Sunday, September 29, 2013


We've all heard about how important it is to be able to compromise in relationships.  I agree, and I work with lots of couples on how to do just that.  But when does compromise become too much?  In other words, at what point is there so much compromise that your needs are being met?

I think all of us have both "needs" and "wants" in relationships.  It's really important to distinguish between the two.  "Needs" are qualities that you absolutely MUST have in your relationship in order to be happy.  For some people, this requires a partner who wants children (or who does not).  For others, it's sharing similar religious beliefs.  For me, if you don't like my dogs - well, that's a deal-breaker!  These are NEEDS, and they leave little room for compromise.

Then, we have lots of "wants."  Tall, dark, and handsome would be nice - but not necessary.  Maybe it would be great if you share the same taste in music or movies or food - but it's not a requirement.

With "wants," there's lots of space for give and take.  But if a relationship doesn't satisfy your "needs," then that's a serious problem.  Have you identified the distinction between needs and wants for yourself and  your relationship?  It's a crucial thing to know before making a commitment.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You just don't "get it."

In this morning's newspaper, I read an article that quoted actor, Jeff Bridges, on his ideas about relationships.  What he said is thought provoking.  To paraphrase, he said that the only real problem that relationships encounter is that people "just don't get it."  All relationship problems, he posits, are a variation on this.  Then he adds that we'll never "get it," and that love needs to be big enough to allow for this.  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Much Space do You Need in Your Relationship?

I have a divorced friend who was married for 20 years, and her divorce has been very amicable.  She and her ex are still friends.  She often says that the reason the marriage lasted so long is that her husband traveled all the time.  In other words, she likes being alone.  She is in a job where she interacts with people intensely all day long, and relishes the quiet of her "off" hours.  She doesn't want to have to think about what to cook for dinner.  She doesn't want to have to take another person into consideration when making plans.  She's just fine on her own, thank you very much!

While this degree of "space" might seem extreme, each of us has our own requirements that must be taken into consideration in a relationship.  I recently worked with a couple where one person's need for space was much greater than the other's.  They are struggling to negotiate how to create enough togetherness to satisfy one, without the other feeling smothered. 

This is a common issue that usually first comes up during the dating period, but is often not addressed until after marriage.  Big mistake!  Talk about these things before marriage.  It will help you learn how to negotiate and compromise, and you won't be going into the commitment with false expectations.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Defining your Terms

I had a couple in my office a few weeks ago for pre-marital counseling, and we were talking about the characteristics that each needed in a partner.  One of the qualities they agreed on was "Loyalty."  But oh, what different definitions they had!

"Jeff" defined loyalty as putting their relationship before all others.  They, as a couple, took precedence over any other friend or family relationships.  "Susan," on the other hand, defined it as agreeing with her on everything, especially in front of other people.  This meant that even if Jeff had an entirely different opinion than Susan, she would consider is disloyal for him to voice it to others.

That's quite a difference in definitions of a fairly simple word.  What does "loyalty" in your primary relationship mean to you?  Are there other words in which you and your partner get hung up on different definitions?  Let's have some conversation about semantics.