Unrequited love!

In our life span we come across many different types of love. Love that brings us joy, love that burns with passion and on an occasion, love that brings us pain. Unrequited love falls under the latter but with it comes important lessons and self-development. When referring to unrequited love, we’re discussing when a person believes they are in love with someone, but the feeling is not mutual. This type of love can cause emotional stress and damage, despite society romanticising it.

Recent research has shown that we feel an emotional upset in the same way as we feel physical pain. At points the same part of our brain is activated, demonstrating the physical similarity between the two, so there is no surprise the pain rejection can bring. Unrequited love focuses your attention on your inner world. The depth of the hurt is increased by the persistent commentary in your mind. You come to idolise the person of your affections whilst compounding negative thoughts about yourself. Why don’t they like me, what is wrong with me? You can become trapped in your mind and create a false representation of reality.

This is where an important lesson is learnt. There isn’t anything wrong with you, they simply aren’t the right person for you. In order for true love to exist there needs to be a mutual connection, appreciation and respect. We are all subjected to the feeling of rejection and it takes time to learn the lessons needed for self-development. To grow and understand that your self-worth cannot be solely based on another individual’s opinion is an extremely important lesson and will lead to an increase in your self-esteem and the ability to seek happy, mutually beneficial, loving relationships.

If you find that unrequited love is a pattern in your behaviour, it may be important to ask yourself why this is the case. Often this type of behaviour is rooted in an insecure attachment developed at childhood. This is not say that you cannot become aware of your behaviour nor that you can’t change it. It simply means you need to achieve a better understanding of your cognitive functioning, shed the disillusions you have created about yourself and your crush and see yourselves as the imperfect human beings that you are. Remember that each of us goes through this and you too will come out the other side, with a few emotional scars, yes but with a strengthened sense of self and the experience to move on and find someone who will love you for who you are. 

The Importance of Being Understood – Part One Blended Families

In the first of this two-part series we will be discussing the importance of being understood in both a general context and in specific relation to blended families and dating those with children. Being understood is an important part of our mental wellbeing and is consequently a principal factor in a healthy, loving relationship. This is because if we feel as though we are being misunderstood it can lead to resentment and bitterness, which over time, will have a long-lasting negative impact on the relationship. It can also decrease the value we put on our partnership, as well as ourselves.

It is imperative to remember that we can never really know what is going on in someone else's mind. Therefore, how are we to expect others to know our thoughts and feelings if we do not express them or communicate them verbally. Of course, there are non-verbal cues that signal how we may be feeling but this form of communication does little to reveal the cause of our feelings and emotions. Non-verbal communication leaves room for error and this can even be the case when we communicate verbally, due to pragmatics. Pragmatics refers to the communication of meaning through the analysis of not only structural and linguistic knowledge, but also the context of the expression, pre-existing knowledge about those involved and the inferred intent of the speaker.  This highlights the importance of clear and concise communication, particularly regarding such an imperative topic.  

Family is extremely important and as a subject can become a bone of contention if each partner does not feel as if they are being heard or understood. This is particularly the case with blended families as they are structurally complex and present a multitude of characteristics from previous households (Ganong & Coleman, 2017).  As a result, there may be disputes when it comes to the directive role of parenting. Braithwaite, Baxter and Harper (1998) found that it was important for family members to embrace their new family whilst still valuing what was important in the old family environment. It is key to remember that when entering a new relationship, where you are bringing two families together, that it is best to have an adaptive nature and have the ability to pay homage to both old and new family dynamics.

Despite some differentiation, combining parenting techniques and fully communicating what you expect and what you are willing to accept in terms of your partner’s involvement in your children's lives, will allow for an open and honest relationship. We may at times jump to conclusions but by calmly expressing your thoughts you allow a dialogue to open up between yourself and your partner. You may not always agree but communicating demonstrates a willingness to understand and empathise with your significant other. It is also noteworthy to remember that the focus of being understood in this context is to create a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship with your partner which runs in parallel to the relationship you have with your children or your partner's children. Children look to their parents for guidance and it is important to understand that seeing your relationship with your partner as a separate entity will allow a stronger and healthier relationship and a better example for your children.

