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Newsletter Vol. # 55 That's how I see it!

Is it ever too late to regain balance in a relationship?

Can a relationship end - of course! Sometimes so much damage is done, mainly through poor communication, misunderstanding and assumption making, that the will to carry on, to try again, gets lost. Couples can go on for a very long time "trying", but like adding weights to the old scales of justice, one pound or one thing more can tip the "that's it" scale and the feelings shut down and the relationship is virtually over.

What happens is that couples stay together for a very long time even if things aren't going that well between them. They work at loving each other, make love - hoping this will bring them closer, carry on a normal routine - go to work, visit friends, take the kids to soccer - but the whole time they are evaluating, and when that "one more thing" happens, it's over for that person. It doesn't mean they end the relationship, that they leave physically, but they do leave emotionally. The cold war begins! This is a very difficult time for the couple and the therapist. The individuals are hurting, are angry and blaming - they don't see how their behaviour is contributing to the dissolution of the relationship. "If he/she were only (different) then it would be ok!" Unfortunately they remain in this deadlocked position for a considerable period of time before they seek help. They are lost and few couples come back from the "It's over" decision.

An old saying comes to mind when I think of the attitude of some individuals I have met:
            "I want my cake and I want to eat it too!"
To me this means, I want to act and do and say what ever I please and I expect you to continue to love, cherish and put up with my self-centred attitude without any change in your feelings. Oh yes, and continue to act "as if" you are pleased to see me, and to have intimate relations with me when I want, and "really want to". Yah! Sure! Didn't anybody ever mention that living together is very difficult and must be worked at "on purpose", daily? That if you don't treat your partner well - he/she won't treat you well! No? Better talk to someone about this soon.

So, my answer to the question is "yes"! "It is never too late to regain balance in a relationship?" It's never too late to work on a relationship, but some have gone on too long and have become too destructive to reverse the bad feelings.

So what can be done? Encourage people to come in and talk about what's truly going on for them. Counselling needs to help the pair improve their communication. Communication skills are a great place to start. In my experience with most, if not with all couples, their problems are rooted in, or get worse because of their poor communication skills.

If one of the partners puts an effort into the relationship - starts to really listen to what the other partner is saying, is genuinely interested and curious as to what the partner is saying; and gets the angry, condescending tone out of their voice when speaking - they are seen as trying, and this effort can bring the other person around to having hope and wanting to try as well. This is what we work for as therapists - couples "trying", "working" at making things better, using the skills, "doing" (not talking about doing) things better. Hope is abound!

"The three conditions without which healthy growth does not take place in the womb are: nutrition, a physically secure environment and the unbroken relationship with a safe, ever-present maternal figure."
                                   Gabor Mate  "Scattered Minds"

I wonder how Americans will feel after Tuesday? Which Devil did they strike a deal with?

Today you voted

While walking down the street one day a Congressman is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance. Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you. No problem, just let me in, says the Congressman. Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity. Really, I've made up my mind.  I want to be in heaven,' says the Congressman. I'm sorry, but we have our rules. And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he went down, down, down to Hell. The doors open and he found himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and dressed in evening a5ttire. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They played a friendly game of golf and then dined on lobster, caviar and champagne. Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before the Congressman realizes it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and wave while the elevator rises.... The elevator rises and the door opens in Heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him. Now it's time to visit Heaven.
So, 24 hours pass with the Congressman joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing.  They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns. Well, then, you've spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your eternity. The Congressman reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell. So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down down to Hell. When the doors open he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The Devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. ' I don't understand" stammers the Congressman.

Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.  What happened? The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, 
Yesterday we were campaigning. 
Today you voted.

Reader Response

 "Winter is an etching, spring a watercolour, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all."             Stanley Horowitz
Thanks Ed

One of the 101 concepts from Dr. Dan's new book Communication & Relationships that will be released in 2017 is "Spark":


We don't have a proper relationship. We are like brother and sister, or two friends who live together. We don't fight but we don't make love either."

Yes, they needed to work on their communication, on spending time together. Yes, they needed to stop letting the world get their best time and energy. Yes, they needed to relearn to play as individuals and then as a couple.

But one of their greatest obstacles to achieving these goals was their belief that the solution lay outside of themselves. They were looking for a quick fix to their lacklustre, passionless relationship, and they chose me! That belief netted them the following response:

It's not enough to live together, plan fun activities together, and have a joint bank account. You have to genuinely work at a relationship. Remember when you could hardly wait to see your partner and couldn't keep your hands off each other?  Well, that's spark.

Spark is the feeling that exists between two people that makes their relationship so special. It's more than a sexual feeling; it's based on respect, trust and mutual caring.

I once believed that spark was either there or it wasn't. That it just happened, and once it was gone, there wasn't much you could do about it. I saw people who wanted their partner to be responsible for their spark. I believed that if two people treated each other a certain way, or if they stopped doing things that the other person didn't like, then they would feel that spark again for each other. In other words, I believed that one person's ability to feel that spark for their significant other was based on their significant other's behaviour toward them. It is a factor!

However, having observed a multitude of relationships over the years, I now see this very differently! The spark in a relationship can indeed be rekindled, but not from what you do or don't do for me, rather from what I do for you. Yes, my feelings for you will change more rapidly and have a more significant impact when I do the majority of the work.

If I am the person who feels the least amount of spark-who most wants "out" of the relationship-and I choose to work hard at our relationship and do those things that would tell you I care about you, then it is me who will benefit the most and who will feel the most change in relation to the spark between us.

Couples often want a quick fix when they feel that they have lost their "spark" for one another. And when this quick fix solution is not forthcoming the way they thought that it would be, then they often have a tendency to adopt a "forget it" attitude. For someone who doesn't have much "caring" left in them and where the spark has seemingly been snuffed out, it is easier to understand the notion that the "fix" or the "solution" lies within their partner than it is to get motivated to actually do something about it themselves.

I want couples to understand that with focused caring and hard work they could rekindle the spark in their relationship.

The security that a child needs is more than the love and best intentions of the parents. It depends on a less controlled variable: their freedom from stresses that can undermine their psychological equilibrium. A calm and consistent emotional milieu throughout infancy is an essential requirement for the wiring of the infant's neuropsychological circuits of self-regulation.   
                         Gabor Mate   "Scattered Minds"     

I was checking out at the local Wal-Mart with just a few items and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those dividers that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn't get mixed. After the girl had scanned all of my items, she picked up the divider, looking it all over for the bar code so she could scan it.
Not finding the bar code, she said to me, 'Do you know how much this is?'
I said to her 'I've changed my mind; I don't think I'll buy that today.'
She said 'OK,' and I paid her for the things and left.
She had no clue to what had just happened.
(But the lady behind me had a big smirk on her face as I left)   

Have a great week; after all, you're in charge of it!