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  • feedwordpress 08:00:02 on 2017/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: , Conflicts, couples, Fighting, Kitchen-Sinking, , Q&A, , Relationship Conflicts,   

    Video: How to Avoid Kitchen-Sinking Fights 

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    “Every time we fight my husband and I keep bringing up all kinds of old, dirty laundry. How can we fight better” – Nora

    When my son was a boy, he once said to me, “Mom, if you’re upset with me, just tell me, you don’t have to list every single thing I ever did”. Out of the mouth of babes comes wisdom. His request perfectly addressed what I like to think of the Kitchen Sink approach to fighting.

    The well-worn journey to the Kitchen Sink usually starts with one dish, or in one criticism. And then leads to another dish being piled on top. It often starts with an innocuous complaint: he didn’t take out the trash, for example. It then continues on to the last time he did the same thing, how he doesn’t seem to notice that you’re sharing an apartment which is typical because his family is completely self-involved, to which he might reply that your family is self-involved and on and on it goes. Until you have both started piling up of grievances that have happened to you for the last five years.  

    One innocent dish has started the fight and a pile of dishes has been stacked on top of it. And when you pile up all the dishes, the situation has built into an impossible stack of grimy plates to tackle. When each issue is heaped on another, we find that we are unable to discuss anything in particular – the argument has no focus. The initial complaint has become a deluge and whatever irked us in the first place has become irrelevant. Not only does this pull us towards the past, over which we have no control, but also destroys trust. As Clifford Notarius and Howard Markman write in We Can Work It Out, “kitchen-sinking is an excellent foul-fighting ploy that can drag down a conversation in no time at all.”

    Living with someone is one of life’s great joys and challenges. As Alain de Botton points out, in none of the “19th-century novels about love does anyone ever do the laundry, does anyone ever pick up the crumbs from the kitchen table, does anyone ever clean the bathroom.” But these are the tasks we are faced with when we live with the one we love. So, we have chosen our partner in the war against household grime, now how can we stop repeating these patterns and fight better as a couple? I can’t promise you these tactics will always work but I do know that the Kitchen Sink approach will always fail you. What do you have to lose?

    Stick to the point at hand

    Let’s say you want your partner not to slop water on the bathroom floor when they shower. Instead of framing it as an accusation, you can ask for what you want. For example: “Would you mind drying the floor after you shower?” You might find, for once, that your desire is met. Instead of drilling down on this point and adding to it, stay with the first issue. Don’t pile on dirty dishes about the past, the future, your children and the laws of physics which prove it’s not your fault that water flies around bathrooms. Life at home, you may find, is less slippery when the floor is dry.

    Focus on behavior, not character

    Not taking out the trash or arriving home late are actions. They are not the proof of the kind of person your beloved is. Behavior describes something a person has done. Be careful you don’t confuse actions with the essence of who the person is as you will find yourself unraveling into an escalating barrage of accusations.

    Love the one you’re with… and let them know

    If you can convey to your partner that you like them, even though you don’t like the behavior they have enacted, then you are giving them something dignified to hold on to. And they can begin to take responsibility for their actions. For instance, “You look cute in a towel but I don’t like it when you splash water on the floor” is very different to “You always make a mess”. It may be hard to summon feelings of kindness when you are faced with someone else’s peccadillos but remembering that you like them will also have the effect of neutralizing or transforming the situation into one where humor, lightness and ease are possible.

    I would love to know what kind of kitchen-sinking conundrums you and your partner get into. Or how have you found a way out of conflict. Leave me a comment below. And next week we will delve further by exploring how we can go beyond bickering.

    The post Video: How to Avoid Kitchen-Sinking Fights appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • feedwordpress 12:53:33 on 2016/11/04 Permalink
    Tags: , couples, Donald Trump, double standard, gender inequality, Hillary Clinton, , presidential election, sexual infidelity   

    Infidelity: The Unlikely Star in the 2016 Presidential Election 

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    When it comes to relationships, why is divorce more acceptable than infidelity?

    That’s one of the questions that we will continue to ponder after the voting polls close Tuesday night.

    Next week, I have the privilege of voting in my first American Presidential election. My work on couples and sexuality began 20 years ago in the midst of the Clinton scandal. I was curious as to why America was so tolerant of multiple divorces, and so intransigent of infidelity. In contrast, the rest of the world has generally opted the other way around. To preserve the family, compromises are made around the infidelity, primarily through the courtesy of women.

    Many years later we’re back to the same conversation.

    Secretary Clinton has been criticized on many fronts. But one attack crosses the political divide: her decision to remain with her husband through his infidelities.

    Blessed with resources, the law, and economic independence, why would she stay rather than throw him to the curb?

