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Is Love an Addiction?

You are in love. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you can’t do anything but think of the person. Are you addicted to love?

Ever since the beginning of time love has been described as an excruciating passion. We see it everywhere; in movies, in books, in songs. Almost two thousand years ago, Ovidsaid: “I can’t live with or without you” (Amores III, xi, 39) – a sentence that was made famous by Irish band U2 song. Other musicians sang about this too; legendary Led Zeppelinin their “I can’t Quit You Baby” as well as Ke$ha in her catchy song"Your Love Is My Drug." Similar feeling is expressed in the famous movie Brokeback Mountain by the character Jack Twist who said“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

It is far from true that only artists and poets feel this way as our everyday speech is full of such expressions. We often hear those in love saying: “I need you” and “I am addicted to you”. It seems like when we are in love, we experience a tremendous attraction towards another person and that attraction is persistent and often times impossible to ignore. 

Love is often thrilling but it can sometimes be dangerous. If our feelings are returned, we are in a state of euphoria. However, other times we might follow love’s pull to the point of suffering. It is hard to disagree with the fact that lovers sometimes become confused, unreasonable, unpredictable or even self-destructive. When relationships end in an undesirable way, lovers feel pain, grief and loss. 

These patterns of alternating euphoria and despair, frantic longing and harmful thoughts and behaviours that might occur after a relationship ends are strikingly similar to phenomena we see within ‘typical’ addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine or gambling. For example, a gambler might feel euphoric during the initial rush and excitement that comes along placing a bet and winning. When an unwanted loss occurs, the gambler feels desperate and often behaves in a destructive way – for example they may increase the bet with money that he or she is not in the position to spend. Nevertheless, while we often borrow phrases from the language of addiction when referring to love, there is at least one distinction between love and conventional addiction; while nobody desires to become addicted to alcohol, nearly everyone yearns to be in love. Is it therefore absurd to claim that there is a true resemblance between love and addiction?

Perhaps not. First, there is a resemblance between love and drugs even before an addiction develops. For instance, scientists suggestthat on a physiological level, falling in love and smoking crack cocaine are incredibly similar processes! This not to be confused with that slightly buzzed sensation you might feel after a glass or two of wine; it is rather the overwhelmingly euphoric and exciting feeling that follows the intake of crack cocaine that is similar to falling in love. So, if you are looking for a legal way to get high, perhaps consider falling in love.

What is really happening when we fall in love?  We start by experiencing a rush of emotions.  Some like to call it magic, others prefer the term ‘fate’, I like to say that I’m being love-struck. Whatever term we use, from a biological perspective, being in love causes a range of chemical reactions in your brain; neurotransmitters called oxytocin and dopamine get released. These chemical reactions affect your brain and produce the euphoric feeling that we experience during the initial stages of a relationship. 

The chemistry behind falling in love has been extensively studied and written about. However, many of us are not too concerned about that – we simply like the way it feels. Also, even without reading articles, many of us know that this overwhelming rush of feelings will fade away at some point. There is nothing wrong with that. The initial first weeks or months should help us build a solid foundation with the person we are in love with and hopefully form a relationship that goes beyond just a chemical reaction. Nevertheless, for some people this chemical reaction, this euphoric state is what they become addictedto and keep looking for even when it is over. This is then another similarity between love and addiction; just like drug addicts desire to feel the high cocaine gives them and are unable to resist it, love addicts have a hard time letting go of that initial rush. 

If at this point you feel like you are definitely a love addict, please bear in mind that almost everyone can relate to that initial rush experienced during the early stage of a relationship. We’ve all been there; the other person’s existence provides us with constant emotional excitement and distraction. However, most people acknowledge that healthy relationships will inevitably develop into something less exciting but more profound in the long run.

While the similarity between falling in love and taking a drug is there, being in love evolves into a healthy, happy relationship whereas compulsively taking a drug can develop into an addiction therefore it appears that there is a distinction between the two. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the same way that drug addicts cannot resist the urge to get the high, love addicts choose to rely on the neurochemical rush. When the rush fades away (whether induced by love or drug), the addict feels pain and disappointment and compulsively seeks the rush again.

But what is the rush in love addition? Unlike the typical addiction, we can’t point into something physical such as pills, cigarettes or slot machines. There are, however, clear symptomsthat manifest in a person’s behaviour and might signal love addiction.

One of the most common signs of love addiction is assigning too much importance to the new love. Of course, we all feel a little obsessed about the person we fell in love with but only love addicts would do whatever it takes in order to keep the high; they jeopardise work, friendships and even family and prioritise the new person in their life. Furthermore, they neglect responsibilities in their life in order to chase relationship dreams. Once the new person becomes the centre of their world, love addicts tend to believe that he or she can fix everything. As a result, instead of the relationship enhancing their life goals, their lives become all about the relationship. Ultimately, love addicts find themselves in relationships driven by feelings of incompleteness and insufficiency and find it difficult to feel ‘whole’ without their partner. 

