Relationships

My Election Choice

 

Almost there.  End of Election Day 2016.  In seriously considering how to be a good citizen in this election, I came across a sure fire one.  It’s research based, and all respected professionals agree with this one.

Communication in love = improved relationships.  

Yeah, that’s right.  I suckered you into reading this.  But why stop now?  This is good stuff!  

I’ve seen a lot of head-shaking and apathy this election season.  As a mental health specialist, I have been watching the behavioral and relational patterns of interactions, whether from leaders at a podium or the lay person on the street.  I actually DO see some really good communication patterns in some people who exhibit characteristics that follow.  But as I wrote about in a blog post entitled “Effective Communication” a few years back (right before the last election), the examples many of us see reflect abysmal communication styles.  Well, at least if we want to be respectful.  IF you’re attempting to minimize, disrespect, and emotionally distance, fair WARNING: do not read and apply the following.    

PAA

Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Communication styles have very clear results in various settings (in case you are wondering, passive-aggression can often be placed as a subtype under aggressive).  Assertive communication is based on mutual respect, regardless of how much you disagree with the other person.  Abusive language or behavior are out of the question.  Assertiveness always involves respect.  You may strongly state a point or quietly listen, but finding an assertive sweet spot is key- speaking the truth in love, and sometimes learning to just close the mouth.  

Check out the Mayo Clinic’s thoughts on this one, or for organizational settings, look at Daniel Ames’ research at Columbia Business School.  

Turning Towards

The famous marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that turning towards a partner (which is not passive/casual agreement, but a positive stance of staying invested in one’s spouse), is significantly correlated with couples who stay together versus divorce.  This means that in every “bid” that’s made for attention or connection, the masters of marriage turn towards the other person most of the time.  I think there’s a lot to learn by studying successful couples’ interactions- after all, these are the people who are able to somehow stick with the same person for YEARS!!

Distress/Uncertainty Tolerance

Distress Tolerance is the ability to manage high levels of upset (distress), while staying grounded.  Intolerance of uncertainty (IU), seen especially in OCD and anxiety disorders, can be successfully redirected by developing Tolerance for Uncertainty.  Maybe the most common misconception with these are similar to misunderstanding forgiveness: to forgive doesn’t mean to just smile and approve.  These all involve character-building at a deep level of maturity where a person can still hold to what is true, while at the same time having peace when the world around seems (or is) out of control.  

Understanding

Back to Gottman.  He joined up with Anatol Rapoport to form an amazing Conflict Blueprint.  It involves working hard to really “get” what the other person is saying, and it recognizes underlying longings- and respects them- in the other person.  READ: NOT the same as adopting their perspective.  Furthermore, Softened Startup entails bringing something of significance and/or pain to another’s awareness, while staying gentle and guarding against criticism, blame, and shame.  

These things are actually really simple.  But they take discipline and deeper metamorphosis to bring about in daily life.  What can you do when all around you people communicate with disrespect and contempt?  Be a difference maker by communicating in love.  

That’s my election choice.  What’s yours?

Sincerely,

Justin K. Hughes

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What A Year Off From Facebook Taught Me

Happy September (Recovery Month)! School’s back in session and vacations are over for many.  If you’re like most, you’ve been seeing everyone’s summer pics on facebook and Instagram. While you might expect this post, written by a Professional Counselor, to talk about the influence of social media on self-esteem or depression, I want to invite you into a more personal journey- one of compulsive behavior, learning, and communication.

The Back Story
Starting early in 2015, I had been recognizing for months how distracting my daily social media consumption was to me (especially facebook)- and how much time and emotional energy was being spent. And then a stroke of insight came- why not just stop? I didn’t have to make any extreme commitment or do a PR campaign. Why not just see what happened? And see what happened I did. With no end in sight, I stopped personal social media (facebook, etc.) use through May 2016.

My days started to become more efficient at work; I found creative ways to engage or disengage with people; I was less stressed over the high dose of negative news I was seeing; I let go of the pressure of having to keep up with posting or needing to respond; I focused on the core things that mattered as opposed to the (look, a SQUIRREL!) distractions.

I began to see how compulsive I had become, even a little dependent. I felt fear about missing out on something. I got a “hit” (or high) from that next new message or like or share in my notifications. I had worried if someone didn’t respond soon enough.

