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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.

Ep 4: Mark Groves on Living With Intention, Creating Great Relationships

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Mark and I had some great conversations around taking ownership of your life. Most people operate on autopilot, and haven’t done what Mark calls a life audit.

In This Episode You’ll Learn About:

3:00 – “Waking up” to your life
6:00 – The 3 questions to ask before marriage
9:30 – Operating on “Catholic Autopilot”
10:40 – Why we resist “waking up”
16:00 – Auditing your Life
22:20 – Making positives out of negatives
24:20 – Redefining success in relationships
30:00 – Relationship bids, and why missing them is dangerous
32:40 – How to handle changing relationship priorities
36:45 – When do you have tough conversations
46:20 – Avoiding information overload and taking action
48:45 – Dealing with criticism when you try to change
51:45 – Handling the most important relationship of all
57:00 – Brains scans of people in marriage vs new relationships
59:30 – The importance of doing new things with your partner

Listen to Episode 4: Mark Groves on Living Intentionally and Creating Great Relationships:

Download this episode as an MP3 here

Listen to it on iTunes.

Links and topics from the episode:

1) Mark’s website can be found here. He posts new articles, videos, and answers your questions often! He has a podcast called “Just the Tip” (hahaha perfect name) coming out in April 2015.

2) Info on the AMAZING singles and couples retreats can be found here.

Mailbag #3: How Do I Be Authentic With New People?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | No Comments

The mailbag is a Q&A column based on the emails you guys send me. If you have a question related to dating, relationships, or psychology, click here to send me your question and your email might be the next one chosen.

How Do I Be Authentic With New People?

Hi Ryan, okay so I’ve been thinking about the question you posed and I’ve come up with this.

Since my last dating relationship ended, I must say that my biggest challenge I find myself dealing with is being my true authentic self when I meet new people. I guess you could say I have trouble being vulnerable and 100% honest about my thoughts and feelings.

And trust me over the past couple of months I have been telling myself that I want to challenge myself and open space for vulnerability because I do believe that although scary it is essential in any given relationship yet I am not sure how to get there.

I am currently not dating anybody but I am wondering how to face this challenge the next time someone new comes around? I think this is a scary thought because at the end of the day being vulnerable also brings the fear of “will I be good enough?” (I know I know what is good enough anyway, yet it’s a fear that creeps in).

My Answer:

You’re not the first person to tell me they have trouble being 100% authentic with new people. That you’re experiencing this doesn’t worry me at all.

What worries me is the authenticity mantra that’s preached nowadays is getting out of hand. It’s totally and completely acceptable to be guarded when you first meet people. In fact, I would say it’s a good thing.

I would say you have healthy boundaries. As you get to know someone, you can choose to let them become closer to you or decide that they aren’t someone you want to know more intimately. Not everyone you meet deserves your total honesty.

People who are emotionally vomit on new friends are usually the ones who have issues with “always meeting the wrong people”. They let everyone in and get burned often. On top of that, perceptive people recognize this person’s lack of boundaries, and this naturally filters out the “right people”.

People who are emotionally closed off to new friends are usually the ones who don’t meet anyone. Their filter is too tight and no one gets in.

You sound like you’re one of the people in the middle. You can filter out the people who are untrustworthy. The people who make it through your filter are worth opening up to, so take a chance with them.

As for being good enough, the only person you need to satisfy is yourself. If you’ve never thought about it, ask yourself what you admire in others. What standards do people have to meet before you consider them good enough?

If you meet those, you’re doing great.

Ep 3: Vienna Pharaon on Communication, Awareness, Social Programming

By | Podcasts | No Comments

With the help of some AMAZING guests, the podcast thing is really taking off. Today we go deep into the core of relationship communication, and how to leverage the relationship psychology most people don’t know about.

Vienna tells you how to recognize signposts exposing subconscious fears, how to avoid conflicts by understanding your partners love map, and LOTS more.

