THE FINE LINE OF JEALOUSY
20/10/2015 Tuesday, October 20, 2015; Romantic Reminders

Green Monster

How can I show my love I am protective of her without coming off as the green monster?

Ah yes, the right amount of jealous. Tough line to walk. You don’t want to appear disinvested and apathetic, but you also don’t want to seem controlling or crazy. Like wine, sunshine, and an HBO series, a certain amount is good, but too much can lead to all sorts of terrible. That’s right: a healthy degree of jealousy shows that you care, you value your relationship, and that you don’t want to lose it to someone (or something) else. But extreme jealousy, and unhealthy reactions to it, can be highly destructive, both to your relationship and your glass coffee table.

Unless you and your love live in the wilderness and never encounter others, you’re both bound to feel jealous at times; so, rather than focusing on not feeling jealous, focus on having healthy reactions to your jealousy. Start by becoming familiar with the feeling, so you can recognize and be in control of it, rather than have it be in control of you. What do you notice when you imagine your love with someone else? Do you feel hot and pressured? Panicked, with tunnel vision? Then, try to stay with that feeling long enough to assess what a helpful reaction to it might be. Emotions are there to tell us something—in this case, to be on guard because your relationship is being threatened—but sometimes they lie. So, try to asses whether jealousy’s telling you the truth, or if it’s a knee-jerk reaction coming from a past experience (e.g. my last girlfriend was cheating on me) or an outdated cultural norm (e.g. men and women cannot be friends). Friends can be quite helpful in assessing valid versus destructive jealousy, so perhaps recruit the opinion of a trusted other.

You want jealousy to help your relationship by reminding you how much you value your partner; you don’t want it to push your partner away because they feel controlled or mistrusted. Aim to appear confident, protective, and attentive toward your love rather than anxious or territorial. For example, if you’re at a wedding and you see her being chatted up by a seemingly interested fellow, go over and be present. Introduce yourself with a smile, and put your arm around your love or on the small of her back to show the “threat” that you and your lass are more than friends. Ask your love how she’s doing–if she wants something to eat or drink. How her feet are doing. You want to show her you’re concerned about how she’s feeling, not that you’re concerned she’s going to cheat on you.

Afterward, or following any instance of jealousy where you’re unsure whether or not your reaction was helpful, discuss it with your partner. Tell her what your experience was–perhaps sharing your desire to leave her feeling protected and valued without feeling controlled–and ask her about hers. If she expresses dissatisfaction with your reaction, ask her how she would have preferred you’d handled things, and see how her suggestions fit for you. Ultimately, as per the golden rule of relationships, the best way to find a healthy balance around jealousy is to trial, discuss, refine, and repeat, all the while trying to practice patience and compassion toward your partner. Both the process and the outcome of the discussion are likely to benefit your relationship, and keep you from turning too (noticeably) green.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


BRINGING UP BABY
23/09/2014 Tuesday, September 23, 2014; Romantic Reminders

BRINGING UP BABY

My wife and I have very different views on child-rearing. I’m more of the “throw them in the pool and they’ll learn to swim” mindset, and she won’t even let them go in the shallow end. It’s creating a lot of tension between us, and I think it’s confusing our little one. I don’t want to end up raising overprotected, fearful kids, and even more so, I don’t want our different philosophies to ruin our marriage. What’s the right thing to do?

Parenting, like putting together IKEA furniture, is something you can read about, watch Youtube videos on, and have explained to you in detail; but until you’re actually sitting there with what seems like an alarming surplus of screws and hinges and lack of tools, trying to correctly interpret the cryptic pictorial directions, cursing, injuring yourself, feeling frustrated and defeated, and quitting numerous times in the process, do you realize that it’s something you figure out as you go and privately hope you won’t quit or destroy your product in the process. What’s more, marital satisfaction tends to decline considerably following the birth of a couple’s first child — a statistic that is likely partially influenced by conflict around parenting, but also around the financial demands, new responsibilities, and other factors that put stress and restrictions on the couple. A couple under more stress is more likely to experience more conflict.

As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of research out there on parenting. Study after study has revealed that an authoritative parenting style — one that is characterized by high expectations and high support – coupled with inductive reasoning (when parents explain rationale for discipline and choices), produce prosocial behaviour and positive emotional health in children. An example would be, “I expect you to meet my standards, but I still love you regardless of whether or not you do.”

The strengths in this parenting style remain consistent across cultures, although there are some exceptions to the rule (there are always exceptions!). For example, if children are being raised in dangerous neighborhoods, an authoritarian parenting style is necessary for children’s safety. Interestingly, though, studies show that what’s more important than the parenting style is the “coparenting alliance” (the degree to which parents cooperate, show warmth towards each other, low competition and low “verbal sparring”). It’s common for couples to develop a “good cop/bad cop” dynamic in their parenting styles, and that’s just fine. You don’t have to be the exact same. Generally, one will be more strict and one more laissez-faire. Consistency is most important for things like mealtimes, curfews, bedtime, sharing, non-violence, manners, and respect, for example, so not to confuse the child or create tension in the relationship. Discuss with your partner what values are important that you instill in your children, while acknowledging that flexibility, re-evaluation, and discussion will inevitably be necessary.

Additionally, it can be beneficial for both of you to take some time to understand and have empathy for each other’s parenting style. Perhaps you learned it from your parents, or believe it is the “right” way. Biologically and socially, women tend to be more nurturing (in general – there are many situations in which the father is the more nurturing half of the parental unit), while men tend to value and instill autonomy and independence. Acknowledge the common goal that you share of raising healthy, happy children. Consider taking a parenting course together, which most communities offer, so neither of you is viewed as the “expert.”

Finally, make sure that you’re taking time together as a couple. Some parents believe that, once children are born, everything should be done as a family. However, experts stress the importance of continuing to nurture the couple unit in addition to the family unit. Utilizing “Romantic Reminders” is a great way to do this, ensuring you have at least one occasion every couple of weeks that requires a babysitter.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.

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