a marriage proposal and I’m the lucky guy.
  5. You want me to agree with everything you say.
What Men Say What Women Think
  1. I want to spend more time with you.
  2. I can’t get you out of my mind.
  3. I want you to look out for my needs; I have feelings too.
  4. Maybe we can start an exercise routine together.
  5. I want to take care of you.
  1. You want another opportunity to jump my bones.
  2. You want to wear down my resolve with sweet, flattering words.
  3. I can’t stand a sniveling guy and I’m definitely not your mother.
  4. You think I need to lose weight.
  5. You want to control me with your money.

Of course these are just a few examples which are not exhaustive by any means and according to culture and socialization they may change. They however do bring home the point that what we hear/think, is often filtered by our past experiences, the stories we’ve been told by our friends, what we witnessed as children and even by the male-female script presented in the media. The problem with this super-script is when we allow it to become gospel and accept it as the defining parameter for all of our relationships.

There will always be men who are unscrupulous and women who are users. This tendency to look out for numero uno at all costs is just a part of human nature which is unlikely to change. If we hope, however, to find true love, then we have to be willing to give each man or woman we encounter the courtesy of a “clean slate”. So if you’re hoping to get yourself out of this maze, take some advice.

Try not to lump all male and female behavior into the same mold, no matter how tempting it is to do so. Yes we do share several traits but give your new interest the opportunity to shine. Allow a guy or a girl a chance to prove themselves. Keep the channels of communication open and don’t assume that this guy is exactly like your last. Resist the urge to channel your past pain into a new relationship prospect. This does not mean acting naively or putting aside our common sense or our intuition, but it means giving that individual a brief opportunity to prove us wrong. It means keeping hope alive and not being deliberately adversarial or negative in our expectations. Basically it means practicing grace and graciousness, while admitting our own foibles.

Navigating the relationship maze does not mean dropping our guard or lowering our expectations or standards but it does mean adopting a mature response to the exciting opportunity of meeting new people. More importantly, navigating that maze also means looking inward to ensure that we are perhaps somewhere close to the ideal, we are so steadfastly looking for in a mate.

When Your Partner is NOT Into You

I’ve just finished watching the movie ‘Marriage Chronicles’ produced by One Truth Media. It was an interesting depiction of the things which can and do go wrong in marriage relationships. The story-line surrounded three couples who were invited to a marriage retreat by a therapist with some fairly unorthodox methods. From the movie’s outset, there was however one couple that I had my doubts about. While the other couple’s problems were equally serious, what caused me to doubt whether this particular couple’s marriage could be saved, was the nature of their challenge; narcissism. Yes, the wife was a full-fledged narcissist who was not in anyway into her husband because she was fully and completely into herself.

While it definitely takes two to tango, it also takes two to untangle. When the chief problem facing a relationship is however the self-absorption of one or both parties, one could well imagine that trying to resolve any serious issues which emerge, would be akin to pounding one’s head into a brick wall which does not intend to give; ever. We first have to get past the colossal barrier which narcissism itself is. And what exactly is it? One dictionary defines it as “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration” as well as “inordinate fascination with oneself, excessive self-love and vanity”. By its very telling definition, we can immediately recognize how easily this trait can be the enemy of intimate relationships or marriage.

So how exactly does the narcissist in a relationship behave and how does this affect the relationship? The individual locked into this style of functioning is typically:

  • Obsessed with having his/her own needs met and will pout, throw tantrums or disconnect physically or emotionally from their partner when this does not occur
  • Inflexible, stubborn and unwilling to compromise; there is usually no middle-ground for this individual who MUST have things done their way and who believes that he/she is ALWAYS right
  • Sexually self-centered and performance oriented; this means that such individuals will attempt to foist their sexual preferences on their partner without asking or will care little about truly meeting their partner’s sexual needs; concern for their partner’s pleasure is not based on a desire to really please or communicate love but is really linked to whether or not they appear to be a good lover “for the record”
  • Vain and overtly concerned with their physical appearance; while nothing is wrong with wanting to look great, individuals who are narcissists do not care as much about their partner’s up-keep and will spend inordinate sums of money to ensure that their own physical appearance is always “near-perfect”; this may involve inappropriate splurging on designer-wear or other cosmetic enhancements
  • Selfish about their own personal development; while each member of the partnership may be individually responsible for things like education and career advancement, narcissists are unwilling to make sacrifices to assist or enable their partner’s development but prefer to have their spouse sacrifice for them, after all, they want to be admired, praised and lauded for their academic or career success
  • Quick to lay a “guilt trip” on the partner who fails to give in to their every whim and fancy and is quick to play the “blame game” with respect to their own lack of happiness

Living with a narcissist cannot be easy in any way. The relationship is likely to be plagued by constant tension and an underlying sense of unrest. The other partner may feel constantly nagged, blamed, insufficient, inadequate and isolated. Failure to address the issues can also impact the sense of goodwill that should characterize a healthy relationship and could lead to real division. The self-absorption of narcissists makes it doubly difficult to pinpoint their contribution to problems in the relationship as they are usually unwilling to acknowledge responsibility. What then are the options for salvaging such a relationship?