These feelings, however, vary from person to person. That said, even if you exhibit all of these behaviours you might not be an addict, as everyone is different what makes someone addicted might be perfectly fine for someone else, in the same way that drugs don’t make everyone addicted to the same degree. In any case, there is advice for everyone who experiences the love addiction signs. In his book ‘How to Break Your Addiction to a Person’, Howard Halpern describes techniquesthat might help in breaking or preventing the addiction to a person

1.    Keep a Relationship Diary

Log the events and happening of your relationship in as much detail as possible. Most importantly, be honest, express your thoughts and feelings openly. Doing this may help you understand your feelings better and the way they relate to your actions. For instance, you might spot that every time you feel bad, you reach out for your phone and text your partner. When you are more aware of the situation, coming up with solutions becomes easier.

2.    Connect with others

Try and reconnect with your friends and family. The value of this network can be precious and those addicted to love often neglect it. Although it might seem that only your partner can provide support and understanding, you will be surprised to see that sharing your thoughts and feelings with your friends or family can be equally comforting.

3.    Become Aware of Your Body

Our minds are deeply connected to our bodies. The way we feel is related to our body functioning and it is therefore important to be aware of that relationship. Become aware of your body; it can be something as simple as focusing on your breathing. This will enhance the feeling that there is a central core within you and that you are actually the one who has control over it.

4.    Allow Multiple Attachments

Just like we can connect with people, we can also connect to something more timeless. Go out in nature, read books, listen to music – the world is full of things to explore. In a way, whereas people come and go, these things will always be around. This is not to say that we should not connect with people because one day they might not be there, but rather that we should get the best out of everything that is out there be it people, places or things. 

So, is it love or is it addiction? Probably it is a little bit of both. While some dose of addiction can be nice and poetic, in its essence, addiction is not about enjoying something but rather having a hard time staying away from something that gives you pleasure. Therefore, just like with everything in life, the best would be to find the balance between the two and enjoy a happy relationship. 

References:

Dr Kurt Smith. Yes, it is Possible to Be Addicted to Love. Retrieved from: https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/yes-it-is-possible-to-be-addicted-to-love.aspx

Earp, B. D., Wudarczyk, O. A., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2017). Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?. Philosophy, psychiatry, & psychology: PPP, 24(1), 77.

Fisher, H., & Holt, H. (2004). The brain in love. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

Halpern, H. M. (2003). How to break your addiction to a person. Bantam.

Technology in Life

Today may be a day like every other day — consisting of our daily routines like pressing a button on our coffee machines, running the kids to school, attending the occasional meeting and the frequent checking of our phones. We may not realise it, but technology today has such an omnipresenceand has changed the way we function in our everyday lives.  We use our devices around 50% more than we did ten years ago, thus it is incredible what we have managed to achieve in such a short space of time. It is crazy how it all seems so conventional now, but we have come a long way since the catastrophic internet dial-up tone we all remember from the 90’s, as well as the five minutes it took for a webpage to load. Now, we can easily get over a million results on a search in less than a second and wirelessly transfer items from one device to the next, and even to our cars. Technology is amazing; however, it does have its drawbacks.

One of the biggest advantages if technology is its ease of use and convenience. It is easy to get to grips with, and when we use them, we save a lot of time and energy in our day, even when we are doing the most tedious of activities like the food shop. The saying, “Time is money” could not ring any truer, especially now more than ever before in light of the world’s current financial crises. However, with that in mind, we spend less time doing tedious everyday things, but spend more time interacting with technology instead, so what has happened in the time we have made up in the real world, but lost to the virtual world?

Grace Roche for Cuvva.com discusses the profound effects of technology on our everyday lives, explaining one of the biggest disadvantages of technology is how we are relying too much upon having easy and instantaneous access to everything we may desire. The use of technology has literally given us the power to have the world in the palm of our hands; from ordering our food and clothes to be delivered to our doors and getting artificial intelligence to do it for us.  The ease, accessibility and speed at which we are provided with what we want from companies and devices means we are receiving instant gratification which can ultimately and inevitably lead to us all becoming less patient and to some extent more frustrated when we don’t receive what we desire when expected or when done manually.

