What Not To Do In A Relationship

Choosing a partner in life is such an important decision that it is helpful to think it thoroughly through before bringing someone into your life. There are many factors to take into consideration and many questions to ask yourself as the process of choosing your partner takes place.

The first most important factor to consider is whether or not the person you are considering enhances your life or not. Do they bring you more happiness than you already have or is what you're experiencing a false sense of dependence? Does this person walk hand in hand with you on your own path to growth as they expand their own mind and way of thinking or are either of you pulling the other person down?

Conflict. This is a major consideration before entangling your life with someone. Conflict has many facets to it.

The first of several facets to think about is the frequency and intensity of the conflict. Research over the decades by John Gottman and his very capable team have shown that in essentially all relationships around the world over time, 2 people experience the same frequency and intensity of conflict as any other 2 people. What does this mean? That means that conflict is pretty much bound to happen. How you deal with it is what makes the difference between a successful relationship and one that maintains unhappiness or ends altogether.

In relationships that are successful, 2 people grow stronger every time there is conflict. In relationships that end or maintain misery, the conflict keeps creating more and more disconnect. If you're having trouble handling conflict within a relationship, seeking couples counseling is a great place to start. Individual therapy is also very helpful because even if just one of two people is working on the relationship, that relationship will likely experience shifts. Both individuals can achieve better insight through therapy as well.

Some bullet point ideas to remember are listed in the image below.

All this said, if you are experiencing relationship damaging conflict, look inwards instead of blaming, getting defensive, holding contempt, or turning away from your partner. What to do instead are learn the tools and skills specific to your relationship that will help you overcome these undesirable experiences.

The Value Behind Sleeping

Sleep is such a fascinating time in our lives. We spend quite a bit of time doing it and sometimes try to avoid it at all costs. Some people sleep in excess and some of us still look forward to napping well past our pre-school days. So why does your body actually need sleep? Well, there are so many working parts that require attention after each and every single day. Sleep allows the brain and body to reboot and function efficiently for the following waking hours.

Here is what some of the research out there shows about what goes on while we sleep.

Your brain and body do a full toxin cleanse. This allows you to rejuvenate. In people who don't get restful sleep or not enough sleep, this filtration process can't be as effective. Experts say that this may be a contributing factor as to why people who are sleep-deprived have a hard time being present in their day to day activities.

You've probably watched it happen in others, but it most likely happens to you too. Every time you fall asleep, your body jerks. According to sleep experts, the intensity of the jerk suggests how sleepy you are. Basically the more intense your body jerks, the more tired it is.

Your body temperature drastically decreases. When we're active during the day, we burn more calories, so lowering our temperature is a way to reduce the burn rate and save calories that we can use during our waking hours. "It's like how bears hibernate," says Dr. Avi Ishaaya, a sleep specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA. "Sleep is a survival mechanism."

Useless information is forgotten. "We take in all this information all day long, and most of it is luckily forgotten," says sleep specialist Christopher Colwell at UCLA School of Medicine. "If you remembered everything, it would fill up your brain, so a sorting process takes place during sleep."

Your body becomes paralyzed, but your brain is at its most active than at any other time of the day. The brain of someone who is dreaming is actually more active than that of a person who is awake. It also requires more oxygen. "One theory is that in REM sleep, you're organizing thoughts and learning, filing information, but no one really understands specifically why a sleeping mind is active," says Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, a professor of neurology and director of UCLA's Sleep Disorders Center.

Your mind is so active during sleep that it can even make important connections and discoveries, researchers say. Sleep is therefore very important, especially when you are in the therapy process. Many clients report feeling tired or sleepy after therapy sessions. They often sleep heavier than usual for the following nights after a session.

Your immune system is at an all-time high. One study showed that people who received flu shots and were sleep-deprived the next night did not create the antibodies required to protect against the flu. "As soon as I see the first signs of an upper respiratory infection, I try to sleep for 10 hours," says Dr. Jordan Stern, founder and director of the BlueSleep Center in New York City. "If you're chronically sleep deprived, you're more likely to develop recurring infections." Hence why rest is so important when you feel physically or emotionally out of balance.

Most people wake up between 5-15 times per hour! It usually happens when we shift into different stages of sleep, such as from dreams to deep sleep. These awakenings happen so briefly that we can't and don't remember them.