Confrontation

There is no easy way around it. A selfish individual must be confronted with the truth of their behavior. Specific examples should be drawn to show how the offending spouse has continued to act in selfish and self-serving ways. The spouse who is constantly being hurt must also be honest and specific about how this behavior hurts or offends. While directness, assertiveness and clarity should characterize these confrontations, they should be done as much as possible without aggression or anger as this may serve to make matters worse.

Tough Love

The offended spouse should also be willing to establish “boundaries of intolerance”. In other words, he or she must be firm and clear on what behaviors will not be tolerated in the marriage repeatedly. “Tough love” also means redefining notions of love and loyalty. So often we are schooled into thinking that unconditional love means a willingness to accept whatever is dished out to us. The truth is, that while our love may not change because of our spouse’s “bad behavior”, we should still recognize that healthy self-love also means valuing ourselves enough to state what makes us unhappy. Very often abuse continues because we assume the role of helpless victim and our spouse is empowered by our weakness or lack of back-bone and the vicious cycle continues.

Intervention

Very often the truth is established among more than one “witness”. When all else fails, the offended spouse should seek intervention from a third-party be it a counselor, therapist, pastor, family member or trusted friend. Valuable input from a third-party who is divorced from the day-to-day realities of the couple’s challenges, but can look at them objectively, may play a vital role in challenging the narcissist to see his/her behavior as offending. This admittedly may be no easy feat, as we often become comfortable with our own negative behavior, especially when it has been tolerated for a long time. Nonetheless, seeking assistance from others can only be a valuable strategy in the long term.

Mutual Responsibility and Modeling

While it is so easy to point the finger at someone who we think is perpetuating all or most of the undesirable behavior in a relationship, the truth is that both parties usually contribute in some way to the dysfunction. Narcissists can continue to “thrive” in their relationships because very often their behavior is enabled by a partner who lacks self-esteem, who is afraid to be confrontational or who is simply too plain lazy to do anything about the challenges faced. Both parties must be willing to assume personal responsibility in the relationship, which means a willingness for the offended spouse to see where he or she has also done wrong. Third-party intervention is often critical in pointing this out or in facilitating this. While our natural human response in a relationship crisis is sometimes to seek revenge, adopting an attitude of “tit-for-tat” will be counterproductive. At the same time, the partner who appears to have a more mature outlook or the one who seeks to initiate change must also be prepared to model the behavior, which he/she wants to see.

Beyond Relationship Pain to Personal Power

Okay; so that man or that woman did you wrong. Well maybe that’s not so okay, but the reality is that as long as we are in a relationship, we are going to experience some pain. Things definitely do not always go smoothly in love-land. So what exactly should we do when we find ourselves deep in the throes of relationship pain or anguish? We have a choice among several responses which will more or less determine how well we are able to cope with the seeming injustices of relationships. Of course I’m in no way suggesting that all relationship infractions are equal; breaking a date, constantly leaving the toilet seat up and being unfaithful are all distinct issues with varying levels of gravity. When an action or behavior by our spouse causes us to experience feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, extreme irritation or bitter disappointment, it’s within our power to determine where we will allow these experiences to take us.

The Pity Party

When we are hurt or angry, feeling sorry for ourselves can be fairly valuable; for about two minutes. We need that much time to hunch our shoulders, bite our lips and concentrate on our pain; before we decide what we’re going to do about it. This pseudo-comfort which a pity party allows is actually quite short-lived. There is perhaps nothing as dis-empowering as wallowing in a place of self-pity for too long. When we do this we are seeing ourselves as victims, as weak, as powerless and even sometimes as deserving of the “punishment” we are enduring. In a pity-party we don’t only own our pain (as we should) but we hold on to it for dear life. We come to identify ourselves by it and see ourselves only through the lens of our relationship pain or dissatisfaction. Ultimately, this is counter-productive and inhibits us from moving into action.

Revenge Mode

There is a very common human emotion which encourages us to want that “eye for an eye”. When we have been hurt and we are in the throes of pain sometimes we can be motivated to retaliate by causing similar hurt to our partners. It is not always literally feasible to perhaps do the same thing that was done to us but the objective of dwelling in this mode, is to try to damage our partner’s psyche as much as ours has been. Usually this is an extreme response to deep pain caused by infidelity or some other really serious infraction. Some actually do cheat or at least flirt in return for their experience of infidelity. For other infractions, there may be angry, insensitive words hurled at the offending partner, the withholding of sex or affectionate gestures, the withdrawal of financial support or even an act of secretive, wild spending, where the family funds, personal account or credit cards are splurged. These responses are of course surface responses to deeper issues and may only bring momentary satisfaction. They are incapable of addressing the real problem of relationship pain and what caused it.