Psychology has long delved into gratification across the lifespan, more specifically though, the focus has shifted along with the new technological era and is now taking into consideration how it is impacting our relationships with others. Jim Taylor Ph.D notes in his article for Psychology Today that technology has also redefined our meaning of relationships, as such Pomerantz (2013) explores this further in her dissertation on ‘Attachment and Delayed Gratification in the Technological Age’. She acknowledges that we interact in a different way than we did in the past and as such we have created a new way to keep communicating with others and express our needs virtually, with “Generation Y” using it to their advantage to enhance feelings of comfort and minimise feels of negatively skewed feeling and emotions. In a sense, we are now able to turn our backs or disconnect when we feel uncomfortable, take for instance the ending of a phone call during a heated discussion or avoiding a message. On a positive note, the means by which we are connected now allow us to think freer and be more responsible in what we let others think and how they perceive us. As such, messaging has since become associated with the euphoric feeling of feeling loved or highly valued. However, this also signifies the lines between virtual and reality may have become blurred and we may have lost touch with how we would react if someone were to say the same things in person (Walsh, White and Young, 2008).Furthermore, in our modern day and age, it is easy for us to become tangled in the web and quite literally too. We are all a part of the World Wide Web in one way or another, as such via social media or through the press in some way. We read the news, connect and scroll through our timelines, and even sometimes express our lives and opinions on it. It is an everyday necessity now. So much so, we have begun unable to separate the real world from our virtual ideals and social media entities. Our true realities can be blinded by the eye-catching headlines and glamorous paparazzi snaps, evading the truth behind the screen and misconstruing what is really going on in our lives and the world. As such, you can feel envious and that you should be doing something far greater than what you are doing. Whilst for many of us this may be the case due to our ambition and wanting to better our lives, for others it is because they have viewed something on the internet, and they wish to be like someone else and are thus wanting to live in someone else’s false sense of reality. Believably, it is easy for us to look at something and base an opinion on it, whether it be a judgement of them, or in comparison of ourselves.

Whilst the instantaneous access allows us to be constantly aware of the world around us, it can also mean we are at a heightened state of fear and apprehension. Technology and social media have also elevated and influenced the fear of missing out, or commonly known as ‘FOMO’ in today’s society. We are relying upon the media and the internet to tell us what to do and how to get there, without consideration to real life circumstances or emotions. As such, we are more unhappy in our lives and surroundings than ever before and BBC Scotland has found it is because we are focusing on all the things we feel aren’t controllablebut really and truly are, if we only disconnected from technology for a mere second. What is more, we are also in what has been aptly named the “loneliness epidemic”,Alice G. Watson explains our dependence on our phones and in particular our interactions with social media have heightened our feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially when viewing or being a part of negative interactions online.

So how can we combat these feelings and help our interactions with the real world?

We must first look at the bigger picture, our phones and technology are an essential to our day to day lives, but not an essential part of our existence. We are more than a collection of photos and statuses, and our self-worth is not determined by the likes or how many followers we have. In the real world we make connections by talking to people, we first learn the little things about them and then we delve into the deeper conversations, getting to know one another piece by piece. Our devices help us to ask the difficult questions as we can hide behind a screen, making it easier to talk to one another as previously mentioned, but when it comes to face to face contact make sure you don’t back out of love, even when it may be scary or you might be uncomfortable.

If we took a step back from technology, and limited our usage, therefore only using it as and when needed, we could be happier and find we are leading more of a meaningful life. By being able to disconnect we are able to reconnect to ourselves and realign our feelings in accordance to who we wish to be and not who we see or want others to see. According to Forbes when we engage in real social connection (face-to-face) and make a conscious effort to be surrounded by others physically and not our devices, we perceive our activities to be more meaningful and consequently we feel more fulfilled and happier. 

Of course, the times will change and a new wave of technology will soon be available, but we can’t let a false sense of reality make us lose sight of who and what we love and appreciate. Whilst technology may have changed the way we communicate, and as it stands most of our “interpersonal interactions have become imbued with an immediacy and connectedness unrelated to physical proximity". We must never let it completely void all face-to-face conversation, as without it we won’t feel or get raw emotion and understand others. Part of life is being able to understand where we are going wrong and where we are going right, perhaps in our relationships or perhaps even in our work. Technology doesn’t have to rule our lives in every domain as we must always remember, things aren’t always as they seem, and we cannot predict everything. Think of your device as a view into someone’s view of themselves, you will only see what they want you to see, and it is most likely a false image. Happiness, fulfilment or opportunities will not come from comparing, or being stationary behind a computer screen.

Thus, our message is to not become tangled in what you see, your happiness lies within you, from understanding yourself, knowing who you are and your capabilities, learning to be kind to yourself and making meaningful connections. You will know what you want, and even better you will know how to get there.

The Seven Deadly Sins: Part two – Gluttony and Greed

According to tradition, The Seven Deadly Sinsare: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath.

This series of blogs looks into how these ‘sins’ can play into relationships. 

Gluttonyan inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Greed– “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed”.Mahatma Gandhi

In life, as in love, we want it all; wealth, good health, the perfect partner and everything in between. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting it all, the way in which we achieve this can sometimes lead to disappointment. 

