Interview With Margie Ulbrick: Sharing Her Thoughts on the Importance of Openness, Setting Personal Boundaries and Much More
1. What are the important qualities you would recommend women focus on if they are looking for a long term serious committed relationship?
I would recommend that women who are looking for a long-term serious relationship do their own inventory and search their history and past experience to see what is important to them.
That said, openness would have to be at the top of my list. Openness to being influenced, to listening to your ideas and opinions, to brain-storming ways of solving problems etc etc. Being able to be open and vulnerable with each other is a hallmark of being able to develop and maintain intimacy.
Having a good attitude is also very important for when things get tough as at some stage they invariably do.
Being reliable and dependable, trustworthy and being a person of integrity are also hallmarks of a great partner. Having a sense of humour is another wonderful asset in a long-term relationship. Having a work ethic that is similar to your own, sharing values about what matters to you; these are also important. So, in a nutshell that boils down to respect, openness, reliability, sense of humour and shared values.
2. A number of our women subscribers have asked us how important chemistry is for the relationship to be successful long-term. Some of them are repeatedly attracted to men with whom they share a great chemistry but find those relationships to be short-lived and rocky.
They usually find little to no chemistry with men who are either their good friends or just decent men with whom the overall relationship is quite stable but find the overall state of the relationship to be less fun and slightly boring.
Chemistry is important.
We need to have those pheromones working to stimulate the brain and to contribute to passion. It is normal for the chemistry, the initial flush to alter after the early heady days. However, if it is there in the first place it is alot easier to restimulate it and to keep the relationship alive than if it were not there in the first place. Good friends are fine but a long-term committed relationship needs passion. However, it is a truism that anyone can fall in love. It’s alot more difficult to sustain that love over time.
Boredom and decent men do not go hand in hand any more than boredom and decent women do.
So, I would be recommending a combination of chemistry and decent men, they are not mutually exclusive!! There is of course the attraction to the forbidden, to the dangerous or bad guys but beware!
Women should go into these relationships with their eyes open.
Where something seems alluring or a little dangerous there may be good reason for that. So, I recommend that women trust themselves and learn to have a high degree of self-respect such that they go into relationships where both friendship and passion are qualities that both partners aspire to have in the relationship.
3. Some of our women subscribers have a tendency to develop feelings too quickly for the guy they like. They tend to develop feelings too quickly which often causes the man to withdraw from them and even become disinterested.
How important is pacing the relationship and why does it cause men to pull away when women show too much interest and love too early in the relationship?
Well there’s often a tendency to develop feelings quickly so as to overcome or put a band-aid over the period of transition and uncertainty that would otherwise arise: the time when we just see how things are going and whether this can develop into more?
That way we can fall head-over heels into mad passion and attraction and infatuation but we really don’t know the person at all. But, we’ve skipped over that uncomfortable feeling of living in that place of not knowing.
So, pacing the relationship can be quite important so that we do not miss the signs and signals about the person and so that we develop some understanding based on reality of who they really are. But that said, I know people being people will still fall head over heels into a relationship from the first glance.
So, perhaps the clue is to know yourself.
If you are likely to fall into this category set yourself the task of taking it more slowly and sitting with what that brings up for you. Don’t smother the anxiety as it will come out later anyway! Rather work with it. That way you can gather information about your prospective new partner as you get to know each other.
Men can pull away from women in these circumstances for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps they feel overwhelmed, like the woman is too much for them, like there is no space for their experience or they fear getting lost and overpowered in such a relationship.
Perhaps a woman who develops (and shows) feeling “too quickly” reminds a man of his mother or perhaps he feels like she is trying to trap/trick him into a commitment before he is ready or again he may feel like she is trying to hide something.
Big demonstrations of feeling too quickly might be really scary for him if he is not comfortable with emotion. There are many reasons.
4. Another question we get asked quite often from our readers is when is the right time to have sex in a relationship especially when you are looking for a serious committed relationship?
Wow! That’s a question and a half isn’t it? I think women really need to learn to trust themselves and by asking someone else that question they are really saying I can’t trust myself in this relationship.
I can’t back myself, keep myself safe, trust my own judgement and I don’t know my own moral code or what I really believe about my sexuality. So, to women asking these questions I would say take some time to get to know yourself and to learn to trust/develop your own sense about who and what you are giving yourself to.
Perhaps another way to look at it is also to ask how am I going to feel afterwards if this doesn’t work out?
In other words am I putting myself in a dangerous or vulnerable position and do I know what I really want? A woman should consider whether she may have regrets about commencing a sexual relationship and be quite able to honestly deal with those or on the contrary whether she may regret not having had a sexual relationship as well.
5. You talk about “knowing yourself” as the key whether it comes to pacing the relationship or knowing when to have sex. Sometimes it is easier to observe others and know what you feel about your friends and family but when it comes to yourself, it may be a touch difficult because we have our own prejudices and biases that come in the way of objectively judging ourselves. I believe women have the tendency to judge themselves more harshly.
Let me give you an example of a common problem women face. They are out with a guy on a date and they are really attracted to him and like him. They are even okay with having sex with him but a part of them also fear that by having too early, he would think less of her or he would disappear and never be back. So in this instance, a part of the woman does not mind having sex with him and in fact may very well want to have sex with him, but a part of her also puts the brakes on those feelings.
