I’d like to help.
Have you ever heard a caring friend tell you,
“Time heals all wounds”?
How many times have you heard this cliche from well-meaning folks as your heart is bleeding all over the cold, hard floor?
Has it ever once been of genuine comfort?
I’m betting it felt pretty shitty. We are going to fix that right now.
Instead of passively waiting for mysterious, heart-healing time magic, try my proactive 4-step process to heal that broken heart in record time.
You may want to beat yourself up over the choices you’ve made. Don’t. Instead, honor those choices as necessary steps along your journey. Learn from them. Remember that you aren’t wrong, bad, or stupid for having made them. You simply have new information now and can make a different choice in the future.
Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way works for you. Shower yourself with the love and support you’ve been craving. Make a list of your greatest strengths and post them prominently. Proactively reach out for support from friends and loved ones. They have been where you are and you may be surprised how happy they are to help. And speaking of help…
This one is huge. You’d be amazed how useful it is to turn your attention outward and focus on someone other than yourself. This can be as formal as regular volunteer work or as informal as posting on social media that you’re looking to help someone out and see who pings you. Send a thank you note to anyone who has helped you. Text someone that you are thinking of them (NOT YOUR EX).
Right now is the perfect time to put in some significant work on becoming the person you want to be. Take some time to reflect on:
The truth is…
So get to work on that broken heart.
Like a lot of polyamorous people, I have a fraught relationship with monogamy. First off, it’s always been imposed upon me externally, via social context or romantic partner. And second, I have historically “failed” at the version that was presented to me as acceptable, to disastrous and occasionally life-threatening results. Thus I have long assumed I would live out my days splitting time between multiple partners who probably also had other partners, and believed myself content with this scenario.
But a while back, I started feeling pulled toward exclusivity. The idea of focusing all my romantic energy toward a single partner became deeply compelling to me. But because I had so much of my identity tied up in being “poly,” I fought that pull. I reminded myself that monogamy goes against human nature, or at any rate my nature if we are judging by history. I told myself it was an unrealistic expectation that I could ever find one person who would embrace the weirdness of my particular situation (i.e. I’m a not-quite-single Mom living next door to my “wasband,” his girlfriend, and their daughter, who I also think of as my kid). I thought it would be a betrayal to my community, an abandoning of my identity, and a scary and dangerous undertaking.
And then it occurred to me that these are exactly the kinds of bullshit arguments people come up with to squelch a desire to open up a relationship.
Without realizing it, I had adopted a rigid, dogmatic adherence to a single relationship style and had become unwilling to consider the possibility that it was no longer right for me.
It didn’t help that the fellow I felt most pulled toward—we’ll call him “John”— also had a long history of infidelity within purportedly monogamous relationships, and was showing no obvious signs of interest in making an exclusive go of it with me. Or did it…?
One day it occurred to me that perhaps this was an ideal case study to explore my mono-curiosity. After all, the thing I had always hated about monogamy in the past was that it was being thrust upon me from outside of myself. This situation was exactly the opposite of that. I had no reason to do this except my own desire to do it, and there would be no external pressure to continue, were I to abort mission.
So one morning, getting ready for work after having spent the night at John’s place, I announced that I wanted to stop fucking other people. His face registered confusion, skepticism, incredulity, and finally amusement. “Ooookay,” I recall him saying, “Why?”
I realized, as I started to list off the reasons, that I had never actually articulated the full list, even to myself. It was more robust than I had realized.
And, all intellectualizing aside, perhaps the most important reason:
And so it began.
Soon after followed The Challenges. I’ve always known monogamy was challenging, but I understood the central challenge to be a futile fight against one’s biological instincts. So not only did I see the secondary challenges of monogamy as not worth the trouble, I thought of them as actively harmful.
Now that I had a genuine personal interest in an exclusive romantic/sexual partnership, I discovered that the real central challenge of monogamy, at least for me, wasn’t resisting the temptation to fuck other people. Rather, it was confronting all the ways in which promiscuity had become an emotional crutch for me. And it became clear that taking on that challenge, and all the secondary challenges that stemmed from it, would not only be worthwhile, it was my only path to any sort of healthy relationship.
Thankfully, I had already confronted a lot of the ways in which my self-esteem was tied up in the desire, attention, ecstasy, and appreciation of others during my four-month celibacy stint that began almost exactly a year ago. But it quickly became clear that I still had a long way to go on that front, and that confronting those issues while in an intimate relationship with someone had it’s own peculiar pitfalls.
