August 5, 2017 Office Hour Recording

Relationships Topics

This is the full recording of the entire session from the August 5 office hour for themes related to the course content of Strengthening your Relationship and How to Talk to your Kids about Sex.

If you want to listen to the session from start to finish, play the above recording.

For listeners who prefer to browse -- to read the questions and selectively listen to their responses -- or who have difficulty streaming large audio files, the individual questions in the above recording have also been extracted into separate segments below for easier browsing.

Note that there is no question in the above full recording that is not also found below, and vice versa. They are recordings of the same office hour.

Question #1

An essential concept I've learned from your classes (and from reading the recommended Dr. David Schnarch books) is that desire and passion in marriage hinge very much on the skill of "differentiation" or being free of a "reflected sense of self," i.e. not relying on your partner to make you feel good about yourself, feel certain feelings etc. Yet...I also hear you saying that we all want to feel like we are desired by our partner, we want to feel chosen and we want our sexuality validated by our spouse. Isn't this the same as a reflected sense of self? Isn't wanting to feel special, chosen and desired by our partner just the opposite of differentiation? I hear you saying that feeling these things from our partner is essential to a passionate marriage as well, but this sounds same as enmeshment to me.

It's a paradox and I can't quite figure it out. Maybe it's very simple and I'm just not seeing it. I would love your thoughts on this.

Question #2

My husband and I feel like we have a great marriage - working together and unified for common goals, communicating openly and honestly about issues. My husband is a medical student and some seasons of the medical process have higher stress (studying for board exams, certain specialties, away rotations etc). When the times of higher stress come, we often revert to losing strategies or stop bringing our best to the marriage / family.

How can we maintain winning strategies when stress comes? Or how can we prepare for those times better?

Question #3

My husband has a habit of withdrawing from the relationship when emotions get too heated.  When we were discussing Losing Strategies together, he acknowledged that he withdraws emotionally but insisted that it was a positive thing, rather than negative, because it gave him time to regroup and
process the events that led to the withdrawal.   However, when he withdraws, it has a negative impact on me because of the way he behaves and because I am never sure when, if ever, he is going to reconnect.  
I engage in similar strategies categorized as "losing" in your course that have similar impacts on him (when I am upset, I verbalize it.  I let him know how I am feeling and why, etc. I don't feel like I do it to control him, but maybe I do but I just don't want to believe that about myself?). This affects him adversely because he doesn't like any conflict, etc.  I realize I lack a lot of detail here, but for the sake of brevity I'll now ask my question:
Can a person engage in "losing strategy" behaviors without the behaviors being losing strategies? More specifically, is it ever good for a spouse to withdraw from the relationship if handled well?
Conversely, isn't it good to let a spouse know how you are feeling and why (again, if it is handled well?) Is intent the crucial factor here? Are we both way off base?  How does one turn losing strategies into winning ones?

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Question #4

I am struggling with the concept of personal integrity.  I think I agree or understand from a theoretical standpoint but not sure if I truly grasp it from a real life point of view.  To me it seems unreal, like when someone says their perfect job is X but in reality we don’t all get to work at our perfect jobs, we just have to have a job to put food on the table.

Isn’t marriage sometimes like that?  I believe often people make choices about marriage etc. even before they knew who they are never mind the other person.  So now I have grown and matured and found my personal integrity and even though things aren’t terrible we most likely would not have made these choices BUT now there are kids!   So the personal integrity is that it is more important to stay for the kids etc. etc.  So we somewhat settle or take one for the team?

This is in a situation where no one is horrible, mean etc. to the other it just isn’t true to either of our desires?

So can parts of your personal integrity push and eventually override other parts?  I.e. desire belief etc. to be a good mom, overrides, more smaller parts i.e. personal interests, needs etc.?  And are there strategies to become happy even if you feel that you are not being true to your whole self just parts of yourself?

Question #5

I have listened to the first few of the "strengthening relationships" course. The idea of having integrity really hit home with me. Now I am trying to balance having integrity with just being overdemanding/uncompromising and I'm wondering if you can help. After listening to the first couple of classes, my husband and I talked about how we don't even really feel like we would consider each other as friends (like I don't think of him as my friend and vice versa).