    I’ve worked as a therapist in several countries for 33 years and seen hundreds of couples in the trenches of divorce and infidelity and I believe some assumptions need addressing:

    1. When sexual infidelity happens, there is no option but divorce. 
    Why favor the dissolution of family bonds across generations rather than work through the crisis of an affair? That is not to say divorce is always wrong, but it is often an overreaction to a problem that evidence suggests can often be reconciled (and in some cases even lead to renewed trust, greater intimacy and appreciation).

    Whatever happened to perseverance and grit; reconciliation and repair, not to mention love?

    2. Women who choose to stay must surely be masochistic or Machiavellian. They’re seen as weak, calculating or “stupid.”
    Why is it hard to believe that Hillary may have stayed with Bill because she loves him, or because she didn’t want to throw away a whole lifetime? The person you marry is not just a sexual partner: they are the person you’ve grown up with, with whom you’ve raised your children, buried your parents, and who cared for you when you were sick.

    The truth is, we don’t really know what happens under couples’ sheets.

    3. Sexual infidelity is the ultimate betrayal.
    I’ve witnessed people who have been scornful or contemptuous to their spouses for 15 years, yet we do not consider that a betrayal. I’ve known couples who have avoided or denied sex to their partner for years, but we also hesitate to call that a betrayal. For people addicted to porn we have a diagnosis to help soften the blow. But, have intercourse outside the marriage? That’s the ultimate betrayal.


    In the past, it was divorce that carried the stigma. Today, choosing to stay after an affair when you can leave is the new shame. In the 2016 elections, we have one candidate who opted for repeated divorce, and one who chose to stay in the wake of her husband’s transgressions.

    It is old news that marriage requires work. Recovering from the crisis of an affair (which many couples do) is a sign of resilience, steadfastness, strength, respect and humility. Couples who turn a crisis into an opportunity, become resilient architects of a solid foundation. These are characteristics of an effective leader, and I for one respect the tedious accountability of a long-term commitment.



    The post Infidelity: The Unlikely Star in the 2016 Presidential Election appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • nmw 14:09:13 on 2016/07/05 Permalink
    Tags: , cheat. cheating. infidelity, , couples, , , , ,   

    Happy Couples, Marriage + Infidelity 

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    We talk about:
    – Why do happy couples cheat?
    – The language of infidelity
    – How modern marriage is evolving
    – My definition of an affair


  • feedwordpress 20:44:27 on 2015/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: , couples,   

    Cultivating Desire in Couples 

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    America, in matters of sex as in much else, seems to be a goal-oriented society that prefers explicit meanings, candor, and “plain speech” to ambiguity and allusion. In America, this predilection for clarity and unvarnished directness, often associated with honesty and openness, is encouraged by many therapists in their clients: “If you want to make love to your wife/ husband, why don’t you say it clearly? And tell him/her exactly what you want.”

    But I often suggest an alternative with my clients: “There’s so much direct talk already in the everyday conversations couples have with each other,” I tell them. “If you want to create more passion in your relationship, why don’t you play a little more with the natural ambiguity of gesture and words, and the rich nuances inherent in communication.”

    Ironically, some of America’s best features—the belief in democracy, equality, consensus-building, compromise, fairness, and mutual tolerance—can, when carried too punctiliously into the bedroom, result in very boring sex. Sexual desire doesn’t play by the same rules of good citizenship that maintain peace and contentment in the social relations between partners. Sexual excitement is politically incorrect, often thriving on power plays, role reversals, unfair advantages, imperious demands, seductive manipulations, and subtle cruelties. American couples therapists, shaped by the legacy of egalitarian ideals, often find themselves challenged by these contradictions.

    What I’d characterize as a European emphasis on complementarity—the appeal of difference—rather than strict gender equality has, it seems to me, made women on the other side of the Atlantic feel less conflict between being smart and being sexy. In Europe, to sexualize a woman doesn’t mean to denigrate her intelligence or competence or authority. Women, therefore, can enjoy expressing their sexuality and being objects of desire, and enjoy their sexual power, without feeling they’re forfeiting their right to be taken seriously as professionals and workers.

    Of course, American feminists achieved momentous improvements in all aspects of women’s lives. Yet without denigrating those historically significant achievements, I do believe that the emphasis on egalitarian and respectful sex—purged of any expressions of power, aggression, and transgression—is antithetical to erotic desire, for men and women alike.

    So many of the couples who come to therapy imagine that they know everything there is to know about their mate. In large part, I see my job as trying to highlight for them how little they’ve seen, urging them to recover their curiosity and catch a glimpse behind the walls that encircle the other. Eroticism is the fuel for that curiosity, the experience of desire transfigured by the imagination.

    As Mexican essayist Octavio Paz has written, eroticism is “the poetry of the body, the testimony of the senses. Like a poem, it is not linear, it meanders and twists back on itself, shows us what we do not see with our eyes, but in the eyes of our spirit. Eroticism reveals to us another world, inside this world. The senses become servants of the imagination, and let us see the invisible and hear the inaudible.”

    The post Cultivating Desire in Couples appeared first on Esther Perel.

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