What happens when a marriage counsellor has marriage problems?

Posted by: on Mar 20, 2014 | No Comments
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Jed Diamond Ph.D., L.C.S.W writes: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a joyful, intimate, loving, relationship that lasts forever.  But we sure seem to have a difficult time making relationships work.

According to relationship expert John Gottman, the divorce rate is between 43 percent and 67 percent depending on the study.  That’s not very encouraging.My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 33 years.  It is the third marriage for both of us.  In our two previous relationships we did our best to understand love. Things would start out great, but always end badly. I became angry, depressed, and overstressed. I began to have sexual problems. I had to admit that, though I was a marriage and family counselor, I was really in the dark about love. What helped us to keep our marriage alive and well was what we learned about the “new science of love.”

Two of experts in this emerging field are John Gottman and Sue Johnson. Dr. Gottman is world renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction and has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. Dr. Johnson is the author of Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships and is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 25 years of peer-reviewed clinical research.

I’ve learned a lot about the new science of love and share many of my insights in my new book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well. One of the key tools is what I call “attachment love.” We used to think that the best relationships were based on two people “standing on their own two feet” and taking responsibility for their individual needs. Now we know that we are deeply connected and true love recognizes how much we are dependent on each other.

Secrets for a Lifetime of Love, Sex, and Intimacy

Here are the newly emerging facts that are important in understanding, developing, and maintaining a loving relationship that lasts through time. Until I learned the real science of love, like most people, I thought love was a wonderful mystery that blessed us at times and left us at times.  I collected quotes that seemed to express my experience including these two:

“Love is a friendship set to music.” Joseph Campbell

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.” Anaïs Nin

But I needed more than beautiful words to help my own marriage and to help me help others.  I longed for the key that would unlock the door and show me the way. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from Dr. Johnson’s book which Dr. Gottman says is, “An absolute must for anyone who wants to understand how Love Makes Sense.”

1. The first and foremost instinct of humans is neither sex nor aggression. It is to connect.

The man who first offered us this vision of what we now call attachment or bonding was an uptight, aristocratic English psychiatrist named John Bowlby. But from the wounds of his early experiences separated from his parents, he was nevertheless a rebel who changed the landscape of love and loving forever. His insights are the foundation on which the new science of love rests.

Bowlby proposed that we are designed to love a few precious others who will hold and protect us through the squalls and storms of life. It is Nature’s plan for the survival of the species. Sex may impel us to mate, but it is love that assures our existence.

2. Adult romantic love is an attachment bond, just like the one between mother or father and child.

We’ve long assumed that as we mature, we outgrow the need for the intense closeness, nurturing, and comfort we had as children with our caregivers, and that as adults, the romantic attachments we form are essentially sexual in nature. This is a complete distortion of adult love.

Research by Johnson, Gottman, and others demonstrates that our need to depend on one precious other—to know that when we “call,” he or she will be there for us—never dissolves. In fact, it endures from, as Bowlby put it, “the cradle to the grave.” As adults, we simply transfer that need from our primary caregiver to our lover. Romantic love is not the least bit illogical or random. It is the continuation of the ordered and wise recipe for our survival.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say, “I feel like I have another child in the house.” I found that both men and women fail to realize that our needs for love, care, and nurture are as important to men as they are to women and as important when we’re 40 as when were 4.

3. Hot sex doesn’t lead to secure love; secure attachment leads to hot sex. And also to love that lasts. Monogamy is not a myth.

Pick up any men’s or women’s magazine and you’ll find cover lines blaring: “Seduce Him! This Sexy Move Works from 20 Feet Away”; “28 Things to Try in Bed…Or in a Hammock. Or the Floor.”; and “Sex Academy—Get an A in Giving Her an O.” In our ignorance, we’ve made physical intimacy the sine qua non of romantic love.

The tragedy is that by focusing so heavily on sex and neglecting love, we fail to get either. In our pain we check out emotionally, which eventually leads to small, then large, betrayals and eventually to a relationship that falls apart.  “The growing craze for internet porn is a catastrophe for love relationships,” says Johnson, “precisely because it abjures emotional connection.”

4. Emotional dependency is not immature or pathological, it is our greatest strength.

Like most of the people in Western society, I believed that “dependency” was something I needed to avoid like the plague. I believed that a “real man” was strong, independent, and self-sufficient. He didn’t complain and he never showed his weaknesses. To a lesser degree women are also raised to value independence and see dependence as a weakness to be overcome.

“Again, this is backwards,” says Johnson. Far from being a sign of frailty, strong emotional connection is a sign of mental health. It is emotional isolation that is the killer. We know that men live sicker and die sooner than women and the suicide rate is 2 to 18 times higher for men than for women. The main reason, I believe, is that men have fewer social supports than women do. We associate manliness with independence and dependence with “wimpiness.”

5. Being the “best you can be” is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people. 

Many of us think of love as limiting, narrowing our options and experiences. Like many men, I grew up being taught that falling in love was a trap. It would mean the end of my independence and ability to explore and adventure. But I’ve found it to be exactly the reverse. When I’ve been out of a relationship or in a relationship where I felt distant and insecure, I was afraid to try new things. I would usually overwork, the routine giving me a sense of safety.

But since Carlin and I have learned about the science of love, we are more connected than ever before. The connection has set us free not tied us down. When I know I can trust her and she will be there for me, and vice versa, it allows us to step out into the world and become the very best we can be.

“It is hard to be open to new experiences when our attention and energy are bound up in worry about our safety,” says Johnson, “much easier when we know that someone has our back. Thus fortified, we become imbued with confidence in ourselves and our ability to handle new challenges.”

Love is the ticket to ride the roller coaster of life. It’s more wonderful than anything I could have imagined.  Learning to love has helped us create a safe and secure nest for each other and at the same time has given us the key to all that is there for us in the wide wonderful universe.

 

About Jed Diamond  

Jed Diamond, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is Founder and Director of MenAlive, a health program that helps men, and the people who love them, to live well throughout their lives.  He is a pioneer in the field of male-gender medicine, integrative mental health, and complementary medicine. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network.  He is also a member of the International Society of Men’s Health and a founding member of the American Society of Men’s Health.

He is a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male.  He is the only male columnist writing for the National Association of Baby Boomer WomenHe also blogs for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Scribd, Menstuff, ThirdAge, and other venues.

His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the United States including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000 radio and T.V. programs including The View with Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN-360 with Anderson Cooper, CNN with Glenn Beck, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, and To Tell the Truth.  He also did a nationally televised special on Male Menopause for PBS.

Diamond has been a licensed psychotherapist for over 40 years and is the author of ten books including the international best-selling Male Menopause that has thus far been translated into 17 foreign languages.

His new book Stress Relief For Men:  How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well is out now.

Jed’s website  www.MenAlive.com is well worth a look.

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