Q1. Dr. Jamie, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Dr. Jamie Turndorf. I’m known as Dr. Love through my website, askdrlove.com, and my syndicated radio show, Ask Dr. Love, which is heard in 80 countries worldwide and on KKNW in Seattle. I’m the “go to” relationship expert for top national TV shows and magazines. I also write a column for Psychology Today Online called “We Can Work it Out.” I’m the author of Make Up Don’t Break Up: Dr. Love’s 5-Step Plan for Reconciling with Your Ex and Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First), which will be republished by Hay House in January 2014 under the title Kiss Your Fights Good-bye: Dr. Love’s 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflicts and Rekindling Your Relationship.
Q2. In a number of your articles, you talk about thinking about childhood experiences. How do our childhood experiences affect our relationships and what can we do to self consciously change them for the better?
Old Scars from childhood affect us in various ways: First, they lead us to choose a life partner who emotionally resembles the parent who let us down. This is what I call Setting the Stage. We set the stage so we can re-stage the original drama/trauma of our childhood, in the hopes of achieving what I call a Happy Ending this time around.
Sadly, because our partner is as limited and damaged as our parent, we just end up being hurt, let down and disappointed by our partner rather than healed. The problem is the more hurt and angry a woman becomes, the more her guy disengages and withdraws (I’ll explain why in a minute). When he withdraws, we end up reliving our Old Scars rather than healing them. So our Old Scars get worse, not better; our hurt over being repeatedly disappointed leads to more heated fighting and an ever worsening downward spiral of relationship distress.
The only way out of this mess is to become acutely aware of your Old Scars, and clarify what kind of emotional treatment you needed to receive as a kid (but didn’t get). This is the exact emotional treatment you need from your partner. Next, instead of blaming your partner for what he isn’t giving you, speak from the heart, share your Old Scars and clue him in on what you need from him now in order to heal.
For example, I treated a couple in which the husband’s mother ignored him. Each time his wife refused him sex, he relived the pain of his mother’s rejection. He got hurt and angry, which in turn injured his wife, whose own mother was angry and punishing to her. By the time they got to me they were so disconnected that they hadn’t had sex in 15 years! I was able to help them both identify their Old Scars. By understanding their mutual pain, they were able to consciously commit to helping each other heal their wounds, and to be kind and giving, like their parents were not. From this point on, when the wife wasn’t in the mood for sex, she spoke lovingly to the wounded child within her husband, reminding him that she still loved him.
He, in turn, didn’t become angry, which short circuited her negative feelings toward him and helped her to heal the pain she carried over having grown up with an angry mother. They soon reconnected and began having sex again. Helping each other to heal is the most divine purpose of our intimate relationships. You can follow in the footsteps of this couple by sharing your Old Scars with each other, and then using the relationship as your healing agent.
Q3. In your book, you write “Since women tend to notice relationship problems first, they are generally the ones who not only initiate conflict discussions but also pursue these discussions in an effort to achieve resolution.” Could this be a reason why men may say, ”˜What’s the problem or Why is this a problem’ when women think otherwise?
Yes, women are relationship overseers and maintainers. They do see problems that men don’t notice. Of course a man can’t be expected to bring up an issue that he isn’t aware of!
Q4. A common complaint we hear from our women subscribers is that men just don’t listen. And when they have a conversation, men almost always seem to offer them solutions which is not what they are looking for. Is this just a difference in the way men and women communicate?
What women don’t realize is that there’s a biochemical imbalance that causes male deafness. Men’s bodies are hardwired to be hypersensitive to stress and danger. This programming dates back to the prehistoric times, when men were hunters and needed to react with lightning speed”“to flee or fight dangerous pray.
Modern danger is no longer the ferocious tiger; it’s the pissed off wife or girlfriend, and when she comes at him baring her teeth and berating him with criticism, his body sees danger and involuntarily switches into ANS (autonomic nervous system) arousal, commonly known as the fight-flight mode. Since he doesn’t want to physically fight her, he flees instead (this is what’s called Husband Withdrawal). What women don’t realize is that a “conversation” can easily land to him as an attack, and put him in a state of flight.
There are three ways that all men free from conflict: physically (they leave the room or the house, or hide out in the basement, or zone out in front of the TV); they flee verbally (by making excuses, defending and justifying themselves, and generally not accepting responsibility); and they flee mentally (they’re physically present, but their minds are out to lunch.
They are deaf, dumb and blind, drooling on their ties, wearing a no hablo inglis expression.) Deafness is one of the many symptoms that a man is fleeing as a result of this biochemical imbalance. Oh, and another thing women need to know is the fact that when relationship conflicts are not resolved, a man can actually remain in this imbalanced state 24/7, meaning that he will be in a constant state of withdrawal and shutdown!
