Love Secrets Revealed: What Happy Couples Know About Having Great Sex, Deep Intimacy and a Lasting Connection

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9780757303975: Love Secrets Revealed: What Happy Couples Know About Having Great Sex, Deep Intimacy and a Lasting Connection

Stop Working at Your Relationship and Make It Work Instead

"He's clueless. . . ."
"She's too needy."
"Maybe if I just work harder at it."
"I feel like we're roommates, not lovers."

If this sounds like your current relationship, you might be thinking you fell for the wrong person—but, as Dr. Allen Berger reveals, it's more likely that you’ve just fallen for the biggest myths about relationships, which result in unreasonable expectations. Myths like: love is the most important thing in a between partners, compromise is necessary and fair, and working harder at relationships will make them better. Using his thirty years of experience as a couples' therapist, Dr. Berger will help you take off the blinders and move on with a new level of intimacy, communication and connection with your partner.

Through compelling case studies, field-tested exercises and no-nonsense tips, you'll discover the relationship myths that may be holding you back and how to:

  • Get back "in sync" with your partner
  • Notice relationship red flags before it's too late
  • Avoid blow-ups over difficult situations
  • Revitalize the connection you had when you first met

Love Secrets Revealed gives you the tools to single-handedly make a difference in your relationship—starting today.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Dr. Allen Berger has been helping couples forge better relationships for over thirty years. He enjoys an outstanding reputation as a "no nonsense" relationship coach. Dr. Berger received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California, Davis. He has trained family therapists throughout the United States and in Europe. He currently enjoys a private practice in Southern California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Long-term commitment to an intimate relationship with one person of whatever sex is an essential need that people have in order to breed the qualities out of which nurturant thought can rise.

―Gerda Lerner (1981)

Chapter 1

The Stuff You Have to Understand for the Rest of This Book to Make Sense

Love in Today's Social Context

Pat and Jane are in their mid-thirties. Jane worked during the first part of their relationship and supported the family while Pat attended law school. After Pat graduated and passed the bar exam, they started expanding their family and today enjoy two beautiful children. For the past several years, Pat has been focusing on building his career, spending long hours at the office, going above and beyond the call of duty, to impress the partners of the firm. Jane's new job is raising her two children and managing their recently purchased home. This shift in their individual roles was not easy. Pat has been having trouble connecting to his wife after a full day's work; he's often exhausted and doesn't know how to get close to her. He helps her out because she seems so tired and drained by caring for their two young children throughout the day. But something is missing; he is helpful, but disconnected from the woman he loves. He suffers in silence, as do most men. He never developed the ability to tell his wife what he wants; his personal language is poorly developed because in his family of origin his father focused on being a provider rather than a participant.

Jane also contributes to their problems. She is unhappy with their connection, but because Pat works so hard she swallows her unfulfilled desires in order to not burden Pat. She tries to remain loyal to her love for Pat, but she never learned that mature love means to having loyalty to herself too. So she remains silent. They are both suffering from a lack of intimacy. In Jane's family of origin, she learned to please others at her own expense as a way of expressing love. A deadly combination for this young couple, wouldn't you agree? The good news is that they have reached out for help. They want more than just a marriage in name only; they want a passionate, loving connection. They are not alone.

Today the forces that join two people are extremely complex, but love has emerged as the central concern for the first time in the history of Western civilization. What does this mean to you and me in the twenty-first century?

I believe we are in the midst of a dramatic social change. We are moving toward a more personal and authentic consciousness. Self-help books now fill a whole section at the bookstore. Reality TV dominates much of the programming on television as we watch people from all walks from life struggle with their personal lives. We watch to see how they get along with friends, lovers, husbands and wives and to witness how they face real, practical issues and difficulties. Our willingness to study human interactions resulted in the Civil Rights movement, the women's movement and the men's movement―and it continues today.

Our increased life spans present special stresses to our relationships. Because of advances in medical science, we are faced with learning how to love a person for a longer period of time. Today a couple's marriage may last two decades more than their parents'. The challenge becomes how to stay connected and passionate for the entire course of the marriage.

What all this means is that love no longer exists merely as a courtship ritual that withers after the first year of marriage. An altogether different sort of love is emerging: a love that is based on individuality and integrity, rather than on social dictates or emotional dependency. Erich Fromm anticipated the character of this type of love when he stated that, 'Mature love is union with the preservation of integrity.' This is the type of love we need to embrace in the twenty-first century.