Challenge #1: Jealousy
The old green-eyed monster began to rear its tiresome head almost immediately. I had expected this. I’ve done enough study on human sexual psychology to know that jealousy is based in insecurity, and I had just cut off the mainline of ego-stroking I had relied on most of my life to combat it. And unlike when I was celibate, I now had a terribly tempting screen on which to project those insecurities to super-human proportions.
I found myself indulging in behaviors I had resented from past partners: demanding declarations of love, fishing for validation, trying to catch my partner cheating, and of course, losing my goddamn mind when I found even the most circumstantial evidence to support that hypothesis. This was especially unfair given that I never communicated anything resembling a boundary around my partner’s sexual behavior. I had simply declared my own intention not to fuck other people.
To his credit, though, John did not play that card. Nor did he indulge the drama by offering any of the emotional concessions I was demanding: reassurance, promises, evidence of his fidelity, etc. Instead, he simply reminded me of what I already knew: that nothing he could do or say would ever be enough.
I knew he was right, and that Possessive Partner was a shit role to play. So I had two options: I could take a leap of faith and choose to trust John, or I could break up with him. Spoiler alert: I chose trust. So far, so good.
That’s when I realized that polyamory had effectively insulated me from my long-standing trust issues. With multiple lovers, I never needed to fully trust any one person not to betray and abandon me, and thus I maintained a comfortable illusion of security. Now that it was just John, I was working without a net, and it was terrifying.
Happily, though, confronting those fears with a partner is a lot less wretched than doing it alone. And little by little, I’m building the kind of security that comes only from experiencing the benefits of well-placed trust. Which is a much more secure security indeed.
Challenge #2: Getting my needs met
Another reason I have long identified as poly is that I embrace the reality that no one person is going to fulfill my every need. But in practical terms that’s meant building a kind of Frankensteinian conglomerate of desirable partner traits in the form of what could be referred to as a harem. One partner to satisfy me sexually, another to be my intellectual equal and challenge me to improve myself, another to provide emotional support, and yet another to be a companion / partner in crime to laugh and be silly with. And even when my harem was complete, STILL I wasn’t content. Still I had needs that went unmet.
But it wasn’t until I was monogamous by choice that I realized why: because it isn’t just that no ONE person is going to fulfill my every need. It’s that my every need is never going to get fulfilled. At least not by any kind of external source. It became clear that I was going to have to look inward to discover what was missing and figure out how to create it for myself.
Challenge #3: The scarcity myth
The next challenge I came up against was time and energy. As in, he didn’t suddenly, magically have any more of it to offer just because I was now focusing all of mine on him. And I started to feel annoyed, frustrated, and slighted that he chose to prioritize things like work and self-care over me.
Again, I took a long, hard look at my behavior. Did I really want to be that co-dependent lover who demands every moment of her partner’s time, even at the cost of his/my/our well-being? Did I want to view his time and attention as a finite resource for which I was in constant competition?
Hell no. That’s exactly the kind of bullshit I became poly in order to avoid.
I want, and have always wanted, to be the lover who encourages my partner to take care of his own needs and to live exactly as he pleases. I just happen to be so fucking awesome that he chooses to spend time with me anyway.
So, I decided to focus my energy on filling my own life with awesomeness, and stop worrying about how much time we were or were not spending together. After all, that’s exactly what I would be doing if we weren’t together.
And this is where my celibacy training has really come in handy. When in doubt, I ask myself:
WWCAD: What Would Celibate Adrienne Do?
In other words: what would I do if I didn’t have this other person to lean on / blame / hook into playing out my cyclical psychodrama? Try doing THAT instead.
At one point, I even attempted to downgrade our relationship to “friends with benefits” so that I would be forced to stop projecting all my expectations of what a “boyfriend” is and does onto him. To my great surprise, rather than relief that I was finally over this silly monogamy experiment, he expressed hurt and disappointment. It hadn’t been a test, but that was, as it turns out, the answer my heart needed to hear. After that, I was IN.
I’ve still got a lot of healing to do. A lot of radical self-love to express. A lot of fears to face down and challenges to see through. But for the first time in my life, I am confident that it can, should, and will be done. Not because I think John is “the one.” But because I’ve finally admitted that I am the one. The one with the power to fulfill my own needs and create genuine intimacy with another imperfect human.
And so far? I gotta say: intimacy is pretty fucking awesome.
But having narrowly escaped death-by-suffocation at the hands of my first husband, I like to think I’m something of an expert on the subject.
That’s why I was over the moon to find this amazing article on how and why so many of us are picking the wrong mates.
The article, however, is simply an introduction to the problem, rather than a comprehensive solution. So I’ve been pondering the question: What would a “psychological marriage,” as recommended by the article, look like? How can we accurately screen for, and actively create, that kind of partnership?