Let us start by saying, this blog is meant to explore these ‘sins’ in the colloquial sense as opposed to the biblical. 

We begin first with dating. Some take the ‘more is more’ approach to dating. They date as many people as they can, as often as they can, rarely stopping to truly consider the feelings of the other person or their potential to be a long-term partner. They go into it with an ‘I want’ attitude and can sometimes forget there are two people involved in the dating process. Whilst ‘the more the better’ can sometimes be a helpful approach to ‘putting yourself out there’ and exploring as many options as possible in order to meet the one, we need to ensure we do not overindulge and miss out on the very thing we have been in search of through our own ‘greed’. Try to focus on the person in front of you and if there is any potential to the two of you dating, instead of listening to that little voice in your head which is telling you to keep your options open and to date as many people as you can as opposed to choosing to ‘settle’, keep focused. Most importantly, avoid keeping one eye on the door for someone else who may come along and instead try to imagine that the person in front of you may just be enough. 

It is also important to remember that both people on the date have their own ideas about what they want in a partner. Often we become so focused on what we want that we forget we will also need to meet the requirements of the person we are dating; we too will have to ‘tick all their boxes’ in order to succeed. Be aware of what you want from a relationship but also of what you can bring to the table. Avoid being short sighted and remember that effort and attributes are required on both sides to make a relationship work. 

The key to any successful relationship is compromise and this can start as early as the initial stages of dating someone. It is commonplace to have some kind of ‘list’ which we want our partner to live up to: age, height, looks, wealth bracket, job title and so on and so forth, but the overbearing need to fulfil this list can sometimes be to our detriment; we miss out on what could be a wonderful relationship because the person we are potentially going to date has failed to tick a box. Keep in mind what you are prepared to compromise on and allow this to encourage some flexibility in your approach to a potential mate.  

Having said that, it is of course wise to know what your deal breakers are in a relationship but also not to get these confused with the ideals you would like in a partner rather than the must haves. The ‘ideals’ are things you can and are happy to compromise on if it means you are with the person you ultimately see a future with, whereas deal breakers are things you absolutely cannot compromise on. These usually encompass things such as abusive behaviour not being tolerated, religious beliefs, values and long-term relationship goals such as your views on having children or getting married. 

Mark D. White Ph.D.writes in his blog The Pros and Cons of Dating Deal Breakers“You need decide what things about a person are truly important to you and demand those things, but not get stuck on lesser things that really don’t matter and will just stand in the way of fulfilment in your love life”.So in essence, don’t let the inner ‘greed’ of wanting it all in a partner to jeopardise a potentially great connection. As Dr Georgina Barnett in her blog Set Relationship Goals states “Once you have defined realistic goals, then you can work as a couple to put steps in place to make the relationship work. If you have different visions, you may need to work together, communicate and look at ways that you can both compromise”so compromise regarding wants and needs in relationships does not have to be one sided; it can involve both you and your partner. 

Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D  in his blog ‘Is Greed Ever Good? The Psychology of Selfishness’ stated amongst other things“Greed is about never being satisfied with what one has, always wanting and expecting more. It is an insatiable hunger. A profound form of gluttony”. So, if we use greed as a motivator when dating, it is possible that we will never find what we are looking for, as whatever we have will never be enough. We will forever be searching for the ‘perfect’ mate which in most cases is an impossible position to fill. 

In her blog Seven Qualities of an Ideal Partner Tamsen Firestone writes “while the reasons we fall in love are often a mystery, the reasons we stay in love are far less elusive. There may be no such thing as the perfect partner, but an ideal partner can be found in someone who has developed themselves in certain ways that go beyond looks, charms and success”.

Annie Wright wrote in her article The Myth of the Perfect Partner & The Myth That Love Should Be Easythat “The Myth of The Perfect Partner often causes us to have unrealistic expectations of others (and often of ourselves, too) which can lead to a great deal of emotional pain in and out of relationships”.Constantly wanting your partner to be the cardboard cut out of what you deem to be the ‘perfect mate’ and never leaving any leeway for them to be their true selves will ultimately lead to disappointment for both you and them. 

As Noam Shpancer Ph.D.said in his article Laws of Attraction: How Do We Select a Life Partner? “the final selection among all the worthy candidates is decided by a subjective internal process that is obscure and whimsical and does not necessarily obey the dictates of rationality, evolutionary mandates, cultural pressures, or even our own conscious will, plans or intentions. At the end of the day, as the philosopher Blaise Pascal said, the heart has reasons that reason doesn’t understand”.

