With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’re already inundated with various heart-shaped accoutrements and news of all the loved-up events coming our way. If you’re not of the soppy romantic persuasion, it’s quite frankly enough to make you yack. Being of the more practical type, we’ve sought the help of psychotherapist Trish Murphy to get down to what Valentine’s Day should be all about: love, real love. Is there such a thing as your perfect match? What really are those important key ingredients to make your love last? Is regular arguing a good sign or a warning? Trish tells you everything you need to now below…
Okay Trish, is there really such a thing as ‘the one’ or can there be multiple ‘one’s for us in our lifetime?
There are many suitable matches for all of us – if we can learn to love well in one relationship, it increases our chances of doing it again.
Good news for the broken hearted. How do you define what makes someone #yourperfectmatch?
This is not always obvious to us and there is a ‘mysterious’ component, as Ed Sheeran sings: sometimes similarities attract and sometime opposites attract and both can work.
What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients for a functioning relationship?
The three things that children choose in selecting a friend also work in a relationship plus attraction: Kindness, fairness (I do for you and you do for me), loyalty and lust. Kindness + fairness + loyalty + Attraction.
We’re really interested in your thoughts on arguing. Some couples argue lots while others not at all. Is arguing healthy or is it destructive? Is it a sign of passion or is it a sign that you are not well matched? Should a relationship be easy?
The research (John Gottman) suggests that most couples argue and that this is not a problem – in fact 69% of all couple arguments are never resolved in the course of their lifetime (think of your parents). What makes a relationship successful or not, is HOW you argue. The researchers have isolated four ways of arguing that signify separation: contempt (sneering, eye rolling etc), defensiveness (not blaming), criticism (divides) and stonewalling (body there but no one home). If this exists in the relationship there is a ratio that claims to be true 5:1 i.e. if you have any of the 4 above you need 5 times more affection, joy (liking yourself) and humour to have a successful relationship.
Very precise! Do you believe in deal breakers when it comes to going forward or opting out of a relationship?
Deal breakers usually dissolve – e.g. most people say that they will leave if their partner has an affair yet the truth is that this does not happen and couples struggle and try to face the situation to make the relationship work. The deal breakers are usually made up of your own hang ups!
Jealousy is something that plagues so many relationships – do you think there is a healthy way to deal with this?
Jealousy is insecurity and is based on fear – fear of not being good enough or fear of not being able to keep your partner’s interest. If we tackle jealousy with anger, then it is likely to increase the jealousy. We are dealing with fear and we need to respond with some level of compassion and try to find ways (outside the relationship as well) of increasing our partner’s self-confidence. However it is their problem to solve and not ours so perhaps we need to point them in the direction of help and let them at it.
When it comes to love in the 21st century, do people expect too much? Are we too influenced by Hollywood movies that we give up when things are a little more difficult?
Romantic enduring love is really a fairly new concept and it carries with it all the dreams and aspirations of fairy tales but then perhaps we should aim high – and then do the work. Relationships require self-sacrifice and giving up of some level of personal freedom. Our chips-on-our-shoulders are knocked off and we emerge better people for it. If we are aware, loyal, challenging and we continue to give good attention and love to our partners, there is no reason why we should not have a great relationship that can last a long time.
There’s a tendency to assume that someone in the relationship ‘wears the trousers’, do you think that in order for a relationship to flourish, there needs to be total balance? Or is a slight imbalance of power okay?
There are myriad ways in which a relationship can work. There can be huge respect and no victimisation when one person takes most of the decisions but we need to be wary of handing over charge of ourselves. Good relationships need two functioning, able people in whatever way they wish to express this.
Are women more typically needy than men? If yes, why do you think this is?
The biological clock makes women more aware of the need to establish a relationship if they want to have children but neediness is an interesting proposition. We are all afraid of coming across as ‘needy’ as society deems this to be the worst possible way of being. Yet, strong dependent attachment in your relationship allows the partners to go out and take risks in the world and them come back to be renewed and cared for. We need intelligence and courage to make decisions about a relationship but we also need to be vulnerable and open.
What are your thoughts on Tinder, is this a good way to meet people today? Do you see these relationships standing the test of time?
Tinder seems to be a way to have fun, check out your potential partners attractiveness, but it is very little to go on. I think it is a virtual ballroom of old. Imagine walking the length of the ballroom and looking at all the possibilities and thinking hmmm… maybe him… or him… The only way you are going to find out if it is a possibility is actually speaking and meeting the person – again courage and follow through is required. Using Tinder as a first stage might be good but it can become addictive and then all you do is flick even if you are actually on a date – then it is a problem!
When a couple hits a road bump, whatever that may be, what is your number one piece of advice?
As always these road bumps are opportunities. We are not going to meet someone and on we go into the sunset. We need to face our differences and challenge issues and doing this is what makes a relationship stronger. A good idea is to have a specific place or time for difficult discussions e.g. a Saturday morning walk or Monday evening at 7.00pm for half an hour. This means that both people know and expect that difficult topics will come up and that it is time limited. Do not have these discussions in your bedroom or favourite place as it will feel contaminated.
What is the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to long lasting love?
Focusing on deficit is disastrous i.e. on what is not happening in the relationship; instead spend time together that is fun and light-hearted. We need to accept our partners and stop trying to change them i.e. love them anyway. Having lots of affection and cuddling goes a long way to making us feel good and we should not be shy about giving our partners compliments when deserved.
When it comes to relationships, what are your most common observations that would differ men from women?
Women need a good relationship in order to look after themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Men benefit simply by being in a relationship (live longer, healthier etc). Therefore women need to fight harder to have a good relationship for their own wellbeing and it explains why 80% of complaints about relationships are made by women.
Finally, ‘you get what you practice’ so if you want to be light-hearted, open, loving and carefree in 20 years’ time, start now!
Brilliant advice from Trish Murphy.
Check out the info for the Valentine’s Day Disco Brunch with host Darren Kennedy, for which Trish will be on hand to help with your relationship queries, right here.