Science says it’s better to sleep next to a dog than a human

Author Article Here

If you’ve got a dog, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like a snuggle on the sofa while binge watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. They look adorable when they’re sleeping, our entire camera roll is basically delfies, and they give the best cuddles.

But did you know that sleeping next to your cute canine is actually really good for you? A study by The Mayo Clinic found that you get a better night’s sleep when you snooze next to your pet pup.

Researchers found that the 40 healthy individuals involved in the study slept better when next to a dog, no matter how big or small the pet in question was, or how much it moved in the night.

The Mayo Clinic’s Lois Krahn said: ‘Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption. We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.

‘Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximise their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.’

Another study found that we love dogs more than we love other humans (true), and even newer research shows that you get a better night’s sleep when you sleep next to a dog rather than a partner (true again).

The scientific study by Dr. Christy L. Hoffman, a professor in Animal Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation at Canisius College in New York tracked sleeping habits to find out whether sleeping next to a pet affects women’s sleep patterns.

And the results showed that those who slept next to a dog reported a better, more restful sleep than those who slept next to a cat, or another human. Apparently, dogs are less disruptive and we experience feelings of comfort and security when cuddling a pet pooch.

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Dr. Hoffman told Broadly that the ‘keyword here is perception, this study is based on individuals self-reporting how they feel their sleep is affected.’

She added that it is ‘important to note that this is based on aggregated data and an average of responses, so getting a dog won’t solve everyone’s sleep problems.’

If you haven’t got a dog, don’t worry – this is probably the most perfect excuse to get one.

My wife and I are stuck in a passion-free routine – and I’m very happy

The Guardian Article Here

When my wife and I promised the rest of our lives to each other, I doubt either of us suspected that life would involve quite so much TV. I am working long hours at the moment, and every day I call my wife and say something along the lines of: “When I get home, shall we just snuggle up and watch something?” She agrees, then when I get in we spend some time saying things like: “It’s just nice to spend some quality time together, isn’t it?”, ignoring the fact that we have just decided to stare in the same direction for a few hours before going to sleep. That sleep will involve two minutes of us pretending to want to cuddle before one of us executes a subtle reshuffle that frees us from each other. And so it will continue till one of us dies. I say “one of us”, but I have Sri Lankan heart manufacturing, so it will almost certainly be me.

We have this conversation every day as if we are coming to the decision afresh, pretending for nobody’s benefit that it hasn’t actually become our routine. I don’t mind it at all. I’m very happy and I think she is. Having said that, I haven’t asked her and I’m not good at reading signals, so it’s as likely she’s in the latter stages of preparing to leave me.

In fact, I would say it’s more than likely. I was playing “battles” with our youngest son recently – a game that involves us fighting each other while he repeatedly changes the rules until it’s impossible for him to lose – when he told me he had a secret daddy. I asked him who the secret daddy was and he said he couldn’t tell me because it was a secret, which made me feel very foolish for asking. I asked him again at bedtime last night and he told me he was joking and it’s me, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing a cheating wife would tell her son to say.

Routine is the supposed enemy of passion, and I am constantly paranoid that we are on the slide and haven’t noticed. We were at a restaurant a while ago and there was a couple next to us who ate their meal pretty much in total silence. I was so smug. “I hope we never get like that,” I said, like the judgmental little shit I am.

Bad move. The next time we went out for dinner, I felt self-imposed pressure to keep the conversation moving the whole time, trying to start chats with comedy “bits” such as: “What’s the deal with spaghetti? Eating it is like a Crystal Maze challenge, am I right?” Then my wife, also remembering that we thought we were better than that silent couple, would answer me as if what I had said was interesting, rather than saying what she actually felt, which was: “I would rather we were silent for ever than continue this conversation.”

It would be great if we were the sort of couple who did spontaneous things – the types who pop off somewhere for a weekend. But, actually, I prefer the type of people who accept how it really goes: passion, friendship, acceptance, tolerance and a hope that somebody dies before it gets to resentment. That’s love.

I have decided to drop the paranoia. What will be will be. If we want to be silent at dinner, we will. If we want to spend every single night tearing through Designated Survivor, we will. If we want to spend more time talking about the fantasy list of other people we would have sex with than about sex with each other, then we will. But, if she ever watches an episode of something we’re watching together without me, then I am afraid she’s going to have to spend the rest of her life with secret daddy.

Couples are getting ‘sleep divorces’ – and it could save your relationship

Author Article Here

It’s becoming what’s known as a ‘sleep divorce’ and far from being a sign of a relationship in trouble, experts are saying it could be a good thing.

Perhaps one of you is a night owl, while the other is an early bird. If one partner often has disrupted sleep, then this can impact the other. Other reasons people sleep apart include different schedules, snoring , co-sleeping and even the temperature of the room.

“Poor sleep also can have negative effects on relationships,” PT reports.

“Lack of sleep may diminish the positive feelings we have for our partners. Researchers found people with lower quality sleep demonstrated lower levels of gratitude, and were more likely to have feelings of selfishness, than those who slept well.

“People who slept poorly showed less of a sense of appreciation for their partners.