I have heard from women who had had sex too early and have had the man disappear and I have also heard from women who withhold sex as a way of getting him to commit which has also sometimes backfired because the man feels she is playing games and using sex as a means of trapping him.
How can knowing oneself help in this situation?
Perhaps it helps because if one knows oneself and one’s values then one can live according to one’s own standards rather than by doing what is expected by a partner/boyfriend.
It’s far better in the long run to be able to live happily with one’s decisions rather to be operating from will I lose or keep him depending on when I have sex.
Surely a stable relationship must be built on a person being able to be comfortable with her own decisions in regards to something as important as sex.
6. I think you mentioned something very important that I want to emphasize again, “pacing the relationship can be quite important so that we do not miss the signs and signals about the person and so that we develop some understanding based on reality of who they really are.”
As you mentioned even as you are swept away by the passion and intense feelings you may have for one another during the initial phase, it is important to pay attention especially to the red flags. A mistake that I see many women making is ignoring or making light of the red flags and even argue with their friends and defend their partner when they point out he may not be the right person.
I think sometimes women rationalize the red flags because they think “I can fix him” or “I can change him” or “he will change once we are married”. But it seldom happens and they are disappointed when the man they are married to doesn’t change.
How important is it for women to overcome the mindset of “changing a man or fixing him” and make decisions based on practical reasons?
I agree many women seem to have this mindset or they think that they should let go of important things which they trivialize and then justify by saying “no-one’s perfect” or something similar. It is important to go into a relationship with open eyes but we all tend to have blind spots.
So, my advice would be that a woman work at learning to trust her instinct and be open to at least considering what trusted friends and family might say about a partner.
It’s also healthy to know that a good relationship changes and grows as the partners do and that your partner might change and grow and hopefully will do so but that going into a relationship with the expectation that he will change or that you will change him from the start is a recipe for disaster in my opinion!
7. Can you talk about some best practices when it comes to setting personal boundaries in relationships. We get emails from women who initially refused to have the tough conversations or necessary conversations to discuss issues that bother them. These issues can range from the man not calling ahead of time to confirm the date to a boyfriend taking her for granted or the woman doing the bulk of the work in the relationship.
How can they communicate their expectations and set personal boundaries openly and honestly?
Setting personal boundaries is such a big topic and the more self-aware a person is, the easier that becomes.
It helps to come from a place of response rather than reaction. So, taking time to check inside and feel what feels right and true and then stating that clearly is a good start. Being assertive rather than critical or dominating, and being clear within oneself about what it is that one wants and how one feels also helps immensely. So, stating from your own perspective using “I” statements and saying things like “I realise I need…”
I heard Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt recently give a good example of a wife who said to her husband, I am not willing to be treated in that way and so when you speak to me like that I am going to leave the room.
If that is still happening in 30 days, I will leave the marriage. This was after going around in circles for a long time and she finally became clear about what she would and wouldn’t put up with and what actions she was prepared to take.
Interestingly, the husband did change his behaviour within the 30 day period. As you can see there was no blaming, criticism or attack in those statements and no need for anyone to get defensive. It was a clear example of a woman who learnt how to set appropriate boundaries so that she could get the respect she deserved.
8. Another question we get asked quite often is how important is it to live together before marriage and is there an ideal timeline with regards to when you would advice couples living together?
We have received questions from our women subscribers if it would make sense to move in for non-relationship related reasons such as ease, convenience and financial reasons.
This is not a question I can offer advice on.
Research seems to suggest that living together does not make any positive difference to the longevity of the relationship and this could be for many complex reasons.
I don’t think it is as important in the scheme of a long-term marriage as is a lot of other good healthy communication that needs to take place before the marriage, irrespective of whether the partners choose to live together for whatever reason.
9. It is not uncommon for relationships to drift into boredom and monotony. Do you have any relationship tips or rituals that you would recommend to my subscribers on what they can do to continuously improve their relationship?
Yes, there are many things a couple can do to improve their long-term relationship.
This could be the subject of a book I write! Looking at each other with fresh eyes of appreciation and gratitude every day is a healthy start. Being prepared to go out on a limb for your partner and being prepared to look first at your own attitude and behavior before you go to find fault with your partner are just some of the attitudes that can make a big difference. it’s a cliche but “be the change you want to see”, in other words, be the partner you want.
If you want to feel more love or appreciation, be that yourself, give that to yourself as well as to your partner.
Make time for the relationship regularly, and time for romance and connection. Have fun together and greet each other warmly at the beginning and end of the day. Be affectionate.
Go to bed at the same time. Find ways to enliven the relationship by making sure that you are putting enough energy into your own life so you have something to bring back to the relationship. I also like Harville Hendrix’s idea of making the relationship a no-negativity zone.
10. Do you have any recommended books or programs for women who are looking to create happy and fulfilling relationships?
I think I should write that book!
The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner is an old but a good one.
Also the imago work of Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want is another goodie.
He has also written Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want recently which might be worth checking out.
About Margie Ulbrick
Margie Ulbrick is a Melbourne Relationship Counselor. She provides psychotherapy services for relationships, stress management and happiness. Margie Ulbrick Counselling offices are based in East Malvern, Melbourne and service the surrounding areas of Chadstone, Glen Iris, Armadale, Ashburton, Malvern, Carnegie, Kew, Soutth Yarra, Toorak, and East St Kilda. She also offers appointments by Skype and counsels people on a range of relationship and other issues.
To know more about Margie, visit her website www.margieulbrickcounselling.com