Episode Guide:

1:20 – Physical Fitness and Mental Health
5:30 – The Communication Mistake That Kills Couples
9:00 – How Your Family Affects Your Communication Style
15:20 – The Importance of Partner Awareness and Stories
18:00 – Why You’re Drawn to the Wrong People Over and Over (I LOVED this part!)
22:30 – Keys to Connecting Deeper
26:00 – How to Remain Open to Love After Being Burned
29:00 – Do Your Fears Undermine Your Relationships?
32:45 – If You Haven’t Done This, You’re Not Self-Aware
36:00 – How the Best Couples Help Each Other Grow
38:25 – The Easy Way to Expose Your Subconscious Insecurities
40:20 – What Rabbits Teach Us About Relationships
43:00 – Replace Criticism with Curiosity
45:00 – Relationship Communication Quick Tips
51:00 – The Danger Of Relationship Quick Fixes

Listen to Episode 3: Vienna Pharaon on Communication, Awareness, and Social Programming

Download this episode as an MP3 here

Listen to it on iTunes.

Links and topics from the episode:

Some GREAT quotes from Vienna today:

“The words spoken to us become our inner dialogue with ourselves.”

“Every single one of us started in a place where someone else was telling us about ourselves, about what we
should believe.”

“We’re programmed to listen to other people tell us about ourselves.”

“Replace criticism with curiosity.”

1) Vienna’s site can be found here.
2) Info on the singles retreat (yoga, personal chef, California beaches!!) can be found here.
3) Vienna’s Instagram page with almost 20,000 (!!!) followers can be found here.

Ep 2: Jennine Estes on Affairs, Infidelity, and Rebuilding Trust

By | Podcasts | 3 Comments

Really happy with the way things are going, another GREAT episode! Jennine Estes has more than a decade of experience working with couples, and today she shares a TON of amazing info on how to deal with infidelity, step by step – both for the partner who was cheated on AND the person who had the affair.

I love that because it’s an angle that’s rarely covered. If we shame people who cheat and don’t try to understand the underlying causes we can’t move forward.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the show, links so you can listen to the episode, and a list of all the relevant links we mentioned in the show.

Episode Summary:

1:20 – If You’ve Had An Affair, Do This To Fix Your Relationship
5:10 – 5 Steps to Overcoming Infidelity in Your Relationship
7:35 – Long Term Affairs vs One Night Stands
16:00 – Admitting an Affair vs Being Caught
21:30 – What To Do When You Develop Feelings for Someone Else
25:15 – Dealing with Frustration and Anxiety caused by cheating
28:35 – Modern Technology and Cheating: texting, tinder and more
34:30 – If Needs Aren’t Met for Years, Is Cheating OK?
38:25 – Should You Change For Your Partner?
41:40 – How to Set Realistic Expectations Without Settling

Listen to Episode 2: Jennine Estes on Affairs, Infidelity, and Rebuilding Trust

 

Download this episode as an MP3 here

Links and Topics from the Episode:

1) Jennine’s (very nicely designed) website.

2) An AMAZING podcast by Jennine a fellow couples therapist on relationships. If you like what I cover, you’ll LOVE her podcast.

3) Jennine’s blog offering free relationship advice. She’s super knowledgeable and offers a ton of solutions to practical relationship problems.

How “The Dress” Exposes the Psychology of Conflict

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | No Comments

Mark Thursday, February 26 2015 in your calendar – it will forever be remembered as the weirdest moment in internet history. In case you missed it, the internet basically exploded in debate over “the dress”.

What’s there to debate?

When you look at this dress, do you see a white and gold dress, or a black and blue dress?

Well, internet split down the middle, and “the dress” became the focus of debate and analysis in every household with an internet connection. Scientists have explained why we see it differently, but the psychology of why it was even an argument hasn’t been covered.

 

How “The Dress” Exposes Our Psychological Shortcomings

 

A friend of mine first showed me the picture, and I thought he was fucking with me. It’s clearly, CLEARLY white, with stripes of gold. So I showed my wife.

She looks at it and scrunches her nose a bit, trying to figure out what I’m up to.

“It’s blue and green.”

What!??!?!

I was immediately sucked in. How could she possibly see anything other than white and gold? It’s not like this is a matter of opinion, I mean… it’s obvious, right?