“What’s more, poor sleep on the part of one person in the relationship had a negative effect on feelings of appreciation and gratitude for both partners.”

If this sounds like something you could both benefit from: “Tell your partner that you really love them but you’d be [less resentful of their sleeping habits] if you slept in separate beds.

“Suggest trying it for one or two nights a week and see how it goes.”

The 2 Zodiac Signs Most Likely To Get Taken Advantage Of In Relationships

Bustle Article Here

Astrology can predict a lot about your relationships. Not just who you’re compatible with, but what kind of partner you are, and what your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses will be. And while astrology can give you an idea of what zodiac signs you’re compatible with, it can also serve as a warning sign. Astrology can alert you to the zodiac signs most likely to get taken advantage of in a relationship, for instance.

Some signs, like Gemini and Sagittarius, may constantly crave adventure in relationships, while others, like Libra and Taurus are more traditional romantics. Every zodiac sign is different in a relationship, and it can depend on factors like your ruling planet.

“Neptune [is] the planet of mystery, dissolution, confusion, fantasy, and sacrifice,” astrologer Cindy Mckean of Kansas City Astrology & Tarot LLC, tells Bustle. “Venus, the planet of love, also rules romance.”

Mckean says some of the most romantic signs are Libra, Taurus, and Leo. Libra and Taurus are romantics because they are ruled by Venus, and Leos are just in love with love.

But being too much of a romantic can lead to problems in a relationship. In every healthy relationship, boundaries are needed to prioritize your well-being. When you’re too invested in a relationship, others can take you for granted. These are the two zodiac signs most likely to get taken advantage of in a relationship.

1. Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19)

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“Though it seems that the serious-minded, hard-working Capricorn is someone that can’t be taken advantage of, those traits are exactly the reason they can be taken advantage of in relationships,” Mckean says. “Sometimes Capricorn can turn their relationships into a job as they are willing to do favors and tasks for their partner in return for the carrot at the end of the stick. It may take a Capricorn a long time to come to their senses that the carrot isn’t really meant for them.”

Mckean says this effort put into relationships is why it takes a long time for Capricorns to recover from broken hearts, and why they may hold a grudge against that partner for years. Capricorns should remember that relationships are all about give and take. You don’t have to constantly go out of your way to make your partner happy, especially if they wouldn’t do the same for you.

2. Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20)

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“Ruled by Neptune, Pisces are a naturally romantic and passive sign,” Mckean says. “As a mutable sign, they are willing to bend over backwards for the one they love and accommodate in any way for their partner’s success and happiness. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they can easily be taken advantage of without seeing it as their planetary ruler tends to fog their perspective.”

Although it’s natural to look back with regret, being romantic shouldn’t be looked at as a negative. Mckean says Pisces are resilient, and will recover from their heartbreak quickly.

If you fall in love easily, all hope is not lost. You may have to be more careful when it comes to recognizing what healthy relationships look like, but you don’t have to give up on love all together. Identifying what you want in a partner and making your happiness a priority can help you find the right relationship.

How to Heal from Heartache

Author Article

BY NICOLE BAYES-FLEMING

Since the doomed days of Romeo and Juliet, our society has been inundated with books, movies and songs about longing, heartbreak, and lost love. But in this video from School of Life, Alain de Botton explains how romanticizing that kind of narrative may prevent us from seeking out the love we truly deserve.

“This sort of unrequited passion – so often celebrated in literature and society more generally – may sound generous and in that sense loving, but a devotion to an unrequited situation is, in truth, a clever way of ensuring we won’t end up in a relationship at all; that we won’t ever need to suffer the realities of love,” he explains.

Whether you’re pining over someone who broke it off, or can’t stop thinking about a crush who could have been the one, here are three ways to move on from heartbreak:

1. Confront your fears

Longing for someone after an unexpected break-up is natural, but if you still find yourself fixated on an ex-partner months—or even years—later, it often has less to do with missing them and more to do with protecting yourself from being hurt again.

“The fear of love may be motivated by a range of factors: a squeamishness around hope, a self-hatred which makes someone else’s love feel eerie, or a fear of self-revelation which breeds a reluctance to let anyone into the secret parts of ourselves,” de Botton says.

What fears or insecurities cause you to dwell on the past? Have you created a story in your mind about why things didn’t work out? Letting go of them is the first step to moving on.

Rather than focusing on the motives of an unresponsive ex, de Botton recommends looking inwards. What fears or insecurities cause you to dwell on the past? Have you created a story in your mind about why things didn’t work out? Letting go of them is the first step to moving on.

2. Consider what worked

When you can’t stop thinking about someone who left or rejected you, many of us are guilty of only focussing on their flaws, and perhaps denying that we ever truly cared for them in the first place.

Instead, de Botton recommends focussing on what it was that attracted you to that person, before things went south—like their dry sense of humour, their dedication to their career, or a shared love of cheesy movies.

“[We] come to see that the qualities we admired in the ex must necessarily exist in other people who don’t have the set of problems that made the original relationship impossible,” de Botton says.

Ultimately, you’ll realize they weren’t all that special—and you can find someone elsewho will watch your favourite movie with you again and again.

