Dr. Molly Barrow

The Official Dr. Molly Barrow Blog offers educational self help advice about relationships, business, dating, marriage, parenting, teenagers and children, self-esteem, love and romance. Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D in psychology and is the author of Matchlines for Singles and the self-esteem adventure series, Malia and Teacup Awesome African Adventure and Malia and Teacup Out on a Limb. Dr. Molly is a relationship and psychology expert host on progressiveradionnetwork.com and television guest.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

INTERVIEW OF DR MOLLY BARROW Author of Matchlines Relationship Self Help

Analyze and explain the relationship dynamics at work in each scenario, and offer specific, tangible advice that couples can use to help the resolve the issue.

SCENARIOS: What are the dynamics at work? What advice would you give?

1. "I love my boyfriend/girlfriend so much. I just want to hug, kiss, andtouch him/her all the time. But lately s/he keeps pulling away, saying s/hefeels crowded and needs more space. What's wrong? What should I do?"

Each couple has one person with more need for closeness and intimacy than the other. I call that person the Longerline and their partner by default is then the Shorterline. When Longerlines use the word “love,” their definition of that word includes their entire experience of love since their earliest childhood. Unfortunately, Shorterlines use the exact same word, “love,” but their experience of love may bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Longerlines’ definition of love.
This is where your understanding of the dynamics of an unmatched Love-Line Relationship begins, in the situation where you have a Longerline paired with a Shorterline.
Shorterlines may have experienced limited nurturing and affection in life, and/or possess a history of pain and neglect mixed into their very earliest memories. When Shorterlines “love” you, they are giving you the best love they know how to give. They are giving all that they are currently capable of giving regardless of whether you find those efforts satisfactory or unsatisfactory, fulfilling or disappointing. This is the fundamental disconnect in understanding the concept of finding “balance” between two relatively normal, yet distinctly different Love-Lines in a relationship.
Quite often, Shorterlines know very little about the kind of love that is sky high and limitless, unconditional and genuinely passionate—the kind of love that Longerlines are more capable of giving and receiving and tend to expect. For the Shorterline, possible past trauma or neglect has can formed an internal “ceiling,” which inhibits them and obscures the sky. Shorterlines have great difficulty seeing above their personal ceiling to the heights of the Longerlines’ ceilings—and that is the crux of many problems in such a relationship.
Shorterlines are giving as much love as they have to give, as they perceive love to be. They do not think about the qualities of love beyond the confines of their own ceiling, which inhibits their ability to Love. Their love “handicap,” which is inhibiting them, is that they cannot act beyond the length or capacity of their Love-Line. Each of us is limited by our own Love-Line ceiling. Recognize that the ceiling has nothing to do with you and is the first step to take to understand your partner.

2. "I love my partner but s/he's constantly pawing at me. Every time I walkby s/he reaches out to grab me or kiss me or touch me in some way. How do I tell him/her that I just need more space without hurting his/her feelings?"

The insecure partner may “need” to touch you because of their own fears and instability, like a crutch. Or the partner may love touching you so much they obsess about it. Either way it is more about taking then giving.
If you severely correct the desperate, starved for love, Longerline, who may have been rejected and dumped repeatedly in the past, the person is hurt. If the Longerline’s self-esteem is at a low point, forcing him or her to question their own value and sexual attractiveness, they may often isolate, eat more and become depressed. This gives the partner a little space but is the start of an abusive cycle. Meanwhile the less needy partner may continue to create distance from the relationship. While being prodded for more and more, and repeatedly reminded that they do not have enough to offer, Shorterlines are very likely to seek out new, re-energizing relationships filled with refreshing feedback. Feedback such as “I don’t know why your awful partner doesn’t appreciate you! You are the best thing that ever happened to me,” as stated with great sincerity and affection by “Tinylines.” Tinylines are much Shorter, cute, sweet acting and dangerous relationship-carnivores. (Lines that are really short and selfish but not technically Bottomlines).
A Longerline can unwittingly push a Shorterline into the eager arms of a new lover—someone who has much lower expectations of them and makes them feel like a winner instead of a chronic failure. You already know the ending: The Shorterline dumps the loving Longerline and buys the Tinyline a red sports car.

3. "When my spouse and I were still dating, I spent time alone or out withfriends at least once a week. Now that we're married and living together, myspouse assumes s/he should go everywhere with me. How do I explain that Ineed some time to myself as a person, and not just part of a couple?"