Many of us are in search of our happy ending but in reality, does that actually exist? If you have ever been in a long-term relationship you will know there is no such thing as the conventional happily ever after, its not a case of meeting your dream partner who encompasses everything you have ever wanted and walking off into the sunset, never to argue or experience a problem ever again. Relationships of all kinds take hard work, commitment and compromise to reach the ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ moment, so its important to enter into them with clarity that as much as you would love to take the ‘I want, I want’ (greed) approach, this is not what will bring you the happiness you crave. Being open to change, taking off the rose tinted glasses to what you believe ‘perfect’ is and seeing someone for everything they can offer rather than instantly discounting them for what they can’t, may in fact bring you more success and ultimately help you find the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. 

The Seven Deadly Sins: Part one - Envy

According to tradition, The Seven Deadly Sinsare: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath.

This series of blogs looks into how these ‘sins’ can play into relationships. 

Envy: The intense desire to have something that someone else possesses. 

It is human nature to compare yourself to others, but when it comes to relationships, this is a mistake best avoided. We have all heard the saying ‘nothing is quite as it seems’ and this couldn’t be more accurate when it comes it love. It’s easy to view a relationship from the outside and envy what those two people have in comparison to what you have; ‘they always look so happy’, ‘they’re perfect for each other’, ‘they never seem to argue’ but the reality is more often than not quite different. In the age of social media where people are encouraged to post picture perfect lifestyles, taking things with a pinch of salt can sometimes be the best approach. 

Let us first remember that when you see couples posting about themselves online, you are seeing only a small snapshot of their reality. It is highly unlikely that the people in question will post anything other than the best version of themselves and their relationships. Projecting the image of relationship bliss is far more inviting and enviable than posting the day to day reality of relationships.

So if you are tempted to compare your relationship to the Prince Harrys  and Meghan Markles of the world, take a moment to consider that maybe, just maybe, you are already living your own fairy-tale. 

Relationships of any kind are hard work. Be it friendships; if you want to remain on good terms and connected to a friend, you have to put the effort in to see them regularly so that the connection remains, or romantic relationships; you need to take time to be with your partner, to build memories together and to really talk to each other about whatever is happening in your life at that time. 

Envy can impact your relationship in many ways. From an internal perspective, comparing your partner to someone else’s can be the start of a downward spiral. Statements such as ‘why can’t you be more like X, he’s always happy to spend all his free time with his wife and kids’, or ‘X loves going out every weekend with her partner, why can’t you be more like her’ can have a detrimental impact on your relationship as a whole. This is because, after all, it’s never nice to feel like the qualities you offer your partner are being compared to those of someone else. 

When envy begins to creep in, in this way, it can be helpful to remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place. You are with that person for a reason, so there must be some qualities that drew you to them in the first instance. Psychologist Dr Georgina Barnett and colleagues at Seventy Thirty explored The Psychology of Attraction in a recent podcast which highlighted an introduction into some of the different approaches to what we find attractive and why. The matching hypothesis for example, explains that we tend to be attracted to someone of equal attractiveness. There are many different theories about what we find attractive and why, some of which Noam Shpancer Ph.D .explores in his article Laws of Attraction: How Do We Select a Life Partner? These range from factors such as exposure and familiarity, to personality and character, and on and so forth. Whatever the reason that drew you to your partner, keep that at the forefront of your mind. 

When it comes to envy, the phrase ‘The grass is always greener’ is often a prevalent thought. You envy what someone else has and automatically assume your life would be far better if you had the same; if you’re single, you long for the security and comfort of a long-term relationship, and if you are in a relationship you long for the freedom and far reaching social life of your single friends. 

Suzie Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski in their article Why Does the Grass Often Seem Greener Elsewhere? Found that “We may overwhelmingly focus on what is wrong in our situation and forget about what is going right. Despite plenty of positive things in our environment, our attention naturally fixates on problems.”. This applies to envy in that it is an emotion which, more often than not, comes to the forefront when we are feeling in a negative mindset. If you are having a good day, feeling happy, loved and in good health it is quite easy to naturally relish all the things you love about your partner and see the positive traits they have; thoughtfulness, understanding etc. However, the opposite can be said if you are having a bad day and are in a negative mindset. Suddenly those usually endearing qualities turn into ‘reasons’ to feel envious and look elsewhere or at least feel like you ‘should’ be looking for bigger and better things.  

Remember, happiness isn’t a guarantee which comes with life. You have to want it, be passionate about it and work hard to achieve it. Once achieved, whether that be with the partner you’ve always hoped for or the job you dreamt you’d get, the next stage is to work hard to maintain it. Envy can become an issue when something else in your relationship is lacking. It is during these times that we tend to focus on the negatives which make it so much easier to justify our feelings of envy and this is where the hard work begins.

