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The 6 Pillars of Lasting Love = How to Create a Solid Foundation
To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
-alphonse de lamartine
"Our sex life is dead," said Jason.
He had been sitting quietly, barely concealing his impatience, as his wife explained why they had come to my office for marital counseling. Wendy, a marketing executive at a film studio, had given me the facts: married six years, two kids, insanely busy lives. She insisted on therapy because she and Jason had been fighting, and the fights were getting frequent and ugly. "He's hostile toward me," she said. "He won't communicate. He doesn't even try to understand me." As Wendy continued, Jason rolled his eyes at what he later called "women's magazine psychobabble." Then he blurted out his bottom-line concern: no sex.
Wendy was obviously annoyed by her husband's remark. "We have a ten-month-old son and a three-year-old daughter, and busy careers on top of it," she said. "You'd think he could delay gratification just a little."
Jason's frustration was palpable. "Delay? You think our chemistry is on hold or something? It's gone!" He turned to me and said, through gritted teeth, "I know that having kids changes things. But this really sucks. We used to be a very hot couple."
Looking at them, there was no reason they shouldn't still be hot. They were in their mid-thirties, attractive and clearly passionate, just not toward each other at themoment.
The discussion quickly deteriorated into tit-for-tat sniping and finger-pointing, with neither spouse listening to the other. Jason, who did not want to be there in the first place, looked like he might bolt for the door if he heard the words "communication" or "feelings" one more time. To get his attention, I had to bring the discussion back to his reality, and I had to do it in his language, avoiding the "touchy-feely" terms that turned him off. He was a no- nonsense guy who had clawed his way up from the streets by single-handedly building a large employment agency. "It sounds like you have a strong sex drive," I said. "If you're not getting enough sex with Wendy, you're either cheating or jerking off."
As I'd hoped, Jason was shocked into paying attention again. He gaped at me, trying to figure out what to say. Wendy was also shocked. She looked at her husband with fear in her eyes, wondering why he hadn't contradicted my statement. It was inconceivable to her that a grown man would be masturbating like a teenager. Could he be having an affair?
Jason extended his right hand. Pointing to it with his left hand, he said, "Meet my mistress."
He had been masturbating to porn sites on the Internet. The shame that he felt at admitting this secret was surpassed only by the relief of finally getting it out in the open.
The monkey that Jason had thrown off his back now turned into a huge gorilla that filled the room. I sensed that they were both thinking, "Okay, Doc, you got us into this mess, now get us out."
"Put yourself in your husband's shoes right now," I urged Wendy. "He's a respectable father, husband and businessman. If I were to ask him which feels worse, having to resort to masturbation or you finding out about it, what would he say?"
Wendy tried to discern the answer to my question, then gave up and abruptly started to cry. "He must feel awful," she said.
"You have no idea!" said Jason. The anger had left his voice. He realized from Wendy's response that she understood his frustration and truly cared. He was greatly relieved.
We had achieved something vitally important: empathy, the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and know what it's like to be him or her. Soon we established that Jason had empathy for Wendy as well. He understood the pressures on his wife to be a good mother and maintain her career at the same time. And he understood how stress had caused her to be less than receptive to his sexual advances.
Having achieved this measure of mutual empathy, we were able to move on. To the couple's surprise, I did not zero in on the sexual component of their relationship. In fact, I avoided it. I knew from experience that it would be fruitless to delve into the details without first examining the emotional context that had ripped the rug out from under a once healthy sex life.
"When was the last time you felt respected by your wife?" I asked Jason.
He thought for a moment, then answered, despondently, "It's been so long I can't remember." Like most men, he needed to feel respected, if not admired, by the woman he loved. At the very least, he needed to know that he was not disrespected.
Wendy was shocked that Jason did not feel respected by her. "He's a great guy," she said. "I guess I can be critical at times, but I have tremendous admiration for him."
"Not anymore," muttered Jason. He was afraid that the revelation about his masturbating would destroy Wendy's respect. On the contrary, she admired his courage in admitting it.
"I didn't know how hurt you were," she told him. "You should have told me. Don't you trust me?"
She'd hit the nail on the head. Jason didn't trust Wendy to hear his pain without losing respect for him. In his mind, feeling hurt was unmanly. Instead of communicating his feelings directly, he became sullen and secretive and dealt with his frustration in private.
Wendy then admitted to a trust issue of her own: while Jason was hiding his secret, she felt that something was going on and wondered if he was having an affair—only to now feel guilty for not trusting him.