You're probably breathing. Isn't that a relief? But believe it or not, up to 30% of people actually stop breathing at night. Up to 90 percent of people with this disorder, sleep apnea, go undiagnosed, including young women. The life expectancy for someone with untreated sleep apnea is only 58 years, so if you or your partner snores at night, it's time to get checked out, says Dr. Stern. Having a sleep test done at some point in your life is just as important as having a regular physical or seeing a therapist for an emotional assessment.

All of your individual brain and body cells are being completely repaired. These restorative processes take care of all the damage that's occurred during the day. When you don't get enough sleep, the effect doesn't just deplete your brain functioningit impacts your whole body. This is why restless sleep doesn't feel like sleep at all. Minimal repair happened overnight and your brain and body aren't actually ready for the next day.

Sleep is a big part of our lives. Making sure we are aware and doing our best at having a healthy sleep routine is very important. This leads into mornings that aren't rushed where we start out with water and nutritional foods. Going through the remainder of the day knowing that whatever we pick up on our travels through life, we will have to process and let go of or store in our brains and bodies until we make time to create a more balanced life. Take your life seriously. You only get one.

Rethinking Infidelity ... A Talk For Anyone Who Has Ever Loved

Here is a talk for everyone to watch. Esther Perel says the kiss that you can imagine is as powerful as hours of love making. It is our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person. This video talks about how to think about affairs and what to do with their aftermath in a more peaceful way than we are used to.

Desire runs deep, betrayal runs deep. Some affairs are death knells to relationships. Other affairs will jolt both partners to consider new possibilities. The fact is that the majority of couples who experience an affair stay together, but some of them will merely survive while others will be able to turn a crisis into a possibility and regenerative experience.
A lot of couples in the immediate aftermath of the affair will have depths of honesty in their conversations that they haven't had in years or ever. Something about the fear of loss can rekindle desire and create a new kind of truth. Healing begins when the perpetrator acknowledges wrong doing. For the partner who had the affair, it is essential for them to express guilt and remorse for the hurt they have caused. It is important for the partner who was deceived to create meaning in their life and to create meaning in understanding how to redefine their relationship if they decide to stay. Your first marriage is over, would you like to create a second one with each other?

Betrayal in a relationship comes in many forms as mentioned in my previous post. Watch this video for a different way of thinking about affairs. 


The Many Shades of Betrayal

Betrayal of trust is a subjective experience for each individual based on the spoken and unspoken rules of commitments made in a relationship. Communication is extremely important when it comes to understanding the boundaries of your relationship. The boundaries will likely be different in any relationship you have. Talking about them is critical so that assumptions aren't made. Sometimes, people feel that their desire for more open or more closed boundaries will be judged by their partner in a negative way. They therefore don't bring up their needs and wants and silently hope for the best. This can often backfire once there is extensive investment into the relationship as far as time and resources.

The following list of ways betrayal can happen in a relationship is from John Gottman's book, The Science of Trust, (pages 351-353 for any of you who want more detailed reading). There is a wide variety of ways that betrayal happens. It is not limited to sexual communication or action.

No part of betrayal belongs in a committed relationship. The key is to know that boundaries are set by two people within a relationship. I cannot stress enough that these boundaries vary. What is considered betrayal by one person or one couple may be considered acceptable by another person or couple. It is up to the couple to clearly demarcate the limits of their commitment so that there are no surprises and hurt is minimized. 

If someone has chosen to act out a betrayal, it will be up to the betrayed partner to decide what they need in order to forgive or whether or not they choose to stay in the relationship. Decisions on this matter like all others in a relationship need to be respected. My recommendation is to meet with a therapist, even if for just a few sessions, to discuss and understand the intricate inner workings of the betrayal so that the residual effect is reduced as much as possible.

Read on below to be more clear on where your boundaries are and consider having an open conversation with your partner as to where you stand. Boundaries of the relationship are a very important topic to discuss. There may be differing opinions so be prepared to have the conversation with an open mind and a loving heart. 