The Addiction Framework
In the addiction world, physiological dependence is two things:tolerance (more is needed to achieve the same result) andwithdrawal (I feel powerfully adverse negative affects when the “drug of choice” is removed). The treatment world has been closely watching the impact of using the internet, apps, social media, and the like- to see how it activates and affects the brain and body and mind in similar ways to substances. And we’re starting to acknowledge how behavior can trigger some of the same brain processes as a substance being ingested. DARN, I guess I can’t say, “Well, it’s not like I’m abusing drugs or anything.” Actually, sometimes I am abusing the chemicals already in my brain that drugs simply play with.  Varying levels of compulsivity exist, and my expertise in Professional Counseling focuses on providing help and hope when a person can’t break through their compulsive patterns.

Even though a year break taught me about my personal misuse of social media, don’t expect a crusade AGAINST social media from me today. As much as I benefited from my “vacation,” there were a few things I missed out on, too. I overlooked a few announcements (sorry for missing that birthday heads-up). I lost a bit of connection to the world around me. In essence, some communication was actually stunted for me. And I missed out on a little healthy distraction I find encouraging.

The Rest of the Story
My personal story may not be yours. Here are some observations:

The modality of communicating by tech IS effective and helpful for many.  We can complain all day about children not learning to communicate well because they “can’t even” (and I do believe that is a concern to be aware of as a parent).  However, social media can be helpful.

Social media is a communication platform. Whether we like it or not, things like social media are the new telegram or front porch conversation of years ago. And they don’t appear to be going away any time soon, only adapting and changing.

As with many things in this world, the actual vehicle of social media may be relatively neutral- what makes it egocentric, compulsive, and harmful OR helpful and relational, is likely thepurpose and motivation and heart behind its use.  I want to be “linked in” to the latter so I can live free, not compulsively.

Sincerely,

Justin

Further Reading:

Dr. Geraint Evans- “What I Learned in My Year Off Facebook”

Forbes- “Need A Break From Social Media? Here’s Why You Should Take One”

Quid Pro Quo

In Latin, Quid Pro Quo means, “something for something.”  You scratch my back; I scratch yours.  Tit for tat.  It’s how the world runs.

Or is it?

In the business world, this often works.  Social psychology calls it “reciprocity.”  In relationships, well, this is where it gets fuzzy.  Relationships require sacrifice regularly; they require that you stick around, presuming it’s reasonable to do so.  In business, if someone doesn’t offer you a good deal, you can move on.  If you keep doing this with relationships, you will bankrupt your heart and anyone close to you quicker than ever thought possible.  Relationships involve the molding and holding of hearts.  Business involves the flow of money.

I have no beef against business and am personally very entrepreneurial.  However, I want to call to the table that many principles that work for business DON’T in relationships, which is partly why someone can be extraordinarily successful in the business world but trade in relationships as often as changing underwear.  The concept of reciprocity is fascinating, and I regularly utilize it in respectful ways when I consider how to build my practice, such as when I “add value” to interactions with businessmen and women by offering helpful counseling materials.  This, in turn, increases my odds of getting a favorable response.  Nothing wrong with it.  I attempt to not do it ONLY for this reason.  However, when I expect a certain response- demand it, even- I am not respecting a person’s freedom, uniqueness, or spontaneity.  And this is precisely the problem when quid pro quo is present in relationships.

Everyone from Hendrix to Gottman to Eggerichs (see references below) point out the necessity of proactive initiative in love- an active, intentional doing what’s best for another, choosing love over “balancing the budget.”  In fact, the eminent researcher John Gottman states the myth of quid pro quo in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2002): “But it’s really the unhappy marriage where this quid pro quo operates, where each feels the need to keep a running tally of who has done what for whom” (p. 15).

Isn’t this the definition of selfishness?  And it tears relationships apart.  I don’t know of anyone who says, “Yes, being completely selfish is good; I want to live by the principles of selfishness and teach my kids to do the same.”  No one really debates this.  How quickly this happens, though!  My role as counselor isn’t to point a finger; it’s to help uncover what’s holding clients back.  Consider how you might be “losing while winning,” holding grudges, keeping a record of wrongs.  These things are the opposite of contentment- and love.

Don’t wait for a person to do good to you.  That’s the whole importance of the Golden Rule and the Greatest Commandment.  If you wait around for the other person to “play by the rules” in loving you, prepare to be unsatisfied.  There will come a time (in EVERY relationship) when loving another becomes hard- when the brain-chemical high of newness wears off, when the attractiveness of another becomes the norm, when that little quirk that you thought was wonderful turns out to annoy the heck out of you.  If it’s left up to reciprocity, we’re screwed.