Joshua Becker wrote A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Envy and found that ‘One of the biggest reasons we envy the life of another is because we have begun to take our blessings for granted.’It can be helpful to remember the things you enjoy about a certain situation in order to stop feelings of envy coming into play. For example, if you are working in a field that you initially found appealing, which would be a given if you decided to take a job in that field, remember why you said yes. Consider all the skills you have learnt in that role, the colleagues you enjoy spending time with and the reasons why you have stayed in that position for as long as you have. The same applies to romantic relationships. Remember why you said yes to the first date with your partner, when you fell in love with them, the memories you have shared so far and the plans you have for your future together. 

Taking time to be thankful for what you have, instead of being frustrated by what you don’t, can do wonders for your relationship and state of mind. Incorporating Mindfulness into your day to day life can help with this as “becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted”. 

It is human nature to get frustrated and to want something else. There are some who would even say this is a helpful emotion to have as it can make you strive to achieve more or to change the things you are not happy with. For example, if a friend of yours has progressed up the career ladder and has achieved successes you feel you would like in life, instead of feeling envious, try to feel inspired. See them as someone to look up to, a yard stick of what you would like to achieve and the direction you would like your life to go in. You could even try talking to them about how they have come to the position they are in today and see if there is anything you can implement in your own life/relationship to help you reach your goal. 

Loveisrespect.org published a blog on What is a Healthy Relationship? and found that the following tips can help you and your partner create and maintain a healthy relationship: Speak Up, Respect Each Other, Compromise, Be Supportive and Respect Each Other’s Privacy. These points may seem simple, but are often over looked when we are in an envious mindset. Once you find the person you want to commit to, keep these tips in mind as ways to maintain your relationship thus avoiding envying others. 

So to conclude, whether you are in a relationship or single,take time to smell the roses, push doubt from your mind and instead of feeling envious about all the shoulda woulda couldas, consider where you are now, what you are grateful for and happy about in your life, and if there is something you don’t like about it, change it because you want to and not because the green-eyed monster we call envy tells you to. 

Don’t Give Up on Love

Finding love can be both exciting and also at times discouraging, you may meet someone accidentally, you may be introduced to them, you may think someone is the one and they don’t feel the same, essentially the path to finding love is different for us all. It is vital to remember that this is the case and therefore to not compare our relationship paths with others. All of us can find love, if that is what we are looking for, if we have an understanding of whether we are in the right place psychologically for it and put the right amount of effort in. Remaining open to finding a partner can be one of the key factors in success, as discussed in our podcast ‘First Dates in Relationships’. It is therefore important to not give up hope nor make finding a partner the sole purpose of your existence but to strike a balance.  

 With an increase in access to potential partners, whether it be online or matchmaking services, it can increase the chances of success but also the potential for doubt in a new relationship. With so many options we have somewhat become a throwaway society, when we hit a bump in the road, people are often quick to jump ship and simply move on to the next potential. However, love takes work and not putting the effort in to overcome initial hurdles will prevent you from finding meaningful long-term relationships. 

As the saying goes, ‘the grass isn’t always greener’, and you could find yourself wishing you’d tried that little bit harder with someone and wondering whether it could have gone anywhere. Although love does take effort it shouldn’t always feel like hard work, there needs to be a balance of putting energy into your relationship, without it sucking all of your own energy, leaving you exacerbated. It is important to remember that love won’t always be easy, that’s not to say it will be difficult to find but holding on to it long enough to establish true connections is key. This is highlighted by Michelle Birge  in her article ‘Love Takes Work, But Not Too Much Work’when she says that “all relationships take some work. But the right one doesn’t take that much work”.   

In order to give someone a chance, you need to be engaged, ask questions and to be curious about them. Putting in the time will allow you to see if connections will be formed and time will establish whether these connections are likely to last. If you jump at the first instance you disagree or fall out with someone, issues cannot be resolved or discussed and what could have been cleared up with a bit of communication, has resulted in the break up of a relationship. It can be frightening being vulnerable. Even having an honest conversation about what you want or need from someone to form a relationship can leave you feeling that way. However, you open yourself up to so much potential by being vulnerable, but if you’d given up on it, love would be that little bit further away. Emma Seppälädiscusses this issue in her blog ‘Why Being Vulnerable is the Key to Intimacy’whereby she states that “the quality that makes a relationship last is its degree of affection and true affection implies vulnerability”.

Another key factor to getting the love you want is to know what you want, understand what you expect and only accept the relationships that fulfil this.  When it comes to relationship advice, we are littered with articles telling us what we should accept, what we should expect and telling us how we should feel. Whether it be contradictory advice of taking control as a woman or to follow traditional dating practices, right down to whether we should abide by strict first date rules. The truth of the matter is that in order to feel comfortable and happy in a relationship you need to understand what behaviours you are willing to accept and what kind of relationship you want to have, whilst remaining open to being vulnerable and meeting someone. Only then will others around you understand your expectations and adhere to them. 

