Understanding and Expressing Love in Relationships

In relationship counseling we use an analogy that healthy love relationships run off of 6 tanks, love tanks, if you will, that fill up and deplete at different rates just by virtue of being in a relationship.. Those tanks in no particular order are- loving words, loving behaviors, gifts, bonding time, sex, future vision (planning for the future together) and physical intimacy.

You probably have an idea which tank is in which order for your partner- which one always seems empty and needs filling- and it’s not usually the one you’re spending the most time filling. Your partner may not need a lot of gifts, but they may need a lot of “I love you's” to understand that you love them.  And you might not be an I love you person- you might be a sex person or a future vision person. The conflict happens when you’re thoughtlessly trying to fill the sex tank when your partner’s I love you tank is empty. What happens next is each of you walking around feeling unloved and misunderstood in your relationship.

It takes intention to make sure you're checking in on each tank and it takes follow-through to check in and fill tanks consistently without overfilling or ignoring tanks that don't seem important to us until they're running on empty. If you are your partner is willfully ignoring the work it tanks to fill the "love tanks" then this might be a sign of emotional neglect- either on purpose (not as common as you'd think) or out of- well, let's say being out of shape rather than lazy.  In relationship therapy, we want to get you back into shape so you're able to love your partner and express your love needs/wants to your partner so they can love you back in a way that each of you understands and feels most safe and seen and heard.

MyTherapist New York offers psychotherapy for individuals, couples therapy, relationship counseling and sex therapy that is modern and effective.

Difficulties Dating in the Digital Age

We are living in a digital age where accessibility is a norm and privacy is limited. The Internet has significantly affected how we communicate and connect with others so it is only fair to consider the impact this has had on relationships – and risk of infidelity. With the delete button at our fingertips, it is quite easy to (or one may presume) get away with cheating. So, how do you help your relationship remain a faithful one when opportunities are endless?

Firstly, consider whether there is a mutually definitive understanding of what cheating is in your relationship. What is acceptable to one partner may not be to the other. Without communicating these expectations and boundaries you are increasing the likeliness of finding yourself and the relationship in a disappointing, hurtful place on more than one occasion. It is possible that, for example, one person in the relationship deems flirtation as innocent fun, while the other believes it is crossing the line. The important point to remember is that neither are wrong, rather, what worked in one relationship will not necessarily work in all, and that is OK. It comes down to being able to effectively communicate your needs (without blaming or shaming), express empathy and validation, and being open to compromise.

An option to explore when you and your partner are having difficulty agreeing on terms of fidelity is that even without the internet factor, consensual non-monogamy and non-traditional relationships are a thing (yes, there are open relationships beyond being the side piece) – and although they may not be for everyone, it might be worth considering whether your relationship’s wellbeing is solely based on it’s sexual exclusivity and where such a concept originated. If your relationship is comprised of other parts you both find meaningful, maybe reconsider how not restricting sexual boundaries could encourage openness, honesty, and support.

If non-monogamy is not your thing but the temptation of endless dating apps is still playing on you or your partner's mind that does not signify you are in the wrong relationship. Familiarity and domesticity decreases the sexy in relationships. Instead of going on a guilt-trip for your wandering eye, try something effective such as evaluating the cost-benefit ratios of acting on these desires. A few moments of satisfaction may be more costly than you anticipated in the moment, but because we can’t alter what is already done, applying this decision making model when temptation is heightened would be a useful tool. 

Cognitive behavioral therapies, including evidence-based REBT, offer an effective means of exploring infidelity, understanding the origins of jealously and working towards a relationship resolution of sorts. A relationship and sex therapist can assist you in discussing boundaries, roles and rules that work for your unique relationship’s needs.

Lauren is a Therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Are you ready for insight and change?