Whether we choose to admit it
or not, most of us routinely seek some form of reassurance from an important
individual in our lives. Perhaps from our parents for trying to live up to
their expectations; from our children for trying to be the best role models we
can be; from our friends for acknowledging their significance in our lives;
from our boss for acknowledging a job well done; and especially, from our
Reassurance, by definition,
provides an action to remove our doubts and fears. The need to feel wanted and
appreciated comes naturally. No one seeks to feel unwanted or abandoned. And
certainly no one enjoys rejection or being taken for granted.
We all require different levels
of reassurance. Some more than others. On one end of the spectrum we find those
who require little more than a pat on the back or a simple “thanks.” On the
other end, some people crave constant reassurance to the point where we label
them “needy” or “clingy.”
Men tend to run from women who
come across as emotionally needy; although, women are not immune from
exhibiting the same behavior toward needy men whom they consider desperate.
There are degrees of needy, and men out of touch with their own emotions can be
quick to label a woman who requires regular open, honest communication as
Somewhere a balance exists, for
both men and women, between the requirement for too much or too little
reassurance. How we define too much or too little depends on the individual
person and their particular needs. Finding the perfect balance can be tricky at
times, but siding with one extreme or the other never bodes well for couples
trying to sustain a meaningful and lasting romance. As with many aspects of our
romantic relationships, and in particular with trying to understand our own core
values, we should strive for reassurance within ourselves and not become
completely dependent on our partners.
Why does reassurance hold such
importance? Because it demonstrates caring, compassion, and commitment to one
another. Reassurance affirms our belief in one another. It validates our
feelings for one another in a positive way. Reassurance also plays an integral
role in maintaining open, honest communication. Without it, the person who no
longer receives reassurance starts to feel unwanted, unappreciated, or ignored.
Reassurance also provides a powerful tool for building trust; for reminding our
partner they feel loved; and for maintaining respect. Reassurance also boosts
our self-esteem, defined by the integration of self-confidence and self-respect,
and plays an important role in maintaining romance and intimacy in a
relationship. Reassurance expands our ability to love and be loved.
Verbal reassurance doesn’t have
to be profound or poetic. And it doesn’t have to be lengthy. It simply has to
be honest and sincere. The level and specific content of verbal reassurance
varies appropriately with the stage of our relationship. If someone craves our
verbal reassurance after a first date, it might be a sign of insecurity and some
unresolved issues. On the other hand, a woman seeking verbal reassurance after
several dates, might be trying to ascertain her standing in the early stages of
a new relationship (e.g., Am I his only girlfriend or one of many in his stable of
For men who fit the model of
the strong and silent type, a warm smile, a gentle hug, a soft kiss, or a note
on the nightstand exemplify ways to express reassurance. Men enjoy kissing, but
for women, the kiss holds greater value; a form of nonverbal reassurance that
requires a higher degree of trust and comfort than say a warm hug or a walk on
the beach together. In some ways for women, the kiss represents a litmus test
of a man’s affection. Men often interpret a kiss as a prelude to sex. Whereas
men expect to see clothes shed post-haste, women crave the sense of closeness and belonging a kiss
provides, without necessarily involving sex. Show me a man who believes he can
fake sincerity in a halfhearted kiss with his girlfriend or wife, and I’ll show
you a man with delusional tendencies. Sooner or later, and chances are much sooner than later, the woman will
pick up on the signal like a bright orange flare. By which point the only thing
more certain than the man’s delusional state of mind is his partner’s decision
to move on.
Regardless of your position on
reassurance, we all require some measure of reassurance to sustain a healthy
romantic relationship. When in doubt about your partner’s need for reassurance,
Some key points to remember
about the core value of reassurance:
- Reassurance should be
- Reassurance can be
verbal, nonverbal, or both.
- Everyone craves some
form of reassurance on different levels; some of us more frequently than
- Open, honest
communication plays an integral role in our efforts to provide reassurance.
“See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis,
and only enough blood to run one at a time.” —Robin Williams
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when
it happens.” —Woody Allen
“Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time.
I think I’ve forgotten this before.” —Steven Wright
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you
is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” —George Carlin
“The next time you buy a new mattress, tell the salesperson
you’re haggling with, ‘I don’t know…I’ll have to sleep on it.’” —Jason Melby
Humor represents one of our
most important core values. How many people do you know who don’t enjoy
laughing? If we can’t laugh at ourselves once in a
while, we’re taking life too seriously. Often, we spend our time in a
futile effort to make sense of things beyond our control. The weather, for
instance, always is what it is. We can love the day’s forecast, or we can hate
it. But there’s not much we can do to change it. The same goes for those wacky relatives
who drive us crazy, though I’m fortunate not to have any of those in my family
tree. Maybe it’s your ex who won’t let go or your boss who’s always on your
case. A problem child with a mind of their own or just a bad hair day. Life is
unpredictable. Change is inevitable. For some of us, a pint of Häagen-Dazs can
heal fresh wounds. Others find comfort at their favorite martini bar or from a
riveting novel. But sometimes, when you’re dangling from the last fiber at the
end of a badly worn rope, all you can do is laugh.