Setting boundaries and having self-worth does not mean you relinquish all abilities to be open and forthcoming to new relationships nor does it allow you to exhibit controlling behaviour over others. It simply means that you are allowing yourself to have the right kind of relationships. Here are a few tips that may help you remain open to finding love but also keep hold of the standards you are looking for.

-       Communication is key, a concept that is outlined in the blog ‘Don’t lose a fantastic relationship to poor communication – understanding the differences between how men and women communicate’written by Dr Georgina Barnett. You need to express clearly and concisely as and when you feel a potential partner has treated you in a manner you find unacceptable. Here you can keep things light hearted, so as to get your point across but ensure any negative feelings are not amplified.

-       Internally process your own behaviour and ensure you are justified in your feelings. Sometimes we may over dramatize situations to validate how we are feeling, yet if we are mindful about what it is that has affected us then we are able to communicate this clearly to others. Conversely, we also need to ensure that our internal monologue does not turn into negative self-talk. “Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and reach your potential.” This was outlined by Elizabeth Scott, MSin her article ‘The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk’.Whether we move to blaming or negative self-talk behaviours, both need to be addressed and we need to ensure we are taking an objective view or at least a realistic subjective one. 

-       Explain your thought process or your reasons as to why you feel the way you do e.g. I do not like the tone you used as it makes me feel belittled. This allows your potential partner an insight into your thought processes and will help them understand what you need from them. After all we are not mind readers and our true meanings can be altered through incorrect perceptions. 

Further to these tips, we have all heard the common phrase that in order to find love you must first love yourself and that having this self-worth is a pre-cursor to a wonderful relationship with a potential partner. However recent research has shown that yes, it is important to love yourself but that it is more important to have self-security. Self-security is defined as the open and non-judgmental acceptance of one's own weaknesses as discussed in the article ‘Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security’(Huang & Berenbaum, 2017). It is this honesty and acceptance with yourself that allows you to be open in relationships and also to be open to finding a relationship. Fully understanding yourself, having self-security, setting boundaries and taking an active role in finding a relationship is what will propel you towards a successful relationship.  

 This was supported by the research which found that self-security predicted relationship quality and that participants’ greater self-security significantly predicted experiencing less conflict and emotional distress in their relationships. We live the life that we accept, and this is the same for relationships. We have the type of relationship we accept and in order to ensure we are having successful, fulfilling ones you need to be with those who treat you the way you want to be treated. Mutual respect, understanding and clear communication will allow both you and a potential partner to learn and teach each other exactly what it is you want from your relationship and in turn prevent you from turning away from love.   

In conclusion, it is important to remember to live your life as a whole but to remain open to exploring a potential relationship and giving it the chance both you and the other person deserve. If things don’t work out, after you’ve been engaged with this person, then continue to be open to finding love. Just because you look for love for today and don’t find it, doesn’t mean it won’t turn up tomorrow.  Go at love with a realistic view, no it won’t be easy, but it will sure be worth it when you find someone you want to make the effort for. As the saying goes; If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.   

References

Huang, A. B., & Berenbaum, H. (2017). Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 64-70.

Are you an ostrich? - How avoidance can cause a break down in relationships.

There is a myth that when an ostrich feels threatened or stressed it will bury its head in the sand. Whilst research has disproven this myth as ostriches in fact flop over when they are stressed, it still provides an interesting theory of coping with arising problems. In a relationship there are obstacles that will occur as you progress down the line. These can be anything from changes in circumstances, conflicts in emotions or something as serious as infidelity. However, the way in which we deal with these obstacles can vary. So, what do we mean by are you an ostrich? 

The ostrich myth is a maladaptive way of coping with stressors, closing your mind and avoiding problems without solving them and is a form of avoidant coping.  Avoidant coping is higher in those who possess an avoidant personality or have developed an avoidant attachment type. An avoidant personality can stem from traumatic childhood experiences or events later in someone’s life whereby individuals form a way of coping by avoiding the fundamental issue caused by these experiences. (Finnegan, Hodges & Perry, 1996).

An avoidant attachment type is an evolutionary aspect that has stemmed from a very young age which becomes a template of how we behave in our future relationships. Psychologist Mary Ainsworth, theorised and looked into the different attachment types within children using the strange situation experiment and was the first to classify the term ‘insecure avoidant’ and which is more evident when a caregiver rejects their child’s needs and is insensitive. This is what the child learns from a very young age and shapes how they may view relationships growing up. Research by Hazan & Shaver(1987) showed that avoidant lovers were characterized by fear of intimacy, emotional highs and lows, and jealousy. 

