Happy relationships, how to have one

How to Have a Wonderful, Loving Relationship:

Helpful insights for couples and lovers

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne

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Preface

By Jim Byrne, DCoun

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A, Front cover,1Most human beings long to be engaged in a loving relationship with another person they like and admire, and who likes, admires, loves and respects them in turn.

But most people have no idea how to bring this about.

A few lucky people will automatically ‘know’ what to do, non-consciously, because they had parents who openly demonstrated their love for each other.

If your parents did not love, like, respect and/or care for each other; or they failed to demonstrate active love for you; then you are going to have to learn from scratch:

– What love is;

– How to offer it; and

– How to communicate with the person you love.

This book teaches the essential skills of relating successfully to a person you love, in such a way that they will love you back. And this is the basis of a happy, joyful, fun-filled life!

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What is this book about?

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)This book is an introductory guide to the following subject:

How to have a happy and successful couple relationship (which could be a marriage, pair bond, civil partnership, or sex-love relationship).

It’s designed to be helpful for:

– Committed, long-term couples; or young people starting out on the journey of building a loving relationship;

And also for:

– Counsellors and therapists (who want to learn from the author’s experience of providing couples therapy for twenty years);

And for:

– Self-help enthusiasts, and students of human relations.

It deals with a broad range of knowledge and skills, and is based on the author’s thirty-five years of study of couple relationships; and his twenty-one years’ experience of helping couples to improve, revive, restore (or dissolve) their relationships with their long-term, committed, sex-love partners.

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The fundamental need for this book

Why is this book so important?  What makes it different from other forms of marriage guidance and relationship advice which are available today?

Firstly, most modern resources for couples – including books, articles and blogs – are designed to inform the reader of certain facts about love and relationship, without teaching how to change habitual ways of being.  Some may want to help couples to change their habits, but they do not go far enough in this direction.  They do not provide tools for habit change.

But this book, in addition to informing the reader, also sets out to help individuals to change themselves, at deep, non-conscious, emotional levels, so that they become better lovers, and more successful relationship partners.

Secondly, many books about couple relationships focus upon a single source of research, or a restricted area of investigation, while this book is as broad-based as any book on couples could be – with the exception that we do not go into any significant detail about homosexual relationships, though we do touch upon them.

Dr Jim, Oct 2019So we deal with sex, and love, and the meaning of relationship; and how to build a relationship; and how to communicate within couple relationships; how to manage conflict constructively; how to avoid the common myths about relationships; how to establish healthy boundaries in relationships; how to manage your body-brain-mind for optimum functioning in your intimate relationships; how to manage your emotions; the importance of avoiding the ‘orgasm gap’ (by understanding the importance of the clitoris); how to change your habitual ways of behaving; how you were shaped for relationship in your family of origin, and how you can reshape yourself for more effective, more enjoyable relationships; and much more besides.

We also look at why a happy marriage is such an important goal to pursue:

According to Professor Jonathan Haidt (2006)[1]:

“A good marriage is one of the life-factors most strongly and consistently associated with happiness[2]. Part of this apparent benefit comes from ‘reverse correlation’.  Happiness causes marriage.  Happy people marry sooner and stay married longer than people with a lower happiness set point, both because they are more appealing as dating partners and because they are easier to live with, as spouses[3]. But much of the apparent benefit is a real and lasting benefit of dependable companionship, which is a basic need; we never fully adapt either to it or to its absence[4]”. (Page 88).

Notice that he says “A good marriage”, and not just “a marriage”!  A bad marriage is a curse!

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Why we choose the partners we do!

B, Back cover, 1There is research to support the idea that people choose their love partners non-consciously[5], on the basis of habit.  (Teachworth, 1999).  And, also that we tend to have conscious goals for the type of mate we would like, but that we then choose our mate on the basis of a non-conscious goal about which we know nothing. (Gladwell, 2006; and Lewis, Amini and Lannon, 2001).  Therefore, it is clearly pointless producing a list of ‘rules of love’ (Templar, 2016) and assuming people will be able to read them and then follow them. If is clearly pointless to offer such lists, if we do not at the same time show them how to get those rules into their non-conscious brain-mind, from where the lists can inform their non-conscious goals for partner selection. And that is why we have structured this book so that the reader can reprogram themselves; change their non-conscious goals; and change their ‘radar device’ for finding a partner. This ‘radar device’ is their inner model of an ideal couple (called, by us, ‘The Inner Couple’. [Teachworth, 1999]).