Laughter builds an instant
social bond between two people, and unlike the price of gas, laughter won’t set
you back sixty bucks to fill your tank with high spirits and positive vibes
that come with acknowledging the humorous side of life.
Humor has a tendency to sneak
up on us in ways we least expect. Case in point: several years ago I went
through a divorce. At that time, my wife and I knew it was the right thing to
do. Although a difficult but necessary decision, my divorce impacted me less as
a husband losing a wife and more as a father losing time with his sons. Though
my wife and I agreed to share joint custody, the separation of households meant
my boys would only be with me half time. As a father who loves his children
more than life itself, the prospect of losing time with them brought an
emotional pain the likes of which I’d never felt before. But more than my
sadness of losing time with my six-year-old sons, came a sense of overwhelming
concern about the potentially negative affects the divorce would have on them.
One night, when I was tucking my
boys in bed, I noticed one son seemed restless and sort of melancholy. Not knowing
what was wrong, I tried to ask him but heard no reply as he started to rock
himself to sleep. At that moment, I felt terrible and proceeded to reassure him
that despite the change in routine brought on by the divorce, I would always
love him. And I would always be there for him.
Motivated by my assumption that
his moment of sadness stemmed from the impact of divorce, I proceeded with my
monologue of reassurance, hoping my words of love and encouragement were
getting through to my son and his twin brother, who listened intently from the
bunk above. After a minute or so, I stopped talking and said a final “good
night.” Before I could stand up, my son rolled on his side to look at me, his
face a portrait of concentration as he pondered what I’d said—or so I thought at that moment in time—and
asked, “Can you show me how to fart with my armpit?”
A moment earlier, I wanted to
cry. Now it was all I could do not to bust out laughing. I’m not making light
of my divorce or the impact it had on my family. I’m simply illustrating one of
many examples where a little humor can help put things in perspective.
Another quick aside…this one
more relevant to the topic at hand as it involves a first date fiasco. After
exchanging sideways glances with one another for the better part of six months
during several school functions our children attended, I decided to ask a
female acquaintance out for dinner. After all, we were casual friends who
shared some common interests beyond our roles as single parents. I also found
her attractive with a wonderful personality and a nice sense of humor.
I planned our date for dinner
at a low key restaurant near the beach, which turned out to be the only thing
that went right on this casual rendezvous.
After leaving work later than
I’d planned, I got stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for the southbound CSX
locomotive to plod its way through Melbourne. At home, I hustled through my
shower, shave, and change of clothes. As luck would have it, I managed to cut
myself shaving, an event I rarely encounter, slammed my elbow on the bathroom
pocket door hard enough to ignite the not
so funny bone, and discovered a once tiny pimple on my chin now loomed like
With little time to spare, I
settled my nerves with a few deep breaths and calmly put everything in
perspective. My pimple less threatening than it first appeared, I grabbed a
fresh shirt off the hanger and reached for my antiperspirant on the bathroom
counter. Unfortunately, this particular deodorant stick was one I’d had for
some time. With barely a penny’s width of product still left in the twist
applicator, I applied what I could from the only antiperspirant in my
possession and experienced the coup de grâce. For
instead of applying smoothly, the deodorant crumbled into pieces and scattered
on my bathroom rug. Already ten minutes late, I got on my hands and knees to
pluck what I could salvage from the carpet.
Fast forward to
dinner at a favorite local hangout with a woman who seemed more interested in the
casual decor than she did in me. After half an hour of good food and somewhat
stilted conversation, I found myself in a quandary and decided to inject a
little humor with a quick recount of events leading up to our first date
encounter. As dinner came to a close, along with any expectation of a second
date, I told her the story about my deodorant shenanigans. With my palms face
out, I said, “At least my hands smell good.” I got a good laugh out of it—right
up until the end of the evening when my over-priced, pre-owned luxury lemon
broke down at a stop sign on the way to drop her home.
