Most of us want to have a loving, passionate, relationship that lasts through time.
However, most of us are having trouble finding the love and life we are looking to have. I’m a marriage and family therapist and for the last 40 years I have been helping men and women:
- Save a marriage that still has life, but is on the rocks.
- Take a good relationship that has lost some of the spark and revitalize it to greatness.
- Understand what went wrong the last time so they can choose well in the next relationship.
- Listen deeply to what is best for him, her, and the kids so that everyone gets what they need.
- Put into practice a seven step process to avoid looking for love in all the wrong places or messing up a good thing once you’ve found it.
What I don’t do is help people separate and divorce. Too many people do that on their own and too many marriage and family counselors, unknowingly, help that process along.
Let me be honest at the outset. I’ve had my own problems with relationships over the years. I grew up in fear. My mother and father tried many years to conceive a child. When she found out she was pregnant, my mother lived every day in terror afraid she would miscarry. As an older mother with numerous physical and emotional problems, she worried that she would die before I made it to high school.
My father felt the stresses of trying to support a family during tough economic times and his manic-depressive illness (which I inherited) combined with the stresses of his life to trigger a deep depression. When I was five, he tried to take his own life. Though he survived physically, our lives were never the same.
I grew up vowing I would avoid all the problems my parents suffered and was continually surprised when I suffered many of the same problems. I’ve been married and divorced twice. Once to my childhood sweetheart, who never got over the death of her father, and blamed me for not being the loving father she never had. The other marriage was to a woman whose father had abandoned her emotionally when she reached adolescence and suffered sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle.
Before I married again, I decided to figure out what wasn’t working and what would work. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far, based on finding Carlin (the love of my life) and living joyfully together (but yes, we’ve had our ups and downs) for the last 35 years.
Get clear about what you want.
I realized I had never thought clearly about what I really wanted in a relationship. I just trusted in that “old black magic” that would bring us together. When I reflected on what I truly wanted, these were some of the characteristics. I wanted someone I could trust, who wanted me the way I was, who was smart, nurturing, had a good sense of humor, was dedicated to her own growth as well as mine, and was willing to work for love.
Understand the ways the subconscious mind keeps us from finding what we truly want.
When I reflected back on the relationships that hadn’t worked, I found that my conscious mind wanted trust, love, nurturing, intelligence, humor, dedication, and a willingness to work for love. But my subconscious mind drew me to women who were sexy, dangerous, wounded, angry, blaming, close-minded, and willing to work for fear rather than love. I described the process in The Conscious Person’s Guide to Love Everlasting.
Be willing to look at Adverse Childhood Experiences that cause us to look for love in all the wrong places.
No one likes to remember old wounds. But if we don’t they continue to operate like a computer program in our subconscious. Here are some of the common wounds that impact our physical, emotional, and relationship health. You may have others as well.
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
- Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
- Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason?
- Was your mother or father often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her or him?
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
- Did a household member go to prison?
Examine the beliefs that we develop about ourselves from the wounds we experience growing up.
We all have had some degree of abuse, neglect, or abandonment and we all develop beliefs about ourselves that draw us to certain people and undermine our ability to have joyful satisfying relationships. Here are a few of the most common:
- I am not safe.
- I am worthless.
- I am powerless.
- I am not lovable.
- I cannot trust anyone.
- I am bad.
- I am alone.
These beliefs are often subconscious, so you have to trust your intuition to find them.
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