I think most couples can relate to this humorous video. It reminded me not only of the importance of empathy but of the importance of embracing and accepting personal and gender differences. And hey, maybe it sometimes really is about the nail. Enjoy!
© Jaime Nisenbaum, Ph.D. Posted with permission from the author.
There is a growing body of research showing how the process of socialization of boys in our society leads to severe relational deficits later in life. One place where this lack of relational skills shows up very prominently is in intimate relationships and marriages. In my professional life as a clinical psychologist, as well as in my personal life as a husband and a father, I notice how the internalized messages about what it is to be a man in our society gets in the way of men becoming more empathic, caring, loving, and engaged in family life with our wives and children. The same body of research that has identified these issues is also helping men and their families understand and eventually change these deep-seated patterns.
Research shows that, at birth, baby boys are more emotionally expressive than baby girls but by the age of 4 years old the effects of the socialization of boys in curbing that emotional expression are already clearly visible. At that early age, research shows that boys have already received conscious and unconscious messages from parents, teachers, peers and the culture at large that being in touch with vulnerable emotions such as sadness, fear, and healthy needs for closeness and affection are not acceptable for boys. By second grade, many teachers say that they can no longer “read” the facial expression in boys who have been “trained” to hide their emotions.
When boys begin to shut off those vulnerable emotions in order to fit into the “code of masculinity” -- being tough, competitive, aggressive, and avoiding anything that is labeled “girly” or feminine -- they start a relentless process of cutting off and disconnecting from these essential parts of themselves. By the time men get married, they have been through many years of practice in severing their connection from these vulnerable and vital parts of themselves.
The negative consequences of that process on men’s mental health are devastating and range from chronic anger, anxiety, substance abuse, and violence towards themselves and others to apathy and depression. Man men also suffer from an apparent “lack of empathy” that trouble many marriages and relationships that come to my office for help. I usually explain to the men and the women in my practice that given what men are required to do to be “men,” how could it be otherwise? Empathy requires that we have access to our feelings so that we can resonate with the feelings of others. If men are taught to cut off from certain feelings, how can we expect them to be able to resonate with the feelings of others? While this explanation is no excuse for any kind of abuse, it gives a starting place for men to start re-thinking whether they want or not to continue to live up to the mandates of the “code of masculinity.”
Unless men resolve to address their internal state of disconnection, they will repeat in their relationship with others what they learn to do with themselves: to dismiss, ignore, and avoid the “troubling” vulnerable feelings and live their lives as divided and un-integrated selves.
The “code of masculinity” is maintained by both the men and women in our culture and both men and women suffer from this state of affairs. But I believe that it is incumbent on men to realize what they have been “programmed” to do and finally decide to do something about it for their own sake, and for the sake of their relationships.
About the author:
Jaime Nisenbaum, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and professor who specializes in men's issues. He has a practice in Berkeley and San Rafael, CA. For more information about him, visit his web site. www.jaimenisenbaum.com
In every interaction we have with our partner there is the opportunity to heal. I guess that is truly what love is, a dynamic powerful healing agent. We, especially partners, are deeply connected and attached to each other. Science tells us that the way we communicate can impact each other's brains, for good or for ill. I guess we can build each other up or tear one another down. I image just like me, you too desire to do good. In this video, we get some tools for creating and maintaining love and secure attachment.
The 4 Mantras:
1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. Darling, I know you are there.
3. Darling, I know you suffer and that is why I am here for you.
4. Darling, I suffer. I do my best to practice. Please help.
Listen to this great video for a deeper understanding and advice on how to love.
Yahoo posted a nice summary of the research on relationship enhancers: The 10 Ways to Improve your Relationship.
1. Solidify your friendship.
2. Appreciate each other.
3. Concentrate on the present to ensure a future.
4. Don't Distort.
5. Share power.
6. Find common goals.
7. Understand anger.
8. Break negative cycles.
9. Focus on what's fixable.
10. Accept the unsolvable.
As the title of this suggests, most of this is based on John Gottman's research. Any of his books on relationships will give you detailed information on how keep on enhancing your relationship. It is good stuff. Common sense but important to be reminded of as we live our lives in this very busy complicated world. We need our partners now more than ever. But for various reasons, creating and maintaining a safe and secure attachment can get blocked. Use these principles to open up the flow between you and your lover.
Since April I have been doing a small class for therapists once a month introducing them to Emotionally Focused Therapy or EFT. I do not really consider myself a teacher but felt I wanted to be a part of spreading the good news about EFT. I love EFT and helping couples come together using it. I see couples go from distress and disconnection to peace and connection with each other. It is a joy to see this healing take place and I really wanted to show other therapists how to do this. It has been fun teaching others this therapy. So, what exactly is Emotionally Focused Therapy?
The essential element of a healthy relationship is emotional responsiveness. Sue Johnson speaks about helping distressed couples create that emotional responsiveness. Are you there for me? Do I matter to you? When you can answer yes to these questions, you will feel secure in your relationship. When you answer no, you may be heading towards distress. Couples therapy helps people recreate that feeling of "you are mine, I am yours , we are together and a team."
This morning as I was dressing for work I was reminded of the power of words, and how they have energetic impact that can linger for years. The simple act of putting on a pair of earrings reminded me of something unkind someone said to me years ago, bringing up a tinge of self-doubt, causing me to question something I have always done and believe in deeply. The comment was, "Those earrings are for old ladies. They make you look old." Ouch!
Why do some relationships last forever and others fall apart? Here are some ways you can make your partner feel appreciated again and prevent your relationship from becoming a casualty.
Evelyn Schmechtig -Cochran