That being the case, I suggested we not have sex until we have acquired a friendship and can build on that. This was my integrity bit--for years I have felt like I was just allowing him to have sex with me (not even "me" but with my body, really) but to be true to myself I think I need to not continue allowing that (especially so I can avoid feelings of resentful accommodation). Over the week, we talked and laughed together for the first time in a while and I did feel our friendship growing. But then we had sex and now he keeps asking for sex (even if I turn him down, he asks about 5 more times that night and then gets very upset if he starts kissing me and I turn my head or he grabs me and I resist).

It is a cycle of him asking, me saying no, him being upset until he forgives me and then asks for sex again. I don't want to be controlling or manipulative about sex, I just honestly want to feel like we are treating each other in a way that seems in line with people who are committed and close to one another. When I tell him this, he says I won't ever feel that passion (because I am breastfeeding and he thinks that inhibits my drive) and that I am being selfish to hold out. He speaks harshly to the kids and passively (under his breath) sneers out things about how displeased he is with me as a mom. I don't feel attracted to him so it is hard to know if I should be true to my feelings--not wanting to touch him--or be compromising (my gut is that I have compromised way too long on this and have made sex into something meaningless and trivial). Any help would be welcome!

Question #6

I just found out that my 16 year is having sex.  I haven't talked to him yet.  My husband wanted us to wait a few days for gather our emotions and thoughts before we talked to him.  I want some guidance is talking to him.  I don't want to shame him, but I also don't want him to think this behavior is fine with me.  I want him to know of his goodness, and what he really wants in life, and who he wants to be.  He has watched porn -- he seems over-sexualized.  We read some of his text between him and his girlfriend,  it was such crude language.   It is hard to stomach that he is really talking like this and thinking like this.   He makes straight A's, taking some college classes this year, plays soccer, etc.  He has had argumentative and had aggressive behavior at home the last few months.  Looking back, maybe it is because of his shame and how he feels about himself and his actions.

Question #7

A question from a couple taking the How to Talk to your Kids About Sex course. Their kindergartener has been touching himself in public.  They have explored different ways to discourage that.  For example, they've tried having him wash his hands each time he does, but are conconcerned that this might send a message that sex is dirty.

Question #8

When we were dating and first married we were both extremely active and healthy people.  That was a big priority for both of us and that was one of the big draws we had to each other.  The first 10 years of our marriage was filled with endless days of outdoor hobbies.

Around 6 years ago, we hit MANY trials that left us in survival mode for two years.  We were both barely functioning and our healthy habits and hobbies took a back seat.  Once we got a handle on life again, I (the wife) got back into my previous healthy lifestyle. My husband has not.  His spare time is now filled with eating ice cream while reading, or watching a movie.

The wife's argument: I know that people grow and change in a marriage, but he has done a 180 on me and I can't accept it. I feel like his new lifestyle is extremely selfish for many reasons.  He is spending a lot of money on junk food that could be so much more beneficial elsewhere.  He is teaching our young children unhealthy habits because most of his time spent with them involves electronics instead of the outdoors.  I worry that long term he is setting himself up for major health problems that could effect all of us.  I get extremely angry when he brings junk food home because not only is it now in my face, when I'm trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but now I'm the bad parent that has to constantly say no to our young children, because I don't think they should have junk food every day.  But mostly, I miss having adventures with him and sharing those experiences with him.

The husband's argument: 6 years ago she had postpartum so bad with our second child that I feared leaving her alone with the kids because of her behavior when she was alone with them.  I have never really let that go.  Additionally, I feel that it isn't fair to her for me to extend my work day by going to the gym after work, plus it reduces my time with the kiddos when they are awake (we have young kids).  Finally, I currently travel full time for my career, and when I get home, I just want to be home.  I don't want to go out to eat, I don't want to leave the house, I just want to be home.

Question #9

My wife and I have been married and we (me mainly and her with hesitation) need to make significant changes, mainly regarding our intimate relationship.  This will be hard and frightening at times, and it will be difficult and take a long time because we have been living this way for so long.

How do we allow each other room to grow (a term you have used is "grow up") when we are in such a deep "rut?"  We need some practical advice

Question #10

Can you talk more about "use" relationships and how they incorporate losing strategies?  As we have discussed the material from SYR, we have determined that we both come from families where losing strategies have been passed through multiple generations like family heirlooms.  It is quite disturbing how acceptable and normal these behaviors have become.  If you are taught "use" relationships through losing strategies in childhood how do you recognize those patterns in yourself and choose to respond to others differently as an adult.  We don't want to be in a "use" relationship with each other or our kids.  We want something better for ourselves and for them.