I'm certain that the romantics reading this book are jumping for joy. However, this notion of love is not an idealized love. It is a love that springs from striving to create a mutually satisfying relationship. It is not solely created by chemistry. It is created by learning how to hold on to yourself and stay connected to your partner. It is a love grounded in developing an understanding forged from the conflict that eventually reveals the higher purpose that brought you and your partner together. It is a love created by learning how to live together with integrity and respect. It is a love that is strengthened by struggling with your partner in a way that requires authenticity.

The Natural Therapeutic Value of Relationships

Sigmund Freud's seminal work in psychology has had a tremendous impact on how we understand ourselves and our behavior. I don't want to burden you with textbook details, but there are a couple of important insights that directly affect our understanding of what happens in relationships. Let me give you an example.

Imagine a little girl abandoned by her alcoholic father, not because he wasn't physically present, but because he was often too drunk to interact in a meaningful way with any members of the family. At sixteen she runs away and marries her boyfriend. In the course of their marriage, he begins drinking. She can't believe the love of her life is doing the same thing to her that her father did. She gets angry and attacks him about his drinking, which further drives him away.

Why does a woman who was abandoned by her father as a child grow up and marry a man who abandons her? Why does a man divorce a cold, critical woman only to marry someone who is her psychological twin? According to Freud, all of our behavior has a psychological cause, but often the cause is hidden within our unconscious.

Freud believed that the psyche develops out of the resolution of conflict. If conflict resolution is successful, at whatever particular stage of psychological development, then we move on to the next stage with few or no residual problems. However, sometimes we get stuck at a particular stage of development that destines us to apply the same solution over and over again, whether it works or not. It's like the needle of a phonograph stuck in the groove of a record.

Go back to the example of the abandoned woman. Let's imagine her husband dies in an industrial accident. She is free! There is a second courtship and the woman remarries. Six months later her new husband begins acting very similarly to her first husband. According to Freud, this woman will be stuck in this painful cycle of emotional neglect all her life.

I am much more optimistic than Freud! I believe, as do many humanistic and existential psychologists, that our mate selection has an underlying positive intention. I see an inherent wisdom to our behavior that we often overlook or discount. I am convinced all our behavior is a natural extension of an inner urge to grow up and move toward greater emotional and spiritual maturity.

Therefore, we choose a partner who will stir us to change in necessary ways. Carl Whitaker, M.D., and Augustus Napier, Ph.D., call this the 'wisdom of the unconscious.' Here's what this means. We select a partner who is going to cause us the 'right kind of trouble.' We pick someone who, by his or her very nature, will furnish us with an opportunity to master the as-yet unaltered, to encourage us to give a voice to the as-yet unspeakable, to insist that we take another step forward in the endless pursuit of personal development and personal integrity.

This is the natural therapeutic value of a relationship. It is as if our partners are angels, heaven-sent, to inspire us toward maturity and integrity (wholeness). Their help usually comes from the most unexpected directions and in the most unexpected ways. Typically, growth comes from the pain and frustration they help create in the relationship.

In the example of the woman who feels abandoned, her husband's behavior is bringing her emotional and spiritual wound to the foreground of her life. She now has the opportunity to face her pain and begin what will be a lifetime endeavor of healing this pain and learning to hold on to her self regardless of her husband's behavior. She will eventually realize that she learned how to abandon herself a long time ago. And eventually she will learn how to take care of herself―the next step in her personal development.

Sadly, for most couples, the therapeutic value of a relationship is more of an idea in a psychologist's book than a reality. Why does this happen? There are two reasons: Either we do not respect and acknowledge the depth of wisdom that operates within us, and/or we lack the skills that would help us realize the inherent worth of our relationships. Thus, the original good judgment and potential that joined us with our partner are rarely realized. We lose sight of the bigger picture and become confused, frustrated, disheartened, angry, sad or hopeless. The relationship deteriorates; we distance ourselves from our partners; and we sometimes divorce or just give up and remain in an unfulfilling relationship.

Losing sight of the relationship's purpose is one of the most common causes of divorce. Many people get divorced because they no longer see the value of their relationship and their love dies.

