Category Archives: Love & Lust

Why do couples try to control eachother?


As we sat at Pier 39 with our newfound friends last night, the conversations took many twists and turns (thanks to fruity drinks, no doubt), and eventually landed on the topic of relationships. Shocking, I know….

One of our new friends was sharing how he has found that women feel the need to control men that they are in a relationship with, have a need to know exactly where they are and with whom at all times, eventually stifling the very qualities they were attracted to in the first place. Now, I have to give this guy a lot of kudos for broaching this subject and taking such a bold position in the company of 3 women. Needless to say, we promptly put him in his place.

But it got me thinking… There is no doubt that there are women AND men out there who fit this description to varying degrees. But why do they feel the need to do this and how much (if at all) is a healthy part of a relationship?

I have always imagined a relationship in which I am completely accepted as I am, while simultaneously being challenged to continue to grow as an individual. Where spending time with my friends and doing the things I love is encouraged rather than stifled. Where there is complete trust. This is what I strive for in all my relationships, romantic or otherwise.

Various studies on relationships are aligned with my thinking, indicating that the most significant predictor of success in marriage is the ability to maintain your individuality while building a partnership based on mutual understanding, respect and support. Where it’s truly safe to be yourself because you know you are completely accepted for who you are.

But we all know that relationships like this are difficult to come by as we all enter the relationship with our own scars and “baggage” if you will. I believe that these scars unconsciously lead to the need for control in certain situations.

For example, someone who was physically or emotionally abandoned by their parents at some point in their life may fear being abandoned by their partner. This may manifest in their relationship through a desire to know where their partner is at all times, feelings of jealousy when others are getting their partner’s attention and the need for constant reassurance. In this case, they are not trying to be controlling to be hurtful, but are unconsciously trying to protect themselves from feeling the same hurt they felt when they were abandoned by their parents.

However, if you are in a relationship with this type of individual, you have to remember that knowing where it stems from, doesn’t make it right, or healthy. It’s not your job to heal their wounds. That’s something only they can do and it may require some commitment to therapy. All you can do is help them see what they are doing in a gentle way and support them as they start their journey of healing. And take the time to know what your boundaries are – what you are willing to tolerate and for how long – and communicate that to them.

And if you’re the one experiencing these feelings, know that they are perfectly normal. It’s how you act on them that matters. It’s neither good to transfer these feelings to your partner nor to hold them inside for a long time. So learn about what is making you feel that way and think about what you need to do for yourself to grow and heal so that those feelings are not controlling YOU anymore. You will be a much more complete and self assured person at the end of that journey.

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How does a healthy relationship develop?

touchYou’re at a party hosted by your best friend’s new boyfriend. He introduces you to his very hot and very fit Buddy. Yum! You start talking to Buddy and are pleasantly surprised to find that in addition to being deliciously good looking, he’s smart, funny and successful. Out of your league, you think. But you hit it off and he doesn’t leave your side the entire night. You exchange numbers and he calls the very next day. You’re all butterflies as you go on your first date a few days later. Things catapult from here and the next six months are a haze of butterflies, dinners, laughing and mental montages of your wedding day.

Suddenly… You start to get irritated with eachother and have your first fight… Then your second and third… The honeymoon is over and you start to notice how he slurps his coffee in the morning and leaves the seat up in the bathroom. You’re scared… You wonder how things could have changed so quickly… what it all means… Is the relationship nearing the end? Or is this normal?

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, wondered that and found out that there is no simple answer. Relationships are tough… Sometimes this scenario spells the end and sometimes it’s just the beginning. Fighting is a normal part of every relationship and a very valuable one at that. It helps us get closer to the ultimate goal of true intimacy – where we fully accept, love and support one another exactly as we are. A completely safe environment.

John Bradshaw, an experienced counsellor and acclaimed author, states that there are four stages of a healthy relationship: Infatuation, Disillusionment & Conflict, Independence and Intimacy. Many relationships don’t make it past Disillusionment & Conflict and it can take some couples 20 – 30 years to achieve Intimacy. Here is a summary of each stage:


As in our example above, this stage is the “Honeymoon” period. During this period, the biological processes associated with procreation are most pronounced. The testosterone, dopamine and other “feel good” chemicals are intoxicating. You want to spend all your time together… can’t stop thinking about eachother… The way he slurps his coffee is cute. You idealize your partner so much, you think no one has ever made you feel this way before and no one ever will. But, within three to six months, the chemical processes begin to subside and you move forward to the next stage.