In short: how do we start picking the right partners instead?
Lucky for you, I’ve gone through a truly epic amount of trial-and-error on the subject, and I have some suggestions.
1. Learn yourself as a lover.
The conventional wisdom, when seeking a long-term romantic partner, is to think about the kind of person you hope to find. Their qualities, their values, etc. And though that can indeed be a useful exercise, it has its limitations and indeed its dangers.
First of all, it sets up a fabricated framework into which you will then attempt to shove actual human beings, none of whom are going to be an exact fit.
Second, it robs you of any control over compatibility with potential partners, since the burden and power of possessing the requisite qualities rests entirely on The Other.
Third, it presumes that you can know exactly what you want before you’ve ever met or experienced it.
Therefore, instead of pondering what/who you are looking for, I recommend you find out exactly what you have to offer, and the conditions under which you thrive or wither as a lover and long-term partner.
Here are a list of questions that I’ve found especially useful in pursuit of this kind of self-knowledge:
– What is important to you?
– What do you value most about yourself?
– What quality of yours do you think is most useful to other people?
– What do you most enjoy creating, and how?
– How do you express love?
– What communicates to you as love?
– What kind of partner do you wish to be?
– What tends to bring that out in you?
– What tends to hinder it?
Focusing on the kind of partner you are and wish to be puts the focus back on the only thing you can control in a partnership: yourself.
2. Seek to know The Other
You would think this would be a no-brainer. But I’m afraid it is, in reality, exceedingly rare.
When we meet another person, our first instinct is to seek agreement. We try to draw parallels to ourselves, to discover the ways in which The Other is like us and can relate to and understand us, rather than in trying to actually get a comprehensive understanding of who this person is, what they want, how they function, etc.
When we meet a potential partner in particular, we tend to look for the ways in which they fit with our image of The Ideal Partner, and to gloss over everything else. Or conversely, to look for all the ways in which they don’t fit our criteria so that we can dismiss them and move on to the next candidate.
But by treating a date like a job interview, we are missing out on the opportunity to genuinely connect as people, which, incidentally, is the only way to create genuine intimacy. Oops.
Next time you go on a date, take a genuine interest in this person as a person, not just as a potential partner. Ask them the same sorts of questions you just asked yourself, and really listen to the answers. If you, like me, find that to be a struggle, try pretending you are a writer, and they’re a celebrity you’re interviewing for a biography.
Just because someone is not a good match for you as a long-term mate doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with and appreciate them for who they are. Some of my closest friends are people I dated once upon a time (or in the case of my second husband, married) but realized we were better cast in non-romantic roles in each others’ lives.
3. Evaluate The Couple you create
Chemistry is complicated. You can put together two ingredients which are quite innocuous on their own and create something dangerously volatile, or surprisingly delicious. So it is with human beings, only we are far less able to predict the results ahead of time.
There are, however, early-return results we can observe in order to help predict future results.
After a few dates, step back and, as objectively as possible, observe the effect this person has on you. Since this person has been in your life:
– Has your overall sense of well being improved or declined?
– Have others made any observations about changes in you (either positive or negative)?
– Are you proud of your behavior? Are you acting like the sort of person you want to be?
– Are you inspired to create? To grow? To take positive action?
Meanwhile, do your best to observe the effect you have on them. This is trickier, since you generally have no baseline against which to make an assessment. But do take note as to whether their overall well-being, self-regard, and behavior seem to be improving or declining as a result of your association.
Take note also of which of your qualities they seem most enamored of. Are these the same qualities you value most in yourself? Because, make no mistake, those are the qualities they are going to want you to focus on. For example, if the thing you value most in yourself is your artistic talent, but the person you’re dating is constantly going on about how hot your bod is and doesn’t seem particularly interested in your art, don’t be surprised when they encourage you to spend more time at the gym and less time sketching.
Take note, also, of which of their qualities you most admire, and whether or not they seem invested in putting focus and energy toward it long-term.
Finally, take note of how many misunderstandings/miscommunications the two of you have, how many of those turn into arguments, and whether or not those numbers appear to be on the decline. If you cannot learn to effectively communicate to each other, and/or cannot maintain your affinity for each other while communicating, you’re in for a lot of fighting.
Ask yourself, in short: what sort of people do we make of one another? What kind of couple do we create? And is that the kind of couple you think the world needs more, or less of?
Most importantly: listen to that little voice in the back of your head. If you have this funny feeling that something isn’t quite right, it probably isn’t. If you have this inexplicable sense that this person is trustworthy, even though you have no solid evidence to back that up, they probably are. When you first meet someone, your mind is taking in far more information than you can rationally process. You are picking up subtle signals that may not be explained for a long time to come, but that doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. On the contrary, it is those quietest, most gut-level feelings to which you should pay the closest attention.
