All posts tagged relationships

Releasing Guilt

Published April 11, 2012 by Patty Brisben

Lately, I’ve been thinking about and discussing with my friends a theory about women and why we do the things we do. It has to do with guilt. I’m starting to believe that most of what women do is driven by guilt or that we are in the constant pursuit of avoiding it. We do something to avoid feeling guilty and we do something and then feel guilty for doing it.

Let me give you some context. Say an acquaintance invites you to a party. You think about why you should go, why you shouldn’t go, and cringe at the thought of feeling bad—guilty—for not going. You attend the party because you don’t want to feel guilty for not going. Think about a friend’s birthday that you forgot about or about picking up your kid from school later than usual. How terribly guilty does a woman feel about something like that?

Women fear guilt, yet guilt is woven into our everyday. Science backs this up. Based off a study from 2009, women feel habitually guilty more often than men. This habitual guilt indicates anxiety related to the guilt as well. I’m not entirely surprised by these findings. Men tend to go about life making decisions that benefit themselves and their families. Women naturally put others before themselves. We tend to go about life contemplating which decision is going to offend whom; we think about how not to hurt others’ feelings. Whichever choice leads to a more peaceful outcome, we’re going to choose that. Even if it means doing something we really don’t want to do.

While I understand why women are the way we are, I think we have to learn to let go if we want to live happy, healthy, less anxious lives. We have to release the guilt. This may mean learning to say no more often. It may also mean having to be honest with yourself.

When you give in to guilt, you’re preventing yourself from making positive actions Feeling guilty only perpetuates negativity. The more often you feel guilt and the longer you let yourself feel it, the more you’re preventing yourself from flourishing. And yes, this is a feeling you can choose to feel or not to feel. You have to give yourself permission to do what’s best for you and your family, regardless whether you feel guilt. If you stand up to guilt just once, it will become easier every time thereafter to stand up to it again and again. Stand up to guilt enough and it won’t even cross your mind.

Having a conscience and awareness is good, but constantly fearing guilt and acting from that fear is damaging. Release the guilt and move toward the positive. Stop wasting your time on breeding negativity and shame.

Relationship Fact or Fiction: Chivalry Is Dead

Published March 1, 2012 by Patty Brisben


We live in a day and age in which chivalry has become an ancient word. It’s old fashioned. Our kids don’t know what it means. And, quite frankly, most of us have forgotten what it means.

Chivalry is defined as “ the quality of the ideal knight,” or nowadays, the ideal gentleman. See? Even the definition is dated! But chivalry goes deeper than a definition. Chivalry is deep-rooted in how we find mates and what a woman was once supposed to look for in a man. Some chivalrous standards that are becoming extinct:

-A man holding a door open for a woman, letting her through first.

-A man opening the car door for a woman while entering and exiting the car.

-A man walking on the street-side of a sidewalk and letting the woman walk on the inside of the sidewalk.

-A man asking a woman on a date and arranging all the details.

-A man offering a woman his jacket when she is cold.

-A man standing up when a woman leaves the table.

These are just a few examples of behaviors that used to be a common standard for men. Now, when a woman sees any of these actions, she’s skeptical. It seems like it can’t be real or authentic. So why is chivalry dead and what’s happened to it?

The problem is two-fold. Men aren’t taught to treat women this way anymore just as much as women are killing chivalry when it appears. Women now want to prove their power so much that they shut down every behavior from a man that they see as something they could do themselves. By doing so, we’ve emasculated men to the point of their not wanting to try anymore. Why bother when women are going to shut it down anyway?

We have to get back to reminding our sons of being gentlemen and actually teaching our daughters to accept the generosity of it. A man should cater to a woman and be polite and respectful of her, and a woman should be able to accept that generosity with appreciation and grace. Men can lose the lazy act as much as women can lose the “I am woman, hear me roar!” act. If you are a secure, strong woman, you don’t need to shout it. You don’t have to push through doors—they will be opened for you. And ladies, it’s our duty to accept when a man has been polite enough to do so.