Anybody who studies this book, in the ways we recommend, will find that:

– their relationship behaviours change for the better (because their non-conscious goals have changed!);

– their emotional intelligence will increase; and

– they will find themselves either choosing a better partner, or working successfully with their current partner to produce an amazingly satisfying relationship together.

See Appendix ‘K’ for guidance on how to study this book in order to produce behaviour change and improved emotional intelligence.  In addition, we have also included Appendix ‘M’, on general habit-change processes; and Chapter 11 on how to change your ‘Inner Couple’ blueprint or ‘relationship guidance system’: from dysfunctional to emotionally healthy!

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Why relationships fail

A, Front cover,1About fifty percent of all marital relationships end in divorce.  The most obvious reasons for this include:

– lack of commitment to keeping the relationship alive;

– lack of care and attention by one partner to the other;

– infidelity; or sexual jealousy (justified or unjustified);

– lack of sexual satisfaction in the relationship,

– partly because of the ‘orgasm gap’, whereby 75% of women are not treated to an orgasm by their partner

– and partly because, when women become unhappy with their partner, sexual contact declines.

– and partly because of communication breakdown.

This subject has recently be revisited by a group of researchers. According to a study by Shackleton, Barlow and colleagues (2018), at the University of Exeter, UK, there are four common reasons for relationships to break down:

“The first two (are) incompatibility and unrealistic expectations…”

But why would anybody choose an incompatible partner? The viewpoint expressed in our book is that we choose incompatible partners because our parents were actually incompatible, and we simply copy what we experienced by observing their relationship – outside of our conscious awareness.  And our expectations of relationships also come primarily from what we saw our parents do, compounded by

(i) poor models we have seen in films; and

(ii) the lyrics of love songs we have heard, often subliminally hypnotizing us into unhelpful beliefs about love.

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It is the contention of this book that we will go on choosing incompatible partners until such time as we work at reforming our model of relationships – otherwise called our ‘Inner Couple’. We teach our readers how to do that in Chapter 11 below.

Shackleton et al., (2018) continue:

“The second two” (reasons for relationship breakdowns, were) “…failure to deal with issues, and failure to nurture the relationship…”

Again, these patterns of poor relating are most likely copied from the couples’ parents.  Indeed, the authors of the University of Exeter research report know this to be true, since they write:

“…Couples in thriving relationships in both samples had realistic expectations of marriage and relationships, shaped by examples they had seen through the marriages of their parents or other family members”.  (Shackleton et al., 2018).

On the other hand, Richard Nelson-Jones, in his 1986 book on human relationship skills, suggests that, in addition to our parents, we are also influenced in the development of our relationship skills by brothers and sisters; grandparents; aunts and uncles; older friends; community leaders; peer groups; teachers; famous people; fictional people; and advertising. (Pages 14-15).

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)While Nelson-Jones may have a point, it has often been found that it is primarily the modelling provided by parents that most strongly affects a person’s approach to relationships, both in terms of skills, and in terms of partnership choice(s). (Teachworth, 1999).

And, as mentioned already, we address the question of how to change those early parental influences in Chapter 11, below.

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Human nature and love

Love is central to what it means to be human – and the other side of the coin is, of course, hatred!  We often seem to have a greater capacity to access our feelings of anger and hate than our feelings of love and affection.  But it is precisely by getting in touch with our feelings of love, and spending our life loving a significant other person, that we experience a sweet, warm ‘feeling of completeness’ in our hearts.

To do that well – to get in touch with our feelings of love in a helpful way – we have to understand the nature of love and relationship, at least as well as we understand how to do our work; how to drive; or how to practice our hobbies or recreational activities.  And this requires effort and practice; training and learning.  It has to become habitual, and that means driven from non-conscious levels of mind.

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According to a well-known Rolling Stones song: “We all need someone to lean on…”  However, if you over-rely upon your partner, and lean on them too much, you will become vulnerable to falling over if they step back.  So you need to have some degree of autonomy from your partner, as well as feeling you can rely upon them when you need their support.

B, Back cover, 1We are essentially social, connected and related beings, and not completely separate individuals.  We attach to our mothers in the first six months of life – securely or insecurely.  Later we separate from mother (if development is normal), and, in adulthood, we (normally) attach to a sex-love partner; often in marriage or cohabitation.

No man or woman is an island, complete unto themselves, according to the poem by John Donne.  We are interdependent beings.  We rely upon each other, but we must also be capable of acting independently, when that is the emotionally healthy option.  (But not too independently – and especially not avoidantly!)

Love is the glue that holds us all together, and binds us to our nearest and dearest.  And love, paradoxically, is also the energy that fuels our sense of autonomy; our capacity to be ourselves, and to stand on our own two feet.