We will never be in someone else's mind nor will they be in ours and perception is key. In perception, we find compassion and understanding. With a multitude of memories and cognitions determining people’s feelings and thoughts, it is fundamental that both partners do not assume they have experienced life the same way. Families come in all shapes and sizes and what can help with the transition for blended families is communication. This will bring you a wonderful relationship with your partner and the added bonus of being part of a family.

 

References

Braithwaite, D. O., Baxter, L. A., & Harper, A. M. (1998). The role of rituals in the management of the dialectical tension of “old” and “new” in blended families. Communication Studies49(2), 101-120.

Ganong, Lawrence, and Marilyn Coleman. "The Dynamics of Step parenting." Stepfamily Relationships. Springer US, 2017. 143-173.

Men and Mates

We have always had mates, though the context in which we have referred to them has necessarily changed with the times. The word’s origins go back to ‘messmate’ and the act of eating together, and its various meanings have traversed broad swathes of life since then. These range from animals finding a mate or being found one for breeding, to someone’s partner in marriage. From our peers and fellows in different locales, our roommates and classmates to the subordinate or assistant as in first mate on a ship or a plumber’s mate, right through to its ubiquitous and informal sense today as a form of address or reference to a friend. It can also simply be one of a pair of any thing of any kind, and so carries connotations of connection and company, marrying and matching, of links, joins, fits hence its pervasive association with relationships.

But what of mates and men? Our best buddies can sometimes garner bad press and an even worse reputation in the eyes of our other halves. Typically speaking, at best they might spend countless hours confabulating with us on topics of immense vacuity like cars and football while at worst they would exert a terrible influence on us, keeping us out drinking, wilfully disgracing ourselves until the wee hours. Good mates though, are evidently more than just drinking pals or fair-weather friends but those who care about us, support and encourage us and have our best interests at heart. They stand as bastions of strength and reinforce our best inclinations, keeping us on course for the achievement of our goals and the betterment of ourselves. This is a responsibility which is best shared and only with those in whom we have faith and trust implicitly as the ripple effect extends to all areas of our lives.

From a partner’s point of view, our pals offer an intriguing perspective on the character of the one they love. How mates relate to and with each other and their shared experiences can be highly illustrative and informative as to what makes them the person they are and how their personality has been shaped. It puts our partner in a new light, revealing and affirming those qualities for which they are loved and appreciated. It is also our friends’ unique ability to bring out the best in us, uncover our hidden talents and give full space for our best attributes to emerge, as well as inspire new insights and clarify purpose where it might otherwise have not had the chance to develop. The company of friends affords the opportunity to engage interests and pursuits outside of the relationship providing an essential counterpoint and facilitating independence and balance within it.

Men’s mates allow them to add value to others’ lives and provide an ongoing basis for growth and development and though this is no less true for women and their mates; the stage, settings and scenery can vary greatly so as to obscure the essential truth behind it. It is crucial for our relationships to acknowledge and embrace these differences as they provide a platform to develop skills and qualities that benefit that relationship and contribute to its lasting prosperity. It is in our interests to be the best mate possible in all our relationships so that we can give the utmost to our partner. After all, a mate is simply one of a pair, two peas in a pod, a counterpart and contemporary, a first mate on our life’s voyage, our perfect match and best buddy and the one to whom we owe the best we can be.

What do you count as infidelity?

 

In a world where physical intimacy and companionship is a mere click or swipe away and accessible in the confinements of your own home, the lines of infidelity can become blurred. Cheating is difficult to define as relationships are based more on emotion and less on logic. However, a conventional idea of infidelity is held by most. The range of behaviours most associated with infidelity can vary from hidden friendships with a person of the gender you find sexually attractive, to physical intimacy. It is essentially a violation of the expected behaviour of your significant other, meaning it is often based on a subjective viewpoint.

There are numerous affiliations of cheating, such as emotional infidelity, which is fundamentally your partner being in love and demonstrating this to someone who is not you. This is also where secret friendships can come into play, as often they are the slippery slope to emotional infidelity. That is not to say friendships with specific people or specific genders/sexual orientation are not allowed, it is about ensuring that the emotional aspect of your romantic relationship is not being met by someone who is not your exclusive partner and vice versa. It is often suggested that emotional infidelity brings more pain to an individual than physical infidelity as it signifies a fault in the relationship on several levels, as opposed to physical intimacy, where an individual’s primitive desires are not being met.  It is also harder for marriages to recover as healing needs to take place on multiple divisions, not to say that this cannot be done but may take more time.