1. Betrayals by violations of commitment. This type of betrayal simply means that one or both partners are conditionally committed. Commitment happens when it works for them or when no one better has come along. The individual hasn't firmly decided that the relationship they are in is the only one they want to be in or the one they want to be in for the long run. In this type of betrayal, commitment levels diminish when there is an argument, disagreement, emotional or physical distance happens, financial insecurity, their partner becomes ill, or their partner states reasonable demands that they don't care to fulfill. People leave for a period of time or threaten to leave when times are bad between them. The partner can be left feeling confused, unfulfilled, worried, and needing to do more than their fair share in the relationship in order to keep the partner violating the commitment engaged. Needless to say, neither person feels connected or satisfied.

2. Betrayals of emotional, romantic, or sexual exclusivity. In a healthy and successful relationship, partners do not turn away from the agreement to be exclusive. When betrayal of this type happens, one or both partners do not turn away from other relationship, flirtations, sexual acts, secret emotional or financial attachments, or other kinds of secret liaisons that present themselves. Sometimes they even seek out these types of betrayal. They do not discuss their betrayals within the relationship before, and most of the time after, boundaries have been crossed. The partner acting out the betrayal may make sense of why they are doing it and why it is okay. This can range anywhere from, 'my partner won't care,' 'my partner won't find out,' 'my partner doesn't give me this type of attention and I need to find it somewhere, anywhere,' to being completely oblivious that they are doing anything to betray their partner. This type of disconnect usually happens over time, but the external relationship(s) often don't come to an end until the partner who has been betrayed finds out. This usually results in the partner doing the betraying feeling anywhere from immensely guilty and promising change to trying to reason and validate their behaviors to help their partner understand why their behavior is okay. 

3. Betrayals by secrets, lies, and deceptions. One of the most distressing forms of betrayal is this category, lies of omission. This type of betrayal includes violations of trust, directly or indirectly lying, concealing any and all information from your partner regarding simple or deceitful actions or feelings, violations of confidence, broken promises, and inconsistencies. Not sharing the whole truth or keeping basic information from your partner is not only misleading but it is not faithful. It does not make for a successful, happy relationship. If you feel like you have to participate in this kind of behavior, you may want to reconsider your level of connection and communication with your partner. Before engaging in this type of betrayal, or after you find yourself already engaged in it, you can come forth and have a conversation with your partner as to what is turning you away from the relationship. By doing so, you have a better chance at repairing and building a stronger relationship. If you don't think that's possible or you do not want to move towards a successful relationship, you may want to reconsider why you are in the relationship at all.

4. Coalitions with others against the partner. When one partner forms a connection with a person outside of the relationship such as a friend, co-worker, family member, in a way that excludes or hurts their partner, they are choosing to engage in behavior that they would not engage in if their partner was there. The most common example of this is talking negatively about a partner with a friend. The problem with this type of betrayal is that problems are vented to an outsider without consulting and resolving them with one's partner. If the problem is so bad that it is on your mind, your partner is the first person to turn to. If there are communication difficulties between you and your partner and you are not happy about something that you would like to resolve with them, try going to a therapist or reading a good book on communication for romantic relationships. If your partner is not willing to try to make changes that will bring your relationship to the place you would like it to be, you may want to think about how you can improve your ability to cope with your difficult feelings to the extent that they are not overwhelming. If you've tried everything, then you may realistically want to understand when it is time to let go and move on. 

5. Betrayals by disinterest. In this instance, one or both partners stop expressing interest in their partner's thoughts, feelings, inner life, or future goals. Part of being in a healthy relationship is an ongoing interest in your partner as an individual in this world. This helps them feel connected and gives them the space to grow. By being disinterested, the individual doing the betraying is essentially putting down their partner and making them feel not good/cool/interesting enough. Now that's not a feeling anyone wants to have. Especially not from their significant other. If you are uninterested in your partner, take a moment to think about why. Consider talking to them about what used to make them attractive. Click here to watch this video on The Secret To Desire In a Long-Term Relationship. Do something, anything, but don't make your partner feel unimportant in your world. 

6. Betrayals of disrespect, unfairness, and lack of care. There are defaults in taking care of your partner such as not abandoning each other when ill or in need of emotional comfort and understanding. Being there for the other person is a standard part of being in any committed relationship. It is important to discuss what this looks like for each person in a couple. Once it is decided and understood, it will continue to bring two people together over the course of the relationship. The terms to this need can be modified and adjusted as time moves on and people change, but in essence, the feeling that the other person is there for you no matter what needs to be maintained while in relation to each other. Individuals who do not cherish, compliment, or express pride in their partner are creating a sense of disconnect that can diminish the value of their relationship. They are instead express disrespect, mockery, ridicule, sarcasm, mean behaviors or words, and often express superiority so as to denigrate their partner. None of these behaviors have a place within a loving, intimate relationship.