Love of others in the present moment binds us together, and internalized love, from our childhood socialization, fuels our sense of autonomy and self-regard.

Love can be the source of enormous joy, comfort, fun and satisfaction in life.  But the unsuccessful quest for love can be the greatest source of misery.

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Love – like charity – begins at home

The experience of love begins in our mother’s arms, in the earliest days of life; but more especially from the age of six months to three years.  Our experiences of mother-love (and father-love), in this stage of our development, shapes us for life – making us ‘securely attached’ or ‘insecurely attached’ in relationships – though we can change our ‘attachment style’ (to some degree) later in life, through some forms of attachment therapy and/or a curative relationship with a secure partner. (See section 1.2.3(c); section 3.8; and sections 6.10 to 6.12(b) below).

Dr-Jim-Byrne8 (2)Furthermore, the first ten years of our life is a kind of ‘apprenticeship’ for our own adult life.

We observe our mother and father (or main carers) relating to each other; and we decide which one we like most as a role model for our own adult life.  This one is called our ‘Adult role model’, or ‘model for our adult role in relationships’. (This is a more specific application of the principle, advanced by Claude Steiner [1990], to the effect that, when we are very young, we choose a character to identify with, and create a script based on that characters words and actions).

We then store a memory of the other parent as a template for our future life partner. This one is called our ‘Mate model, or ‘model for our future partner’.

And then puberty hits us with a hugely disorienting and stressful wave of disturbing and disorganizing hormones!  And we struggle through our teenage years hoping (consciously) to find a stable resting point up ahead, while (non-consciously) following a life script we co-authored with our parents when we were too young to have any sense!

Another way of saying all that is this: We are mesmerized by our parents’ relationship and lifestyle, and this becomes the hypnotic trance that guides our future life! (Wolinsky, 1991).

However, this could suggest ‘mysterious forces’, which has nothing to do with the processes involved.  The two processes that underlie our life and relationship scripts are:

Experiences (of relationships); and:

Stored memories of those experiences.

A, Front cover,1All of our actions in the present moment are guided by stored experiences from the past; and our relationship actions in the present are guided by stored experiences of relationships in the past – how mother, and father related to us; and how we related to them.

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Love and the human brain-mind

To have any hope of reaching mature adulthood, every single human being, male and female alike, has to traverse the vast emotional minefield of adolescence. And, according to Carl Gustav Jung, adolescence lasts from puberty (around the age of twelve or thirteen years) until the age of forty or forty-five years of age!

Many of us seem to feel we have ‘arrived’, fully grown up, at the age of sixteen or eighteen years of age.  But at those ages, we are constantly at the mercy of powerful surges of strong feelings from the emotional centres of our brain-mind, because the ‘reasoning centres’ – based in, or managed from, the frontal lobes of our brain – do not become fully operational until the age of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age.

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Juvenile passion

This is an important fact, because it tells us something about the unreliability of juvenile love – or ‘puppy love’.

As an illustration of this fact, in 1774, in Germany, a twenty-four year old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a novel – (The Sorrows of Young Werther) – which told of the unrequited love of Werther for Charlotte.  It is a story of impossible longing for a young woman who is already engaged to another man.  It is an obsession.  It is characterized – as John Armstrong (2003)[6] writes – by four forms of intense emotional states: “…longing, rapture, doubt and the sense that one is in touch with the source of all value”.  This story by Goethe formed the cornerstone of a new Romantic movement in Western Europe, which was a form of madness, often ending in the suicide of the lovesick young men who pursued this cult.

Today, we are all affected by the love songs that permeate our daily cultural experience.  And many of the most influential and most disturbing love songs are written by individuals who were below the age of twenty-five years when they wrote them, and thus in thrall to their uncontrollable passions.

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Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet was also formative of our culture’s attitudes towards Romantic love; and Juliet was just thirteen years of age in that story.  How old was Romeo? This question is explored by Durbanville (2015) like this:

“The ages of Romeo and Juliet are significant in understanding how they come to such a tragic end because it is their youth and inexperience and their inability to see beyond their immediate circumstances that causes them, Romeo in particular, to act so irrationally. Romeo is so overwhelmed by his circumstances and so immature in his actions that he is apparently just a teenager of perhaps sixteen years old, definitely younger than eighteen because by eighteen a young man of his standing would be expected to be able to lead men into battle and so he would not act so impulsively”.[7]

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Beyond juvenile passion

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)Much of the popular culture of love, which assails us from love songs and stories of love, is about frustrated or unrequited love, engaged in by immature individuals.

