Thursday, November 22, 2007

How Lying, Flirting (with Someone Else!) & Fighting Can Make You Closer

Raise your hand if you've ever gotten into a stupid fight with your guy and stormed off in a huff. Or if you get a secret rush from flirting with a cute waiter, even though you adore your husband. Or if you occasionally tell your guy blatantly untrue things, like, "Sure, I think your bald spot is sexy!"

Sound familiar? Fighting, flirting, fibbing — these are all habits that conventional wisdom says are big, fat no-no's in a relationship. But guess what: Everyone does this stuff sometimes — yes, even that couple you know who looks so perfect from the outside. And here's the really good news: A lot of supposedly bad love habits not only aren't bad for you, they just might do your long-term bond a whole lot of good. Read on to learn how these five love fouls can actually make your relationship stronger, closer, and better than ever.

t's dangerous, it's wrong — it's the gateway act to cheating. In fact, to some, it is cheating. But the truth is, a little innocent flirting with someone other than your steady can have serious relationship benefits.

First of all, the ego boost you get from flirting with someone new can make you feel as sexy as you did when you and your guy first got together. "Over time, couples get so used to each other, they become complacent," says Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a psychologist in Los Angeles. "Flirting with other people brings out the 'Wow!' factor again. It reignites your sexiness and boosts your confidence." The key is that you share the benefits: "You can take that sexy energy home to your husband and use it in the bedroom," says Thomas.

What's more, if your guy bears witness to another man showing some flirtatious interest in you now and then, that's not always a bad thing. "A little jealousy is like a wake-up call," says Ted Huston, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and author of When the Honeymoon Is Over: Why Some Marriages Succeed and Others Fail. "It reminds you of how lucky you are to have what you have."

IBut when does innocent flirting cross the line? Thomas's rule: If you wouldn't do it with your partner present — whether because you think it would embarrass him or because it would cross trust boundaries — don't do it when he's not. And when you do flirt, be honest with yourself about what's behind it: If you find yourself constantly looking forward to flirting with the handsome neighbor you see on your evening jog, you could be sprinting toward trouble.

"Flirting is just part of my DNA and my husband knows it," says Heather, 31, a mother of one in Georgia. "For me, what makes it okay is the intention behind it and what is in my heart. I know my husband is the greatest man and father in the world, and I feel infinitely blessed to have him in my life. Knowing this, I don't feel ashamed to let the flirt in me out every now and then."

Being Selfish
Compromise doesn't mean finding the exact middle ground in every single situation.

If there's one piece of relationship wisdom we hear over and over, it's compromise, compromise, compromise. So how can being selfish possibly be good? Here's the key: Compromise doesn't mean finding the exact middle ground in every situation. "Compromise can also mean that this time, you do it 100 percent your way, and next time, you do it 100 percent his way," says Thomas. And it's the doing it your way you should stop feeling bad about.

"Couples think that both partners should give the same amount," says relationship coach Susan Page, author of Why Talking Is Not Enough: 8 Loving Actions That Will Transform Your Marriage. "The problem is, you have no control over what your partner gives." Yes, in an ideal world, you're each giving the other just what's needed: You cede the remote on Monday nights; he hands over the arts pages on Sunday mornings. But many of the big and small needs we have aren't always obvious, and your man can't read your mind. That's why pinning your happiness on whether or not he gives you what you need when you need it — be it a compliment, time alone, affection that doesn't have to lead to sex, or even a sink that doesn't drip anymore — well, that's a recipe for frustration and resentment, no matter how much love and how many good intentions you both have.

So instead of waiting for him to give you what you need every time, get a little grabby now and then. "Doing some taking as well as giving," says Page, "is a way for you to keep your relationship perfectly balanced." No, we're not talking about blowing the kids' college funds on a trip to Vegas. We're talking about small gestures that make a big difference to you. If he's stuck at the office when you want to go to your friend's birthday dinner, don't wait for him — just go. If you haven't been getting to watch your own shows lately, TiVo his and tell him he's going to have to wait an hour tonight. If he still hasn't fixed the sink, just hire a plumber already. Don't feel guilty about choosing to put yourself first at moments like these. Taking things for yourself will make you feel satisfied with what you've got, instead of leaving you brewing and stewing over what you're not getting from him. And that'll make you a happier, more loving partner in the long run.

Arguing is actually one of the healthiest things you and your guy can do for your relationship.

It's true that nonstop battling isn't great for your love. (See the movie The War of the Roses.) And some couples are so worried about the possible negative effects of arguing — Are we tearing apart our bond? Does it mean we're not meant to be? — that they pride themselves on never arguing. But here's a surprise: Never fighting can be just as bad as constant conflict. In fact, arguing is one of the healthiest things you and your guy can do.

