Dr. Ana Nogales' Book of Love, Sex and Relationships: A Guide for Latino Couplesby Ana Nogales
In this compassionate, practical, and long-awaited book, Dr. Ana Nogales provides wisdom and insight for the millions of Latinos who find themselves caught between two worlds -- the traditions of their Latino upbringing and the demands of modern American society. Exploring how cultural attitudes and social pressures affect the way Latinos relate to those they love,… See more details below
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In this compassionate, practical, and long-awaited book, Dr. Ana Nogales provides wisdom and insight for the millions of Latinos who find themselves caught between two worlds -- the traditions of their Latino upbringing and the demands of modern American society. Exploring how cultural attitudes and social pressures affect the way Latinos relate to those they love, Dr. Nogales describes the challenges Latinos encounter as they grapple with what can often be a difficult and wide cultural divide.
Dr. Nogales, a psychologist who has specialized in Latino family issues for nearly twenty years, identifies the most common relatinship problems Latino couples face. Based on her experience working with Latinos of all backgrounds and nationalities, Dr. Nogales offers helpful advice on topics such as maintaining a sense of cultural identity, learning to communicate effectively, dealing with sexual conflict, raising children, and adaping to changing roles for men and women -- all from a Latino perspective. In addition, she answers the ten most frequently asked questions bout love, sex, and relationships, including how to meet a mate, how to interact with a spouse's family, and how to maintain a loving and passionate relationship.
Using intimate case histories of couples from diverse backgrounds, Dr. Nogales shows readers how to take the best from both the mainstream American and Latino cultures to create relatioships and families that are strong, nurturing, and loving. Warm, candid, and authoriative, Dr. Ana Nogales' Bookf of Love, Sex, and Relationships is sure to become and invaluable resource for Latino couples everwhere.
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Read an Excerpt
I wrote this book especially for you. Whether you are single or have been married for years, whether you are a third-generation Latino or a recent immigrant, regardless of the kinds of concerns you may have about your relationships--you are the person I had in mind when I wrote this book.
In the many years I have been a psychologist, newspaper columnist, and talk-show host, I have never come across a self-help book about love and relationships that was addressed specifically to the Latino reader residing in the United States. Being in a love relationship is always a challenge, because two people's personalities, feelings, expectations, and dreams are intermingled--and are often at odds. As Latino-Americans, we face additional challenges when it comes to relationships: our cultural values frequently clash with those of the mainstream culture, and we must cope with a unique set of social pressures. These special circumstances can't help but affect how we relate to the people we love.
Communication es Mucho Más que Conversation
Even when partners come from the same cultural background, they may still have very different perspectives. Each of us has a unique personality and a personalized set of values, beliefs, and needs. Each of us has been shaped by a distinct pattern of family dynamics, and our individual life experiences have influenced the way we think and relate to people. Our personal differences are what make life interesting, but they can also cause misunderstandings and conflicts.
The key to resolving conflicts within a relationship is threefold: learning more about yourself, so that you have a clear sense of your ownfeelings and values; listening to your partner's point of view, so that you can reach a solution which suits both of you; and being open to change--both within yourself and in the relationship. Honest and respectful communication allows you to work on each of these.
Communication is More Than Conversation
"I don't know what she wants," Ron complained to me on one of my call-in shows. "I talk to my wife, Tina, all the time about everything--about the children, about my job. I tell her what I do at work, what I do with my friends. So I don't know what she wants with this 'communication' she keeps bothering me about! Sometimes I think she's crazy." Tina grabbed the phone and spoke for herself. "I want to know more about what's going on inside him, how he feels about us, about how our relationship is going, about his plans and his wishes. But he doesn't get it!"
Many Latino men have been shaped by a culture that teaches them at an early age to be strong and autonomous, to avoid revealing any sign of vulnerability. When men like Ron are accused by their wives of not "opening up," not talking about their feelings, they often react with frustration and defensiveness. Because they were trained to be in control of their emotions, to be asked to abandon this training is an unsettling and scary demand. Rather than show that they're afraid of this kind of interaction, they get angry.
What had been happening with Ron and Tina was that they were growing more and more distant, until finally Ron started thinking about divorce. The more Tina complained that he didn't open up with her, the further away Ron drifted. He withdrew from her and rarely talked to her at all.
Fear was at the root of Ron's withdrawal. His conversations with her never seemed to be enough for Tina, and yet the idea of becoming more emotionally intimate with her was completely unfamiliar to him. Although he couldn't acknowledge this, Ron's choices seemed equally frightening to him. Either he would not be able to give Tina what she wanted or he would be forced to engage in something he perceived as very threatening. His solution was to withdraw from Tina altogether.