*Image Source

Love, Lust, Like

Published February 20, 2012 by Patty Brisben

I am endlessly interested in relationships (surprise, surprise), the status of them, and how to keep them going. With every conversation I have about them, love, lust, and like are the main players. I’ve spent time questioning how all three are related and whether you can have one without the other and vice versa.

Whenever I talk about this, I think of one of my favorite George Strait songs, “I Know She Still Loves Me.” Here are the lyrics:

There’s just a hint of indifference
In her lack of conversation when we talk.
And the subject matters change,
There’s no mention of our future now at all.
She still kisses me each morning,
But it seems more like a habit than before.

I know she still loves me,
But I don’t think she likes me anymore.

She used to laugh at all my jokes,
But lately I can’t seem to make her smile.
And the last time we made love it was good,
But God it’s been a while.
She’s always there when I get home,
But she’s no longer waiting at the door.

I know she still loves me,
But I don’t think she likes me anymore.

‘Cause it’s just a little colder every time I hold her.
She’s just going through the motions
From what’s left of her devotion;
And it scares me half to death
Wonderin’ what tomorrow holds in store.

I know she still loves me,
But I don’t think she likes me anymore.

Right now I know she loves me,
But I don’t think she likes me anymore.

What I think about love, lust, and like, is this: One leads to another, but one of these three things must ultimately sustain a relationship. Lust is the chemistry that leads to falling in love. You can be in lust with someone and never fall in love, but when love is reached, lust has played a part to get you there. Lust doesn’t last forever— but it definitely has the ability to come into our relationships in waves.

Love is the bond that holds you and your partner together. Love is so unique to each person that it’s hard to define. Even the Merriam Webster dictionary lists nine definitions for love. What I can say about the love between significant others is that your heart swells for that person. Love is loyal, trustworthy. Love lifts you up and supports you. Love means not putting everything else in life before your significant other. Love is not taking that other person for granted. Most importantly, all these feelings are reciprocal in a healthy, love-filled relationship.

Though love gets all the credit, like is what keeps love alive and sustains it. If you don’t have that like for each other, you have nothing. As George Strait sings, “I know she still loves me, but I don’t think she likes me anymore.” He explains how his wife no longer laughs at his jokes, their conversation is lacking, and that his wife is just going through the motions. The way George sings this combined with the lyrics, I get the impression that he is most hurt by the fact she doesn’t like him anymore. He longs for the days when his wife liked his company so much that everything was happy, enjoyable, and passionate. The second a person in a relationship loses the like for good it impacts the other half.

LUST gets you to LOVE and LOVE may always be there, but LIKE will continue to stoke the fire in your relationship.

No More Double Standards: The Golden Rule

Published September 22, 2011 by Patty Brisben

This post is the second part in my September series, Modern Manners. To see the first post of the series, click here.

Perhaps you were in church, elementary school, or college when you first heard about the Golden Rule. It goes something like this:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We were taught this ever-important rule to help us understand that we need to treat strangers, fellow students, and neighbors with kindness. Fast-forward to today. Do you think about this phrase that often? Chances are you don’t, as it has become a part of you.

What your pastor and your third-grade teacher never taught you, though, is that the Golden Rule can and should be applied to your romantic relationships, too.

Sometimes when we’re wrapped up in a relationship, we expect everything from our partner. We expect him to be good, to never flirt with another woman, and to only have eyes for us—and it should be this way! However, you have to be sure you’re holding yourself to the same standards. What you want from your partner is probably what your partner wants from you, too.

Women often turn to me with their relationship hiccups, and I love listening. Everyone has her individual story, but more often than not, I end up telling most women I speak with to do one thing: reflect upon yourself. What is your behavior like? What do you want? How do you really feel? These questions are important because they force the woman to take a deeper look into her own behaviors. If you think about it, it’s also a part of the Golden Rule. How do you want to be treated, and thereby, how will you treat your partner?