If you think about it, there
are times when we all experience less than stellar moments in our romantic
relationships. One minute we’re happy, and the next we’re sad. One minute we’re
embroiled in a heated argument of apocalyptic proportion and the next we’re
laughing about our own hypocrisy. Sometimes a little perspective helps remind
us of the most important things in life. And the importance of humor should
never be overlooked in our romantic relationships. The ability to laugh
maintains our sanity in our increasingly fast-paced, over-stressed world. Much
like words of reassurance, a little levity goes a long way. Not to say an
addiction to laughing would necessarily be a bad thing; although, it might give
the wrong impression by implying we’re inebriated, high, or emotionally
imbalanced. Oddly, I’ve dated women who exhibit all three traits. Sometimes on
the same night.
Humor is often what we make of
it. It’s also no secret women love a man who can make them laugh. And vice
versa. If John Candy were alive today, I’d date him. Okay, that’s a stretch,
but my point is men enjoy women with a great sense of humor as much as women seek
men who can make them laugh.
Think of humor as the universal
call of the wild. People love to laugh. And for good reason. Studies show
laughter can reduce pain, strengthen our immune system, and lessen our everyday
stress levels. Studies also indicate laughter plays a positive role in our
romantic relationships, where couples appreciate each other’s humor. Or as
someone once said, “People with a good sense of humor have a better sense of
Some key points to remember
about the core value of humor:
- When all else fails, sometimes
all you can do is laugh.
- Laugh with your partner not at him.
- A sense of humor will
help sustain you through the rough times and make the good times even better.
- You don’t have to be a
comedian to appreciate the funny side of life.
- People who laugh more,
Healthy romantic relationships
involve commitment from both partners who presumably enjoy each other’s company.
Obviously, spending time with one another, learning, growing, and experiencing
life as a couple, supports a fulfilling relationship. Yet despite the common
interests we share and the desire to spend time together, we must also
acknowledge our need for independence. Independence creates a sense of
security. It helps us balance our desire
to be in a relationship versus our need to be in one, concepts I discuss at
length in Chapter II.
What does independence mean to
each of us in our romantic relationships? For some, it means time alone to
read, listen to music, or reflect upon our thoughts in solitude. For others, it
involves a shopping spree with girlfriends or enjoying a guys’ fishing weekend.
Independence does not necessarily imply solitude, so much as time away from our
relationship, which begs the question: how can we maintain our independence and
still be in a serious relationship when these choices appear contradictory? We
can have one without the other, but we can’t remain independent and attached to
a meaningful romance at the same time. Or can we?
To answer this question for
yourself, reflect on your own need for independence. Some of us are fiercely
independent; others not so much. I cook, clean, and do my own laundry. I pay my
bills on time. I care for my children when they’re in my custody. So by all
accounts, I consider myself independent. That said, I enjoy a woman’s company.
I also appreciate, respect, and enjoy the value of a meaningful and lasting
romance. Like most things in life, I strive for a balance between my need for
independence—which involves a lot of time to write, exercise, and enjoy a
variety of hobbies—and my desire for a healthy relationship, which involves
chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment. For me, the need for
independence and togetherness fit less of a mutually exclusive model and more
of a Yin/Yang paradigm where the two halves intertwine. I prefer regular,
consistent time alone in modest doses rather than long bouts of solitude away
from my partner. I also try to communicate this up front. My need to spend time
alone doesn’t mean I don’t value my romantic relationship. On the contrary, my time
alone helps me recharge my senses, clear my head, and maintain a positive
perspective on life—all of which helps make me a better person, a better
friend, and a better partner overall.
I encourage you to look inward
and ask yourself how you define your independence. What are some things you
need time to do for yourself? And when? And how often? There are no right or
wrong answers here, only truth. Strive for a balance in your romantic
relationship. Whether you’re inclined to need more or less independence, make
sure you communicate this need to your partner.
For those of us who require
lots of independence, be careful about spending too little time with your
partner. People who make themselves unavailable physically and/or emotionally,
risk serious, and sometimes irreparable harm to their relationship. A
meaningful and lasting romance implies physical, intellectual, emotional, and
spiritual togetherness—not two people leading completely separate lives. Then
again, some people in healthy romantic relationships prefer lots of time apart
because for them it simply works.
The polar opposites of those who require lots of independence, are
those who require almost none. Those without a sense of independence crave
constant reassurance. In my experience, individuals who lack a sense of
independence have not learned how to enjoy spending time alone. They also tend
to expend energy doing things to please other people instead of trying to
According to a February 2011 USA Today article, which cited a national
survey of more than five thousand single men and
women across age groups from twenty-one to over sixty-five, women want more
independence than men in their relationships. According to the national survey,
touted as the largest and most comprehensive study of single adults to date,
seventy-seven percent of women stated having their personal space was “very
important” compared to fifty-eight percent for men. I don’t pretend to
understand all the reasons behind these figures, but it’s interesting to note
how the women in this survey appear to crave their independence more than men. Perhaps
women tend to socialize more than men with visits to their favorite spa, shopping
destinations, nail salons, or just hanging out on the beach with friends. Apparently,
modern men require less independence. Or perhaps guys simply need to find more
things to do.
exclusively apply to a physical separation of partners. In other words, you can
still spend time together and maintain some independence at the same time.
