Relationships

5th
March

Is This Normal? Married Crushes

Relationships

Alert reader, Tanya, writes, “Is THIS Normal?  Married women having a crush on their married neighbors?”

Dear Tanya,

First, pardon me.  I’m going to make an assumption.  I’m going to assume that your question refers to a married, heterosexual woman having a crush on a married heterosexual man.  Please correct me if my assumption is in error.  My answer would be different if there were sexual identity questions.

A qualified “yes” is the answer to your question.  Crushes and fantasies are normal at any age, and they usually come and go without much change in behaviors.  They can be enjoyable and enhance your life – giving you a much needed daydream in a stressful day to an added interest in your routine.

Here’s the qualification:  if you begin to change plans to arrange time to be with your crush, if you seek out situations where you know you’ll meet your crush, or if you begin to project on your crush the success where you perceive faults in your spouse, you’ve crossed a line.

Some people use crushes as foils against their own relationships, meaning that they use crushes to prove how lost their marriages are. They may believe that if their spouses were just like their crushes or that if they were married to their crushes, the marriages would be so much better.  This type of thinking isn’t really grounded.  It’s distracting from what’s wrong with the real marriage, and in part, it’s distracting from their responsibilities for the marriages’ faults.

Get help from a therapist if you feel your crush has crossed the line or if you’re not sure.  Thanks for writing, Tanya.

Ann

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3rd
February

Is This Normal? Homosexuality

Relationships, Sex

Yes, homosexuality is normal.

Homosexuality was declassified in 1973 by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the definitive reference book used by the American Psychological Association.  Prior to 1973, mental health professionals were actively working to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Freud, who had previously attributed homosexuality to castration anxiety, maternal over-attachment, and jealousy of brothers and fathers realized at the end of his career that “homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness…” in a 1935 letter to a mother who wanted him to treat her homosexual son.

Homosexuality has been a documented part of human sexuality since ancient times.  Research has consistently shown that homosexuals are as highly functioning as heterosexuals.  There’s no scientific evidence that positively correlates homosexuality with pedophilia or psychopathology, or states that it’s a result of mental illness or a dysfunctional childhood.

Homosexuality isn’t a choice or a lifestyle.  Newer research confirms genetic and environmental factors determine both heterosexual and homosexual orientations.  Gays and lesbians, like heterosexuals, know their sexual identities from a very young age. But because of the extreme prejudice, some gays and lesbians resist embracing their identities, or some choose not to disclose their sexual identities.

Indeed, the decision to “come out” is daunting and on many levels, dangerous.  Gays and lesbians who disclose their sexual identities will likely lose their religions and some family members.  They will face workplace discrimination, and if they decide to have children, their children will almost certainly be bullied for having gay parents. It’s an oppressive price to pay for being honest.

In my experience, there’s more in common between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples than most think. There’s a perception that homosexual couples are at home or in nightclubs swinging from chandeliers.  This isn’t the case. Sex, in any relationship, is a small but an important part. There’s much more to relationships than sex.  Homosexual couples struggle with the same issues that heterosexual couples struggle with – money, children, and keeping their relationships strong.  The similarities between heterosexuals and homosexuals far outweigh the differences.

Homosexuality is normal.  Coming to terms and embracing your identity whether homosexual or heterosexual is good health.

Please see these sources for additional information on homosexuality:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18561014

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/113259.php

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/scotts/bulgarians/nih-upi.html

http://www.aglp.org/gap/1_history/#declassification

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12th
January

Is This Normal? Healthy Relationships

Relationships

  • Think your significant other should be offering you more massages, long-stemmed roses, or rides in hot air balloons?
  • Do you communicate with others by telling them every little thing about you from errands you have to run that week to your mother-in-law’s battle with dementia?
  • Are you inclined to check emails, texts, or review phone logs of anyone with whom you have a relationship?
  • Do you think relationships should make you happy (respectful, complete, safe…)?

Successful relationships are difficult to create because individuals are dynamic entities.  Just when you figured out how to engage a relationship so that everything is coming up roses, rainbows, and ponies, you change, your partner changes, or circumstances change.  These changes are normal and part of life, but adapting to these changes challenges relationships.  So, how do you go about forming relationships that are healthy, sustainable, and adaptable?

There’s so much written on what makes successful relationships.  Much of what’s been written focuses on effective communication  - telling your partner “How-You-Feel” or putting romance back in your relationship.  My experience tells me that these are secondary.  Successful relationships have more to do with ensuring that individuals involved are highly functioning and healthy.

For example, most people know that conflict is inherent in any relationship yet still struggle with resolving conflicts constructively.  Few people come to relationships with expectations free from the influences of Disney, Hallmark cards, and Dan Fogelberg lyrics.  Few people are aware they have these expectations.  Many people think they need to tell everything about themselves all the time in order to maintain closeness with someone.  Many think a relationship will make them happy.  Many think individuals must sacrifice their personal boundaries to the relationship.  Then it’s no wonder that maintaining relationships is tough work.  It’s also no wonder that successful relationships can provide such fulfillment.

Being involved in any successful relationship requires individuals to have certain skills and a strong sense of self.  Managing conflict effectively, realistically checking their expectations for relationships, respecting another’s privacy, accepting responsibility for fulfilling his/her own needs, a strong sense of humor, and committing to the relationship are qualities that will go a long way in making solid relationships.  If you want to improve a relationship, a good place to start is with yourself.

I have a few suggestions.  Please take what makes sense to you.

  • Most people are uncomfortable with romantic gestures.  It seems to make them feel too vulnerable or too cliché.  Most people do feel comfortable with kindness.  Instead of long-stemmed roses, you may find you have new snow tires on your car.  Recognize the gesture and do something nice in return.
  • Serious attempts at resolving conflicts are free of blame, judgment, sarcasm, name-calling, and story-telling.  Keep your sentences short and use “I” statements.  Focus on problem-solving not winning the argument, being a martyr, or hurting the other person.
  • Realize that you have to be happy before you will be happy in any long term relationship.  This is tricky business because what made you happy when you were 21 years old will likely not make you happy when you’re 42.  Take responsibility for making yourself happy.  This will strengthen all your relationships.
  • Have fun.  This is a highly underrated quality in relationships.  Studies show that bonds with others are strengthened when we laugh our heads off with them.  Find something that funny in every day and share it.  If you can’t find something funny, look harder.
  • Commit to improving the relationship by making sure that you are strong.  This is ongoing maintenance.  Follow what gives you satisfaction and joy.
  • If you’re concerned that you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship, it’s crucial  to get help right now.  Right now.

Difficulties in relationships are normal.  Strengthening yourself to improve your relationships is good health.

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