When a couple has conflicting life goals time management becomes a big problem.
Try this exercise: Draw a circle on a page of paper with 24 equal “slices” and put your life goals in pie sections. Eight hours of sleep is a big piece of pie, yet without adequate sleep, you are not operating at full capacity. Maintenance of things that you already have, like going to the dry cleaners, car repair, dusting, and laundry, doesn’t do much to help you progress. Did you include maintenance of you; hair appointments, manicures, doctors, exercise, preparation of meals and eating? Did you consider maintenance of others, children, pets or friends? Do these activities take up too much of your 24-hour pie? How many hours do you spend earning money, or contributing to the wage earner’s ability to make that money?
You may find that available goal-achieving pie pieces are slim to none. If so, then choose to make changes on your pie chart that you can live with and then make them in your life. Have your partner draw his or her time allotment pie and see if the two pies have any resemblance to each other.
With this graphic depiction of your life in hand it will be easier to ask, “What do I want to do today?” and compare the answer with what you actually did do all day. Clearly, if it what you are doing is not in harmony with your life goals, then what are you wasting all your time doing? People have given up everything except their goal to scale a mountainside or cure a disease. You can you give up something to make room for your dreams? Can you allow your partner time for their dreams? Even if it is alone time or time with friends?
Remember that working on you will strengthen and bring stability to current relationships. Be aware that your friends and family may fear you changing because they might lose you as they now know you. They are deeply invested in your remaining the same, because many memories and relationships are based upon who you have been to them. Now, you have the audacity to want to change! Your family may say the right words to your face; however, you just may very well have more resistance from them than your worst enemy. You know the subtle pressure, almost a mental lean on you by your “homies,” designed to push you back in place. That is okay. Just understand that they try to hold you back because they do not want to lose you. The more they adore you, the more they fear something bad might happen to you. Loved ones design these often-subconscious reactions in order to thwart changes.

4. "When my spouse and I committed to spending our lives together I thought that meant we'd spend all our free time together. Why does my spouse want todo things without me? I feel so rejected."

Are you sure that you aren’t guarding your beloved and your need to be with them is more territorial than unselfish love? Such road blockage is actually a misguided attempt to keep a relationship stable rather than a mean-spirited sabotage. You need to get a life filled with activities and friends so that the time you and your beloved share is rich with interesting stories and experiences, not boring and dependant. You and your spouse must pursue your dreams even if they take you to different ends of the earth or you numb down into a robot. Dreams keep you vital. Life is too short to be a cool observer or a bystander to the richness of the world. Just because you are on a path together does not mean that you see identical views.

QUESTIONS:1. How should a couple talk about differing space needs? What languageshould they use? What specific advice would you give for how to have aconstructive, solution-focused conversation?

The first problem to overcome is that communication studies reveal that men define “talk” differently than women. Studies have shown groups of confined men talk to each other about ten minutes of each hour and women fill fifty minutes of the hour with twice the subjects. So before you begin, keep in mind that you may need to adjust for what may be an abnormal demand to “talk it out” endlessly for one or conversely, “let’s get this over quickly” may feel abrupt to the other. Next, remember that many break-ups begin with the words, “I just need some space,” so bear in mind that your partner may suffer doubt and insecurity when you say these words and become even more desperate and needy. There are growing pains in all relationships and sometimes the union must have a shake–up in order to continue to grow. My book, Matchlines can prepare the more needy partner for the concept that they lose nothing by demonstrating their love to a Shorterline partner less and may instead gain a great deal of mutual respect and comfort.
If you need more space, I call you the Shorterline in your relationship, then you will benefit greatly by sitting down and patiently sharing this information with your Longerline partner. Even if you are the instigator of recognition of “needing space,” your Longerline partner must ultimately lead in this dance. Just as you might teach your partner in ballroom dancing to lead you around the floor, you must teach your oppressive Longerline partner that to “back off” is the most effective way to love you. Only then, can you stop rebelling from them and start loving them in return.
Revealing yourself, stripped of any protective defenses, is perhaps the hardest thing you will ever do in life. Nevertheless, you deserve to be honest with yourself and your partner about your limitations of giving intimacy at your partner’s level of demand or need. If you can muster the courage to do this, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover there is so much relief when you stop faking and just get emotionally naked. If you are happen to be the one who needs more space or Shorterline in your relationship, you may not be interested in maximum intimacy, nevertheless you may have a million other great qualities that make you a fine Match and worth keeping. Just remember that although you may feel more comfortable, your partner may be going hungry for interaction and that hurts. Help them feel loved in ways that do not feel uncomfortable or demanding to you. Ask your partner for a list of activities or words that they define as loving. Believe me it will surprise you. Perhaps, you thought taking her fishing was demonstrating loving behavior but she dreamed of going dancing instead. Your effort although a good one, did not have the right result for your partner. Get your list and stay on tract to love the unique way your partner needs to be loved and vise versa.