7. Betrayals of affection or sexual interest. Sometimes one or both partners become unaffectionate, unresponsive, or cold towards the other person. This can be so confusing and stressful for the other person. The person who is being betrayed in this instance may themselves become cold and unaffectionate, or they may try to compensate by seeking out affection more and more as the other person distances. Again, neither partner can possibly feel satisfied in this scenario. If you are experiencing a lack of affection, talk to each other or to a therapist to see how you can get back on track. It is an important part of any intimate relationship and requires work to maintain it. Affection won't be the fireworks of the early stages of your relationship, but it's not going to be too far off from it. There may be a lack of attraction or physical interest, or a lack of desire for physical intimacy that can manifest in several ways. First and foremost, it is critical to be certain that there are no medications or medical issues that are disrupting libido. You can talk to your medical doctor about these topics to ensure that everything is in tip top shape. Beyond that, building sexual intimacy once it is lost can be done by finding ways to reconnect and appreciate the other person emotionally and physically.

8. Betrayals by abuse. This is a serious form of betrayal that need not be tolerated under any circumstance. Examples include but are not limited to: social isolation, sexual coercion, extreme jealousy, public humiliation/belittling/degradation, threats or actual acts of violence or other acts that are intended to induce fear, damages or threats of damage to property, pets, or children, financially restriction or control by one partner, and physical abuse which is any unwanted touch. If you are finding yourself in a situation where abuse is occurring, be certain to have a safe means of escape should you need it. Having contact information for domestic violence shelters or contacting your local Department of Child and Family Services can save you from harm. Reach out to a professional who can help you figure out your best course of action in creating a safe place for yourself and your loved ones.

9. Betrayals by not meeting each others needs. A relationship is about healthy interdependence. Partners who violate this principle do not meet the other person's essential needs cooperatively and honestly. To meet your partner's needs, you are agreeing to being emotionally present, open, available, and responsive. You need to be willing to make sacrifices at times so that you can put your partner's and your families needs before your own. You are after all in relation to other people. You are not on your own when you are in a committed relationship. It is totally okay to not know how to exist in relation to others. Some people have never had a positive experience in this realm. It is important to know that meeting the needs of another person is fundamental to having a successful relationship of any sort, romantic or otherwise. The good news is that there are many outlets to learn this. Books, articles, therapists, the other person you are in relation to are all excellent sources of information. Start asking and you will be amazed at how much more fulfilling your relationship can be when there is a balanced give and take.

10. Betrayals by breaking promises and vows. Having conversations about the previous 9 topics and reviewing and acknowledging the promises and vows that were made at the beginning of and over the course of the relationship is a task that can be done every so often when in a relationship. It is important to keep promises and vows that are made so as to not create a distance between yourself and your partner. This is another one of the means of betrayal that applies not only to romantic relationships, but to all relationships. This involves being true to yourself and knowing that it's not productive to over-commit or over-promise, especially when you know you don't intend to do what you say you will. That leaves the other person disappointed and confused.

Committed relationships are a work in progress. When well-maintained, they can be fulfilling beyond your imagination. Some fine tuning is regularly needed as is some attention to who you are presenting yourself as in the relationship. Be honest to yourself and to others and keep communicating what is going on for you. Hopefully you find yourself in relation to a person who can and wants to do the same so that any unclarity can be cleared away and both of you can live in peace, harmony, excitement, and love with each other. 

What Makes A Healthy Romantic Relationship?


I think the most frequent question clients seek an answer to is 'what does a healthy romantic relationship look like?' This question has a unique answer for any individual and an even more specific answer for any couple. There are some basic ways of thinking about what creates a healthy relationship that can be used as a framework for setting up the details of how the relationship ends up developing in order to lead to success.


Healthy relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, follow certain ground rules that allow each person involved to be happy without compromising the happiness of the other person. This includes parent-child dyads, siblings, professional relationships, your relationship with your neighbors, etc. You get the idea. Basically anyone with whom you are interacting that your behavior and mood effects.