3. Get back out there

It’s certainly easier said than done, but the most effective way to get over someone is often to start dating again.

Doing so not only distracts you from thinking about your ex, but it also helps remind you that there are other people in the world who are interested in getting to know you more deeply.

“True love isn’t to be equated with pining for an absent figure; it means daring to engage with a truly frightening prospect: a person who is available and thinks, despite our strong background suppositions to the contrary, that we’re really rather nice,” de Botton concludes.

5 Inner Habits You Need To Make Any Relationship Last

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Image by Nemanja Glumac / Stocksy

If you ask someone in their 20s what matters most to them in life, they will usually say, “My relationship and my career.” Relationships and careers are the stabilizers in today’s world, bringing security, contentment, and purpose in life. Yet we don’t seem to be very good at the relationship part. Many of us are isolated, lonely, dissatisfied with our partners, and simply struggling to nurture and sustain healthy long-term relationships.

Is this reflective of our disposable and mobile culture? Whether we are talking about containers, appliances, or people, we now live in a world where we throw things away so easily. The environmental problems caused by plastic bottles and bags are a symptom. Similarly, when it comes to relationships, what do we do? If there are problems, end it; if there is hardship, look for someone better. We are becoming a culture of quitters.

But the tide is turning: Plastic bags and bottles are banned in many places, and we want sturdier appliances that last instead of cheap ones that fall apart and end up in a landfill. Is our attitude toward relationships also changing? Are we valuing longevity and commitment over a throwaway mentality?

To sustain “long term,” we need emotional intelligence and maturity in relationships, and that requires some basic inner practices. Many of the skills we need actually stem from our own self-awareness practices, such as that of mindfulness and meditation. When we have a better understanding of our own inner emotions, we’re able to respond from a place of generosity.

Based on key self-awareness principles, here are a few inner practices to consider for creating a relationship that lasts:

1. Let harmony be a priority.

Put harmony before being right. Does it really matter if your partner is wrong? Will you ruin the day’s peace by having an argument that could have been avoided by simply saying “OK, honey”?

Ask yourself: Why is it important for me to be right?

2. Listen and pause.

With inner calm and a relaxed mind, you’ll be better able to pause and listen to the other person’s point of view. Ask yourself: What are they feeling and why? Pause often in a conversation and try to understand. Most importantly, what is being communicated behind the words?

3. When there’s tension, love harder.

When there’s tension, what can you do to make the relationship stronger instead of putting it under more stress? Tension is not always a bad thing. It is like a warning bell telling you that something needs to change. Rather than expecting others to change, try to see what you can do.

What happens when you have had a bad day at work and you come home to a partner who has also had a tough day? Are you kind to one another? More often than not you have an argument simply because both of you are tired and irritated. If kids are also in the equation, it can be even more hectic. Dinnertime can be the cause of indigestion! So be kind. And remember, your attitudes and thoughts are even more important than the words you say.

4. Speak sweetly.

When the inner state is calm, speech will also be calm. Cultivate the way you speak so that your voice flows like nectar, in a soothing way without harshness or an edge. People will enjoy listening to you when you speak sweetly.

5. Make it a practice to think through the ways you’ve messed up.

At bedtime, take a minute to close your eyes and feel sorry for anything you have done to hurt others, even unknowingly. There is no need to feel guilty; just promise yourself you will not do it again. You will then sleep with a clearer, lighter conscience.

All of us want healthy, happy, fulfilling relationships—we just need the skills to let them happen. Life is not about running away from problems but facing them head-on with a cheerful and peaceful attitude. Much of the work of creating a long-lasting relationship actually starts with doing the inner work first.

5 Ways Sexual Meditation Can Help You Have Better Sex

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By now, you’ve likely heard that mindfulness and meditation come with a bunch of health benefits. The practices have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain and fatigue, help you make healthier food choices, fight premature aging, and even boost your immunity.

But that’s not where the perks end: An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness may boost your sex life, too, increasing desire (and even lubrication), helping with sexual satisfaction, and your confidence.

“What we’re bringing together is the mind and the body—the physical, sexual response,” says Cheryl Fraser, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and author of Buddha’s Bedroom. “Meditation is essentially the ability to focus our attention, our concentration, and our mind on whatever the chosen meditation object is—and great sex is all in your head.”

But what exactly is sexual meditation and how can you put it to use for, you know, better sex and more orgasms? Ahead, experts explain:


What is sexual meditation, exactly?

First, sexual meditation isn’t quite a term used by experts in the field. They refer to mindfulness and meditation more broadly, studying how the practices apply to sex.

Terminology aside, the idea is all about bringing the skills of mindfulness into a sexual context, explains Lori Brotto, PhD, director of the University of British Columbia Sexual Health Laboratory and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.

To this point, sexual meditation can be many different things: It can simply refer to a general mindfulness or meditation practice, a more mindful approach to sex while you’re in the moment, partner exercises that have sexual and mindfulness components, or specific mindfulness work that could have particular payoff during sex.