As for Tina's part in the couple's communication problems, it seems that she did a lot of talking but wasn't a very good communicator. I could tell from the way she talked on my show that she had a lot to learn about what communication really is. She embellished what she had to say with lots of details and then repeated much of what she'd already told me. When I confronted her about this habit, Tina admitted that she was a "big talker." Even more self-revealing was her remark that "I think I talk too much in order to cover up what I'm really feeling."
Tina's long-winded one-way conversations overwhelmed Ron. They made him "disconnect" from what she was saying and prevented any meaningful dialogue between the two of them. Ron said, "She talks and talks, and I get tired of listening."
I told Tina that she needed to edit herself by determining beforehand exactly what it was she wanted to communicate. I told her that she should work on this step by first writing out the message that she wanted to communicate to Ron. Warning her that she might be tempted to write page after page, I told Tina that she should boil down what she has to say to one short paragraph. This process would force her to focus on the essence of what she needed to tell Ron.
Since Ron was having a problem expressing himself, saying that "I tell her what went on during the day. I don't know what more to say. I don't know where to start," I gave him an exercise as well. He was to select a time every day when he and Tina would sit down together for fifteen minutes. He would use that time to communicate something simple to her. What he chose to say would be more than just a report of what happened during the day; it might be what he felt about what had happened that day. If he couldn't think of what to say, I told him, he should tell Tina what he was feeling at that moment. He should take deep, expanding breaths first, to relax himself and to get in touch with his own body, and then say what he felt as he looked at Tina, or what he felt looking at his children, or what he felt remembering something he had done in the past. These statements should be very simple, nothing "heavy" or momentous. In this way he would gain experience in spontaneously expressing his thoughts, ideas, reflections, feelings.
Like Ron, many men often think, "Oh no! My wife [or girlfriend] wants me to try to reach into my soul and talk to her about something so deep. This is going to be really draining!" For this reason, I told Tina that she would have to lower her expectations regarding the kind of conversations she wanted with Ron. Partners don't have to constantly discuss the deepest subjects or dramatically bare their souls in order to get close to each other. But as they begin to feel more comfortable with one another, they will find their communication becoming more effortless, more natural, more spontaneous. At that point, even a look into each other's eyes will communicate a lot.
Is communication within an intimate relationship something to be afraid of? Is it all about talking? What are the ingredients in healthy communication?
Communication is more than reporting what took place during the day. It is more than a conversation. It is the giving and receiving of each other's thoughts, feelings, doubts, joys. Communication enables you to understand each other, to work out solutions to your problems, to get closer. It doesn't mean seeking agreement on everything; but it does mean respecting one another. Communication holds relationships together by allowing for the free flow of emotions and ideas.
Beginning the process of meaningful communication involves effort, but it need not be intimidating. The goal is to honestly express what you want to say and to respectfully and attentively listen to what your partner has to say. Communication is not a debate or a chance to "win" an argument. Good communication opens the door to learning more about the other person and to feeling closer.
Guidelines For Healthy Communication
I am so often asked to describe what good communication involves that I have come up with the following guidelines. As you read through them, try to truthfully consider how you usually communicate with your partner.
When You Are Speaking . . .
When You Are Listening . . .
When You Respond to What Your Partner Has Just Said . . .
After the Dialogue Has Ended . . .
Communication should always have the goal of inviting the other person to get closer. If both of you can keep this in mind, you will prevent your dialogues from degenerating into a series of recriminations that will only create more distance between you. Often the best way to get closer to someone you love is by saying very little, keeping an open heart, and just listening.
The next part of this chapter will highlight three key relationship concerns, each of which can be improved with better communication between partners:
Once you identify the issues that apply to your relationship, you can try some of the suggestions and exercises offered.
Having Different Cultural Ideas About the Perfect Marriage
Learning to respect our differences and communicate more honestly also involves reflecting on the cultural values we bring to our relationship. Acknowledging the ways your concept of "the perfect marriage" has been influenced by both your Latino background and the mainstream American culture in which we live, may help you understand the communication problems with your partner.
As you think about what it means to be a loving husband or wife, and as you become more aware of the cultural beliefs that underlie your and your partner's picture of a good relationship, you will gain new insights into why you think the way you do. This new understanding can pave the way toward creative solutions that you and your spouse can both feel good about.
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Meet the Author
Ana Nogales, Ph.D., has a private therapy practice specializing in the issues of Latinos. She writes the "AquÝ Entre Nos" weekly column in La Opini¾n and is a regular columnist for Para TÝ. A frequent guest on The Cristina Show and other programs, she has hosted daily call-in shows for television and radio. She lives with her family in Orange County, California.
Laura Golden Bellotti is a writer and the editor of such well-known books as Women Who Love Too Much. She lives in Los Angeles.
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