Imagine if everyone lived by this general framework. We would have a web of interconnected and happy people all around the world. Each person can do their little part and hope that the effects trickle out and have a far reach. As any one person is more happy, other people in their life can be more happy. 

If for some reason you are not happy or you are making someone unhappy, it is your responsibility to either work through the difficulties to the extent that you are not made to feel more unhappy than you were when you started, or you may want to consider distancing yourself from that person so that you are not contributing to the perpetuation of unhappiness for either of you.

You can obviously choose to stay in the unhappiness if there is no alternative, but in that case, I would suggest consciously seeking out and establishing times and places of serenity for yourself so that you can maintain your identity and strength throughout the time you that have to maintain that particular relationship. 

So let's get to it. What are we aiming for? How can we be happy without taking away from the happiness of someone else? Believe it or not, it's not selfish, it's actually quite realistic.

One of the most important things to understand is that every type of relationship including romantic ones is a) a series of disconnects followed hopefully by b) repair then c) reconnection.

To speak specifically about romantic relationships, there are a) misunderstandings, arguments, disagreements, resentments, lack of affection, anger, inconsiderations, etc. followed by b) effective communication, in depth conversation, rekindling of positive emotion, physical touch, repetitive discussions, etc. until c) resolution is reached and both people feel loving and loved again.

The parts that are specific to each couple are how the pattern of disconnect, repair, and reconnection happens. Knowing how to engage with your partner effectively may take some counseling or educating yourself through books or advice from people in healthy relationships, but it is well worth doing. 

Either way, if you haven't picked up the skills of repairing and reconnecting, which many people haven't, it makes life a lot easier and happier to put some effort into this venture. Once you learn the skills and have the tools, you will be able to use them over your lifetime.

I can't think of a skill that is more important in life than being able to productively engage with other people so that you and the other person are thoroughly fulfilled. Feeling this type of satisfaction allows people to live content and at their maximum potential encompassing all aspects of their life.

A healthy relationship consists of: 

  • Trust by both people that is validated through virtuous behaviors while with the person and when they are not around.
  • The other partner is taken into consideration when decisions are made. Partners regularly consult each other in all aspects of life, including the parts of their lives that do not include the other person.
  • Allowing yourself and your partner to develop a strong core self throughout your time together. This includes having a healthy balance of separate and conjoint interests, friends, and life goals. By encouraging each other's self-growth, both partners can become happy as individuals while finding fulfillment within the relationship. 
  • Problem solving happens together. When one person brings up a problem, the other person tolerates their own feelings around it and works through not just how they feel but also how their partner is feeling until both people feel a sense of resolution. Problems are not avoided, disregarded, or invalidated.
  • There is a fluid healthy concern for the partner while not feeling responsible for their mood or actions. Everyone is responsible for their own emotional states. All any partner can do is be supportive and caring. 
  • Kindness at all times goes without saying. This is mandatory for successful relationships. 
  • Sex is talked about. How much or how little, when, and in what ways sex happens is discussed and understood by both partners. There is respect for the other person's physical body and emotional state when sex is happening. 
  • There is a high level of feeling comfortable with each other that is not taken for granted or seen as a weakness. Just because a person is choosing to be there does not imply that that person will always be there. It is a choice to be with someone and the relationship needs to be nurtured in order for it to continue growing. If it is not nurtured, just like any plant or your own emotional or physical well-being, growth will become stunted or stop altogether.
  • Conversation is based upon listening to understand, not listening to respond. Hearing and being present when your partner is speaking or telling you something through body language allows your connection to grow stronger. 

Love is just a word until you and your partner create a meaning for it. Create your special meaning consciously and kindly. Love is far from what Hollywood makes it out to be. The meaning of love you create will be different than what you have seen in other relationships. In the same way that it's important to be yourself an individual, it's important to create a unique partnership that is well-suited to what you and your partner are looking for instead of what is expected of you or what the media sells it to be.

If you are feeling more uncomfortable than you would like, that is when you know that it is time for a change. Our minds are resilient, they can withstand change and brief uprooting until a sense of comfort and happiness is established. It is worth trying for because you can't have what you want unless you try to get it.

There are many details that go into making a relationship healthy so that both people can be happy. Having the information of what makes a healthy relationship is the starting point of having one. The next step is making it happen.