Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the range of time.
– John Donne, The Sun Rising, 1595
Singles often complain that all the good ones are taken.
They want to believe in true love, but their past experiences with bad relationships – serial cheaters, betrayals, lack of respect, lack of communication, lack of support, lackluster sex or even worse has made them wary of getting involved with a new person. Frequently, they are confused about why they seem to get involved with the wrong type of person, over and over again.
Bob and Lori Hollander of Relationships Work, who have offices in Westminster and Owings Mills, specialize in relationship therapy. Through individual and couples counseling, they help their clients to know themselves and grow a strong, nurturing and lasting bond with their mate. They put in terms of metaphorical roses. The red rose is the lover’s flower. It signifies enduring passion in the language of flowers.
“There are roses that you need to look at within yourself.” said Bob Hollander. “Do you have this rose? Is it blooming, is it wilting, is it a mere seed, has it not budded yet?” Bob Hollander said.
Knowing who you are, knowing how to uncover your blind spots when dealing with the opposite sex and knowing what you want, need and expect in a life partner; all constitute the first step in a quest for love and happiness, Lori said. Before meeting Bob, she admitted, she had her own blind spots when it came to relationships.
“I used to pick men who didn’t treat me very nicely; they were not abusive, but they didn’t see me as important,” she said. “Therapy helped me to understand why. Now I coach women on how to analyze their dates by reviewing such factors as: Did he listen or did he talk about himself most of the time? What was the quality of the date? Was he respectful? Did he open the door for you? It helps women to stay in their heads, instead of allowing their hearts and bodies to lead with an idealized perception and all of that attraction stuff – the oxytocin, (often referred to as the love hormone).”
In a system developed by the Hollanders, each of 12 roses represents an ingredient in a formula for lasting love:
1. Understand the spirit of Valentine’s Day. It means having heart, having a connection.
2. Balance. Look at it as heart, mind and body É you have to have erotic love, emotional love, that is heart and body; and the mind is the more intellectual, behavioral part. When the mind brings the heart and body together, that is balance.
3. Expanding sex into love creates a connection, a deeper sensuousness, and closeness. If you want to be connected in your relationship, do connecting things, not disconnecting things.
4. Ego: Our little scared self, which makes us believe we have to compete, we have to win, we have to be on top. That is not a formula for connection and love. It does not allow you to go down deep to where the best part of you lives. When that is occurring your relationship is not wonderful because you are separating and you are creating a wall and cutting off the relationship.
5. Being conscious of the unconscious, which means owning your part of things, being aware of the qualities you have individually that may interfere with being with your partner. It means being aware of what you bring from childhood, what baggage you bring to the relationship, which may cloud the way you perceive things.
6. Taking risks: To connect with another, you have to risk being hurt. You cannot be safe and really be in love. Risk your heart. True intimacy requires taking the risk of being vulnerable.
7. Active listening is all about communication. The connection is formed by the process of working to understand what the other person needs. Listen with your heart, not just with your head.
8. Caring: Your heart has to be open and want to do caring things, to be caring and risk being hurt. When you are caring you are not thinking about yourself, you are thinking about the other person. You are putting your energy into creating the relationship. Both people have to care to create that invisible connection.
9. Respect: You respect the other person’s history and who they are, finding the best part of them and enjoying them.
10. Selflessness: Deep empathy is something you have to practice and learn. You have to tap into your own feelings and connect with what your partner is feeling.
11. Attraction: When people first meet, they are automatically attracted, but over time, when day-to-day life happens, the attraction can wane if couples fail to nurture, feed and grow the attraction.
12. Love: Deep love is sometimes buried under layers of anger, history and resentment. If you find a way to pull those layers back, the love is still there.
Can You Live Happily Ever After?
As the U.S. divorce rate climbs, lasting marriages have become the exception, rather than the rule. It is little wonder that many people are convinced that “they lived happily ever after,” only occurs in fairy tales.
Amy Gilford, along with her mother and father, Bill and Anne McKenna, staff the Marriage Resource Center of Carroll County. When the McKennas, both educators, were asked by their minister to develop a marriage ministry program, they agreed. The result was an organization created to fill a need for an educationally-based relationship program.
“Out of that we started activities to strengthen families,” said Anne McKenna. “About a year later, he asked us if we would be willing to prepare couples for marriage. From our research, we realized that couples needed a marriage mentor.”
Now in its fifth year, the program strives to offer tools and resources that can be used to find that perfect someone, said Gilford. It also address the issues of re-marriage and forming blended families.
“People don’t wake up one morning and say my goal is to marry a jerk,” Gilford said. “People really do want long-term relationships that last a lifetime. Our job is to show them the way.”
Gilford said they teach people how to spot red flags that may indicate that their dates are not suitable life partners. To that end, they offer their clients two acronyms – FACES and MARRIAGE – as a guide in analyzing potential partners before entering a committed relationship.
FACES: Five key areas to check out: Family background of a potential spouse; Attitudes and actions of conscience; Compatibility potential; Examples of other relationships; and Skills of communication.
MARRIAGE: Eight characteristics of a trustworthy partner:
Mature: does the person behave as an adult when faced with stress?
Adaptable: does the individual demonstrate the ability to adapt to new circumstances?
Relationship: does the individual demonstrate interpersonal communication skills?
Responsible: does the individual pay bills and take care of property?
Inner confidence: does the individual demonstrate inner strength?
Anger management: does the individual demonstrate ability to control anger?
Gracious: does the individual demonstrate kindness and courtesy?
Emotionally stable: does the individual control emotions in an acceptable manner?
“Take time to know who you are,” said Gilford. “Life throws you curves. Just watching how people deal with the challenges of day-to-day stresses is a good indicator of how they are going to respond to those stresses after you are married.”
If people talk about their cars, their possessions, how they feel, what they want, what they need, and only talk at you, not to you, that should raise a red flag. Date with a purpose; date with a plan, said Gilford.
“If you see red flags early on (and remember, it takes three months to be able see those patterns evolving in a relationship),” said Gilford. “If your prospective partner is rattled easily, remember, marriage magnifies the way it finds you; if you think marriage is going to fix those issues, you have another think coming.”
As the old saying goes, “act in haste, repent at leisure.” Gilford and the Hollanders said it is important to know yourself first. Or as Bob Hollander put it: If you are looking for someone to adore you, rather than looking for someone to adore, you are looking for love in all the wrong places.
To take a relationship quiz, visit the Relationship Works website at www.RelationshipsWork.com. For more information on the resources available through the Marriage Resource Center, visit www.marriageresourceccc.org .