The benefits of sexual meditation

Both general mindfulness and meditation can have big benefits for your sex life. These are five of the biggest ones, according to experts:

It reduces stress, which makes sex more enjoyable.

“Sex is stressful for a lot of people,” says Brotto, who notes that this is especially true if you have sexual difficulties, such as pain during sex, insecurities, or communication issues. “During sex, all sorts of worries and preoccupations can create stress and that is reflected in the stress response system in the body,” she explains.

And as that stress response becomes activated, it becomes difficult to feel aroused. “We know when we can manage this response, we’re much more likely to experience arousal,” Brotto says. Mindfulness naturally decreases stress, since it helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, balances out your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response. The result: You enjoy the moment more.

It teaches you to focus on the present, leading to better orgasms.

“Focus intently on what you’re doing” is not a profound or complicated instruction, admits Fraser. But anyone whose mind has wandered to dirty dishes or the kids’ homework during sex can agree that it’s not always the easiest order to follow.

“Meditative focus makes your senses blaze.”

“Meditation is the ability to focus the mind and we’re really lousy at that,” says Fraser, adding that “meditative focus makes your senses blaze.” Learning how to hone in on the here and now—a kiss, touch, or other sensation—can help you be more present.

The benefit: “Sex itself can be a better, hotter, more sensual experience,” Fraser says. When you’re better able to tune into your partner stroking your leg or running a finger along your neck, you’re able to experience more intensity. Brotto adds that meditation can also increase activity in parts of the brain linked to interoceptive awareness—or how aware you are of different body parts.

It can increase your sex drive.

Really. Research finds that a mindfulness practice can help increase sexual desire and how much you want to have sex, says Fraser. “You’re more likely to initiate if you’re practicing mindfulness and applying it to your sex life.”

It’s not that a little Om is suddenly going to turn you on, but rather that the qualities of mindfulness—the ability to pay fairly close, focused attention to what’s actually happening, which in turn allows you to be more present and enjoy those happenings more—can build off of one another, strengthening your drive.

“When people start a mindfulness practice, they tend to continue over time because they are so motivated,” adds Brotto.

It can make you closer with your partner.

How much you enjoy sex matters. But often, sex is also about that connection and love for your partner, says Fraser. And if you’re able to root yourself in the present moment, you’ll also be more acutely aware of the other person in the room, allowing you to reconnect in a more meaningful way.

Sex will feel fresh again.

“If you can train your mind to show up, it creates novelty, it creates excitement, and it creates a type of connection that generally we have only experienced early on in our love affair,” says Fraser. That means, in many ways, retraining your mind via meditation and mindfulness can recreate that honeymoon-type feeling you may not have felt in a while, instilling a new sense of excitement in your sex life.


How to practice sexual meditation

On your own or with your partner, there are multiple different ways to pick up a sexual mindfulness or meditation practice. Here are a few ways the experts suggest you get started.

1. Start a simple, daily mindfulness practice.

If you’re not meditating or creating any moments of mindfulness at all in your average day-to-day, it’s time to start. “I advocate really strongly for, first and foremost, a general, structured mindfulness practice,” says Brotto. This might include simply sitting quietly to meditate on your own and focusing on your breathing or it could involve meditating with the help of an app such as Calm or Headspace.

Building skills and learning to focus on your breath, the moment, and other sensations can help you adopt your newfound habit in the bedroom, she notes.

2. Do this back-to-back partner activity together.

“Mindfulness exercises can be done with a partner and I often advocate doing them together,” says Brotto. One she likes: Sit or stand back-to-back and do a body scan, where you mentally scan how your body feels from head to toe, noting any parts that feel tense or relaxed. Focus on the points of contact between you and your partner. Hone in on factors such as texture, pressure, and temperature—things you can pick up on in sexual moments, too, suggests Brotto.

3. Open your eyes while you meditate, then try it during sex.

Closing your eyes during meditation can be helpful because it eliminates distraction from the visual field, says Fraser. But too often, a lack of eye contact in sex can keep us from connecting with our partner.

To refine this skill, Fraser suggests finding mindful moments when you keep your eyes open, such as sitting and looking out a window at a beautiful spring scene or staring at a plant in your apartment, taking in its different parts.

Focusing on something beautiful when you’re not in the bedroom can help you do it when you are, she says. In the moment, especially if you’re feeling yourself getting pulled elsewhere, try to gaze into your partner’s eyes. This can regroup you into the here and now, says Brotto.

4. Better yet, try this eye contact exercise.

At a quiet time during the day, sit face-to-face with your partner and gaze into his or her eyes for three full minutes, suggests Fraser. Better yet: Gaze into only one eye, which is not something people do very often but can actually be more intense than switching between both eyes, she says. It’s okay to giggle and feel uncomfortable but try not to talk.

You can advance the exercise by kissing with your eyes open, focusing in on the sensations. When you’re more comfortable simply looking at each other outside of the bedroom, it should come easier in the heat of the moment (playing up that connection factor), she says.