In our next few sessions together, we examined more deeply the issues of trust and respect. We also opened up additional areas of exploration. One was acceptance: both Jason and Wendy had come to feel let down as they discovered traits in each other that they had difficulty accepting. When I asked Wendy how long it had been since she'd felt cherished by Jason, she wistfully said, "I've gone from feeling like a prize to a pain in the ass." We also talked about enjoyment. Once upon a time, they had found joy and delight in one another's company. But they had let their life together grow tedious and businesslike.
Only after these other areas had been explored thoroughly did I let Jason and Wendy return to the issue of sexual chemistry. Now they could focus on that aspect of their relationship without losing sight of everything that was affecting it and, in turn, was being affected by it.
The Web of CREATE
It's curious how, when you're in love, you yearn to go about doing acts of kindness to everybody.
-P. G. Wodehouse
Couples usually come to counseling with specific frustrations, conflicts and areas of pain. They complain about issues surrounding sex, intimacy, communication, money, parenting and the other usual suspects. My challenge and responsibility as a therapist is to get them to look at the relationship as a whole and to view their specific problems in a larger context.
That's where the six secrets of lasting love come in. When I first realized that the key ingredients of a healthy relationship—chemistry, respect, enjoyment, acceptance, trust and empathy—form the acronym CREATE, I could not imagine a happier coincidence. Every couple who comes for counseling wants to do more than fix, correct or repair their marriage. They don't want to settle for coping when it's possible to heal. And they don't want to settle for healing when they can thrive. They want to inject new life, forge a different way of relating to one another and build something deep and durable—in short, to CREATE a strong and lasting love.
The six secrets fit that creative need in a comprehensible and comprehensive way—comprehensible because everyone can understand their importance; comprehensive because they contain all the ingredients for healing and strengthening every aspect of an intimate relationship.
They are presented here in the order of CREATE because acronyms are useful tools for remembering important principles. Like the columns that hold up an arch or the roof of a temple, no single one is more important than any other to the health of the structure as a whole, and each one is profoundly affected by the rest. When one of the six weakens, it places extra strain on the others. If one crumbles to the ground, the others begin to topple in turn, like dominos.
The interdependent relationship among these six building blocks works in a positive direction as well. When any of them is strengthened, a ripple effect is produced in which the others are automatically reinforced and the pressure on each one to support the entire structure is reduced. To switch metaphors, think of the six secrets as the vital organs of the body. If you improve the condition of the heart, for instance, you spontaneously help the lungs, kidneys, liver and other organs as well.
A memorable example of the interaction of the six pillars took place in one of the Rocky movies, when Rocky Balboa was training for his rematch with Clubber Lang by running wind sprints on a beach. Struggling to regain his shattered confidence after losing the first bout, Rocky stops and stares out at the sea, apparently ready to give up. Adrian, his wife, doggedly confronts him. She refuses to let up until the fighter finally admits to the most humiliating thing he can imagine: "I'm afraid!"
After Adrian gets him to talk about his fears, she lets him now know she believes in him no matter what. With his confidence restored, Rocky is ready to forge ahead to victory.
As corny as it may sound, the scene is gratifying for the audience because it resonates with something deep in the human psyche: the need for the six pillars. It was Adrian's unflagging respect for her husband that made her want to help him—and his respect for her that forced him to pay attention. It was Adrian's profound empathy that let her know Rocky was holding something back, and she should keep on pushing for the truth. It was Rocky's trust in his wife that enabled him to speak that truth even though it made him vulnerable to rejection and ridicule. Adrian's unwavering acceptance of her husband despite his admitted weakness enabled Rocky to accept himself, respect himself and trust himself. In the playful banter that follows their emotional breakthrough, the pillar of enjoyment is obvious. As for their chemistry, which had declined in proportion to Rocky's loss of confidence, it is abundantly evident in the kiss and embrace that end the scene.
When We Fall in Love
Ecstasy cannot last, but it can carve a channel for something lasting.
-E. M. Forster
It is impossible to remember what it felt like to be in our mother's womb. Our every need was automatically met. It came straight through her placenta into our developing body. Then we were born, and we screamed. Fortunately, we can't truly recall the trauma of birth, nor the awful feeling of being cast into a world where our wishes were not necessarily fulfilled or even understood. As time went by, we adjusted, figuring out how to get our needs met and learning to do without immediate gratification. But we never completely got over the fall from our Eden in the womb.
As we make our way through childhood and adolescence, we find ourselves compelled to break away from our parents. The process is as scary as it is exhilarating, for the price of autonomy is losing the comfort and safety of our dependency. To help us take these additional steps from the womb, we get a boost from emotional, psychological and biological forces within us. Emotionally, we summon the bravado (which we mistake for courage) to rebel, reject and defy much of what our parents say and believe. Psychologically, we assume a grandiosity that parents can barely tolerate and pray will eventually pass. Biologically, we not only become stronger and more self-sufficient, but we go from being disgusted by the opposite sex to finding them fascinating, alluring and irresistible. By the time we hit our middle or late teens, we may be certifiably girl or boy crazy.