Q5. Another common complaint we hear from women is that their men are tuned out or act cold and distant when they discuss problems. Why does this happen and what can women do to overcome this problem?
Again, tuned out, cold, shut down behaviors are ALL symptoms of ANS arousal. The only way to solve this problem is to use what I call Marital Climate Control. Remember I said that heated fighting triggers husband withdrawal. Well, cooling down the climate literally shuts it off.
In my book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First), I explain all the ways to cool the climate. Healing Old Scars, Training Your Brain to Fight (Not Against) You, Identifying and Eliminating Fight Traps (these are the dysfunctional fighting tactics that most couples use, all of which heat the climate), and much more. The point to remember is, when the climate is cooled down, men stick around and happily listen to you.
Q6. Women cannot seem to understand men’s obsession with the television and the remote control. Here is a common complaint we get from women- “He comes back from work, sits on the couch, switches on the television and just keeps watching while I am busy doing the household chores, taking care of the kids, doing the laundry and cooking. It just doesn’t occur to him that I need help.” What can women do to overcome this problem?s problems. Why does this happen and what can women do to overcome this problem?
Believe it or not, zoning out in front of the TV is often another symptom of withdrawal behavior. Here’s how this goes. Perhaps a wife gets pissed at her husband for not doing what he should around the house. He goes into the fight-flight mode, and never comes out of it. In distressed relationships, a guy’s chemistry is imbalanced and NEVER returns to normal. So when he comes home each day, he’s still in fight-flight mode from the last go around. Each time a wife gets pissed at her guy, she just sets off more biologically fire alarms and keeps refueling the cycle going.
The way out of this pattern is for a woman to CALMLY state what she needs without falling into what I call the Three Scrooges Fight Trap: Nagging, Whining and Complaining. Know that men want to please you and make you happy. If you tell them exactly what you want, and then reward them with praise when they get it right, they’ll want to keep up the good work. But if you blame them for what they’re not doing, they will shut down and withdraw.
Q7. Some women put the needs of their spouse, kids and family above their needs so much so that they end up playing the role of a martyr. What can women do to be assertive and maintain their identity in a marriage?
Putting yourself last is actually very damaging for your partner and your relationship. The martyr is filled with anger. That anger eventually blows, which triggers ANS arousal again. Use my X,Y Formula and directly state what you want. Most men appreciate this directness and respond positively to it.
Q8. In some relationships, women reach a point where they give up on their partner and just go through the motions. They are almost resigned to the fact that no matter what they do, their spouse would never change and stop trying. What would your advice be for women in this position and where can they start and how can they take the first step?
Instead of focusing on your spouse’s need to change, change yourself. Look at what you’re doing to keep the problem going and/or fuel it. It always takes two to tango. When one changes, the entire dance step looks different. For example: I had a patient tell me my husband doesn’t love me the way I want. Not realizing that the more she nags at him for what he isn’t doing the less loving he feels toward her.
When I asked her to step back and ask herself what am I doing to make my husband not feel loved by me, and what could I do to make him feel more loved, everything changed for the better. You need to honestly accept the fact that you reap what you sow in life and love. Change what you do; be the pebble in the pond. Your changes will modify the relationship.
Q9. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship but experts say that you should fight fair when you have arguments. What are some dos and dont’s when it comes to conflict and what are some common mistakes that you see women doing when it comes to fighting with men that makes the situation worse?
Not being cool (no matter how angry you are!) always makes the situation worse.
Q10. Do men and women show their love differently? Can you point out some things that men do which women may not see as an expression of love and what are some things that women do which men may not see as an expression of love?
The male gender role is instrumental. This means men are action and goal-oriented. Men love by doing, by protecting and providing. When trouble hits, they give advice and tell you what to do (again this comes from their own habit of going into action to fix a problem). Recognizing this fact will enable you to see that his heart is really in the right place. Next, you can give him a blueprint for what other things he can DO to love you in a way that speaks to you.
It helps for you to identify what’s called your Love Language (Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch) and then clue him in. This way he’ll know exactly what to do to speak to your heart. Be aware that you both may not have the same Love Language. This means that if he wants you to love him with Acts of Service, you will give him just this.
But if you need Quality Time (listening, talking, etc.) then he should give you what you want. Again, when he responds and does what you need, praise him to the hilt. Humans seek praise, and he’ll want to continue doing what yields him a pat on the back.