5. Take a distracting thought in a sexier direction.

If you notice your mind wandering during sex, drop the thought and swap it for a sexual one, suggests Fraser. While using your erotic imagination to think of something sexy isn’t exactly what it means to be in the moment, it’s something Fraser often suggests to people to help bring them closer to the sexual experience at hand. “Mental distraction is number one sex drive killer and this is a step in the right direction,” she says.

Eventually, with practice, you might not need this bridge and might be able to simply drop the thought to focus on the intensity of a touch or smell in the moment.

6. Try a ‘slow sex’ session.

In a crazy, fast-paced world, slowing down your mind is difficult. It’s also not something we do all that often. That’s why Fraser suggests that people have really slow sex from time to time (or that they practice really slow sexual activities).

Her advice: Have one session where one person is the ‘giver’ and one is the ‘receiver’ and simply concentrate on slow, erotic touch or seduction. Training your mind and body to slow down can not only improve mental focus but also curiosity, helping you to realize certain touches you might not have known you liked or sensations you hadn’t noticed before.

Freelance WriterCassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel.

5 Ways To Make Your Relationship More Romantic, So Get Ready To Swoon

Author Article

Relationships, like all things, change with time. And while there are many beautiful things about a long-term commitment to someone, keeping the spark alive can sometimes be challenging. After all, when you settle into a routine together, it’s not quite so simple to shake things up and retain that element of surprise. Don’t fret, though — there are plenty of ways to make your relationship more romantic, as long as you’re both creative and resourceful.

I checked in with the experts to get their thoughts on this, and their advice did not disappoint. “Our partner needs to know that we value them and that they have a vital role in our life,” says Susan Winter, relationship expert. “From this foundation of appreciation and gratitude, romantic feelings grow with abundance.” If you want to show your partner how much you care, one of the best things you can do is add some intrigue back into your lives. There’s something about a passionate, romantic evening together that electrifies your chemistry and reminds you why you chose one another. And it doesn’t have to be any huge gesture — even small changes can make a big difference! When you’re ready to get more intimate with bae, put these tips to use and watch your bond deepen in a beautiful way.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SMALL THINGS

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“We tend to underestimate the impact of phrases such as, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘I really appreciate what you’ve done for me,'” Winter says. When your SO does something you’re grateful for, like buying you flowers or cleaning your room, let them know. After couples have been together for an extended period, it’s easy to forget to thank one another for small daily actions. But according to Winter, “kindness and appreciation are powerful aphrodisiacs.” You don’t have to make huge changes in your routine to make each other feel special — just express your love in little ways!

2. RECREATE YOUR FIRST DATE

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When you’re in a rut and your time together starts to feel monotonous, bring back a special memory you both share. “Break that cycle by randomly recreating your first date at home,” says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist. “Candles, rose petals, dinner, movie, anything that can recreate that first date.” Or, try reminiscing in the actual place you first went out together! Think back to that time when you were first getting to know one another, and when everything felt exciting and scary and new. You’ll both be able to look back with fondness and also to see how far your relationship has come.

3. GO ON A TRIP TOGETHER

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If you’re both craving a weekend out of town, consider taking a vacation — maybe even a couple’s retreat. “Not only will you learn new skills for enhancing communication, managing conflict, a renewed sense of commitment to one another, and deepening intimacy. But you also have a built-in vacation filled with romantic settings, dinners, and relaxation,” Silva explains. Sometimes, getting out of your shared space and into a new location can help you feel rejuvenated and more in love.

4. SIGN UP TO HELP A CAUSE YOU BOTH CARE ABOUT

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Shula Melamed, relationship and well-being coach, says that couples who try new activities together end up happier in the long run. “Maybe sign up for a course or cause that requires that the two of you to learn, create, or show up for something you both can be passionate about,” she suggests. If you have a shared love for something, it’ll bring you closer together, and it also gives you something fresh to talk about. Doing good for the world and doing good for your relationship? It’s a win-win.

5. COMMIT TO HAVING FUN TOGETHER

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No matter what you do, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying each other’s company. “Couples who play and explore with each other report higher relationship satisfaction,” Melamed says. “So the ‘work’ that goes into maintaining long-term committed relationships might be more depended on ‘play.’” The human brain responds positively to new experiences, so the more creative you can be, the more fun you’ll have together. Try to make a habit of trying something new together at least once per month! This helps you build a bank of shared memories together that will keep the romance alive.

Try to remember that even on days when you feel bored or out of touch with each other, you both chose this relationship for a reason. When you can reframe your brain to remind yourself, “I choose you,” you’ll be more thankful for your partner and more confident in your love. And at the end of the day, a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses never hurt anyone… so get cheesy with it and have a little fun.

Here’s How To Determine Exactly What You Want In A Relationship

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Image by Trinette Reed / Stocksy
In her new book Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., distinguishes between destructive fear and constructive fear. The former is the kind that immobilizes you and keeps you trapped in a stagnant or reactive way of living; the latter involves acknowledging your driving inner needs and using that knowledge as a catalyst for change, adaptation, and growth. We love the way Dr. Manly applies this dual understanding of fear to our relationships. In this excerpt, she guides us through how to get real about what we’re seeking when we connect with others and how to shift relationships bound by fear.