These are not good models for our own love lives. If we want to be happy in love, we have to look beyond these juvenile forms of obsessive and doomed love.

Or as John Armstrong (2003) writes:

“Real love is love that lasts and withstands the difficulties which a prolonged relationship inevitably brings.  The problems of love occur not when passion is rejected or when fate intervenes to cut off a relationship at the earliest stage.  It is ironically when we are loved back, when a relationship develops, that love is put to the test.  It is the long term that we want to understand; we are in search of a mature conception of love”. (Pages 6-7).

And that is what we address in this book: a mature conception of love; and the knowledge and skills – and habits – required to build a real, lasting, committed loving relationship.

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Our target audiences

B, Back cover, 1We have written this book for anybody who wants to understand mature love, and to build a mature sex-love relationship.

But we also intend it to be a resource for those professionals who guide and counsel couples regarding how to resolve the problems they find themselves confronting in relationships which have run into difficulties.

This group includes: couple counsellors; psychologists; psychotherapists; psychiatrists; social workers; priests and vicars; and senior members of extended families, who may sometimes be called upon to advise more junior members of their families.

It should also be of interest to students from a broad range disciplines.

All of these target groups of readers need to understand the following ideas and practices:

(a) Principles of happy relationships;

(b) Problems of couple conflict;

(c) Communication styles, strategies, and breakdowns; and:

(d) The basics of sexual satisfaction and sexual difficulties.

The final two chapters summarize the main learning points for two main audiences:

– Chapter 12 is for individuals and couples; and:

– Chapter 13 for counselling and therapy professionals, and students of those professions.

Dr-Jim-Byrne8 (2)I hope you find this book very helpful for your purposes.

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Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Hebden Bridge, November 2019

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Footnotes

[1] Haidt, J. (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting ancient wisdom and philosophy to the test of modern science.  London: Arrow Books.

[2] Diener et al, 1999; Mastekaasa, 1994; Waite and Gallagher, 2000.  However it is not clear that married people are, on average, happier than those who never married, because unhappily married people are the least happy group of all and they pull down the average; see DePaulo and Morris, 2005, for a critique of research on the benefits of marriage. &

Diener, E., Suh, E.M., Lucas, R.E. & Smith, H.L. (1999) Subjective wellbeing.  Three decades of progress.  Psychological Bulletin, 125: 120-129. &

Mastekaasa, A. (1994) Marital status, distress, and well-being.  An international comparison.  Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 25: 183-205. &

Waite. L.J. and Gallagher, M. (2000) The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York: Doubleday. &

DePaulo, B.M. and Morris, W.L. (2005) Singles in society and science.  Psychological Inquiry, 16:  57-83.

[3] Harker and Keltner, 2001; Lyubomirsky, King and Diener, in press. &

Harker, L. and Keltner, D. (2001) Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80:  112-124. &

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., and Diener, E. (in press) The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin.

[4] Baumeister and Leary, 1995.  However, it is not certain that marriage itself is more beneficial than other kinds of companionship.  Much evidence says yes, particularly for health, wealth, and longevity (reviewed in Waite and Gallagher 2000); but a large longitudinal study failed to find a long-lasting benefit of marriage on reports of well-being (Lucas et al., 2003). &

Baumeister, R.F. and Leary, M.R. (1995) The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachment as a fundamental human emotion.  Psychological Bulletin, 117:  497-529. &

Waite and Gallagher (2000) see earlier footnote, above. &

Lucas, R.E., Clark, A.E., Georgellis, Y. and Diener, E. (2003) Re-examining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84:  527-539. &

[5] What does it mean, to choose a partner non-consciously? It means that humans are ‘creatures of habit’.  Think about this: How did you decide to get out of bed this morning?  Which muscle did you decide to move first, and how did you tell it to move?  The truth is you took no conscious thought at all.  You got out of bed, and put some clothes on, without any need to take any conscious thought.  You travelled to the bathroom, without the need to consciously decide where you were going, or how to get there.  You are a creature of habit.  And you also choose your sex-love partners in the same way: non-consciously.  And the criteria you use to choose them are non-consciously available, as habit patterns, from your family of original – outside of your conscious awareness!  This is no different from driving (or cycling) to work without taking any conscious thought of where you are going, or which gear you are in, or how to steer the wheels!

[6] Armstrong, J. (2003) Conditions of Love: The philosophy of intimacy.  London: Penguin Books.

[7] Durbanville (2015) In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is 13, but how old is Romeo? eNotes, 30 July 2015. Available online: https://www.enotes.com/ homework-help/know-that-juliet-13-half-but-how-old-romeo-51141. Accessed 7 July 2018.

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