2. Old habits die hard. When one member of a couple is just naturally moreaffectionate, it can be hard for him or her to back off. Likewise, it's hard for the less affectionate partner to give more affection. What advice do you have for making lasting change in these patterns of interaction?

Obviously, this is not easy, if not completely impossible, for big, slobbering, love-gluttons. Nevertheless, the more attentive partner must withdraw until the over satiated one begins to notice. You want them calling for you, bringing you flowers and searching the room for your eyes. You know what it feels like to have someone pursue you—to want you. You also know what it feels like when your partner is not looking at you, avoiding you, and instead, checking out every other hot body in the room.
You must never make excuses for your partner’s avoidance of you: “He’s working too hard,” “She’s tired,” or “I am too fat.” Examples of invalid excuses we make up to rationalize a Shorterline partner on the run are endless. Recognize that if you are in a relationship with a less needy partner you need to back off. You are simply going to have to fulfill your smothering love needs somewhere else. Buy a dog, plant a garden, volunteer at a retirement home, or spend time with other Longerline friends—the ones you have been ignoring while you smothered your partner.

3. How can couples tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthyneed for more space?

A healthy relationship will have conflict disagreements and stress but overall you feel good when you interact with your spouse. A toxic relationship leaves you with a sick feeling in your gut
A person, who sadistically keeps you on a tight lease but rejects you harshly has emotional problems that you can not solve. These people struggle to control you terribly and may not love you in a healthy way; however, they do need you to lean on in order for them to feel good. When they continue to feel empty inside, they resent you, and may punish you for not being able to fix their pain. They are not capable of healing by themselves from their past traumas alone. They need therapy. Trauma creates a Faultline in someone—which is a complete split or crack that effectively shortens the length of a Love-Line. Wherever that fault or crack appears on the Love-Line that is the true length of their Love-Line no matter how well they try to mask it or pretend otherwise. The result is a faulted way of thinking—a severe glitch, a break in the Love-Line—a skip in the way they reason through problems and conflicts.
Unfortunately, if you changed in every way that they ask, they still would not like you or be satisfied with you.

4. What can partners do on their own, outside the context of therelationship, to find more balance around space issues?

Focus on your own self-improvement. You will benefit from personal growth and be ready for a higher quality relationship with your current love if this relationship improves, or if necessary, you will be in good shape to move on.
If you must weed out toxically abusive people from your life, then you will need to be prepared and strong.

5. How important is it to understand how childhood family patterns affectour needs for closeness and alone time as adults? Does acknowledging these patterns do anything to solve the conflict?

Much like many other aspects of your personality, intellect and character, your Love-Line is well established and functioning by the time that that you reach your adolescent years. In many respects, your Love-Line is the result of a long string of key variables—from the way that your parents raised you, to how, as an adult, you view yourself and the world around you. Just as every individual on the planet is different from the next, so is each person’s Love-Line. Nevertheless, people clearly reveal fundamental patterns in their behavior and past relationships that you can easily measure.
As children, we begin perfectly in the emotional arena, innocent and eager, although we completely lack learned socialization skills. Our experiences and our environment mold us. The experiences of our parents and their environment also subtly quietly influence us. Parents pass down their fears and prejudices to us just as their genes are, however, unlike eye color, most opinions can change. All behavior we express is subsequently either reinforced positively (praise, a smile, a dollar) or negatively (criticism, punishment, or abuse), or else it fades away.
In the lab, pigeons repeat their behavior when they receive a food pellet or reward. Learned behavior when accompanied by such rewards is called “conditioning.” In humans, because of childhood nurturing, or the lack of it, learned needs develop along with a learned capability to meet those needs. The learned needs, or lack of them, help to create a person’s Love-Line.
In essence, the bulk of what we individually define as “love” is a truly learned behavior. Your parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy, books, television, movies, plays, games, songs and a host of other influences all contribute to your personal definition of love.
What was love to you as a child? Was love being read a story at night as you fell asleep? Was love a big hug and a kiss? Or were your parents less capable of giving affection? Maybe your parent substituted quality time with material things, like a new bicycle, a game, or a box of cookies. Perhaps they left you alone too much, or gave you damaging attention that made you believe love is someone who says you are not competent or you deserve harsh treatment.
Your personal definition of love primarily stems from learning that took place before you were ten years old and subsequently became part of your core belief system. You can rarely change a belief system easily. It is like the concrete foundation of your psyche. The main point here to understand is that your personal definition of love may be a world apart from your partner’s definition. Yes, your partner may say that they love you, but is it your kind of love? And is your kind of love their kind of love?