The essential qualities that are prized by some may not be prized by others. By acknowledging this truth, an objective and honest attitude can be maintained; different people will simply value different things. Destructive fear might want you to have a black-and-white mindset geared toward believing that there is one “right” list of essential qualities. It might also tempt you into believing that it’s not important to know or understand one’s essential qualities. Constructive fear would say, “A few key values such as integrity, honesty, respect, and kindness are essential for any true relationship. Beyond such basics, let your wise self be your guide. A vital element of self-awareness is the nonjudgmental knowing and cherishing of what is important to you. In this way, you can understand and honor what you find essential. Without self-awareness, you are constricted and bound by the beliefs you unconsciously adopted throughout life—going whatever way you might be led. Through self-reflection, you gain awareness of your own personal values and needs.” Armed with the wisdom of self-awareness, you can then take actions that lead you closer to your values. In this way, you evolve consciously, moving ever forward with the power of transformational fear.

The first step, then, is to generate awareness of one’s unique conception of essential qualities. As an individual becomes more self-aware, a personal “list” of essential qualities can be used both to form and to guide relationships. A firm understanding of one’s essential qualities allows for the open and honest communication of these essential needs to others. The more important the relationship is, the more critical it is to have a meeting of the minds and spirits on the necessary qualities for that relationship; when a relationship is more peripheral or less significant, there is often greater leeway. When it comes to core, true relationships, these precious connections tend to thrive when both individuals value and offer the same essential qualities. When one person lacks a quality that the other person finds absolutely essential, the relationship often suffers. When many key qualities are missing, disaster often results.

What is a “relationship,” anyway?

Image by Trinette Reed / Stocksy

The word relationship carries many connotations—it means different things to different people. Therefore, it is often helpful to look at the roots of a word to regain a true and deeper sense of the original meaning. The “-ship” portion of the word relationshipindicates a state or condition, whereas “relate” stems from the Latin re, which means “back or again,” coupled with lātus, which means “borne, carried, or endured.” As such, it may be that a relationship is a state where those involved return to each other to bear, carry, and endure. This interpretation resonates with me deeply, for society uses the word “relationship” so loosely that it can become almost meaningless. Like the word “friend,” the word “relationship” has come to include those to whom we feel little or no trusting connection. Yet people are somehow surprised and left wondering what is “wrong” when a sense of trust or bonded intimacy is missing. They find themselves confused, hurt, and angry when disrespected and even betrayed.

What is missing—what has gone awry—is that many “relationships” do not involve bearing, carrying, and enduring the journey of life. Far too many relationships do well in good times and when immediate needs for companionship, sex, fun, or money are being met, but when it comes to weathering life’s truths, challenges, and deepening intimacy, the relationship has little or no strength. These generally superficial associations, which are often mere infatuations or connections of convenience, lack the essential elements that allow for bonded, lasting love. Many such connections are consciously or unconsciously built on the theme of “I’ll use you just as much as you use me.” Sadly, such situations are the breeding grounds of destructive fear—they perpetuate negative behaviors and throw mud on the concept of loving connection and growth. Indeed, a “relationship” formed or continued on a lack of integrity—disrespect, dishonesty, manipulation, and the like—is not a true relationship. “Convenienceships” is the term I have coined for such connections.

Here’s how to determine your “essential qualities” for true relationships.

These next exercises may be challenging, for they require substantial introspection, self-honesty, and nonjudgment. Allow yourself to proceed with a patient, gentle attitude. Remember that it is normal to feel uncomfortable at times in the course of self-reflection, yet as with any self-exploration, objective honesty is essential. When you are open to gentle reflection on your old patterns and ways of being, the strong arm of destructive fear has no choice but to slowly release its grip. Indeed, our most amazing improvements come as a result of noticing and attending to the areas where destructive fear has silently grown and festered. Now is your opportunity to shine conscious awareness and healing light into this area of your life. Listen for the friendly, nonjudgmental voice of constructive fear; let this voice be your guide and ally as you move into another realm of transformation.

As with every exercise, make certain that you are in a safe and relaxed environment and that you feel psychologically ready to proceed. With your notebook and pen by your side, take a deep breath. If you feel destructive fear stepping in at any time, simply notice that it is present. When you are ready to proceed without judgment, allow yourself to envision the idea of a true relationship. Close your eyes if it is helpful. Imagine every quality that is important to you in a true relationship. When you are finished, open your eyes. Make a list of the qualities you noticed; your list can be as exhaustive as you desire. When you have finished your list, pause to breathe.

In this next segment, place an E (to signify “essential”) next to every item that is essential to you; these are the traits that you find absolutely nonnegotiable in your true relationships. For example, a short list might read: integrous, honest, loyal, generous, playful, loving, tolerant, fun-loving, creative, respectful, kind, and tender. You may find yourself marking every quality on the list with an E. You may, however, find that you are led to mark relatively few items with an E. Allow the process to unfold without judgment. When you have finished, pause to breathe. The items marked with an E constitute your list of essential qualities. Make notes of any thoughts that come to mind. Breathe.

