How to Get Out of a Love Rut
Sex and relationship fantasy materials are hot and sell. Popular magazines like Cosmopolitan sell because of articles on sex. For example, 75 Crazy Hot Sex Moves is an alluring Cosmopolitan article title. But relationships are more than a continuing series of orgasms or following misleading and sometimes manipulative relationship gimmicks.
Most people seek a secure, convenient, safe, and durable love-sex relationship. But most established couples eventually get complacent. This is partially because they procrastinate on maintaining and growing a high quality intimate relationship. For example, as you settle into a relationship you may pay more attention to daily routines and chores than to you mate. Working on your relationship hits the back burner. So, what relationship priority do you put off?
Relationship procrastination is putting off developing attitudes and actions to keep love, affection, companionship and your sex life active. This complex procrastination comes with disruptions. Bickering and blame, for example, commonly grease emotional skids sloping down to a moribund outcome.
Stop Procrastinating and Kick the Blame Habit
If your love relationship starts to sink, who’s more to blame? From a self-help perspective, blame is a distraction. It is better to understand what’s happening and to take corrective actions then to seek reasons to fault someone.
Blame games are common ways to crush your love life. They are rarely addressed partially because they are so obvious they are often not seen.
Blame can be part of a corrective process. You err. You accept the blame. You fix the problem. But this corrective blame pales against the harmful variety. Practically everyone will, from time to time, jump on a blame bandwagon and put spots of rot on their intimate relationship. These harmful blame patterns include putdowns for minor infractions.
Although divorce lawyers profit from relationship blame games, couples find them toxic. A complex procrastination-blame connection is at the core of many needless relationship problems that continue despite promises to do better next time.
Toxic blame comes in disruptive forms, such as externalizing, internalizing, and blame extensions. I’ll describe them. I see blame extensions as especially toxic, and so I’ll highlight the extensions.
Externalized blame leads to ducking responsibility. You finger your mate for your troubles. If you’re not perpetually blissful, your mate doesn’t give you what you need. If you are not getting ahead, your mate’s not supportive enough. If you are not easily aroused, your mate isn’t sexy enough. Come on, your mate is not responsible for making your life perfect.
You slip into the internalized blame trap when you think that whatever goes wrong is your fault. If only you were a better partner. If only you were more loving. If you believe that by controlling yourself you can change what the other person does, you have found a partial truth that leads to an illusion of control. A quality relationship is reciprocal. One person may do more than the other at different times. However, building a relationship is not a one-way-street. As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”
Relationship blame is punitive when it has extensions. You demand that your partner act the way that you insist. You condemn your partner for not meeting your expectations. You feel justified punishing your partner, say, by withholding sex. Percussion cap character generalizations are expressions of the extensions. “You’re worthless” may ignite a psychological firestorm. Can you think of quicker ways to douse the flames of intimacy than by engaging the extensions of blame, or by being the recipient of this blame?
Perfectionist expectations lurk behind blame extensions. This all-or-nothing perspective makes it tough to solve problems. (See March 12, 2010 blog for more information on perfectionism and procrastination.)
What Do You Expect?
Once you recognize the extensions, what do you do?
By educating yourself about the extensions, you can get ideas for what to do. Here is one. You can launch a positive process of change by thinking out the difference between perfectionist expectations and down-to-earth expectancies.
When your expectations are emotionally toned with strain and tension, perfectionist thinking likely pulls the strings setting loose this emotionally dizzying process. Expectancy thinking is radically different. Rather than think in absolutes, when variances apply you view events in degrees. With this mental intervention in play, you may experience yourself as open to experience, tempered in your responses, and more in command of yourself and the controllable events that take place around you.
Prioritize judging behavior over blame labeling. Your perspective is likely to be more acceptant and realistic. In an acceptance mind-set you don’t give up your rights. Instead, you take reality for what it is. If your mate engages in serial infidelities you may judge this behavior as unacceptable and seek someone who better appreciates you. This can be a painful process. However, this spirit of acceptance radically veers from a Pangloss view of reality (Voltaire, Candide) where you tell yourself that everything happens for the best when it doesn’t.
Seven Stepping Stones toward a Solid Relationship
You may stay on extension of blame paths because of habit and inertia. However, if you are heading for a relationship ditch it is normally better to stop procrastinating and take corrective action long before you get there. Make a special effort to prevent a crisis by actively changing harmful patterns by introducing positive new ones into your relationship. The following seven relationship building blocks are tested ways to build a sturdy, quality, relationship. Try them and see.
1. Practice active intimacy. You are likely to find that when you are sexually responsive to your mate, this is likely to be reciprocated.
2. Find ways to enjoy your partner. Treat your partner as someone you like to be near. Initiate mutually desirable joint activities. Your partner is likely to reciprocate this interactional style.
3. Build bonds of trust. A deserved showing of confidence in your mate’s integrity is likely to grow and to be returned with dividends.
4. Emphasize empathy. By getting in your partner’s shoes, you may better understand his or her emotional perspective. You don’t have to agree, but understanding often goes a long way in the direction of resolving conflicts.
5. Work to maintain care, concern, and positive regard for your partner. This active act of positive acceptance reflects an attitude that helps promotes stability, openness, authenticity, and reciprocity.
6. Communicate quickly about what is important. It’s easy to put off talking about something uncomfortable. However, if sooner or later you’ll have that talk, why not sooner?
7. Engage Common Causes. The couples I’ve seen who have a special relationship have a common cause, such as advancing a political agenda, rehabilitating old houses, or raising healthy and happy children. Bickering and blame detract from the cause and so these distractions are fewer in number.
If you want to know more about stopping blame games, see Knaus, W. (2000). Take Charge Now: Powerful Techniques for Breaking the Blame Habit. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons. For up-to-date techniques on dealing with complex forms of procrastination, see Knaus. W. (2010). End Procrastination Now. NY: McGraw-Hill.
First published at Pyschology Today