Disclaimer: I want to be very clear.  I am NOT suggesting anyone becomes a “doormat,” pushover, or passive.  I am not saying that you do not focus at all on yourself.  (Consider how eating food may be the most self-focused thing we do, but it is clear that if we don’t care for ourselves in that way, there might be a problem!  Self-care is important.)  Hopefully the heart of what I am passing on is clear: If a relationship fundamentally relies on quid pro quo, it will prove an unhappy ending.  Find out how to love others despite what they bring to the table, and reap the overflowing results.  If one person brings a feast to the table, not having the other person bring a feast doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yours.

References (the first two describe reciprocity):
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Business Networking that Works: It’s Called Quid Pro Quo by Forbes
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

Ways to Be Miserable In Your Marriage

No relationship is the same.  People are extremely complex- a marriage multiplies that intricacy.  How can a marriage work?  Amazingly, we really know a lot about what makes marriages function on all cylinders.  But there is a gap between knowing and doing, and this is in large part what I work with in counseling.

Instead of recreating the wheel, I am reproducing word-for-word here the “Ten Commandments for a Miserable Marriage.”  With wit, wisdom, and brevity, Harville and Helen LaKelly Hendrix offer a tongue-in-cheek way to keep a marriage strong.  I want to express my thanks to them for the incredible contribution they have made to marriage counseling.

The Ten Commandments for a Miserable Marriage

by Dr. Harville and Helen LaKelly Hendrix

1. Be as critical as you can! All criticism, including constructive
criticism, is an ideal way to keep your partner’s
defences on high alert. Being judgmental will ensure that
you don’t get what you really want from your partner.
And disparaging words when angry or frustrated will
stimulate their fight or flight response. If you ritually
play the “blame and shame game,” your marriage will be
safe from the anxiety of being happy.

2. Expect your partner to be just like you. You and your
partner should have the same needs, wants, likes, and
dislikes. You should have the same perceptions, feelings,
and experiences. When your partner wants something
different from you, be swift to show them how being like
you is the only way to be. Absolute compatibility is the
key to a boring marriage, and insisting on it will bring
you unbearable despair.

3. Avoid intimacy as much as possible by engaging in
exits. Engage in activities that help you escape from the
day-to-day intimacy of your relationship. Engage in any
activity, thought, or feeling that decreases or avoids
emotional or physical involvement with your partner.
Increase functional exits (car-pooling, work, taking care
of kids), motivated behaviors (watching TV, reading,
sports, hobbies), and/or catastrophic actions (emotional
or physical affairs, addictions, threats of divorce). This
will help magnify the distance between you and your
partner.

4. When upset, use “You” language as much as possible.
Avoid saying “I feel” and express instead what your partner
is doing that frustrates you. Engage in language such
as, “You always…” and “You never…” to insure that your
partner remains defensive and reciprocates with rolling
eyes, deep sighs, and reciprocal speech. Remember: your
goal is to keep the power struggle active and your intimacy
level comfortably low!

5. Give conditionally and receive cautiously. Bargaining
is the process to ensure minimal growth in your relationship
and keeping score will help maximize your
frustration level. Make sure you only do things for your
partner if s/he will promise to give in exchange. But be
wary when your partner comes through with a gift—
follow the string and see where it leads. Cut the string if
necessary and refuse the gift.

6. Be unintentional about romance. Inevitably, the joy
that came easy in your romantic days disappears. At all
costs, don’t try to make sense of this since you risk moving
through the stage to a deeper experience of love.
Avoid committing to fun activities on a regular basis and
embrace the emptiness as proof you are probably married
to the wrong person.

7. Amplify the negative in your relationship. When you
are away from your partner, think about how s/he has
changed (for the worse) since you first met. Focus on
what is going wrong in your relationship and all the
things your partner is not doing for you. It’s not only the
words you use, but your thoughts, tones and actions that
will help keep you despondent. Live by the motto:
“Negativity breeds contempt.”

8. Avoid learning new communication skills. Basically,
keep doing what you are doing and engage in a one-way
monologue. Talk to your partner as if all s/he has to do is
to listen to you. Make no attempt to listen to your partner.
That will make your partner feel invisible and maintain
the set point of misery you need to regulate your
anxiety about closeness. Insist that the two of you are
ONE and that you are the ONE. There just isn’t room for
two in a dismal marriage.