Sadly, there are no guarantees when it comes to relationships. People are complicated. They change over time. Even the most promising partnerships can implode without warning. So forgive yourself. Learn. Move on. And remember: not every relationship that ends is a “failed” relationship. It’s just a new kind of relationship, and an opportunity to create another intimate partnership from scratch.
It’s been a while since my last post, and though I could cite all sorts of truthy reasons for that extended silence, the reality is that I went and got my heart broken. And, you know, it was just kinda hard to write about romance, what with the blood and tears spewing all over the screen and gumming up the keyboard.
To be more precise, I smashed my heart repeatedly against someone else’s, someone who was never gonna open that thing up to me no matter how hard I knocked, no matter how patiently I waited, no matter how many brilliantly creative tactics I used to sneak past his defenses. I did this until it was mangled to the point that I could no longer find enjoyment in the attempt, and so I left the arena.
Here’s the truth of the matter:
That is not to say that there aren’t people in the world who will be happy to use, abuse, and betray you, who will fail to return the love you offer them, or who will up and stop loving you for no good reason. There are, and they will. But no one can take, break, or so much as breathe on your heart without your consent, and in most cases, with your full participation.
But here’s another, equally important truth to wrap your brain around:
Quite the contrary. A broken heart is a badge of honor, a battlescar that bespeaks remarkable courage. Because opening your heart to another person is always a risk, and it takes true bravery to keep taking that leap of faith anydamnway.
The true shame is in keeping your heart locked up tight and never letting it play the bloodsports it was designed to play, dangerous and insane though they are.
Claim the honor that is rightfully yours. Stop giving your power away by claiming that someone else broke your heart. YOU did that. And not because you’re weak or foolish. Because you’re smart enough to know that opening your heart is the only way to win the game of love, and you’re strong enough to lose an alarming number of rounds and keep coming back for more.
Which brings me to my third and final truth about heartbreak:
Be honest with yourself: you got something out of it. Even if it was simply the exhilaration of attempting to surmount an insurmountable barrier, or the smug righteousness of being the lesser asshole, or a masochistic enjoyment of martyrdom. You must have gotten *something* out of it, or you wouldn’t have bothered in the first place. The more you focus on what you got out of the deal, the less you will feel like a victim. And only by letting go of your victimhood and seeing yourself as the active participant you were/are can you finally let go of your heartbreak and heal.
But what if there’s someone out there who’s convinced that you broke their heart?
As we’ve already covered, that’s not really possible. They are fully responsible for their own condition, and you are fully responsible for yours. But let’s say you did some things that, in retrospect, were kinda shitty. And let’s face it, it’s pretty damn near impossible to get through an intimate relationship without doing something, at some point, that qualifies as some degree of shitty. What’s the best way to go about attempting to repair that damage?
Really scrutinize ’em. Interrogate yourself to make sure that this is not simply a veiled attempt to win one last round, get the last word, relieve your guilt, or obtain forgiveness.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. AT ALL.
This is about offering the other person a no-strings-attached apology because it’s the right thing to do.
… ABORT MISSION!!
It is kinder, and just all-around better, to leave that person in peace than to make contact before you’ve fully worked through your own emotional baggage and made peace with the situation.
If, however, you are genuinely seeking nothing in return, proceed:
Make it clear that no response is necessary. As we’ve established, this is a no-strings-attached apology, so make sure the recipient feels zero pressure to offer forgiveness, acceptance, or anything else.
This is not what they or anyone else believes you did wrong, this is what you know in your heart was the wrong thing to do.
Express empathy/compassion for any consequences that befell them on account of that behavior.
Know that you did the right thing anyway.
I’ll give you a true-life example, which I sent out to an estranged ex just last week:
This is a long overdue apology. No response necessary or expected.
When you set a totally legit boundary with me, I got irrationally angry and lashed out at you. I was a jerk, and you deserved better. I can only imagine how awful it must have felt to make yourself vulnerable like that, only to get a verbal smack-down from the person you most needed to be on your side. Thank you for bringing so much joy to my life, and for caring enough about our relationship to communicate your needs. I wish you peace, and so much love.
Happily, I did get a positive response, but I wasn’t expecting one, and that’s not why I did it. God knows I’ve gotten plenty of nasty responses, too.