Q11. Another major point of conflict between men and women is sex. Men complain that women use excuses to avoid having sex with them while women say that I am genuinely exhausted and feel I have no energy at the end of the day or they feel so emotionally disconnected that even having sex because a chore for them. What would your advice be for women who just don’t feel emotionally connected with their men and just feel obligated to have sex or avoid having sex?
For women the greatest aphrodisiac on a man’s body is between his”¦ears. When a woman doesn’t feel truly heard and understood, her sex drive fizzles. When she feels more connected, her sex drive ramps up. Women need to teach their men how to listen. Listening doesn’t come naturally to men, since, as I said, they focus on being active and coming up with solutions. When you explain to your man that listening is all the “doing” he needs to do, he’ll start to get the idea.
When he does listen, feed him what I call his Relationship Essential Nutrients, Admiration and Appreciation, and he’ll be more motivated to feed you right back. Remember, men want to please the women they love. They just don’t know what you want. If all they hear is what they’re doing wrong, this doesn’t translate for them into a clear instruction on what you do want. If you tell him what you want, and then praise him when he responds, he’ll do more of the same. When you feel emotionally fed, you’ll have more desire to go to bed.
Q12. One phase in marriage where women feel that their partners are distancing themselves emotionally is after the birth of a child. Why does this happen and do men feel that they are slowly becoming less of a priority after the arrival of the kid and what can women do to ensure their partner feels they are still very important?
We all need to feel first in the minds and hearts of our beloveds. When a baby comes along, a man feels displaced and second classed. Reminding him that he’s first, last and always your true love will help. Remember to follow the five-to-one ratio every day and make sure that for every one negative communication you counterbalance it with five positives.
Q13. Another common complaint we hear from women is ”˜He has time for everything and everyone except me.’ Can you offer some tips on how women can be better connected with men in a time starved marriage?
Time has nothing to do with the problem. Lack of time is an excuse. When your guy isn’t giving you time and attention, it’s a symptom that he isn’t getting what he needs from you. You reap what you sow. If you feel starved, it’s because he’s feeling starved by you. It only takes a second to give your beloved the right feeling message. We have to go back to the basics. Feed him his Relationship Essential Nutrients.
Q14. We also get emails from women that say my husband looks at other women, my boyfriend flirts with other women, my partner keeps in touch with their ex or my husband watches porn. When they bring up this subject with their men, they don’t feel as if they are cheating nor do they feel they are violating the boundaries of the relationship. How can women emphasize and better communicate with their men the boundaries of a relationship or a marriage?
Monogamy isn’t natural for a man. Men are biologically programmed for variety because the survival of the species depends on males impregnating as many females as possible. The fact that they don’t cheat outright is a sign of how much they love their woman. It’s hard for women to understand this. One possible solution is to incorporate the need for variety into the relationship using role play, dress up or watch porn together. Femme Production films create porn that’s made for couples.
Q15. Another turn off for women is when their partners lie to them. I am not necessarily talking about lies in the context of affairs or betrayal but lying about things they did or didn’t do or saying one thing and doing the opposite. What are some reasons why men lie and what can women do to help them be more open and honest with them?
Men lie for the same reasons women lie. It’s an outcropping of the avoidance defense, which begins in childhood. If a kid is raised by harsh parents, he/she learns to lie to avoid a punishment or beating. Soon the pattern becomes ingrained and automatic.
We all use defenses to protect ourselves, despite the fact that, in the end, these defenses just bite us in the butt. To reprogram a guy to not lie, he needs to feel that he isn’t going to get into trouble if he tells the truth. Over time, if he’s rewarded for being honest, he should be able to mend his lying (avoidant) ways.
Q16. What would your advice be for women who are looking to get married?
Know your Old Scars and heal them. If you don’t, you’re going to choose a partner who resembles the parent who let you down, and you’re going to end up replaying the worst wounds of your childhood. But when your Old Scars are healed, you are free to choose a partner who will love you the way you need. And if you are in a relationship in which you both are recreating your Old Scars, use my book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First). It will guide you to heal your Old Scars and navigate your way out of stormy relationship seas.
Q17. Can you share your top 3 tips that women can start implementing right away that can help them in their relationships?
Identify and eliminate your Old Scars, Identify and eliminate your Fight Traps, and commit to CALMLY stating your needs (using my X,Y Formula). Don’t forget to reward your partner for meeting them.
Q18. Do you have any books or resources that you would be helpful for women in bettering their relationships?
My book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First) is the relationship bible. It shows you step-by-step how to make your love rock solid. And Make Up Don’t Break Up: Dr. Love’s 5-Step Plan for Reconciling with Your Ex , shows you how to resurrect a relationship that’s fallen apart.