Think of fighting as relationship Drano: Once in a while you have to clean out the pipes. Sure, it gets ugly, but afterward, things flow more smoothly. If, on the other hand, you stuff your anger, it eventually builds up so much that it can sabotage your entire relationship. "We are not clones of one another," says Sam R. Hamburg, Ph.D., a Chicago marital therapist and author of Will Our Love Last?: A Couple's Road Map. "It is inevitable that we will disagree from time to time. So either you verbalize your disagreement, or you don't verbalize it and you harbor resentment, which eventually tears you apart."

Executed correctly, a fight can even be a tool to advance your cause as a couple. "Arguing doesn't always lead to a consensus," says Huston, "but it's useful to your relationship because it can lead to a clarification of your differences and a solution on how to move past them together." Just remember the "right" way to fight: "The key to a good argument is that you can disagree all you want, but you still show respect to your partner," says Huston. Stacks and stacks of research have shown that partners who use arguments as an opportunity to criticize each other or show contempt (by, say, rolling their eyes) are far more likely to separate or divorce.

"Here's the golden rule I tell my clients about fighting," says REDBOOK Love Network expert Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. "You should only talk about the problem long enough that you both understand what the problem is. Then start working on the solution."


Okay, so you're having a "healthy" argument with your guy, and things have gotten superheated. You're getting angrier, your voice is getting louder, and you're saying the same things over and over in an attempt to hammer home your point. Stop and walk away, now. When the fight reaches that fevered pitch, you experience an increased heart rate and a surge in stress hormones, a phenomenon REDBOOK Love Network expert John Gottman, Ph.D., has dubbed "flooding." "Flooding is a physiological response to the stress of an argument that sends your body into fight-or-flight mode," explains Tessina. "The emotional side of your brain is so aroused that it overtakes your logical side, and you're no longer capable of being productive in the fight."

When either of you is flooded, the fight can stray onto ground that isn't just off-topic, but destructive. "Once couples open the floodgates, they start bringing up things that happened years ago, tapping into old feelings of pain and hurt," says Thomas. "It's in these moments of fury that you blurt out hurtful things you would never say in a calm, clear state of mind."

To avoid saying or doing something you might regret, recognize when you're getting flooded and take a time-out. And since flooding is more typical in men, according to Gottman's research, if you sense that your guy is losing it first, you might use your less-flooded female mind to suggest the time-out yourself.

"My husband is so bullheaded that we'll get to a point in an argument where nothing is being accomplished, and we're getting madder and madder," says Jennifer, 33, a mother of one from New Jersey. "I finally started telling him I needed a break, and I leave the house for an hour. When I come back, he's always much calmer and he actually listens to my side."

If your fights often escalate quickly, try establishing a cease-fire code. "Make a rule that if one of you makes the time-out hand signal, you'll just stop fighting, no questions asked, and step back until you've both calmed down," suggests Tessina. If it's late at night and you think you're better off sleeping, do that. Yep, you heard us right: Sometimes you should just go to bed angry.

One caveat: When you walk away from a fight, don't walk away for good. "The problem for most couples isn't that their fights are too long, but that they're too short," explains Hamburg. "They walk away from the fight because they're worked up, but then abort the fight altogether because it makes them uncomfortable to restart." Make a commitment that you will discuss the issue again when you both have clearer heads.


Sometimes telling a little white lie is easier than telling the truth. But watch out for lies that keep things smooth now but lay minefields that could explode later.

"No, of course your haircut doesn't make you look like Pee-wee Herman." "I love your mother's tuna casserole." "My ex? Oh, he was terrible in bed." Yes, sometimes telling a little white lie is just easier than telling the truth. And you shouldn't feel too guilty over the occasional fib — when it comes to love, honesty really isn't always the best policy.

Let's say your husband meets your new six foot-tall, blue-eyed, former-model coworker Brian at a company party. "Do you find that guy attractive?" he asks on the way home. What should you say? "Sometimes the subtext of a question is more important than the question itself," says Huston. In this case, what your guy may really be asking is, "Do you still love me and do I need to be worried about our relationship?" That's an easy one, right?

Next, ask yourself, Who am I protecting? If a lie would mean protecting yourself and your attraction to Brian, it's unhealthy. If, on the other hand, you're protecting your husband's feelings and want him to feel assured of your love, it's not only understandable to say, "Brian? Ugh, he's boring," it may actually be more truthful than if you said, "Sure, I think he's gorgeous — who wouldn't?" "A white lie is beneficial if it is preserving honorable feelings within your relationship — in this case, that you love your husband and would never betray him," says Thomas. "You're lying to uphold a greater truth for a greater good."

Just watch out for lies that keep things smooth now but lay minefields that could explode later. For example, "It's not okay if you're lying to avoid a confrontation that needs to happen," says Tessina, or if not knowing the truth will harm your partner — like if you lie about your personal spending when you and your husband are on a tight budget and saving to buy a house. "Sooner or later the truth will come out," says Tessina. "Not only will the problem be exposed, but the deception will be too, and the deception is the worst part. That's what makes your partner wonder, How can I ever trust you again?" Think about what your partner deserves to hear and "do right by him," says Thomas. If that means saying his beer gut has never looked better, then smile and fib away!

Source @ RedBook

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