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Couples Troubles

Many couples enjoy the change of pace that summer brings. Vacations, musical festivals, cottage getaways with family and lots of outdoor BBQs are occasions to enjoy life and create happy memories. But these can also be times when relationship troubles are camouflaged, then dealt with later.

Is this you? Sad but true, a time to away, meant to grow as a couple, can also be a time of deepening relationship distress. Couples Therapy is an effective way of overcoming a communications impasse.

A recent report on BBC.com states that people between the age of 16 and 44 are having less sex than ever before. Is there something about life today? Are there new ways to hide problems?

Some modern indications of unhealthy couples behaviors include:blog-fighting-loving

  • Excessive smartphone/tablet use/social sites
    • Often in the presence of their partners
  • Excessive organized family activities
    • E.g. not enough free time for individual interests
  • Excessive amounts of time viewing adult web sites (Pornography)

These are ways to fill time and maintain distance when unspoken issues lie beneath a superficial calm. Couples unconsciously collude to maintain the status quo of parallel lives – like railroad tracks going in the same direction but never intersecting.

The issues below are still the ones most often involved in couples’ communication breakdowns:

  • Money
  • Sex
  • Parenting
  • In-laws

These issues are caused and often complicated by values that you and your partner may not always share. Values are personal perceptions about the right way to live your life.  For example, you may believe that it’s better to enjoy life while you have the freedom and resources to do so. Your partner may argue that it’s more important to save money for a nest egg as the priority. Issues become more entrenched when they conceal emotional issues such as insecurities about money or phobias that lead to recurring impasses of communication.

Despite the summer distractions, if you and your partner are stuck in a communication breakdown, it is a good idea to consult a psychologist trained in couples therapy to help you accomplish your goals together.

 

Dr Eva Fisher is a registered psychologist trained in Ottawa, Canada with training in couples and family issues.

Sexting the one you love

Justin returned from a business trip earlier than expected.  As he unpacked his suitcase he heard his wife, Ashley’s cell phone ringing.  He picked it up out of curiosity. He didn’t expect to find a sexting message from an unknown man with genital photos in full display.  Scrolling through the history, he found photos of Ashley  naked with flirtatious come-ons.  He was shocked and disturbed and he had certainly never seen that side of her before.

It takes a congressman sexting on Twitter, to bring to light something that has been causing couples to fight since the earliest days of the Internet and social media.

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Online dating facts and fictions 2015

In the 2012 Quebec film Roméo Eleven, a shy young man with cerebral palsy and a slight limp poses as a successful businessman in an evolving romance with an online girlfriend.  In real life, he is a part-time bus boy at his father’s restaurant.  Online he tells his girlfriend that important business trips and client requests prevent him from meeting her in person.

Romeo is the young man’s alter ego, his idealized version of himself.  In his fantasy life, he is the ultimate cool dude, with clothes and an attitude to match.  In contrast, his real life family treat him with the solicitousness that is reserved for the infirm, the aged and those deemed by society as “defective”.

Romeo’s story is a poignant depiction of the role of fantasy in online romance, where you can pretend to be your ideal self with little risk of exposure.  Online romances hold the promise of being admired as the person you wish to be, envied for the money and power you wish you had, if only nature and fate had been more kind.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Most people don’t lie to the same degree as Romeo on their online dating profiles, but sneaking in some fibs to look more appealing to potential partners is common.  OKCupid.com, a very popular dating site, looked at data from about 1.5 million people to figure out which lies are most common.

In its findings the average person is about two inches shorter and 20 per cent poorer than they claim to be. Other ways people tend to deceive—putting up old pictures and women apparently claim to be bisexual more than they actually are. Other typical lies have to do with age, weight, marital status and employment.

People lie about these things, not necessarily to trick people, but sometimes to get through a search filter so they can have an opportunity to meet a wider range of people. The chart below shows how many messages a man gets, depending on his age and “reported” income. It shows men, especially older men, receive more messages if they report earning more money.

datingstats

Does online dating work?