Don’t be afraid to stand your ground and express your thoughts or concerns. You
are who you are, a unique individual capable of making your own decisions and
enjoying your own interests, whether or not they coincide with your partner’s.
If you don’t like red meat, don’t let your partner convince you to eat it. If
you don’t like horror movies, speak up and suggest an alternative. Perhaps your
definition of independence includes pumping your own gas, carrying your own groceries
to the car, making your own decisions about when and where to eat out. Regardless
of how you define your need for independence, make it clear, but don’t go
overboard. Sometimes there’s a fine line between independent and stubborn—or
independent and confrontational. Having everything your way all the time won’t
work well either.
Some key points to remember
about the core value of independence include:
- Look inward and define
your own need for independence. Be honest with yourself. If you’re not, you may
jeopardize the success of your existing or future romantic relationships.
- Strive for a balance
between together time and time alone. Recognize that your need for independence
- There will always be
activities you enjoy sharing with your partner and those you prefer to enjoy
alone. Embrace your differences; don’t reject them.
- In a budding romantic
relationship, communicate your expectations early on. If your expectations are grossly out of line
with your partner’s—e.g., one of you requires significantly more alone time
than the other—then you might have an issue to address.
- Don’t give up your
independence. Be yourself. Hold onto the things you believe in and the ideals
you value in your life.
With everything we do in life,
we are accountable to someone; to the bank that holds our car note; to our boss
at work; to our children who look to us for guidance and support; to our
friends, our family, and our significant others; to ourselves; and for some of
us, to God. But what does accountability really mean? For starters, it begins
with honesty. Accountability is closely coupled with the trust people place in
us. Accountability also means learning to say we’re sorry and taking
responsibility for our actions; learning to accept the blame when our deeds cause
harm to others.
The law holds us accountable if
we defy the formal statutes governing acceptable behavior in our society.
Employers hold us accountable for our productivity and our behavior in the work
place. Our romantic partners hold us accountable for our words and actions in
our relationships. But what about ourselves? Shouldn’t we hold ourselves
accountable for our own actions? Absolutely!
Then why is it so easy to be
accountable in various facets of our lives and then jettison this notion the
instant we’re in a romantic relationship that doesn’t work? I’m talking about
guys who say they’ll call and then never do. I’m also talking about women who
argue they are tired of the dating games while they continue to perpetuate the
same dating games themselves.
Benjamin Franklin once said,
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” In other
words, it’s always easy to blame others for mistakes—and hard to look inward,
to self-reflect on our own bad habits and occasionally inappropriate behaviors.
I’m not proposing everyone should overanalyze every relationship they’ve ever
been in, but I feel it’s important to understand where we’ve been before we
forge ahead and try to figure out where we’re going. Only after we’ve spent
time reflecting on our virtues and our flaws, can we begin to apply these
lessons learned to our romantic relationships.
Accountability makes us
vulnerable by exposing our flaws and forcing us to see things for what they
really are. In the words of the late Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, “He who
gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over
himself is all-powerful.”
We gain victory over ourselves by being accountable for our actions.
If you’re serious about wanting
to engage in a meaningful and lasting romance, or if you’re already involved in
one, be open and honest. Don’t step out on your responsibilities. Step up and
do the right thing. Look inward and identify the things that bother you or
cause discomfort in your relationship. If you’re
lucky enough to be perfectly happy twenty-four-seven and content with
every aspect of your life, I applaud you. For those of us who live in the real
world, it’s never a bad idea to examine ourselves and make small course corrections,
especially if we’re not content with certain aspects of our lives. Or as Joyce
Meyer lectures, “You can suffer the pain of change or suffer remaining the way
you are.” Change isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Ditto for accountability, which can, at times, force us to modify our behavior
patterns and come to terms with our shortcomings.
Some key points to remember
about the core value of accountability:
- Be cognizant of the way
you treat people.
- If you don’t like what
you see inside yourself, work to make a change for the better.
- Accountability should be
something we strive for, not something we hide
- It’s better
to become accountable than pass the blame.
- Accountability allows
for positive change in ourselves and in our romantic relationships.