Stonewalling

Somehow, some of us believe that remaining silent, while fuming and seething on the inside, is self-empowering. Because we are not crying, ranting, raving or throwing things, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we have a handle on our difficult emotions and that we are somehow large and in charge. Actually, we couldn’t be farther from the truth. Refusing to talk about the things which our partner or spouse does that irritate us, only serves to give those things more power over us. When an issue remains un-discussed and unsettled, it retains the power to shape our thinking, feelings and emotions. This is why individuals who refuse to vent, tend to suffer from raised blood pressure. Just imagine, poor relationship habits can actually affect our health. While there may be critical times in our lives when silence may indeed be golden, a relationship confrontation or problem is not one of those times. Stonewalling represents a certain character weakness and a tacit refusal to confront issues.

Claiming Personal Power

Seizing personal power out of relationship difficulties sounds wonderful and resonates with a certain political correctness; it is, however, no mean feat. This preferred response often involves admitting personal weakness and exposing our own vulnerability. We have to be willing first to admit that what our partner has done or neglected to do caused us pain. Sometimes we even have to admit our own part in the problem. Whether we communicate this calmly or with loads of emotion, we must be willing to share our real feelings. This is the beginning of our own healing. While we cannot control what someone else does to us, we can control our responses to it. This brings us to the need to assume personal responsibility for our relationship well-being.

Assuming responsibility does not mean that we can manipulate our partner into doing whatever we what him/her to do. Nor does it signify that there is any secret behavior which we can do, which guarantees that our partner will never hurt us again (how I abhor those articles and books which make these false promises).  Rather, it means that we are responsible for communicating honestly our feelings and our expectations. Even though I promote relationship education and believe that we should “clear the air” on certain issues even before getting together, the truth is that relationships are on-going and developmental. There will always be the need to grow, change and make adjustments; no matter how many relationship seminars we attend!

Seizing personal power also involves being willing to share our challenges and our ineptitudes with others. Admitting to friends and family that our relationship is far from perfect can be a cry for a help or a source of encouragement to others who may also feel that they are going through difficulties alone. It means admitting being wrong. It means being willing to acknowledge that we don’t know everything. More so, it involves using our relationship challenges as a learning curve to catapult us into better relationship practices.

If we truly want a healthier relationship, these best-practices should involve:

  • Practicing greater openness with our partner; this means making communication sessions a regular feature of the relationship
  • Communicating expectations in a non-threatening way; for example “Having a date with you once a week will help me to feel closer to you” instead of the anger filled sentence: “You never carry me anywhere.”
  • Owning our pain without accusation by utilizing “I” statements, for example,: “When you . . .  I feel undervalued” instead of “You don’t appreciate me.”
  • Reading great books or articles on relationships together or if only one partner is a reader, using the subject matter as the basis for couple discussions
  • Complimenting each other or showing appreciation when something is done right in the relationship
  • Practicing random acts of kindness; for example, delivering flowers outside of special dates like Valentine’s or birthdays, paying for a spa-day for our spouse, making breakfast, rubbing tired feet at night, doing a body massage with no “sexpectation” (if you get lucky well so be it), buying a special item for our spouse which we know he/she has had an eye on for a while
  • Spending valuable time together just connecting and having fun
  • Setting up clear boundaries for the things we will absolutely not tolerate in the relationship, like infidelity, abuse or any form of dishonesty
  • Accessing help from a counselor, pastor, mentor or friend when we think that things are way over the top and that we are clearly not coping

Getting to this point of positive relationship practices, is however not automatic. We must be proactive and willing to do whatever is necessary to breed a healthy relationship, even before the challenges come. This means knowing the pulse beat of our relationship by living in the moments and not avoiding them. Ultimately, when we are open about our pain, and seek help, we begin the cycle of relationship renewal.

Is It Love Or Obsession?

Obsession or love? We often can't tell by just looking.

