Posted on: Sunday, June 12, 2005

When positives turn to negatives ...

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Women are working more. Men are dealing with changing roles at home. Both aren't spending enough time with their friends or even just alone.

For more help:

Hawaii Psychological Association: 521-8995 or http://www.hawaiipsych.org/

No wonder couples have so many problems.

Romance which involves talking, sharing, listening, understanding is one tool to get a relationship back on track.

You can start with recalling and appreciating the positive traits you saw in your partner while you were dating.

"In the romance period, you're attached, you're blinded by it, you only see the positives," said Susan Frieder, a licensed clinical psychologist on Maui. "Then the negatives start to appear, which were there already."

Those negative traits can trigger childhood wounds, she added. Feelings of abandonment, abuse, neglect. These feelings don't always stem from a traumatic childhood; they could be derived from less severe experiences such as a parent having to work two jobs or a competitive relationship with a sibling.

"Everybody is wounded," Frieder said, "because nobody got enough love. Nobody could give enough love."

It's important for couples to recognize how these feelings are hurting the relationship, she said. Then learn to deal with them, often with professional help.

"You have to become aware of (these issues) to change them," Frieder said. "Once you're aware of them, then you can express them to your partner in a rational way. Your partner needs to listen and empathize with your point of view."

Communication is critical in facilitating change, experts say.

"A lot of times women want to share and the men in their lives don't know how to listen," Gold said. "Or he'll listen, but start to take (what she says) personally, gets angry and feels attacked. Then it ricochets from there."

Experts say sharing feelings without blaming is critical in effectively dealing with problems. And romance can help.

"Men and women want something that's special for them," said Mitzi Gold, a licensed clinical psychologist. "It can be a thought or an action or a gift ... (But) communication is the key."

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