This is where things get really interesting.

There are two types of disagreements: objective and subjective. Objective is fact based, like the distance between two places. Subjective is opinion based, like whether a dress is white and gold or black and blue.

Problems start happening when people mistake subjective disagreements for objective ones, which is basically all the time. But why does it happen?

If you’ve never left your own culture, you have culture blindness. You don’t know how your culture influences your world because you’ve never been anywhere else. This is why world travel is so good for growth – it exposes how much of your worldview is blind acceptance of cultural beliefs and traditions.

Since you can’t travel away from your body, you have psychological blindness. It becomes impossible to see how your perception changes the way you see things, so your brain just says fuck it and assumes everything you believe is legit.

A great example of this is language. We all use the same words, but they carry a slightly different meaning to each of us. If you ask one hundred people to define “near by” in terms of distance, you’ll get one hundred different answers.

 

The 2 Reasons Why “The Dress” Became An Internet Sensation

 

The dress was such a hit because it exposed a short circuit in your brain. Two things came together to make this happen:

1) The subtle differences in the way we define words, or in this case, colours.

2) The mental blindness I mentioned earlier.

One and two together creates a seemingly impossible scenario. If you define colours the way other people do, and you see the world accurately, how can there be a disagreement?? Your brain scrambles to try and reconcile the apparent paradox.

Essentially, “the dress” was a form of mental travel. Like stepping out of your house for the first time and realizing how much your windows distort the view. It stripped away the illusion of objectivity, and gave the whole internet a brief glimpse at how plugged in we are to our own personal Matrix.

It’s interesting to note the lack of disagreement when you break down the dress into individual colours. Suddenly, the disagreement vanishes:

When you break it down…

With the colours isolated from the picture, it becomes easy to look at each colour and ask “What colour is this to you?”

I might call one of those coloured squares gold, while you might call it green-gold or brown. Everyone I know who saw this picture only disagreed slightly on how they’d label the colours, but no where near a difference worth arguing about.

It’s when everything is mixed together that perceived differences arise. The ability to spot these similarities in seemingly opposing perspectives is called integrative complexity and it’s hands down the most important skill for resolving conflicts.

I know to some (most) people this is just a weird viral thing, but to me it’s an opportunity to show people why conflict is so insane. The dress is a stunning metaphor for conflict in general.

Whether it’s a disagreement between friends, husband and wife, or world leaders, we’re all looking at the same dress and arguing about the colours.

When There’s a Lack of Sex in Your Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | One Comment

I doubt you’d be surprised that one of the most common reasons people see me for couples counselling is a lack of sex in the relationship.

In general, sex is a pretty good indicator of how things are going. The F&F rule, for example: if you fuck more than you fight, you’re doing OK.

If you need to bust a sex rut, use these tips. They’ve helped hundreds of my clients banish their bedroom boredom. A+ for accidental alliteration!

Alright, alright… I’m done.

 

The Chicken And The Egg: Sex and Intimacy

 

You know, my job would be a lot easier if couples called me sooner. The average couple puts up with arguments and sex droughts for years before they seek counselling.

I get it – most counsellors are really lame. They’re awkward as hell, boring, and with rare exception, useless.

But how long can you endure a shitty relationship?

Is there a point of no return?

When he’s out of Kleenex and single-handedly (ohhh man, on a roll today) keeps Jergen’s in business. When you’re unhappy. When you’re looking at other people. It’s different for everyone.

No one ever thinks this will happen to them. But somehow, the problem creeps in…

One person wants sex before they give affection, the other wants affection before they get sexual. This sounds simple doesn’t it? One person satisfies the other and the problem goes away.

It isn’t though. Somewhere along the way, little resentments build up. They’re so subtle that they go almost unnoticed, like a leaky tap slowly filling the sink drop by drop.

Because of this hidden resentment, the gestures of affection feel loaded with the expectation of sex. There’s an awkward pressure.

Sex is… difficult. Even if your parts work, you just can’t find a rhythm. It feels disconnected. And this is all assuming that the initial sexual advances aren’t rejected.

