When You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

"Jeremy told me that he loves me but he's not IN love with me. I knew where this was going and sure enough I was right. The next thing he said was 'I want us to be friends, good friends'. Well the very LAST thing I want to be with him right now is his friend. I don't ever want to see him again!"

Ellen was upset. Actually she was outraged, and hurt, and confused, and broken-hearted. And if you've ever been in Ellen's shoes, you probably know how she felt. And if you've ever been in Jeremy's shoes, you know what he felt, and perhaps had just as much difficulty articulating it as he did.


"I love you but I'm not IN love with you." Linda and I have heard from so many people who were on either the sending or the receiving side of this message that we began to get curious about what was going on with them when they spoke those words. Some of the things that we heard them say about what they really meant but felt that they couldn't say were:


True Love Isn’t For Wimps

“For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”    -   Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s mysterious that a process as natural and universal as loving can as challenging for so many of us.. In fact, it seems that more often than not, the art of learning to love well is one of the most demanding challenges that we ever take on in our lives. Many people, having made a number of painful or unsuccessful attempts to develop sustained, loving relationships, conclude that they’re just not up for what it takes or that they’re just not the type to settle down with one person, or committed partnership is an unnatural arrangement. They choose to let go of their dream rather than to risk the prospect of continued pain and disappointment.

Why is it that loving relationships can be so difficult for us to develop? Is it true that there really are “very few good candidates out there” who are willing and able to relate skillfully to others? And is it really even possible for us to unlearn the protective patterns that served us in childhood but now cause us to feel frustrated and isolated?


Ordinary People, Extraordinary Relationships

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he writes eloquently about those individuals who have achieved an extremely high level of success and accomplishment in their chosen fields of interest. Outliers are those people whose achievements fall well beyond the range of normal experience.

His examples are of those who have made the very most of their potential. He points out that there were a number of critical factors in their ability to accomplish what they did, among them being what he refers to as the “ten thousand hours” of practice that enabled them to master their chosen field. He used the ten thousand hour figure literally, not metaphorically.  Outliers can exist in any field including the arts, sports, business, or entertainment. Although extensive practice is essential to the process of becoming an outlier, there must, of course be a strong innate interest and potential present on the part of the individual in order to fuel their passion for success. It’s safe to say, however, that most of us use only a fraction of our capacity and that for many, our true potential remains largely untapped. Estimates of the percentage of the potential that most of us utilize ranges somewhere between 10% to 20%.


It’s Not the Differences That Are the Problem

The next best thing to preventing conflict is having the skills to manage differences effectively. Differences are inevitable in relationships; conflict is optional. It’s the differences in our personalities, styles of relating, perspectives, and temperaments that make us attractive to each other and allow us to have a fuller, more complete experience of life. We rarely are strongly attracted to people who are just like us. Differences turn into conflict when one or both partners try to coerce the other to do, say, think, or feel what they want them to. Conflict occurs when both partners are engaged in a struggle to resist each other’s efforts to become dominated or controlled.

Most of us don’t come into marriage with highly developed conflict management skills, but these abilities can be cultivated through practice on the job. While most couples have an abundance of opportunities to practice the art of conflict management, the great majority of them fail to take advantage of those opportunities. They choose instead to either grudgingly accommodate each other, engage in various forms of manipulation or coercion, or simply practice denial or avoidance. These strategies are all potentially destructive to relationships and often lead to continual cycles of pain, resentment, and alienation. While many couples collude to deny their differences as John Gottman points out in his writings, couples who are most likely to divorce are not those who are most volatile, but rather those with the strongest tendency to avoid dealing with differences.


After the Honeymoon is Over

When did the honeymoon end in your relationship? Was it the first time you realized that your mate wasn’t all you had hoped for? Or maybe it was when you discovered that sometimes their cheerful optimism could turn to resentment or depression for no apparent reason. Do you remember your first fight? How about the first time that you wondered whether you had made a mistake in your selection of a partner? If you’re typical, then you’ve had the experience of disappointment, frustration, confusion, resentment or helplessness more times than you’d care to admit since you exchanged vows. If you’re like most of us, you may have taken these feelings as an indication that something could be seriously out of line in our marriage or relationship. And if you’re human, you’ve probably attempted to influence your partner’s feeling, attitudes or behaviors only to discover that you’d now created a new problem.

Most of us spend between twelve and twenty years of our lives in school yet nowhere are we really informed as to the specific requirements of sustaining and enhancing the quality of our relationships. We hope, believe or pray that despite our ignorance of the nature of interpersonal relationships that we can make it work anyway. And when the inevitable upsets arrive, we may feel defeated, angry, or despaired.


The Surprising Secret to Health and Longevity

While it may not surprise you that Americans spend twice as much on health care as do other developed countries, what may surprise (and disturb) you is how little we get for our money. According to a recent article in the AARP Bulletin, in a 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries, American men ranked last in life expectancy ( years) and American women ranked next to last  ( years). More disturbingly, the gap between America...


What’s So Special about Fifty Shades of Gray?

Linda: I just finished reading the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy. With 65 million copies sold, I had to find out what all the fuss was about. My curiosity had been burning and I must admit that I did enjoy the books. The sex scenes were some of the most vividly detailed and highly erotic I’ve ever read. But I don’t think that it’s the graphic descriptions of the couple’s sexual encounters alone that readers find...


Emotional Intimacy

It's Doesn't Just Come Naturally

Setting: Joe and Ellen’s kitchen on a Sunday morning . They are cleaning up after sharing brunch together.

Ellen: Honey, I’ve been feeling some distance between us lately and I’d like to talk with you about some of my concerns. I think that both of us have gotten caught up in our jobs lately and I’ve been missing you.

Joe: (defensively) Well, I’m right here. If you want to talk, just...