Disillusionment & Conflict

During this stage, the bio-chemistry returns to normal and reality sets in. The honeymoon is over. Suddenly, the way he slurps his coffee is so irritating, you imagine slapping the bottom of his coffee cup as he’s slurping away. This is perfectly normal – yes, that’s right… Perfectly normal! Even the healthiest of relationships go through this stage. You’ve been so consumed with eachother, it’s time to separate a little. But it can be scary. Many people become so afraid of this conflict, they take flight rather than working through it. Or, they begin to cling more out of fear of losing their partner. This is definitely the “make it or break it” stage.

They keys to making it past this stage are to take comfort in the fact that it will pass and to fight with respect. Recognize that this is the stage in which much learning takes place and in the end, you will understand eachother and become closer as a couple. This is the stage in which compromise is essential. However, it takes two to tango, so if you find yourself stuck in this stage despite adjusting based on the conflicts and “feedback” from your partner, it may be time to let the relationship go. Never compromise yourself and your values for the relationship.


In this stage, you have established healthy boundaries and found the right balance between “you”, “me”, and “us”. You have accepted most of your partner’s flaws, and though you may never learn to like the way he slurps his coffee, you love him anyway. Loving someone even though you don’t like everything about them is called “differentiation” and is a sign that you are very close to true intimacy. If you make it to this stage, there is a good chance you will not be part of the divorce statistic.


Bradshaw defines true intimacy as the ability to share who you truly are with your partner and vice versa. This is critical. You cannot achieve true intimacy unless both partners drop their masks and share exactly who they are with eachother. To establish true intimacy, you have to have created safety in the relationship during the Disillusionment & Conflict stage. This means making the relationship free of judgement and ridicule. Establishing your boundaries while showing love and compassion and without making your partner feel as though they are walking on egg shells or that they are inadequate.

It can take fifteen to twenty years to develop intimacy, but longevity alone doesn’t guarantee that you have achieved it. It takes work and unless you truly know who you are and have healed any wounds from your childhood, you will not be able to share your life with another person in a healthy way.

What stage is your relationship in?

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Has Serial Online Dating Killed Commitment?

online datingAs a little girl, I remember dreaming about meeting Mr. Right, our courtship, eventual Fairy Tale wedding and our “Happily Ever After”. Oddly enough, that dream never involved sitting in front of a computer, “catalogue shopping” for a potential date. But such is the day and age we are in, so a few years ago, I embraced it.

I met some Princes and some Frogs, and got a number of free dinners or drinks along the way. But it has not led to any long-term commitment. While online dating offers many perks – efficient and targeted approach to meeting someone suitable – it can be a double edged sword. From my experience, the proliferation of online dating poses three challenges to the notion of commitment:

1. Creates the illusion of unlimited options

Ask a person what they want in a mate, and they will list off all the things they don’t want, or tell you about the negative experiences they have had. Our negative experiences should help us identify what we are looking for in a partner, but very few people actually take it to that step. So when we meet someone, rather than looking for the traits we want and value, we look for things we don’t want. And at the first sign of imperfection, we bail. After all… We have an endless pool of options that we can turn to.

2. Takes the fun out of dating and courtship

People who are online dating are using it for one of two things: to get action, or to find someone to marry. Both of these take the fun out of courtship – a key ingredient to building a strong foundation for anything lasting. People who are looking for someone to marry, approach online dating too seriously and infuse unnecessary intensity, causing the relationship to progress far too quickly. Focusing on the end goal really limits our ability to enjoy the courtship, have fun and learn about each other.

3. Limits staying power of relationships

Relationships are not easy. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t just “work”. They take a lot of work in order to have staying power. But online dating really limits the need to put in that work. We are much more comfortable with a relationship ending than previous generations have been because we know we still have the online dating sites to turn to. Another, potentially better, partner is just around the corner.

So how do we break this cycle? Well… To start, enjoy dating! Embrace the courtship. Don’t focus on the end goal of marriage, but enjoy the process of getting to know your partner. Have fun together. Create memories. Bond. Laugh.