If you *do* get a negative response: remember that you are not obligated to respond either. Just listen. When it comes to their feelings, do your best to empathize. But when it comes to accusations or evaluations about your behavior or character more generally, take it with healthy lump of salt. If something strikes you as true, feel free to fix it. As to the rest? Just let it go. Arguing about it isn’t going to change their mind or make you either of you better people. It’s just going to degrade any hope of either reconciliation or peaceful parting of the ways.
Whatever you do, don’t take pity on the heartbroken party. They don’t need your pity, because as we’ve established, heartbreak is a mark of bravery and will only make them stronger in the end.
Instead, honor them both inwardly and outwardly. Honor the risk they took in opening their heart to you. Honor their hurt feelings without taking on any blame. Bow to them as you would a worthy, now injured adversary at the end of a particularly rough karate match. And then leave them alone to heal as they damn well see fit.
“I need help,” said the frazzled woman sitting across from me, wiping tears with the back of her hand. “I can’t decide if this relationship is good for me or not.”
As I handed her a box of Kleenex, I thought, “If I had a quarter for every time I’ve had this conversation, I wouldn’t be sitting in my office, having this conversation.” But, as usual, I asked her to enumerate both the positive and negative aspects of her relationship. And, as usual, she listed off all the things she liked and didn’t like about the way her boyfriend interacts with her.
When she had finished, she looked at me, waiting for a verdict.
“And what about you?” I asked her.
She seemed genuinely confused by the question.
“There are two people in this relationship,” I reminded her. “What have you done to change things for the better?”
She protested that she’d told him many times about the things she doesn’t like, but that he still hasn’t fixed them.
And there was the rub: she was focusing on things she had no power to change, i.e. his behavior, rather than focusing on things she could, and should be doing to work toward her relationship ideal.
Women in particular seem to be prone to this behavior, though it’s not gender-specific per se.
This creates a feeling of powerlessness, as though we ourselves are incapable of affecting change and must therefore pester our partner to do so. And since people are not generally fond of criticism, particularly within romantic relationships, those petitions are, at best, simply ignored, and at worst labeled as “nagging” and used against us in a court of love.
You see, focus determines reality. So the more you focus on what you think your partner is doing wrong, the more real that problem becomes. And the more energy you send toward worrying over whether or not that problem is a deal-breaker, the less energy you have to devote to creating the kind of relationship you actually want.
So, the first step is to decide what kind of relationship you want. Until you do that, you have nowhere to put your focus and no goal to work toward. So, envision your ideal relationship. Write it out on paper. Keep it somewhere prominent so you can remind yourself on a daily basis exactly what you are working toward creating.
Then, put your focus on taking positive action. That is, on doing whatever you can do to make your relationship more like that ideal you described.
Finally, when you find yourself in a negative interaction with your partner, try simply re-focusing your energy onto figuring out what you are both trying to accomplish.
Ask your partner, and yourself for that matter, “What do you want?” or, if you want to get more technical, “What is your desired outcome for this interaction?”
Once you’ve gotten an answer to that question, for both of you, give no focus to anything that does not work toward one or both of those goals.
To sum up:
She left him but a note.
Life has lost its flavor since those days in the Garden. We used to do a lot of crazy shit, eating Dad’s food without permission, traipsing around wearing nothing but our birthday suits, letting your “snake” convince me to do things I shouldn’t. But since we’ve moved, the excitement is gone, you just don’t seem to try anymore. I still love you, but I’m not in love with you.
I have dealt with a great deal of confusion from people over the years on the subject of love. Specifically with people who either don’t know if they are in love, don’t know if they want to be in love, or don’t know if they ever will be in love.
The standard advice is that love is felt, when you know that you are in love and you are certain of it, then you are. If you are questioning whether you are in love, the smart money is on getting out of that situation because if you were really in love you would “just know.”
I am here to tell you why that’s wrong. I’m here to tell you how to love.
That statement itself poses a problem for most people. Love is the last bastion of safety from a world seeking to codify and categorize things. For someone to say they figured it out demystifies it, and that ruins it. And I agree with that, it does ruin it. I am not looking to do that at all, I am simply attempting to avoid the appeal-to-nature of the “you’ll just feel/know it” argument while not falling victim to my own naturalist fallacy.
What I am trying to do is help those of you who may have doubt about love. Are you really in love? Can you do anything to make it feel stronger? Can you save a strained love?
There are answers to these questions, and those answers come when you learn a skill.
How to love.
And that’s what we’re going to learn how to do now.
Love is a feeling you get that intensifies with relatable experiences.
This simply means that you have things you relate to with another person, then you have experiences orbiting around those things, then you have experiences that relate to past experiences and it is intensified if those experiences relate to your ideas, dreams, hopes and especially stories about partnership. That is how the feeling of love is created.