Lately, I’ve seen women behave in ways I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t be happy with if their partner were doing the same. Before you act on something, I urge you to ask yourself this: “If my partner were in this situation, would I be happy if he did it?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. If it helps you to write or type it out, try it. Your questions may look something like this:

Would I be happy if my man were dancing with a strange woman? Probably not. Therefore, don’t do it.

Would I be happy if my man took hours to respond to a text or phone call? No. Therefore, don’t do it.

Would I be happy if my man posed for pictures with random women and then I saw them on Facebook? Definitely not! Therefore, don’t do it.

It’s a very simple exercise that puts the Golden Rule into practice and gives your relationship a little perspective. Remember that a relationship takes two: you both have to work at it. You can’t expect him to be receptive if you aren’t willing to make changes and work on yourself, too. Give and take, take and give. Just remember, treat your partner the way you want to be treated, and behave the way you want your partner to act as well.

*Image Source

Something More, Something Less: Friends With Benefits

Published July 23, 2011 by Patty Brisben


Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl out. Girl says yes. The two date, admit they like each other, have a serious, committed relationship, and fall in love. This is the old standard of how relationships between men and women begin, but lately, pop culture has been turning that idea on its head.

2011 brings us two movies with very similar storylines. In No Strings Attached, lead characters Adam and Emma try figure out whether they can keep their relationship strictly physical, or as the title implies, with no strings attached. No feelings and nothing more than sex. We also now have the just-released Friends With Benefits in which Dylan and Jamie are two friends who ponder whether adding sex to their friendship could work, just as an added benefit.

Both films dedicate 108 minutes to figuring out the questions that have been plaguing women (and, OK, men) for years: Can a man and a woman have sex and nothing more? Can friends have sex without added emotion? Can they maintain their existing friendship without it becoming more than a friendship? In my opinion, friends with benefits absolutely cannot exist.

Why such a cut-and-dry answer? Because these attempts at emotionless sex always turn into something else. One of two things happens. Either the friends fall in like with each other enough to date, or one person wants something more and the other doesn’t, and then their relationship falls apart. I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I truly think this is a problem.

It is rare that a woman can have sex without feelings. We can’t really help it—it’s a part of our genetics. (Both men and women release oxytocin, the hormone and neurotransmitter, during orgasm, which calms us down, soothes our anxieties, and mellows us out. It’s also a key biological factor that bonds people to each other.) What concerns me more than that, though, is what’s behind that. Why are women seeking something less than what they deserve? At the end of the day, even if you do manage to have a version of a “friends with benefits” relationship, you’re going to feel lonely. You’re going to want true companionship that doesn’t stop the second you’re out of bed.

And that’s where things get really messy. Ideally, you would turn to your bedmate—and, in this case, friend—for that hardwired companionship, and guess what? He’s not going to reciprocate the desire for more. Why? Because you’ve said, “Yes, I swear we can be friends and just have sex, nothing more.” You’ve given permission for his caring to go no further.

A woman doesn’t agree to this kind of relationship just for fun or just to see how it goes. There is something deeper she is trying to avoid. By being friends and attempting emotionless sex, the woman is trying to avoid getting hurt. Have you been hurt before? Isn’t it terrifying to put yourself out there again? This is why the friends-with-benefits idea is so attractive. At first, it seems as though it is a safe, comfortable option, when in reality, it’s the weak and lazy way out. This is no way to go about your life—scared and timid. You have to attack your life, not seek an easy way out.

Instead of seeking a new bedmate, I suggest you take the time to get to know yourself better. Pay attention to what attracts you, what excites you, and what empowers you. While you’re getting to know yourself better, think about what you really want in a partner and what kind of relationship you long to have. Friends with benefits is not an option.

Of course, one would be remiss not to acknowledge the very small possibility that both friends want something more. It’s true. This can happen, but it must happen rarely or else it wouldn’t be worth making movies about. Here’s how I see it:  friends are friends. Lovers are lovers. Partners are partners. The end.