With so many chick-flicks, and love-songs battering our subconscious on every side, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of us may have become addicts or junkies. What is it that consumes us? An idea about an all-encompassing, all-consuming, larger-than-life love, for which we will climb any mountain or delve into any valley; this occupies many of our waking (and sleeping) moments. Lest you think I’m some jaded, jilted, pessimist, nothing could be farther from the truth. I, in fact, count myself as one of those true-blooded romantics, baptised in the fires of traditional Mills and Boons and Harlequin Romance novels which fed us girls a steady diet of romantic expectations. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

In fact, I can say without the shadow of a doubt, that, I do so believe in love. I also think that there is a fine line between the type of love that springs form a healthy sense of self, and the obsession or infatuation which characterises many of our modern romances. Yes, as human beings designed for deep connection and intimacy, we all have this driving need to find that special someone. This I believe is instinctive and entirely necessary for the survival of the human family. Such love can be huge, all-encompassing and even self-sacrificing; and this is all well and good when such proceeds from a place of wholeness.

Our individual stories however, can greatly impact how we are able to process this need. Failure to deal with experiences of parental abandonment, rejection, low self-esteem, childish romanticised expectations, independence and identity issues, can all result in a misconstruction of this thing called love. What often results is a series of “false-love” behaviours which are more characteristic of an obsessive infatuation, than of a healthy love. Whether or not these infantile emotional responses can mature into a real adult love; will be contingent upon things like, introspection, reflection, openness to counselling and healing of painful emotional memories.

While the following lists are not exhaustive or prescriptive, they are intended to shake up our thinking in this area called love and romance. Perhaps this will lead us towards redefining certain elements of our intimate relationships as we seek to emerge a greater sense of balance in the way we choose to “live out” our love lives as we move into a new year.

INFATUATION/OBSESSION LOVE
  • Your personality becomes subsumed in your “love-interest” to the extent that you lose your sense of identity and individuality
  • You fear angering/displeasing your partner so much that you will not voice your personal opinions or convictions
  • Thoughts of your girlfriend/boyfriend ONLY, occupy your every waking moment
  • On a daily basis, you are unable to function unless you have heard your partner’s voice or seen him or her
  • You are disinterested in events/activities if your love-interest is not there or involved in such events
  • Your love’s interests/hobbies must become your interests and vice-versa
  • Your love’s personal beliefs and convictions become your own
  • You feel insecure if your partner makes new friends, especially of the opposite sex
  • You develop “show and tell” rituals like kissing or saying “I love you” in public, to stake your claim on your partner as opposed to these things being real, spontaneous demonstrations of love
  • You are deeply dependent on your partner for a sense of fulfilment or wholeness; without him/her, you feel like nothing
  • You have a deep-seated, often unspoken fear, that your partner will desert you for someone else and this influences several of the above mentioned behaviours
 

  • You can appreciate your lover’s unique personality but treasure dearly your own
  • You are sensitive to your partner’s feelings but can still hold to your personal beliefs even when they differ from your partner’s
  • Your love is more often in your thoughts but so are thoughts of other friends and family to whom you are also committed
  • You do appreciate the assurance of hearing from your boyfriend/girlfriend but can remain focussed on work or personal tasks even if you have not
  • If your partner has a special interest or hobby you don’t feel obligated to try it but can pursue your own interests independently
  • You probably share core values and beliefs but there is no compulsion to adopt your love’s every personal belief or conviction if they are not currently your own
  • You feel free to mingle with other friends or even to hang with friends from work/school periodically even if your partner is not there, (while preserving appropriate boundaries of course)
  • Demonstrations of love, whether public or private, are meaningful and innocently done to display love to your loved one and not to “show off” to friends and family
  • While you love your partner dearly, you know who you are and do not “need” them to feel whole or complete
  • You are secure in the fact that you are special, you believe you deserve to be loved and you trust your partner to lov

 

When all is said and done, there is admittedly, a fine line between love and obsession. From Jordan Sparks’ “No Air” to Beyonce’s “Halo”, popular music has been masquerading obsessive, dependent emotions as true love. When we marry these notions with the reality of our dysfunctional pasts, is it any wonder that we have jaded ideas about what love really means?  Whatever the case, I am in no way suggesting that those of us with a pre-dominance of column 1 traits, are entirely hopeless. Even in the midst of “infatuation” the tiny seeds which CAN LEAD to a more mature love have hopefully been planted. When this has not been the case, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting go a purely obsessive relationship. Sometimes a relationship is wrong because emotionally and spiritually, we are just not ready.

Individuals who are caught in the throes of ‘losing themselves’ need therefore to carefully reassess why they may feel, act or think the way they do. It may mean opening up to a trusted mature friend, counsellor or Pastor who can guide them towards self-discovery and spiritual healing. Sometimes this may also involve letting go of childhood pain, past relationship disappointments or may even include forgiving a parent or past partner for their rejection. Yes, emotional baggage is the stuff obsession is made of! We therefore need to be bold enough to confront unhealthy behaviour which we recognise in ourselves or our partners. Ultimately, the true love for a lifetime which we all crave, is a well, thought-out decision, which should proceed from a place of completeness.