Second, understand that no person or relationship is perfect. Make a list of what you actually WANT in a partner and know what you will not compromise on and what is somewhat negotiable. I’m not saying ignore the things you don’t want, but focus on the positive more than the negative. As long as the positive outweighs the negative, you have something to work with.

And last, live for the moment. Yes there are many people out there, and any number of them could be a great match. Take the time to know what you want and value in a person and appreciate it when you find it. There are always trade-offs. It takes commitment – the conscious decision to be together and make it work – to achieve the fairy tale ending.

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Is it time to end that friendship?

two girlfriends having a quarrelMy friends mean the world to me. I would do absolutely anything for them and never expect anything in return. To me, friends are like family and when I bring a friend into my inner circle, I think of them as friends for life.

Over the last five years, I have become MUCH more comfortable with putting an end to friendships that are no longer adding value in my life, or worse yet, promoting stress. I’m starting to look at friendships in much the same light as romantic relationships. Like a romantic relationship, the goal of a friendship is to have a friend for life. So why tolerate in a friendship what you wouldn’t tolerate in a guy?

Friends are supposed to be a source of comfort, love and acceptance. Not to mention fun. The second they become anything else, it’s time to think about letting them go. Perhaps it’s not a full break-up, but just a demotion from friend to acquaintance. Either way, life is busy, stressful and complicated enough. No need to make it worse with a toxic or negative friendship.

5 Signs That It’s Time to Let a Friendship Go

  1. The Effort Is One-Sided: Throughout our friendship, there is a natural ebb and flow as we take turns giving and receiving love and support in the form of listening, inviting eachother out, paying for things, etc. Healthy relationships are balanced because as humans, we want to give AND receive. So if you’re always making the effort to get together, call/text, drive, pay the tab, etc. it may be a sign that the relationship is changing.
  2. You Are Often Criticized: Our friends are supposed to support us and make us better. Constructive criticism when we need or ask for it is one thing, but constant generalized criticism about who we are is yet another. This does nothing but damage our self-esteem and put distance in the friendship. It’s especially problematic when the criticism is directed at actions we have taken to support our friend. I was once given a “performance review” as a Maid of Honour in my friend’s wedding after bending over backwards to make all three parts of it a smashing success. Needless to say, she is no longer in my life.
  3. You Don’t Have Anything in Common Anymore: As we age, we change. Duh! This poses  a particular challenge for the friendships we developed when we were younger. Sometimes we grow together and our lives remain parallel, but sometimes, we lose the connection that brought us together. Our values, lifestyle and personality can all diverge. In these situations, we often try to maintain the friendships simply because of the history. But this just causes unnecessary tension and discomfort. There is no need to have a big “talk”. You can just put some distance between yourself and your friend. This often takes the pressure off and allows you to just enjoy the time you do spend together and treat it as a “catch-up” rather than a reincarnation of the friends you were those many years ago.
  4. You Are Their Therapist: Ok… So I know I said earlier that, as friends, we are here to support eachother. And I firmly believe and stand by that. However… When the only conversations you have with your friend are about his or her problems, it may be time to reconsider the friendship. Let’s face it… Conversations like this are draining. Sure, we all get into funks now and again and look to our friends to help pull us out. This is OK as long as it’s short-term and reciprocated. If this goes on for a longer period of time, it’s time to distance yourself. And if you’re comfortable enough, suggest that your friend seek counselling for the issues. Above all, friendships should be fun and energizing.
  5. She Can’t be Happy For You: There is nothing worse than finding out wonderful news, calling your friend with excitement only to have your enthusiasm flat lined by a negative comment on the other end of the line. Friends want the best for you and are your biggest cheerleaders in life. They are just as excited as you (if not more) about all the wonderful things that and every milestone you reach. If a friend is critical, judgemental or negative in these circumstances, it’s time to cut ties. There is no need to let someone bring you down under any circumstances.

As you consider this list, if a friendship comes to mind that nets negative against these signs, you know what you need to do. You just need to decide if the best way to handle it is to simply pull away or if a conversation is warranted to see if things can be improved. Whatever you decide, do it with dignity and respect for the friendship you once had and be tactful in your approach.

Remember… With every ending comes a new beginning.

Have you broken up with a friend?

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