 

3 Ways To Break the Cycle and Save Your Sex Life

1) Answer This Question

When’s the last time you went on a date?

I dunno why people assume dating and relationships are two different things. They aren’t.

A relationship is just dating for a really long time. When you date for a long time, you develop a friendship. Take away the dating part, and what are you left with?

Crash course in some basic psychology. In every interaction you’ve ever been in, there’s been “roles”. Doctor and patient. Teacher and student. Boss and employee. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Friends.

Everyone has many roles, and how you act depends on which role you’re in. When you’re dating, you’re in an exclusively romantic role. You’re lovers.

As you get to know each other, you develop a friendship. Passion fizzles when you stop relating to your partner in a romantic role and slip entirely into a friendship.

Friendship isn’t sexy. It’s comforting, but not sexy. Date once a week, flirt, have fun, and turn those sparks back into flames.

2) Break Bad Bedroom Habits

You ever hear of Pavlov’s dog? Guy rings a bell, then feeds his dog. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone made the dog drool.

When you take your phone to bed, watch TV, eat, or whatever, you associate your bedroom with everything but sex. Cut it out.

Seriously – this is one of the biggest difference makers in couples counselling. If you take electronics to bed, you eliminate one of the only opportunities for sex to happen. How often are you alone, comfy, and undistracted?

Make your bedroom sex friendly. Make sure your room is clean. Get silky bedsheets and comfy pillows. Put some scented tealight candles around, and keep lube and a vibrator nearby.

And damn it, go to bed together.

3) Make It Happen

If sex hasn’t happened in a while, it’s gonna be an ordeal. You’ll feel the pressure.

You might have to schedule a time. If it was going to happen naturally, it probably would’ve happened by now.

Don’t make it about coming. That’s awesome and everything, but messing around is a great start.

Instead of worrying about it, appreciate the thrill. If you haven’t hooked up in a long time, it’s almost like you’re doing it for the first time again.

You forget how good it feels, and not just the physical part. Sex brings you closer to your partner in a way that nothing else can.

 

Quick Tips

 

Check medications. Anti-depressants and other meds can make sex virtually impossible. Get alternatives if you can.

Don’t underestimate sex. Sometimes all those fights aren’t actually because of an underlying problem. Sometimes you just need a good hard… you know.

Talk about it. If it’s a concern, bring it up. Don’t let sex become the elephant in the room.

Jump on opportunity. When you feel a little something, look for reasons to do it instead of reasons why you shouldn’t.

Show affection often. Kiss as you pass in the house. Grope each other. Cuddle in bed. Play with their hair.

Try when you’re too tired. When it’s been a long time, it can take a lot of guts to initiate. It hurts even more to get shut down. If you’re a bit tired or not in the mood, try anyway.

Leave a Comment

You don’t have to use your real name. If you’re worried about the lack of sex in your relationship and want advice, leave a comment below.

Ep 1: Dan Bolton on Relationships, Divorce, Rejection

By | Podcasts | No Comments

The very first episode woop!!! Thrilled to have Dan Bolton as my first guest! Dan is a really smart guy and had a ton of great advice. He also has a FREE dating ebook you can download (link below).

We talked about a LOT of stuff. For your convenience (and because I have no life and nothing else to do anyway) I’ll be breaking down every episode right here on my site.

Episode Summary:

02:30 – Why a Relationship Won’t Solve Your Problems
05:00 – Regain Your Self-Esteem and Personal Power
06:45 – Overcoming the Fear of Rejection
13:15 – The Importance of Maintaining Individuality in a Relationship
19:00 – The Marriage Myth and How it Affects Divorce
25:30 – Reinventing Yourself After a Divorce
28:45 – How to Eliminate Negative Beliefs
31:50 – Online Dating Profile Tips for Men

Listen to Episode 1: Dan Bolton on Relationships, Divorce, and Overcoming Rejection

Download the episode as an MP3 here

 

Links and Topics from the Episode:

Dan’s FREE eBook on Online Dating

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Human Happiness

Defeating Negative Thoughts With Psychological Reframing