Ilona L. Tobin, Ed.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

“I love you. You…you complete me.” From the film Jerry Maguire.

Whether this quote melts your heart at the thought of such commitment or makes you cringe at the idea of a power imbalance, the fact is, we all relate to people in different ways.

Most people would say they want (or have) a balanced relationship with their significant other. But what does a balanced relationship look like and how do you maintain it?

First, people tend to relate to one another in one of three ways: Dependently (or codependently), Independently and Interdependently.

Dependent/codependent: In these relationships one person sets aside his or her personal welfare to maintain the relationship. This dynamic implies that the codependent person in the relationship can’t survive independently of the other person.

Independent: In this configuration, the couple lives mostly separate lives. For example, they have different friends, are rarely together and make decisions autonomously. They may live separately as well and they are fine with that arrangement.

Interdependent: In this type of relationship, two people are intimate with one another but don’t compromise or sacrifice themselves or their values. This dynamic is about collaboration and cooperation. Each person is self-reliant (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.) and, simultaneously, responsible to the other.
While it’s possible to find happiness, at least temporarily, in all three types of relationships, the Interdependent relationship is generally considered the model for a balanced relationship.
What do you do if you don’t consider your relationship to be balanced? Take heart. With a little information and effort it’s possible to attain a balanced relationship. Try starting with this approach:

1. Find Inner Balance by:

  • Focusing on what you can control (your thoughts, feelings and actions) not what you can’t (others’ thoughts, feelings and actions).
  • Noticing how you feel and, as clearly as you can, communicating those feelings.
  • Recognizing and owning your issues, which will help you recognize your partner’s as well. You can be empathic and supportive without having to “fix” everything.

2. Create and Maintain a Balanced Relationship by:

  • Staying present and empathic even when your partner is upset.
  • Stepping back from conflicts to avoid escalation, assess the problem and make positive changes.
  • Reframing the actions/reactions of your partner. For example, seeing a loved one as anxious and fearful, instead of cruel and controlling, paves the way for a more sympathetic, less confrontational approach.
  • Being a good listener and focusing on the only person you can change—yourself.

Keep in mind that balance, like a relationship, is dynamic not static. It’s impossible to keep balance 100% of the time in every situation. Even a balanced relationship can, at times, feel like more work than play.

Remember, sometimes the focus will be more on you, other times more on your partner, and still other times when what’s best for “us” needs the focus rather than either individual.

Like a wave, there is an ebb and flow to relationships. But once we are aware of what balanced relationships look like we can better manage that dynamic.

“To love is to stop comparing.”

—Bernard Grasset

Comparing ourselves and our loved ones to others seems to be ingrained into us. We notice similarities and differences. It’s one way we learn to navigate our world.

The trouble comes when we notice differences and then use that information to feel “less than.” For instance, rather than noticing someone’s success and letting that inspire us to take the risk we’ve been wanting to take, instead we may despair, believing that we could never have that kind of success ourselves.
Read the rest of this entry »

From the second they arrive on the planet, just inches long and utterly dependent, our children occupy a place in our hearts deeper than most any other relationship.

We nurture, guide, feed and protect them for years. The relationship brings us a complex mixture of joy, frustration, sadness, delight, anger, pride and love. Our children occupy our focus like nothing else, as they grow taller and more independent with every year. And then they go away.

Of course, we knew that from the beginning. And that’s been the goal all along.
But that doesn’t make an empty nest any easier when it finally comes.
Fortunately, an empty nest is also the beginning of another era for parents, one that can be equally fulfilling.
Read the rest of this entry »

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE AND MORE AS A PDF FILE by clicking this link Spring 2009

Managing Financial Anxiety Managing Financial Anxiety

Sarah is a self-employed hair stylist who’s watched her business decrease by 50 percent. She’s cut expenses, but is stuck in a costly lease she can’t afford. She’s also worried about losing her home, and says her anxiety is “through the roof.”

Frank and Marilyn have well-paid jobs, and she believes that they will weather the economic downturn. However, Frank is so afraid that one of them will lose their job that he has stopped paying anything but basic bills and recently yelled at Marilyn for going to the dentist.
Read the rest of this entry »

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE AND MORE AS A PDF FILE by clicking this link: Thriving: A journal of wellbeing – WINTER 2008

Changing Relationships: Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents

With people living longer than ever before, more and more individuals find themselves sandwiched between caring for their children and caring for their aging parents.

Coping with our fast-paced, always-connected world is stressful enough, but when you add double or
triple the family responsibilities, well, it quickly gets overwhelming.

You’re probably losing time and energy worrying about things that aren’t getting done or things you have
to do next. You may not realize just how much physical and mental stress you are under, or how much that has been sapping your effectiveness at work and at home. Guilt may be a constant companion. While you take care of your parents, you may feel that you’re not doing enough for your children, and vice versa.

You may experience feelings of grief and loss, as you see your parents changing and the roles of your family
shifting. You may also feel fearful and anxious about your parent’s mortality, and that gets you thinking about your own.

With all of the extra time you need to take care of others, there is less time—if any—to spend on yourself
and the things that recharge you.

Here are five ways to take care of yourself while taking care of your
aging parents.
Read the rest of this entry »

Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

Love is content with the present, it hopes for the future but doesn’t brood over the past.  It’s the day in, day out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small and large disappointments, big victories and working toward common goals.

If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack.  If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it not enough.