Aside from the biological drive to reproduce the species, there are three reasons why our attraction to the opposite sex is so intense. First, nature uses our sexual urges to lure us away from our parents. Deep down, we always longed for the kind of connection that we felt in the womb but had no chance to experience since birth. Every touch, every kiss, every love letter reminds us of that connection, and with our first experiences of sexual passion and orgasm, we experience a kind of euphoric oneness that is the equivalent of going back to the womb. The problem is, once we feel the overwhelming power of that connection, it's very difficult to go back to being alone in the world. There is an almost addictive pull to reconnect. As with other addictions, we go into withdrawal when it's suddenly gone.
The second reason we're compelled to connect is that we're often attracted to those who have qualities we don't possess. The logical guy and the emotional gal. The shy man and the charismatic woman. The intellectual and the artist. The dreamer and the pragmatist. They complete each other. Rather than developing the desired qualities in ourselves (the healthier but rarely exercised option), we use each other to gather from the world that which we want but cannot get on our own.
The third reason sexual and romantic attractions are so intense is that they serve an important developmental function. Falling in love destroys any lingering thought of spending our lives in our parents' home. In essence, we embed and implant our entire being into the other person. Love offers the illusory comfort that we will not fall through the cracks when we separate from our parents. We have the feeling that everything will turn out okay—in fact, more than okay: glorious and spectacular.
It is no coincidence that we fall in love for the first time when we are falling in hate with our parents. As strong as the sexual chemistry is that we feel to our boy- or girlfriend, that's how turned off we are to our overanxious, overcontrolling parents. As much as we respect—and feel respected by—our sweetheart, that's how much we disrespect our parents and think they disrespect us. As much as we enjoy being with our lover, that's how much we want to get away from our parents and the yucky house they live in. As much acceptance as we share with our intimate partners, that's how judgmental we are toward our parents and they seem to be toward us. As much as we trust and feel trusted by our beloved, that's how suspicious we are of our parents. And as much empathy as we and our boy- or girlfriend seem to have for each other, that's how much our clueless parents can't seem to get where we're coming from.
Those three reasons may explain why some individuals, especially teens and young adults, can become despondent and even suicidal when an intense love relationship falls apart. One way to understand the despair of a breakup is to think of it as des-pair—being unpaired in the world after you've had the euphoria of being paired.
What applies to first love applies in its own way to second, third, tenth and thirtieth love. When you first meet that new, wonderful, irresistible dream lover, it doesn't matter whether you're sixteen or sixty, you are driven by those three unconscious forces to connect. Of course you're older and wiser now. Of course you're decades removed from your parents' home. But the primal longing for the bliss of the womb, the urge to complete ourselves and the need to assert our independence from the attachments of the past—not our parents this time but our previous spouses and lovers— rise up and draw us yet again into the ecstatic state of mind we call being in love.
Falling Out of Love
To repair the irreparable ravages of time.
In reality we don't fall out of love. Rather, love falls out of us, like the floors of a building whose foundation crumbles. When we initially bond, it seems as though all the essential ingredients are amazingly strong. The chemistry is as natural as two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen combining to form water; respect and mutual regard are granted unequivocally; you enjoy each other so much you can't stand being apart; you accept with great appreciation everything about one another; you trust each other with your fears and dreams; you try hard to gain empathy for one another's thoughts and feelings. In reality, the relationship is far too new for some of the essential ingredients—trust and respect in particular—to have fully formed, but the thrill of romance and the prospect of a lasting connection is so intoxicating as to make them seem perfect. The feeling of perfection is built into early love like the software programs that come pre-loaded with a new computer.
But all honeymoons come to an end. The blinding euphoria and boundless hope of the first stages of love rarely hold up to the reality of being together over time. Soon enough, the effects of everyday pressure and intimate exposure affect the six pillars of love like weather and long-term use affect pillars of stone. In some instances, time polishes and smoothes them until they glisten with an elegant veneer. In others, disappointment, dissatisfaction and frustration chip, crack and wear them down. When that happens, both partners feel wounded and fear that the intimate connection they always yearned for will once again slip from their grasp.
If the deterioration is recognized in time, the damage can be repaired and the relationship can not only be saved but made stronger than ever. Unfortunately, many couples don't know where to begin. Denial often creeps in. Or resignation—the erroneous belief that the decline of intimacy is normal and nothing can be done about it. This complacency virtually guarantees that the relationship will continue to decay. At this point, friends, family and therapists start to hear remarks like the following:
"She never used to treat me this way."