Here’s an example. So, Adam meets Eve and they both say, “wow, we both really enjoy gardens.” Because they are compatible they have some experiences around gardens (perhaps they plant a garden, frolic in a garden, or eat some fruit). Adam knows about Eve’s love of gardens so he will choose to do things for her that are garden-related (a wedding in a garden, a garden party, etc).
Those are the relatable experiences that makes love intensify. What makes it romantic is the way you narratively frame it, the way Adam arranges events in their lives that reflect on the story of Eve’s life, and vice versa. Maybe you grew up in a family that gardened and it was a place that witnessed many loving moments, or just simple comfort. Or maybe a garden symbolizes growth and fertility for her, and if so that’s her narrative frame for gardens. The number of past positive stories that Eve can relate to revolving around gardens will intensify the feeling of love. And the number of those stories that feel romantic or sexual will increase romance for Eve.
So if you care about similar things and then create interesting memories together that relate to those things you care about and do so with affection. You’ll feel love naturally. But while most people think that happens naturally, it often takes work to ensure its success. Because life makes us busy, the effort you have to spend is often just about finding time to write the stories that make the memories.
The focus on how to love is the key then. And that is broken down into two very distinct categories.
The first is value to you and the second is value to your partner. Essentially, what they have that you relate to and want, but also what you provide to them that they relate to and want.
The first is responsive, you need only sit back and watch what they do for you and how many things they do that make you smile, give you a warm-fuzzy feeling, turn you on, and so forth.
The second is active. And this is the tricky part for most people, because it defies normal convention and almost seems backwards in its thinking. But I promise you, nothing could be more important. Nearly everyone has been taught to believe that in order to do one’s part in a relationship one simply continues to do whatever it was they were already doing in life that attracted their mate in the first place.
So, when we break down the areas of how we actually create love, there are four important actions we must look at.
It is true that 1&4 overlap and 2&3 overlap. This is because it is a relationship, and synergy is to be expected.
But the reason they are kept separate is because (and here’s another surprising concept, and you’re going to think I made a typo), Adam is fully responsible for 1&2, while Eve is fully responsible for 3&4. How could Adam be fully responsible for what he wants that Eve provides?! Keep reading, you’ll see.
First, there are tricks to both. Most relationships are just 1&3 and that is often enough for love to last a while. Doing 2&4 as well is where you might find a story book romance that lasts a lifetime.
So, how would Adam go about doing BOTH 1&2?
Since #1 is responsive, the only thing you need to do is have straight in your mind what you value AND align those values with your own ethics.
But you have to do that in a place of distance from your feeling about someone. The truth is that feelings come before thought. A person has a feeling, then a thought will zoom in that tells the person why they are having that feeling. Then something very strange can happen, the person will often think that the thought happened first because that makes the feeling rational. If you want cake then you might get a thought justifying you to eat cake. You might remember how good you have been recently and completely ignore the fact that the desire for cake came before that thought did.
So while a person may make you feel amazing, that could be because they gave you a smile at just the right moment, drugs when you were desperate, wore clothes that reminded you of your dad, were desperate or needy enough to not threaten you, were different from your last partner in some key aspect, gave you a romantic gesture that made you feel wonderful, and so forth. But your feeling WILL be paramount if you have no prior system to identify a mate. You may fall in love with someone and feeling will actually direct your mind to justify the feeling with thoughts that make it seem rational.
Imagine Stella just getting on a bus when she notices that she is missing the correct change in her purse and just as the bus driver is about to kick her off a man leans over and winks at her putting coins in the jar and while doing so says to the bus driver, “It’s a good thing the machine does the math for you.” He gives a big smile to Stella who is overwhelmed by the charming and dashing gesture. She sits across from him and thinks to herself. “That comment WAS accurate I guess.” Now Stella is the kind of woman who hates it when people are rude to others. But because she had such positive emotions about this man she justifies his action and then puts it out of her mind. She thinks she is being rational when in fact she just violated her own ethics. This of course is the culprit for all number of shocking relationships that everyone (except the couple in question) is very aware should not be happening. Without a set of values already written down that one can refer back to, the tidal wave of emotion that happens in a new relationship can set up a pattern of justifying thinking that can lead to a slippery slope where someone can stay through even abusiveness.
That said, #2 above was also being given energy and effort, a lot of the irrational justifications you allowed yourself to believe would be brought to light, but we will get into #2 in a moment.
Knowing what you value and what your ethics are is often a matter of trusting yourself.