9. Be sure not tell your partner what you need or want.
After all, s/he should know by now. Never, ever, tell your
partner what you really need or want. Do not drop hints
about things that truly touch your heart. Saying what
you need could tempt your partner to give you what you
actually asked for and then you will have to reject their
offering because you had to tell them. By deflecting as
much love as possible, you can maintain your narrative
of deprivation. Re-read #5 as a review.

10. Expect your relationship to be a fairytale romance.
Live in the illusion that romantic attraction should be
forever. Once the illusion breaks down and your partner
is no longer spiking your highs, demand s/he return to
your dream (and ignore their reciprocal requests). When
s/he fails miserably in sacrificing her/his authentic self
for your insatiable longings, you will realize the dream
has become a nightmare. Congratulations! You have
reached your destination.

 

P.S. For Ten Commandments to a Happy Marriage,
reverse all of the above.

Drama Triangle

Dad is the tough one; when he comes home, the two kids know there will be a “blow out” if he finds out about their behavior.  He functions as the Persecutor, letting off his steam at Mom and the kids.  But Mom is the Rescuer, jumping in to tell Dad he’s being too hard.  And the kids know they won’t ultimately face consequences, because their parents will fight each other, both becoming a Victim and burned up that they are not respected by anyone in their household.

The Drama Triangle (founded by Dr. Steven Karpman, 1968)[1] brilliantly describes certain scripts found in relationships marked by dysfunction.  These are generally unconscious “game plans” that take shape early in childhood.  Here’s what the 3 roles look like:   

Persecutor:

  • Statements: “Get your act together!”  “You are an embarrassment to this family.”  “I am the one who has to whip people into shape- no one else will do it!”
  • Behaviors: Yelling.  Silent-treatment.  Verbal put-downs.  Blaming.  Aggression.
  • Internally: Driven by shame, anger is a cover for other avoided emotions.  Though in denial, will blame and attack others.
  • Psychology: Delivering “just” punishment.

Rescuer:

  • Statements: “I guess I’ll just be the one who has to do this.”  “This is for your own good.”
  • Behaviors: Focused on others, fixing problems, ignoring own needs, advice-giver.
  • Internally: Driven by guilt, high anxiety, low sense of self.  Feels sense of importance when someone is rescued (enter the victim).  Sees themselves as a helper or caretaker.
  • Psychology: The classic codependent (and enabler).

Victim:

  • Statements: “No one appreciates what I do.”  “Here I am, helpless, left all alone.”
  • Behaviors: Makes excuses, blames others, pouts, won’t apologize, shuts down.
  • Internally: Feels disappointed, believes they are not cared for, thinks they do not count, overlooked and overwhelmed.
  • Psychology: Worthless and damaged; “Murphy’s law.”

 
Sarah continued to watch her friends get married off, one by one.  She is sick and tired of being the one no one wants, the Victim.  Her circle of friends after college is getting smaller by the week, and the ones she still talks to are more difficult to relate to, because they have their busy lives with their families.  She meets Nate, and he loves making her feel special.  She quickly thinks she’s in love.  Nate feels incredible that he can help Sarah with all her problems, her Rescuer, and finds identity in this.  However, when he decides to spend a weekend with the guys, Sarah objects, with Nate exploding as the Persecutor, telling her she needs to stop suffocating him, and Sarah withdraws into herself as the Victim, realizing it is her lot in life to be rejected.

drama triangle

In the Drama Triangle, though there is a primary role, sometimes referred to as the “starting gate,” a person will/can switch between different roles.  In the diagram above, the two roles at the top are placed there because of their relative “one-up” position.  But if a person functions anywhere on this triangle, they will eventually end up as the victim. 

Why continue on this defective course?  There are many reasons, or “pay-offs.” 

  • Meeting legitimate needs for love, respect, and intimacy in illegitimate ways.
  • Denial- avoids painful truths and real emotions. 
  • Poor emotional regulation and reacting rather than being proactive. 
  • An identity is provided- a sense of direction can be felt when a person fills a role, even if harmful.
  • Offers a sense of closeness (ever felt closer to someone you argue with vs. apathy?).
  • Offers a position of power over another.
  • Avoids personal responsibility.
  • Inner drama is converted externally.
  • Cycle of shame- feeling defeated enough that a person continues to choose defeat.

