Here is a link to some of the work I am studying right now. I think Barry McCarthy's work offers some sound structural framework for long term sexual relationships. As well as offering some level of sex education that we didn't get in high school, but should have! No one helped many of us really know how to create satisfying long term sexual relationships. Most people are just winging it and creating their own rules with mixed results.
Here's the link:
“A boundary is simply what’s ok and what’s not ok.” — Brené Brown
Every couple will negotiate boundaries: what is individual, what is ours, and what is public. The architecture of a relationship is made up of a web of rules and roles that we begin weaving on the first date. It never ceases to amaze me how a little unit of two can be such a complex social system. The moment two people become a couple, they set out to negotiate boundaries—what is in and what is out. Who is in and who is out? What are we free to do alone and what do we share? Do we go to bed at the same time? Do we combine our finances? Whose name is on the deed? Will you be joining my family every Christmas?
There are explicit boundary markers that delineate our public contract and spoken agreement (i.e. wedding vows), as well as implicit boundaries we make with ourselves about where we draw our lines and create our own demarcation.
Sometimes we work out these arrangements head on, but more often we go by trial and error. We see how much we can get away with before trip-wiring on sensitivities. "Why didn’t you ask me to join you?" "I thought we’d travel together." "Why don’t you want to stay over at my place?"
A look, a comment, a bruised silence are the clues we have to interpret. We infer how often to see each other, how often to talk, and how much sharing is expected. We sift through our respective friendships and decide how important they’re allowed to be now that we have each other. We sort out ex-lovers—do we know about them, talk about them, stay friends with them on Facebook? Whether above board or below, we delineate the boundaries of separateness and togetherness.
Today, our definitions and expectations of commitment are transforming. These lines that are drawn are not as obvious as people think they are, and therefore it is an important conversation to have early on in relationships. Often conversations about boundaries are conversation stoppers, after one person has crossed an implicit boundary of the other. Instead, initiate a conversation to set yourself and your relationship up for success.
Relationship boundaries are not a topic that you negotiate only once. Your personal and couple-dynamic boundaries may change based on your relationship or your individual preferences at varying stages of your life. The most successful couples are agile, and allow this to be an open and ongoing discussion.In this six-minute video
, Brené Brown speaks about how boundaries are the key to self love and treating others with love. What boundaries are important to you and your sense of self?
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” -Ursula K. LeGuin
In thirty-five years of counseling couples and families, I have
continually been reminded about how little most of us are taught about
specific tasks and principles for building and maintaining happy,
loving relationships. There seems to be a myth afoot: once married, the
relationship grows on its own.
Unfortunately, without some form of guidance from a mentor,
minister, therapist or close friend, often what grows are bad habits
Research indicates that, on average, couples arrive at a therapist’s
office six years later than they should have. This makes the task of
changing all the more difficult for both the clients and for the
therapist. Ineffective habits have been practiced for years, and where
once there was trust and connection, there is now loneliness and
Here are eight pointers to keep in mind as you journey into the land
of intimate relationships–whether as a parent, a partner, or close
Tip #1: Happy, loving relationships take time and attention.
Just as flowers in a garden wither without water, so will the best of
friendships grow more distant without concerted effort to stay close
and connected. Decades of research have found that couples who report
high levels of marital satisfaction have five times as many positive
interactions as negative ones. All of us thrive on positive attention.
Tip #2: Staying close and connected takes communication.
Communication comes in many forms, all of which are important. Make
time for a daily ritual of touching base with your partner, checking in
to see about how her day is going. Remember to touch–even that hug or
kiss goodbye and hello again makes a huge difference.
Tip #3: If you want to receive more love, try giving more love. This
is an interesting form of the glass is either half full or half empty
dilemma. Since so much of what we do is to project ourselves onto our
partners, we can get caught in seeing only the negative behaviors or
what is lacking. Often the person who claims her partner never listens
is also not a very skilled listener. Make a concerted effort to give
more of the very thing you want back and see what you notice.
Tip #4: Remember that all couples must work out a delicate balance of power. Often
the harder we push on someone else to give us something, the more the
other person resists. The same thing happens between parents and kids
or managers and employees. In order to avoid this dance becoming a full
blown power struggle, practice the art of surrendering daily. Think of
all the little things your partner asks for–a cup of tea, grabbing the
groceries, checking on the kids, helping fold laundry–and try saying
yes each time.
Tip #5: It is far more effective to change yourself, rather than try to change your partner.