Recognizing that there is unrealized value in your relationship may provide you a vision worthy of facing and struggling with your circumstances. When you integrate this broader horizon into your understanding, suffering becomes more tolerable because it is seen as necessary to help you take the next step on your personal journey. Emotional pain does not have to be a permanent condition.

Understanding the personal significance of your pain can enable you to face hardships and discover important and critical information from your experience. I hope you can keep this in mind whenever you are struggling with difficulties in your relationship.

When we accept and digest the challenges we have created in our lives and relationships, we become more complete and move closer to becoming whole, becoming the best we can be.

When we are on the 'right path,' we will thrive and our relationships will flourish. A healthy relationship is like a timely serving of soul food. It feeds our spiritual hunger. Eaten and digested properly, our souls will sing with ecstasy and inspiration. Sex becomes electric, encounters enriching, dialogue meaningful. When we approach our relationships from this perspective, negative emotions offer opportunities for intimacy.

The Cruel Legacy of Unconditional Love

When I speak of the therapeutic value of relationships, I am not describing a process in which partners gradually shed their humanness to become haloed saints fit only to hobnob with seraphim and cherubim among clouds of unconditional love. In fact, I believe that the term 'unconditional love' has further complicated the issues involved in establishing and maintaining a mature and healthy relationship.

The notion that we can love a partner unconditionally, without regard to anything our partner says or does, would require us to completely deny our humanity. Because the 'unconditional love' movement has taught us we are 'selfish' unless we suppress our needs and expectations in order to perfectly love our partner, many of us go through life feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place. We continue to have expectations of our partners even though we've been taught expectations are wrong. We keep on getting angry and disappointed although we're told anger is 'negative.' We struggle with the 'I' that keeps popping up in our relationships.

I do not believe any relationship is healthy in which self-sacrifice is a major requirement, and self-sacrifice is a requirement for unconditional love. I will be discussing this further in Chapter Two. The important thing to remember right now is that there must be room for both partners in a mutually satisfying relationship.

The vision I have for a healthy relationship is similar to that expressed by the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr when he described the ideal marriage. He stated, 'A happy marriage perhaps represents the ideal of human relationship―a setting in which each partner, while acknowledging the need of the other, feels free to be what he or she by nature is: a relationship in which instinct as well as intellect can find expression; in which giving and taking are equal; in which each accepts the other, and I confronts Thou.' This ideal is a great goal to strive for, but I don't want you to be fooled into thinking that this kind of emotional climate is easy to create. It's not. But there is great value in striving for such a wonderful and authentic union.

The Balancing Act in All Relationships

The confrontation of 'I and Thou' (me and you) in a relationship requires the ability to balance two issues that naturally arise in the course of life: (1) the desire to join, cooperate with and please your partner, and (2) the pursuit of your own individuality. Both of these forces are deeply rooted in our lives. Let's take a look at these in more detail.

Cooperation and the desire to please are essential to survival. Our desire to cooperate and please is first manifested in an infant's relationship with its mother. The mother's breasts fill with milk for the baby, and the infant's feeding relieves the pressure in the mother's chest. Mother and child are cooperating and ensuring the immediate survival of the child, as well as creating the deep attachment necessary for parents to withstand all of the frustrations that inevitably occur over eighteen to twenty-one years. Who hasn't fallen in love with a newborn's innocent smile?

Cooperation is a prerequisite for successful social adaptation as an adult. We are social animals. The individual who is unable to cooperate is typically considered an outcast and often lives on the fringes of society. Some anthropologists have argued that the complex social interactions between human beings fueled the evolutionary engine that eventually created language and the human brain, making cooperation possible.

However, cooperation alone does not assure personal success. The second major force in our lives is the pursuit of our individuality. There is an intrinsic motivation to become all you can be. We desire to follow our own paths, assert our needs and wants, master problems, find solutions, and discover our purpose in life.

When we balance these two forces, we are functioning with integrity. Integrity, as it is used throughout this book, is concerned with wholeness and maturity. People who function with integrity honor what is important to them at any particular moment. They do not lose themselves to social customs or peer pressure, nor do they dismiss the social demands or rules of a situation. People with integrity consider all of this information and integrate these considerations into their responses.

This awareness facilitates the integration of our individuality and our desire to please. As you can see, integrity involves self-concern, but don't mistake self-concern with selfishness. Selfishness has nothing to do with the self-concern th...

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