It is better to do this when you are not in a relationship and did not recently get out of one. If that isn’t possible, I recommend isolating yourself from your current relationship for as much time as is feasible (a week or two is usually sufficient). Then you simply write a list of things that are important to you and categorize them. Here is a simplified version of the exercise I give to my clients:
Anything that is both in A and B are especially important but they all may be important and it’s really up to you to decide what order they go in for you. All you need to know is that things that both help you survive and make you happy are usually the things that you keep on the list the longest.
Then write down what your ideal mate would be. Write this one by hand, and leave it in a prominent location. For this you should be very explicit and very strict with yourself. This is someone you will never meet probably. I call this list “Somnia Femina” which is a Latin bastardization of “dream girl.” If you are into men you could label it “Somnia Vir.” “Somnia Persona” is the best you will probably get if you want to leave the gender ambiguous.
If you can, order all the lists in order of importance.
You can revise this list but before you do, please read through this list of cognitive biases and realize that everyone is susceptible to them. I am, you are, your super intelligent boyfriend is, your dad, your mom, your teacher, your shrink, everyone. Some more so than others but what is constant is that these biases are the most influential when you are upset or in some way motivated by emotions. If you are in a fight or just out of one, or if Prince Charming just saved your life, do not revise your list then. Trust yourself when you were more rational and allow the list to influence who you fall in love with. Find someone that matches your values.
Here is an example.
Adam’s list (this is an actual list used with permission):
Somnia Femina: Wants children, stay at home wife, beautiful, somewhat smart, happy, honest, dedicated, clean, takes care of herself, healthy, no history of cancer in her family.
He then needs to remember this list and reflect on it when he meets Eve. It’s not meant to rule you, of course. If Eve hates dogs but is a beautiful honest woman who wants to marry and raise children, plus she loves beer, hockey, fast cars, then you might be ok with letting go of the dog. The point is to avoid falling in love with the woman who likes beer, hockey & fast cars but says she never wants kids and/or seems flighty and dishonest. That woman might make you happy in the short term, but in the long run she’s bound to make you crazy. Or the beautiful, honest woman whose goal in life is to be a stay-at-home-mom, but who is vehemently against alcohol and drugs, hates violent sports, has a very low libido, wants to trade in your sports car for a minivan, and is a terribly dull conversationalist. That woman may seem like she’s “good for you,” but will it be worth sacrificing all your favorite things?
It is also not a list meant to make it impossible to meet someone. I repeat: this is someone you will probably never meet. Instead, it is intended to give you standards which will make you both more attractive to a potential mate (being selective is attractive) and also keep you from making a mistake.
It should also be noted that mistakes are very valuable and you should not discount the fact that people do change, and that you can help people to change (see #2 below), so this list should not restrict you from following a strong feeling to explore further with someone, or even to fall in love. If it doesn’t work, you will find you have probably grown and so have they, and you can move on to someone else that fits your list (which may now need revising) even better.
This may seem obvious, but it only seems that way now, reading it without the pressure of someone’s desire for you burning into your head.
Write it down, and refer to it.
Let’s delve into the second item now (2&4 above):
You love someone because of your value to them.
This is an active concept.
Adam’s feelings of love increase based on Adam doing things for Eve, to help Eve, to make Eve happy, to grow the whole relationship and to create amazing stories with Eve.
Adam’s feelings of love increase based on how much he creates and nurtures the relationship more than anything else.
It is not that it is wrong to focus on what someone can do for you. It is a natural consideration actually, survival dictates this kind of focus and almost every form of media poses that self-interest is the most important selling point for any product or service. I am personally all for self-interest. But let us not conflate that with what makes us happiest. Artists and parents know better. They know that creations and children (another kind of creation) are so precious to them not because of what the artwork or the child does for them, but because of the energy and care they have put into creating, nurturing and helping grow or change their creation.
The trick here is to view a relationship as your work of art. To see it as something you enjoy putting effort into.
In most models, people find love strained after a few years. Many have heard 18 months. One study said 2.568 years.
There is a natural assumption that follows from this about the length of time needed to get a child into and out of a womb and safely strapped for travel. Or the lazier amongst them assume the oxytocin drop is the cause rather than the effect of such a drop in interest.
This is such a problem that some scientists have taken to the idea that a love vaccine might help stave off cheating after love has gone. Doctor Elaine Hatfield takes a slightly more rational approach stating, “The prevailing wisdom was that passionate love would last for a few years and then companionate love would grow, but it also declines,” She adds that it tends to decline at the same rate as romantic love, and generally never stops declining. Later she explains that commitment often increases in spite of that.
I am here to say that the initial model of love is what is wrong in most cases. In fact, it is the focus on only 1&3 above to the exclusion of 2&4 that lead to this dropping of interest and the frittering of love.