Whilst having an avoidant personality disorder or possessing an avoidant attachment type is positively correlated with using avoidant coping, anyone can shut down and avoid confronting arising issues. Emotional stimulation (whether it be good or bad) can make someone draw into themselves and ‘bury their head in the sand.’ This can be because of a lack of confidence and fear of rejection, demonstrating that avoidant coping and ‘being an ostrich’ can impact relationships. 

The first stance on being an ostrich in your relationship can be an overwhelming sense of change, either in your personal circumstances or in your relationship. The sense of change can impact how well you feel the relationship is going. Instead of facing these problems head on, as and when they happen you avoid them, pretend that they don’t exist or try and hide them from your significant other for as long as possible until you can’t any more. Acting in this avoidant way creates problems for your relationship and can create a break down in intimacy. Not communicating these problems or tackling these obstacles through fear of losing your partner or expecting the issues to go away will just create more pressure.

Individuals who behave in this way are not necessarily avoiding physical confrontation. We avoid the way it makes us feel and look in the eyes of others. No one wants to be blamed or seen as the ‘bad guy’ who breaks up with their partner and be the cause of another person’s pain, so people deem it easier to avoid communicating these feelings and start to suffer internally. Before long, these internal feelings build up and often to lead to a break down in intimacy, closing the other person out and emotionally detaching yourself and in some cases infidelity. 

It’s not to say that lifting your head from the sand will definitely save the relationship, but it increases the chances of it being successful in the long run or ending in a respectful and mature manner with no animosity or wrong doing on the other person.  The truth is, some relationships are meant to end and some are meant to be forever. Keeping things bottled up and avoiding communicating will create un-happiness and frustration, so don’t be afraid to bite the bullet express your concerns or change of circumstances. If the relationship is meant to be, you will be able to work through and past it and if it is not then you can both close the book on this love story with dignity, loyalty and the comfort that you did all you could to try and make it work. 

On the flip side; if you are aware of a fundamental issue going on in your relationship and you still avoid confronting your partner this can exacerbate the issue. For example, when communication breaks down and your partner doesn’t necessarily treat you in the way in which you should be treated but you continue to act as if everything is normal avoiding that there is an underlying problem, keeping this in can build resentment. People act in this avoidant way as they lack confidence to approach their partner to find out what is going on in fear of the answer and getting rejected. Research has shown that we often stay in relationships, even if we are unhappy and turn a blind eye to problems in fear of becoming lonely but this in turn can stop you from finding true happiness (Spielmann et al, 2013).

There are many other reasons as to why we turn a blind eye to a relationship that is going bad; emotional affection, being habitual to bad treatment, dependence and the hope of change to name a few. 

Emotional affection clouds your judgement in relationships as we have an emotional attachment to our partner. It can be hard to detach yourself from that person and see what is really going on, so it’s easier to subconsciously avoid this, turn a blind eye and carry on as normal.  

Being habitual to bad treatment, is that you have turned a blind eye and buried your head in the sand for so long that this bad treatment becomes an everyday reality. You continue to avoid confronting the disrespect and bad treatment as nothing about his/her behaviour surprises you anymore, it is barely noticeable to you, only to others who might point out the severity of the toxicity of your relationship. 

Dependency on your partner is one of the biggest reasons for remaining in a relationship. Dependency can come in many forms, whether it be emotionally, financially or even family orientated. You have built a life together and if everything else is going well other than the relationship, its easy to avoid the anomaly in your life. If you have children together you may be dependent on your partner in many ways to be able to provide them with the best possible upbringing, whilst jeopardising your own happiness. 

The biggest reason of all to tie all the reasons together is that we bury our heads in the sand, as we hope that there will be a change. You tell yourself that this is only temporary, it’s just a phase, it will eventually pass, and you will get back to how you used to be before any of this happened. The reality is that is both parties or even one individual is behaving in an avoidant way until you communicate and confront what is going on it is going to continue lingering there.  

In order to move forward and to stop avoiding the issues, both partners need to lift their head from the sand so to speak. This is done by communicating and communication is key, if something is niggling away, then confront your partner about it. If you’re having second thoughts about the relationship explain to your partner why, they may have no idea that something they are doing is pushing you away. Don’t live in fear of confrontation, rejection or being alone, burying your head can make you feel safe for the time being but is not feasible for the long run. Don’t be an ostrich, as a happy healthy relationship has both partners with there heads rising above, looking over the horizon and tackling these problems as soon as they become visible. 

 

 

References: 

Finnegan, R. A., Hodges, E. V., & Perry, D. G. (1996). Preoccupied and avoidant coping during middle childhood. Child Development67(4), 1318-1328.

 

Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Maxwell, J. A., Joel, S., Peragine, D., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2013). Settling for less out of fear of being single. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6), 1049-1073.