6. How do neediness, rejection, confidence, and independence play into spaceconflicts in relationships?

Just as naturally, needy Longerlines begin to escalate their efforts to alleviate the pain of their emotional starvation by begging, whining, nagging and complaining. Longerlines seem extremely unappealing to already retreating Shorterlines. Withdrawals are soon obvious. The Longerline, in turn, panics and tries even harder to keep their Shorterline close, while the Shorterline continues to back away.
Frustrated by this constant pressure, Shorterlines begin making up excuses to avoid the oppression. Do any of these common excuses sound familiar?

“I was with you last night.” “I need time with my friends.” “I have to work late.” “I need some space.” “I want to be alone.”

Longerlines feel this rejection and respond by doing what they do best—to offer more love, compassion and understanding in an urgent, clinging way that, in their mind, is supposed to draw a partner closer.
As Longerlines continue to push and shove their version of love into the overstuffed Shorterlines, Shorterlines can be expected to react by strikinge out viciously, just to get some breathing room. In this co-dependent dance, ShortlineShorterlines bend away from LonglineLongerlineLongerlines as Longerlines intrude into the personal space of the Shorterline. Each partner is attempting to manipulate the Love-Line Gap to find his or her level of relationship comfort and balance. This reaction is ineffective and rather than enable the relationship to thrive has the opposite result.

7. You say: "the most important element regarding a partner who needs morespace is to help their partner who is more affectionate and intimate, to seethe distance as a comfort need and not interpret the withdrawal asrejection." How can the partner do that? How can s/he help his/her partneravoid feeling rejected?

Most superficial “change” lasts less than a year or two. Just as you begin to trust again, the bad habits reappear. However, a relationship is very much like a dance—that is, as paradoxically as this might sound, if you change your behavior in the relationship, then the relationship itself will change in some way, even if your partner does not budge emotionally or psychologically. Results are not always predictable. If the status quo is obviously too painful and unacceptable, then you can force a measure of change in the relationship (not the other person) by implementing your own behavior changes.
First, straighten up your own Love-Line! Are you in your partner’s face? Are you driving them away? You can change you right now.
The good news is that Longerlines are predominantly in control of the relationship. A Shorterline can often only react to the Longerline’s behavior. Initially, they are reacting to a force-feeding of too much love. When Longerlines straighten up and stop the emotional pressure, then Shorterlines can breathe again and often a great deal of tension abates. Longerlines can drive love away by smothering Shorterlines, or they can choose to seduce love closer by substituting other love objects and stepping back to relieve the pressure on the Shorterline. Must you ignore your partner? Take your cues from your partner. When you have retreated to to their their reduced comfort level, your partner will begin to pursue you with all the attention you have been aching to have. Remember? Like it was in the beginning of your romance.
This achievement of balance, based on your partner’s capacity to love rather than on your own, is the most important lesson in Matchlines: It is a special form of loving a person.

8. You say: "Rather, they must understand that intimacy forced on someonewho does not desire or need it, transforms en route from affection andintimacy to a force feeding, that is rape-like and not loving at all!" Thisis such an important point. What can a partner do to explain/show thatforced intimacy isn't loving?

If you ignore your Shorterline’s signals to back off, then, effectively, you are being rude to them, not loving. If someone throws their arms around you and it gives you pleasure, then they are demonstrating their love to you. However, if it makes you uncomfortable or you hate the closeness, then that very same act is not giving love. Instead, this is more rape-like, a violation, a taking of their fill, satisfying their desires, at your expense. That is a form of abuse wearing affectionate clothing. So, likewise, do not let your needs dictate the amount of love you give to a Shorterline.
In reading this book, if you are the Longerline in the relationship, have you come to realize that perhaps you have mistakenly been force-feeding love down a Shorterline’s throat? If so, then you also need to know that you may have done real damage to the relationship by now. Any positive move in your partner’s direction will make them act like a rabid raccoon. You have to make them hungry for you. To do that, you must withdraw until they change direction and come to you.


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