Lynne Forrest (2008)[2] poignantly observes, “Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as victim.”  When we don’t take responsibility, we miss out on the blessings and avoid the natural consequences that help us grow up.  Shielding from reality turns sanity into insanity.  If you’re looking for a way to feel miserable, wait for everything outside of you to change before you can be content.  However, there are ways to give up the drama. 

Trading in your Role.  Sorting through genuine beliefs and feelings, owning them, and pursuing solutions, options, and personal responsibility are all a part of being a healthy adult.[3]  You can choose well-being, even if others don’t.  Negotiating boundaries is not about controlling another person.  It is about truth rather than drama.  It is about respect rather than demoralization. 

Empower instead of disable others- instead of making someone dependent on you or being dependent on another for salvation, a place of humility is needed.  Humility generates the best self-esteem; it is seeing yourself and others with a clear, respectful lens.

  • Identify and communicate in suitable ways how you truly think and feel.
  • Maintain, implement and follow-through with boundaries. 
  • Admit you make mistakes regularly.
  • Negotiate options.  Often, there are many options available.
  • Avoid talking down; dialogue.
  • Grow in self-awareness.  Seek to understand what others really think by asking them. 
  • Stay teachable and willing to learn.
  • Realize relationships are complex- there may not be an easy answer, and your perspective is only one.
  • Unify your heart and head (be not only intellectually intelligent, but emotionally intelligent).
  • You can’t have it your way all the time.  Learn to sacrifice.

 
Steve wasn’t “on his first rodeo.”  As a classic Rescuer who was the oldest child and the trusted man of the house when his father abandoned the family, he learned to find value in fixing broken things.  He would say yes to projects at the church, neighbors’ requests, girl scouts, 70 hr./week workloads- and then he crashed.  After ending up with suicidal thoughts and deep resentment (Victim and Persecutor) that others didn’t care for him like he cared for them, it was in therapy that his counselor first introduced him to The Drama Triangle.  When he realized he was creating his own chaos by living out unhealthy and, often, unseen patterns, he developed “muscles” around saying no, having limits, and allowing margin (aka, breathing room) in his life.  And he finally found that he stopped attracting other women who took advantage of him- because he allowed it in the past.  Now Steve is conscious that well-being requires daily work, but finds the reward of not living out of obligation and guilt, but rather choice and love. 

[1] Karpman, Ph.D, Steven (1968).  Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis.

[2] Forrest, Lynn (2008).  The Three Faces of Victim.

[3] McGill, Ph.D, Ken (2014).  “Cultivating Love.”  The Karpman Triangle and The Equality /Empowerment Triangle.

 

Addendum to “Stages of Courtship” Post

Last month’s newsletter introduced Dr. Carnes’ 12 Dimensions of Courtship.  Following up with some questions that were asked, I want to note that these are not stages in the sense of literal steps, but more “aspects” and “dimensions.”  A great question that was asked by readers was something akin to, “Why is commitment listed as one of the last steps?”  This is where I want to be very clear and state that commitment is VERY important (research-wise AND faith-wise) as a relationship develops, andespecially before foreplay and intercourse.  Getting right down to it, intimacy requires trust and safety.  If we get technical, being a committed person is an important trait to have before Dimension 1.  Carnes’ dimensions are also interchangeable with one another.  I hope this provides clarity.  Thanks for listening, and always feel free to pass on your thoughts and questions!  Image

Stages of Courtship

Image

Who of us has gotten an education on how to romantically pursue another person?  Taken a class?  Learned steps and stages of courtship?  But how many of us would say that having romantic relationships is one of the most important facets of life?  I am often surprised that I didn’t really even learn anything about stages of romance/courtship until well after my graduate studies in counseling, despite the importance of it.  Now is never too late.  Grab a seat, a warm drink, and prepare for class, ya’ll.

Dr. Patrick Carnes (2010), expert on addictions and intimacy, suggests 12 stages of courtship based on his research.  [By the way, “courtship” here is just a reference to the development of a romantic relationship.]  He states, “One problem is that there is no systematic and reliable way in our culture to learn the basics of courtship.  You probably never attended a course that taught you how to appropriately and successfully flirt.  Courtship failure can mean that you start repetitive patterns because what you do does not work.  So it is important to learn the basic elements of courtship.”  Let’s go!