Besides all the misrepresentations, online dating sites are among the most popular ways to meet a partner. In fact, statistically it is more likely to meet someone online than in more traditional locations such as bars, work or school.

At the University of Chicago, psychologists researched marriages from 2005- 2012 to see the correlation between online dating and happy marriages. They found that people who met online did tend to be slightly happier and more satisfied than their counterparts and were less likely to divorce. As a side note, the study was funded by the dating site eHarmony, but they claim is completely independent.

Dan Slater, who wrote a book called Love in the Time of Algorithms, asks an important question about how the technological revolution is affecting our love lives. One of the main questions: why should we settle for who we’ve got, when mouse clicks away there are thousands of people who we may be more compatible? He finds that although online sites usually produce first-time dates where two people hit it off, it is extremely difficult to predict long-term compatibility.

Online dating may have some flaws, but it’s still a go-to place to meet people in a tech-savvy culture.

Just beware of the sand traps before you leap in, and don’t disregard the warning signs when things don’t add up. If you keep meeting people who lie or exploit you, it would be a good idea re-assess.

Meeting  with a psychologist who has experience in these areas could be helpful.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych All rights reserved. Copyright protected.

Infidelity in a long distance relationship

In long-distance relationships there is an illusion of closeness, partly because of the small amounts of physical time together. Many long-distance couples consider themselves to be a perfect couple in an imperfect situation. Yet, as we know, there is no such thing as a perfect couple and when the pair reunites and reality clashes with dreams, problems can arise with surprising force.

Laura and Cal had been together for four years, although they were only physically together for less than one of those years if you counted the actual days together.

Laura, a lawyer with a prominent position in a government department, could not relocate when Cal completed his studies and got a job as a professor at a university several hundred kilometers away.

Their relationship survived by alternating weekends together, daily texts, Skype, and long telephone calls at night in place of physical time together.
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Internet time: online or mainline?

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?  If your answer includes checking an Internet device, you may be one in a growing number of Internet addicts worldwide.  Many people today spend a significant portion of their waking time online.

In a recent Neilsenwire survey, respondents reported spending more than one third of their waking hours (36%) communicating and networking on the Internet. The largest component was social networks, which accounted for almost a quarter of all time (23%), an alarming 43 per cent increase between 2009 and 2010. In the same one-year period, there was a 12 percent increase in time spent watching videos and movies online and a 10 percent increase in time spent in online games.  Overall internet use is now prominent in society and is becoming an essential fixture of many peoples’ lives.

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Facebook depression

Facebook depression is a new phenomenon[1] that the American Association of Pediatrics has identified.  According to the authors of the study “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families,” there are many dangers for teens online and Facebook acts as a gateway to them.

Samuel is a teenager whose parents were divorced when he was four years old.  Over the years he has had to adapt to living in different houses with different people who come and go, but his most constant and closest companion has been his computer.

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Looking beyond social networks

What do you think these people have in common?

  • An introverted teenager anxiously checks his iPhone, Facebook and Twitter pages for messages from his classmates.
  • After dinner with their children, a couple with marital problems watches TV together while sending text messages to other friends on their Blackberrys.
  • A woman with a history of failed relationships keeps glancing at her cell phone looking for a text message from her boyfriend during a therapy session with her psychologist.

These people have developed dependencies on the new communications methods, as magic salves or solutions to their problems, and yet their search for happiness continues to be frustrated by the limitations of the technology.

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Texting: The new long-distance relationship?

Lisa reached for another tissue in my office while glancing at her Blackberry. “Why didn’t he tell me in person?” she asked.  “Why did he have to tell me it was over in a text message?”  After three months of dating her new boyfriend, Craig, she was heartbroken and tearful, trying to make sense of his reasons for leaving.  She was most indignant at receiving a goodbye in the form of a text message.

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