In this next phase, take a fresh look at your complete list of qualities—your personal outline of the qualities you find important for a true relationship. Pause to breathe. Then place an O (signifying “personal ownership”) next to every quality that is something you embrace and honor in your own life. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect in embodying these qualities—what is vital is that you honor your essential qualities and strive to hone them in your life. Destructive fear might step in with criticism or judgment; simply notice if it does. Allow constructive fear to guide you into honestly evaluating the characteristics that you actively strive to treasure and embody. When you have finished, pause to breathe.

Next, take objective notice of the items that have both an E and an O. Take note of those items that only have an O and no E or vice versa. For example, for an individual who values and embodies honesty as an essential trait, an E and an O would both appear. Yet even an exceedingly honest person may not demand honesty in relationships; in such a case, only an O would appear next to the word honest. On the other hand, an individual may demand honesty from others yet may not be honest in relationships with others and with the self. In this instance, only an E would appear next to the word honest. Once you have reviewed your E and O markings, pause to breathe. Make notes of any thoughts that come to mind. Breathe again.

In this next step, simply make a separate list of your essential qualities. Every item marked with an E will become part of this list. In the course of completing the above exercises, you may notice that you want to add or delete items from this list. Feel free to make any changes you find important. Ultimately, you will have a list—short or long—of your essential qualities. This list has the potential to be a most vital guide and ally in your life.

Finally, prepare to ask yourself five important questions with clarity and honesty. If destructive fear steps in with judgment or criticism, simply notice its presence. If discomfort, irritation, or other feelings arise, allow yourself to notice the feelings. Allow yourself to feel the kind, gentle wisdom of constructive fear. Allow yourself to remember that constructive fear wants to help you obtain wellness, fulfillment, peace, and joy. Pause to breathe. Now, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Am I searching for qualities in another person that I do not have within myself?
  2. If so, am I willing to do the work necessary to engender these qualities in myself?
  3. Am I accepting a relationship with someone who does not have the qualities I find essential?
  4. If so, am I willing to talk to this person about my needs with honesty and dignity?
  5. If the other person is unwilling or unable to honor my essential needs, am I willing to walk away?

Write out your responses to each question. You need to do nothing but allow yourself to process your responses at your own pace. Pause to breathe. You are doing excellent work. Well done.

Adapted from Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend by Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., Reprinted with permission.

When A Sociopath Meets An INFJ

 

an INFJ personality and a sociopath embrace
Sociopathy is otherwise known as antisocial personality disorder. Codependency is also called relationship addiction. An INFJ is one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. So what do these three things have in common?

A person with an INFJ personality is first and foremost an introvert. This means he or she often prefers staying in to going out, and solitude to socializing. This can make things difficult when the INFJ wants to meet someone new. The thought of making small talk with a group of unfamiliar people can be enough to make an introvert scrap the idea of forming a romantic relationship altogether.

Enter the sociopath. The term conjures images of people like John Gacy, Ted Bundy, or Jeffrey Dahmer. But not every sociopath is a serial killer. Sociopaths share common traits like failing to conform to the rules of society and deceitfulness, but they are also intelligent, charismatic, and charming. Their intelligence allows them to engage in deep conversations about abstract concepts, something INFJs crave with their whole being. The sociopath is a master at manipulation and will attempt to play on the INFJ’s emotions until he successfully charms her into a relationship that he can exploit to his full advantage.

(Please note: I’m using the pronouns “he” and “she” only as an example. Both sociopaths and INFJs can be any gender. And, although this article explores the relationship between the INFJ and the sociopath, INFJs are not the only Myers-Briggs personality type who may become entangled with sociopaths.)

Let’s take a look at how a relationship between an INFJ and a sociopath might unfold, plus why INFJs may keep trying to save the relationship long after others would call it quits.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

The INFJ and the Sociopath in a Relationship

The INFJ is caring and empathetic. Her life’s mission is to help other people solve problems, so when the sociopath tells her that his landlord unfairly evicted him from his apartment, the INFJ is quick to offer him a place to stay. The sociopath may spin an elaborate tale that plays on the INFJ’s sympathies. The more solutions that the INFJ offers, the wilder the sociopath’s story becomes until it seems that there is no other solution than to have the sociopath move in permanently.

When the sociopath says that moving has put a strain on him financially, the INFJ’s selfless nature may move her to reach into her wallet to lend him money. Then the sociopath gets into a car accident. It seems that the insurance company has raised his rates, so the master manipulator once again spins the situation to his advantage. He tells the INFJ that if she covers him under her insurance, not only will it be cheaper for him, but she will also get a multi-car discount. The INFJ has high levels of empathy, so she is once again eager to help. She may not see that the sociopath is creating a situation that takes responsibilities away from him, and puts them on her.

By the time the sociopath has failed to kick in his share of the car insurance payment, the INFJ has also seen other irresponsible and deceitful behaviors. Kind and caring, the INFJ may not give the sociopath an ultimatum. Instead, she seeks to find the reason for the sociopath’s irresponsibility. She believes that if she can make a connection between the cause of the sociopath’s behavior, and a solution to his problem, she can come up with a plan to fix the situation.