"He used to want to be with me all the time, now he squeezes me into his schedule."
"She used to look up to me, now she treats me with contempt."
"She used to think I was funny, now she treats me like some silly kid and gets irritated."
Do any of those sound familiar?
Without saying so—sometimes without even acknowledging it to themselves—each partner secretly hopes that the other one will do something to stop the decline and solve their problems. They wish that their mate would finally become the person they always hoped he or she would be—or return to the wonderful personality they fell in love with. When their wishes don't materialize, their frustration mounts. The person who once made them feel better about their lives now becomes the one who makes them feel worse. Over time, sadness turns to hurt, to blame, to anger, to bitterness and resentment. Now the more unappealing parts of their own personalities surge to the forefront. The man tends to get sullen, pouty and withdrawn; the woman tends to criticize, attack and demand. Soon, the former soul mates are cell mates in a prison of negativity.
Sometimes, the silent ache for your partner to respond to your unexpressed needs and desires can go on for months, even years. At some point, however, one of you might feel so desolate and so desperate that you decide to make a unilateral effort to close the widening gap that has opened between you. It's risky to reach across that chasm in hopes that your partner will respond. If he or she does not, you can fall into the abyss. Now humiliation piles onto everything else, and the reality of lost love and shattered dreams can no longer be denied or rationalized. But, if your partner does respond well and you can hold hands across the gap, you can begin to rebuild the crumbling structure of your relationship. How successful you are depends on how much the 6 pillars have deteriorated—and how skillful you are at rebuilding them.
|1.||The 6 Pillars of Lasting Love: How to CREATE a Solid Foundation||7|
|2.||Chemistry: Everything You Wanted to Ask About Sex but Were Afraid to Know||39|
|3.||Respect: Find Out What It Means to You||95|
|4.||Enjoyment: Eat, Drink and Be Merry||137|
|5.||Acceptance: You're OK, I'm OK||175|
|6.||Trust: Believing and Being Believed||215|
|7.||Empathy: Walking a Mile in Your Partner's Shoes||257|
|8.||How to Stay in Love: Keeping the 6 Secrets||289|
|About the Authors||321|
Posted November 7, 2002
Just as it's easier to get rich than stay rich or become successful than stay successful, it's easier to fall in love than stay in love. That's because we don't know HOW to rebuild something that was naturally present to start after it goes away. THE 6 SECRETS OF A LASTING RELATIONSHIP is sensible, doable, practical step by step guide to rebuilding or as Dr. Goulston says, reCREATING love. It is so intuitively correct that even skeptical, non-touchy feely men will buy into this plan for love repair.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2002
Two of my favorite books of the last two years were Dr. Philip McGraw¿s Relationship Rescue and The Relationship Rescue Workbook. What a nice surprise it was to find that The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship can be added to the prior two in establishing an unbeatable trio for anyone who wants to improve her or his marriage. Like the former two books, The 6 Secrets focuses in on questions to ask yourself and your spouse, along with directions for how to share and act on the information. Let¿s face it, in most marriages it is the woman who goes out to get help. The men tend to be reluctant and feel out of place. In assembling this book, Dr. Goulston has done a fine job of balancing the female-male perspectives to emphasize the relationship as the important thing. Men will be pleased to see that he addresses chemistry questions related to physical intimacy as the first subject. Then, step-by-step, you reestablish the foundations of the relationship through enhanced mutual respect, enjoyment of being together, being more accepting of each other¿s characteristics and preferences, having trust, and expanding empathy for other other person¿s perspective. The writing style is direct . . . and supportive. I was particularly pleased to see that Dr. Goulston explains how men and women can reconnect through discussing their feelings in a way that will seem understandable to most men. The case histories were especially interesting because they show how Dr. Goulston plays the role of interpreter and catalyst in helping couples get their own communications going together. If you decide that you need more than a self-help book, you will find that part of the last chapter discusses when it may be advisable to get professional help and how to pursue that course. I enjoyed reading this book because the questions brought back to mind all of the many reasons why I was attracted to and enjoyed dating my wife, and marrying her. Now, I find myself recalling the best times in our relationship much more often than ever before, and finding myself enjoying today¿s relationship even more as a result. Go tell your spouse why you appreciate her or him! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth EnterpriseWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2001
This a sound and solid book. And as the author suggested, it did get my husband to 'buy in' more than any other book I have tried to discuss with him to improve our relationship. Because of this book, my husband and I are talking 'with' instead of over or at each other for the first time in years. We're still not out of the woods, but I am hopeful that my husband and I will be able to fall in love again. I'd go and on, but I'm still afraid to jinx a good thing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 19, 2001