In your own relationship, you need to set your specific boundaries. Communication is key to understanding what infidelity means to both you and your partner. There is no use having cheating defined in your mind and not discuss this with your significant other as they may very well have a different set of boundaries formed. You need to establish what behaviours you deem acceptable, both in your own actions and your partners and you must both be on the same page about fidelity and exclusivity. For some, a flirtatious display of affection would not be deemed as cheating, for others it would be. The same can be said for a drunken kiss, a ‘hall pass’ and so on. Hence the importance of establishing the parameters of acceptable behaviour with your partner.

It is also important to ensure you do not slip into a harmful mindset. Jealousy can jeopardise a perfectly happy and successful relationship unnecessarily, leading to a breakdown in trust and communication which once existed. It is important to trust in your partner and to only act on certainties when it comes to a belief that they are being unfaithful. Jealousy and a certainty that your partner has been unfaithful when they have not been, can be just as damaging as your partner cheating. Clarification on what you as a couple consider cheating, should limit any unnecessary jealousy you feel in a relationship. A fine line exists between being passionate about your relationship and becoming possessive and jealous.

Overall, infidelity can be seen as a breach in trust, your partner or yourself behaved in a way that you both consider disrespectful and unacceptable to the relationship and it is up to you to determine how you want to proceed in your union. Open, honest communication about how you feel about the situation and what went awry can strengthen a relationship or simply reveal a new path in life, whichever you choose ensure you carry a truthful mind and a trusting heart. 

Men & sport!

For something that has always been an integral part of cultures around the world and throughout history, sport has more recently garnered a somewhat negative reputation. Whether this is due to the exorbitant amounts of money that today’s sports stars earn, the merging of enterprising and sporting interests, the increasing emphasis on image or more generally the over-subscribing of importance to what many see as something fairly trivial; there is no doubt sport has the capacity to be inclusive and divisive in equal measure. This is no less true in our personal relationships, as the stereotypical image of the husband spending hours whacking balls around a golf course or watching two dozen men chase one round a football pitch will testify.

Does sport really deserve to be perceived so unfavourably? As a fundamental aspect of culture, it has always reflected the outlook of the society it embodies, defining roles and establishing status. Furthermore, the origins of the word ‘sport’ go back to Old French ‘disport’ with the sense ‘to carry away’. Sport then, has always been a necessary counterpoint from the world of work and something in which people have immersed themselves, also allowing a sense of identity and social interaction. Those who practise sport are also, to a large extent fit and healthy, take care of themselves and pride themselves on their appearance and performance, all attributes which bode well in the field of life, love and relationships.

Peoples’ approach to recreation and physical activity can be highly indicative of their underlying attitudes and values. Those who play team sports may well foster close working relationships and offer support and encouragement. Those who enjoy head-to-head endeavours like martial arts, tennis or golf are likely to have a competitive edge and a high sense of respect for the other person. Many almost undoubtedly place a great deal of emphasis on developing, growing and striving to be the best they possibly can. Participation in a sport also requires dedication and commitment and the persistence to accomplish goals, reach milestones and achieve. These attributes inevitably extend into our personal relationships and are essential in making them successful and long-lasting.

Men and women’s choice of, and attitude to sport needn’t be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they can reflect points of interest in common and lead to shared experiences. Where two people have a love of the sea, while one may be an accomplished sailor the other might love to dive yet they are united nonetheless and could visit the same locations and each allow the other to discover something new from their common passion. A taste for adventure might find two people at home in the mountains respectively sharing their love of skiing and paragliding. Our choice of sport is an extension of who we are and as a result, reflects essential elements of our character which provide the basis of our potential compatibility with others in a variety of other respects,

A lot can be ascertained about someone’s attitude and approach to life by their relationship with sport. It is important then to look beyond the surface and appreciate peoples’ motives for participating in their chosen practice. Sport defies broad stereotypes of gender and status - women are now well established in various fields of competitive sport and long-held perceptions of who should play what sport or which ones are socially respectable have withered in recent decades. So far from restrictive and exclusive opinions there is now an open playing field, a ticket for you to participate in the most exciting game on earth. What you play and with whom and to what rules is down to you. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to participate and give your all.