When you fall in love, it is tempting to think that, after a while of
basking in your love, your beloved will change with your help.
Unfortunately, it takes more than love to change persisting patterns.
It takes willingness and self-motivated efforts. Try making one small
step towards positive change.
Tip #6: You are responsible for your own feelings and your own happiness. Many
clients come into counseling either to change something about the other
person or to complain about how the other person makes them
feel….stupid, lonely, unloved, undesireable–you name it. No other
person can make you feel something without your implicit permission or
participation. If you catch yourself blaming your partner for your
distress, remember that you can do things to make yourself happy.
Tip #7: Get regular tune-ups. Any
car owner knows about the importance of regular maintenance and does
not think the car is flawed because it requires a tune-up. Don’t our
relationships deserve the same attention? You can go to a couples
workshop, read a relationship book together, talk to other couples
about what has worked for them, or simply make time to set goals for
how you each want to improve your relationship.
Tip #8: Don’t wait until you have a serious problem to seek help. So
many relationships could be saved with the help of a counselor. Bad
habits can be pinpointed, and new ways of communicating learned and
practiced. A few pre-marital sessions can get a new couple off to a
healthy start. You don’t have to be crazy to benefit from therapy. You
just need to be willing to take a step in a new direction. You and your
loved ones are well worth the effort.
Marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. While it’s an
oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in
divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years.
Divorce rates also vary with the partners’ level of education,
religious beliefs, and many other factors.
But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults
as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most
stressful life events. The decision to divorce often is met with
ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved,
they may experience negative effects such as denial, feelings of
abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation,
and acting out.
While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some,
others may wish to try to salvage whatever is left of the union. When
couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is
appropriate to seek marriage counseling. Here are seven good reasons.
1. Communication has become negative. Once
communication has deteriorated, often it is hard to get it going back
in the right direction. Negative communication can include anything
that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or
wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the
tone of the conversation. It is important to remember that it’s not
always what you say, but how you say it.
Negative communication can also include any communication that not
only leads to hurt feelings, but emotional or physical abuse, as well
as nonverbal communication.
2. When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair.
Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of
work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move
forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But
if both individuals are committed to the therapy
process and are being honest, the marriage may be salvaged. At the very
least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals
to move on.
3. When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space.”
When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may
indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t
doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of
communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the
couple feels are important and they feel they just “co-exist,” this may
be an indication that a skilled clinician can help sort out what is
missing and how to get it back.
4. When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences.
I remember watching GI Joe as a kid. Every show ended with the phrase
“now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” For me, that phrase
comes to mind with this situation. When a couple begins to experience
discord and they are aware of the discord, knowing is only half the
battle. Many times I have heard couples say, “We know what’s wrong, but
we just don’t know how to fix it.”. This is a perfect time to get a
third party involved. If a couple is stuck, a skilled clinician may be
able to get them moving in the right direction.
5. When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings.
I believe what we feel on the inside shows on the outside. Even if we
are able to mask these feelings for a while, they are bound to surface.
Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into
hurtful, sometimes harmful behaviors. I can recall a couple where the
wife was very hurt by her husband’s indiscretions. Although she agreed
to stay in the relationship and work things out, she became very
spiteful. The wife would purposefully do things to make her husband
think she was being unfaithful even though she wasn’t. She wanted her
husband to feel the same pain she felt, which was counterproductive. A
skilled clinician can help the couple sort out negative feelings and
find better ways to express them.
6. When the only resolution appears to be separation.
When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful.
However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or
eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need
for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve
the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is
helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner
returns, the problem is still there, but often avoided because time has
7. When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children.
If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the
children, it may help to involve an objective third party. Often
couples believe that they are doing the right thing when staying
together actually is detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if
the couple is able to resolve issue and move toward a positive, healthy
relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved.
In my opinion, children should never be the deciding factor when
couples are determining whether to stay together. I recall working with
an adolescent who was having trouble in school. She was acting out and
her grades were declining. After a few sessions she stated, “I know my
parents really don’t like each other.” When I asked her why, she
replied, “They are nice to each other, but they never smile or laugh
like my friends’ parents.”
Children are generally very intuitive and intelligent. No matter how
couples may think they are able to fake their happiness, most children
are able to tell.
All marriages are not salvageable. In the process of marriage
counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be
apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for
those couples willing to commit to the process, marriage counseling may
be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way.