Sociopaths engage in risky behaviors with no concern for the consequences they bring. So it’s not surprising that many sociopaths have problems with drugs and alcohol. The INFJ may liken his substance abuse to an illness, because this reasoning aligns with her empathetic nature. The INFJ’s passion and devotion to causes may lead her to put all her energy into finding a cure for the sociopath’s illness.

Supportive Caretaker vs. Codependent Enabler

This is where the actions of the well-intentioned INFJ begin to walk the fine line between supportive caretaker and codependent enabler. Codependency is a term for a dysfunctional relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, immaturity, or irresponsibility. The codependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of the person who is “sick.”

And this comes at a huge cost. When codependents place other people’s health, welfare, and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self. The Extroverted Feeling function (Fe) of the INFJ allows her to tune her behavior to the needs of the sociopath, so the more changes the INFJ implements in an effort to help the sociopath, the more codependent the relationship becomes.

The INFJ enjoys seeing a project to completion. Unfortunately for the INFJ, her efforts to cure the sociopath’s addiction will never be complete. Addiction is a symptom of antisocial personality disorder, and there is no cure for the disorder itself. As with any form of substance abuse, the addict has to want to change, and since a sociopath has no regard for the risks associated with drug abuse, it is unlikely that finding a solution to the problem is something that he will actively seek.

The harder the INFJ pushes for sobriety, the more hostile, irritable, agitated, and aggressive the sociopath will become. When the INFJ asks him where he’s been, he may criticize her for being paranoid. When she denies him access to her money, he may chastise her for being too controlling. When she refuses to cover for his indiscretions, he may complain that she’s not being supportive. For the INFJ who seeks to please others, the constant conflict can become almost unbearable, and she may do just about anything to keep the peace.

The INFJ’s Breaking Point

Fortunately for the INFJ, she also has a breaking point. When her need for personal growth, emotional intimacy, and shared values have been met with deception, betrayal, and hurt, she will react with an explosion of negative emotions. Her natural problem-solving abilities will eventually turn to solving a new issue; how to escape from the codependent relationship with the sociopath.

The INFJ will realize that putting out a hundred sparks will not stop her house from burning unless she does something about the giant bonfire in the middle of the living room. She may react by lashing out at the sociopath, or cutting him out of her life completely — what’s referred to as “the INFJ door slam.

Often the catalyst for this change comes from realizing that the codependent relationship is having an adverse affect on others in the INFJ’s life. Being a devoted and caring parent, the INFJ will be quick to stop any action that threatens the safety of her children even if it means upsetting the sociopath that has taken so much of her time and energy.


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When the INFJ has had enough, her otherwise warm and caring nature can turn cold and distant. Her interactions with the sociopath may become blunt and judgmental. This dark side of the INFJ personalitysurfaces when she can no longer tolerate the emotional pain of the toxic relationship.

To the sociopath, it may seem like this behavior has come out of nowhere, but for the INFJ, it comes after intense contemplation of the many wrongs that have exhausted her patience. Though leaving a toxic and abusive relationship comes with its own challenges, the dark side of the INFJ is stubborn and intense. She will turn her attention towards a future where the sociopath no longer controls her emotions. Drawing on her Introverted Intuition, she will process what she has learned from this relationship and will finally have the closure that she seeks.

Are You in a Relationship with a Sociopath?

Antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, but as with any condition, there are signs and symptoms to watch for, such as:

  • Sociopaths are fast talkers. They will switch back and forth between charm and threats to get what they want from you.
  • They do not take responsibility for their actions. They will place blame on everyone but themselves.
  • They will play the part of the victim and try to exploit your sympathy.

While these are some common signs, the easiest way to tell if you are dealing with a sociopath is to focus on their behavior rather than their words. The sociopath may tell you that they care about you, but if they were unable to speak, would their actions let you know? If the answer is no, you might be in a relationship with a sociopath. So what do you do about it?

  • End the relationship. Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult disorders to treat because the sociopath has to want to change. The disorder itself makes them unable to see that they are the problem. Trust me on this; as much as you’d like to, you can’t fix them!
  • Leave. If you share a residence, it’s better to get out now and cut your losses. Stay with a friend or relative until you can secure a permanent place without the sociopath’s name on the lease. If the sociopath lives in your home, be prepared to have a law enforcement officer escort them off the premises, and file a restraining order if needed.
  • If you are in a situation that requires you to still associate with the sociopath, such as when children are involved, try to keep communication to only what is necessary. Use text messaging instead of phone calls whenever possible.
  • If you must communicate with the sociopath, do so calmly and without passion. The sociopath will most likely try to provoke you into an argument or debate that will toy with your emotions. Do not engage! The best way to discourage them is to not play their game.
  • Seek help. When you are ready to leave, the sociopath will play the victim. They will try to convince others that you have treated them unfairly. The more people who know your side of the story, the more difficult it will be for them to drag your name through the mud. Seek support from friends, family, law enforcement, and legal help when necessary. Find a support group for survivors of sociopaths and narcissists or speak to a mental health counselor about your feelings.

If you think you may be dealing with codependency, or need help escaping an abusive relationship, call 1-800-799-SAFE.

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