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June 2015

The Psychology of Cheating

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | One Comment

A while ago I wrote an article on the causes of cheating.

The main thing I wanted to get across was that, overwhelmingly, insecurity is the root cause of cheating.

Understandably, a couple of commenters disagreed with me. The source of our disagreement is something pretty simple.

In psychology, there are two causes of behaviour. There’s immediate causes (proximate) and “deeper causes” (ultimate).

 

The Two Causes of Behaviour

 

Say a ship sinks. You could say it went down because too much water got into the hull, and you’d be right. This is an immediate, or proximate cause.

You could also say it went down because the captain wasn’t paying attention, or the spotter was busy watching people make out, or whatever. You’d still be right. This would be the ultimate cause.

Insecurity is often an ultimate cause of cheating, but almost always a proximate cause.

I should’ve done a better job at explaining the whole proximate / ultimate thing in my last article. My bad.

A secure person with a good support system of friends and family, separate interests and activities, and a stable sense of self is more likely to leave a relationship than cheat.

If you have no where to go, no one to talk to, nothing you can do to clear your head and socialize with other people, and so on, leaving a relationship becomes waaaay more difficult.

This is what I was talking about when I said cheating is about unmet personal needs, not unmet relationship needs.

It’s pretty common for people to fulfil their personal needs with their relationship. The needs you’re responsible for fulfilling outside the relationship and the needs your relationship should fulfil become all mixed up.

 

It’s Like Jenga

 

Like most people, I’m a visual learner. This will make a lot more sense with a picture, so here’s a visual version of what your needs look like:

If you look at the yellow bar, you’ll see friendship, family, intimacy. That’s where relationship needs fit in.

Imagine each coloured bar is divided into separate blocks, like Jenga. Leaving a relationship that provides you with intimacy would be like pulling out one of the blocks. There’d be a hole, but the tower would remain standing.

If you have your personal needs fulfilled, this is exactly what would happen.

When you don’t have your personal needs fulfilled, the little “intimacy” block in the middle isn’t so little anymore. Suddenly your relationship now represents the entire yellow bar, maybe chunks of the orange bar, and some of the green bar too.

If you pull all that out, well… the whole thing crumbles. Even if a relationship isn’t “meeting your needs”, it’s still fulfilling a bunch of your personal needs. You can’t end the relationship without tearing yourself apart.

When I say insecurity and unmet personal needs are the cause of cheating, that’s what I’m talking about.

There might be deeper, ultimate causes, but eventually you’ll run into the proximate cause of not leaving the relationship to resolve things in a healthy way.

Hope that provides some more clarity. If you still disagree with me, though (d’oh…) I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

How to Stop the Constant Arguing

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | No Comments

Every couple fights. You know what’s crazy though?

On average, couples remain unhappy for a few years before they seek a therapist. YEARS.

It gets to the point where every conversation is an argument.

After the constant arguing phase is the quiet phase. Tired of arguing, both people give up on communication altogether.

Eventually, things get so bad that people *gasp* call a counsellor.

I’ve always found that funny. The average person thinks couples counselling is going to be so awful that they’d rather endure years of frustration and emotional pain.

We need to change the perception of counselling somehow, maybe if a bunch of us started doing sessions at the local bar instead of an office.

“If therapy doesn’t work, just get wasted!”

 

Problem Solve Like a Therapist

 

Sometimes relationships die a long, slow death.

It seems like nothing happened, but stuff went wrong… a whole lotta small stuff that went under the radar.

Chemistry seems to fade, intimacy isn’t there, arguing is almost constant, and you can’t figure out why.

Start by asking yourself some questions, and look for any common factors.

When do you argue? What do you argue about? Are there any people that seem to trigger arguing?

Where do you argue? This is a big one most people neglect.

When is the last time you had sex? What about a fun date? Uninterrupted time to just hang out?

Sometimes you can throw the psychology out and go back to basics. If you’re doing the basics but still have trouble getting through a conversation, it’s time to dig a bit deeper.

 

Put On Your Psychology Hat

 

Now the fun part. Do your best Sigmund Freud impression, but probably leave out the cocaine. Yes, the father of psychology was an addict (he found cocaine useful for talk therapy).

Chances are you’re already decent at understanding people and communicating. If you’re arguing lots, the problem you’re probably having is caused by your partner’s psychological defence system.

With awareness and a bit of skill, you can neutralize their defence and move the conversation forward.

 

How Does the Mind’s Defence Work?

 

You know the feeling when someone disproves your point but you still want to argue?

That’s the ego protecting your ass from the feeling of being wrong.

Sometimes, an issue triggers ego defenses and prevents conversation altogether. If you’re constantly arguing, this is exactly what’s happening.

 

Avoid the Triggers, Avoid the Argument

 

You don’t need to change your message to avoid triggers, it just has to be “packaged” so they aren’t scared, threatened, or hurt by what you’re saying.

This comes down to one thing.

Don’t Talk About Your Partner.

Don’t tell them what they did, what they need, what they need to change, or anything. Talk about you.

Most people fall into the trap of needing their perspective to be accepted before moving forward.

The truth is, both of your perspectives are “right”.

Stop obsessing over what they did. Start focusing on your experience.

BAD: You lied because you aren’t big enough to tell the truth. If you can’t admit that we have nothing to talk about.

GOOD: I felt hurt because XYZ happened again and you said it wouldn’t. When I feel hurt it makes me scared to open up to you. What makes you want to be dishonest with me?

You explain your experience without judging or insulting, you clearly communicate the problem, and you create a safe scenario for them to move the conversation forward.

Basically, it’s a simple formula for taking all the prickly bits out of the conversation. Once you do that, you’ve removed the biggest roadblock to resolving the root issues.

If you’re still having trouble and want free advice, subscribe here.

Update: Couples Counselling Practice Relocated to Hamilton

By | Blog | 2 Comments

No, I haven’t died. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking so after looking at the date on recent posts.

I have relocated my relationship and couples counselling practice from Edmonton, Alberta to Hamilton, Ontario. It was a thankfully uneventful 3,500 kilometre drive from one side of Canada to the other, aside from a speeding ticket and a few animal sightings.

Counselling is still available to Edmonton and area clients via phone and Skype, and occasional visits in person.

As of now, I’m available for housecalls in the Burlington, Hamilton, and Grimsby areas.

Posting schedule is also back to normal – articles on Tuesdays, podcasts on Wednesdays, and videos on Thursdays.