  1. Noticing

When we see attractive traits in another, this is called noticing.  Along with seeing the good, we can screen for traits that don’t fit us.  Being discriminating is part of this.  In an existing relationship, we must stay aware of traits that are desirable in the other person.

  1. Attraction

Though the first part of courtship is noticing attractive traits, this next level involves feeling the attraction- while considering acting on it.  Curiosity ensues.  To do this well (and not make stupid choices), a person must be able to determine what is suitable for themselves in relationship.  For existing relationships, flexibility with change/unknown is still essential- discovery must continue.  It is discovery that drives passion.  It also can keep relationships strong over time.

  1. Flirtation

Once the “target” has been acquired (haha, joking), flirtation sends information that conveys interest and attraction.  Various cues are sent and received- knowing when this is appropriate requires being functional (not dysfunctional).  Long-term love relationships continue to flirt.

  1. Demonstration

The next part of the process is demonstration, where a person displays what they bring to the table- whether skills, physical traits, abilities, etc.  If the receiver is interested in the “sent” message, the sender experiences great pleasure.

  1. Romance

This is when we express (and receive) passion.  Not only are we aware of attraction and express it, but vulnerability occurs.  This involves risk, of course.  Self-worth is required in receiving true expressions of love.  Furthermore, this necessary self-worth means determining the accuracy of the other person’s involvement- as opposed to a projection/imagined feelings.  Carnes cuts to the core with this question: “Are the people selected consistently positive, or bad choices for you?”

  1. Individuation

Being an authentic human being, aka, YOU is necessary- no, essential- for good relationship.  If intimacy is about knowing and being known, how can this occur if you aren’t honest with who you are?  Loving relationships do not wield control over another- “FOG,” i.e., fear, obligation, and guilt.  You can be free to be truthful with what you think and feel, all the while being respectful and caring for the other.  A healthy person can survive the tension of not having the other person be exactly the same.  [For more on this topic, check out Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta M. Gilbert, M.D.]

  1. Intimacy

The passion of early relationship will fade.  Let me say this again: the passion of early relationship WILL fade.  It is not meant to stay at the “honeymoon” high forever.  Here’s what’s special: there is opportunity to deepen.  It can become more meaningful.  Vulnerability (that knows the other person more fully and lets oneself be known) incredible.  Of course, this is much, much harder than the natural “click” of falling in love- because it takes work, sacrifice, maturity.

  1. Touching

For physical touch to be beneficial, it must be underscored by care, good judgment, and trust.  It respects the context and another person’s boundaries.  Without another’s consent, touch destroys trust.  However, great healing can come from respectful touch, seen most markedly in those who have not received it in a caring way.

  1. Foreplay

Passion- as expressed sexually- builds through foreplay.  Examples are holding, kissing, fondling, general sexual play, and (don’t forget) verbal expressiveness.  This exciting stage is often reported as the best part of sex, though in our fast-paced culture, it is often rushed or missed altogether.

  1. Intercourse

Surrender.  The best sex requires the ability to let go, trust the other person and yourself with being transparent.  Many couples struggle with this because of control or trust challenges.  Making love well presupposes abandonment to the other.

  1. Commitment

Being able to form meaningful relationships of depth necessitates commitment.  Stability occurs when commitment and faithfulness are present.  Relationships of significance offer connection that is craved- commitment cements the foundation.

  1. Renewal

The mature are able to maintain and sustain each courtship dimension (i.e., “keep dating”) in an ongoing relationship when it is best for them to stay in it.  They let the other know consistently that they are valuable; they share in deep meaning; they take responsibility for problems; they move beyond habit and neurochemical highs to the continual renewal of their relationship.

The implications of this work are too numerous to write in a single post.  Hopefully it can help you to consider how you might approach a current or future relationship- or how you have in the past.  Understand that these dimensions are descriptive, meaning they are observations on how healthy relationships progress.  This also means they are not necessarily prescriptive, i.e., they don’t say exactly what to do or when a relationship is to begin or end.  With courtship: be excited / be thoughtful.  Relationships have great power to help and heal or hurt and harm.

Yours truly,

Justin K. Hughes

Each of the stages and their descriptions can be found here:
Carnes, P. (2010). Facing the shadow: Starting sexual and relationship recovery (2nd ed.).Carefree, AZ: Gentle Path Press.