Effort is usually the missing link, and a lack of effort is, likely, the actual reason for the drop in oxytocin. Though a study proving this would be fundamentally impossible, the anecdotal experiences of the oldest couples in the world show a consistent philosophy of effort and focus on the other partner and the relationship itself from both partners.
Often the model is for one partner, usually Adam, to put forth most of the effort and the other partner, generally Eve, to enjoy the effort as though it were a show or a carnival ride. Then Eve rewards or pays for Adam’s carnival ride with affection (often limited at first in order to increase her perceived value), sex, then tenderness, kindness, comfort and so forth, so long as the effort and rides keep coming. It is a 1&3 model where the focus is on what someone can get and #2 is usually being done in order to fulfill social expectation in order to get 1. (Please note though the male and female roles are most commonly in these positions respectively, it certainly happens with all genders and orientations in all manner of configurations.)
This “enjoy the ride” mentality of relationships is engendered by countless television shows and movies that simultaneously place women in the position of both prize and audience, adorable weaklings whose attempts at strength are to be nurtured as you would a child’s, but not expected. The truth many of us know is that women are strong and capable, and making things easy for them doesn’t do them any favors.
If Adam were to be putting in effort, not to buy affection, but instead to create the relationship he envisions (especially if he had done a “Somnia Femina” above so he knew what he wanted in a relationship) then he would feel very strongly about every single milestone he helped to create. It would have been nurtured from the start.
If Eve did the same, she would feel the same, and by being expected to do the same she will also be being told that she is respected for the strength and capability that she really has. She then gets to enjoy creating something amazing and fun too.
But the real beauty comes when they are doing this together, when they both agree on the ideal relationship and both spend energy to create it like a work of art, asking for change when it is needed, enacting changes that are required, making sacrifices, etc. Creating grand displays of affection that require tremendous planning is a great idea, not only because both the planning and event create more love, but because it then becomes a story that is referred back to and remembered as proof of love. Love is referential to itself.
Those stories are essential to a lasting feeling, and to the compelling part of the art project that is your relationship. Sadly, there is usually only one storywriter, but ideally both people should consider that an essential part of their role in the relationship. Grand romantic gestures by both sides give monumental momentum to the relationship. The gesture does not need to be huge every time, though every relationship would do well to have both sides artistically and creatively putting together something like this from their own personal determination at least once every decade.
Even the smaller romantic gestures should have some personal touch to them, some artistry. Remember these gestures are memorable because of their narrative weight. They evoke love by linking the story of the moment to the hope, dreams and existing stories you both share as to what romance looks like. As stated at the beginning, that is how love is intensified.
And let’s not forget the simplicity of help. Simply noticing that something is needed and providing it without asking or being asked is the easiest way to grow a mutual relationship. Your focus should be to attempt to grow the relationship and connection as much as you can. Help should never be offered as a means of trade, but rather as a way to continually improve upon your creation. The gestures should always feel like art projects and never feel like currency spent to buy affection, or to appease an unsatisfied partner.
The model is total mutual agreements on what the relationship should look like, then focused effort by both sides to create it, brave efforts to grow, repair or improve anything needed to achieve it, along with efforts both grand and small to make it narratively interesting so that the story of your relationship adds beauty to it. It doesn’t matter what gender, orientation, or how big or small your relationship is. This applies to two people in a monogamous relationship or 5 in a polyamorous relationship. All that is required is to grow the love to something more serious, stable and permanent.
This model is far in excess of what is necessary, many relationships get by on much much less; that said, nothing in the model is extraneous. If it is followed, your relationship will become a synergistic masterpiece that gives more energy back than the amount of energy you expend. It is designed to create feelings of romance and love that make you giddy and excited about the person.
Here’s the rub: This method will also lead to early detection of incompatibilities. You are finding out early on whether or not you are compatible because you’re putting energy into creating. You have the vision of the ideal relationship in your head and you’re painting that picture. But soon you realize that your partner doesn’t really like the painting as much as you thought. S/he refuses to paint with you at all or suddenly starts using a color you thought you both hated. You are being active in creating something based on agreements. If you can’t reach agreements, you’ll find out quickly. You may find it difficult to abandon the project — after all there is satisfaction in overcoming challenge. However, I strongly recommend that you return to your description of your ideal partner and make your decision based on empirical evidence of compatibility rather than the emotional urge to hang on.
On the flip side, if you are compatible, the relationship may just last forever, and even if it doesn’t, it will feel incredibly fulfilling to both sides, will not feel like work, will feel ever romantic and will last a long time.
The Oxytocin will runneth over.
It’s not an exact science. In fact, it should be like art. The artist has an idea of what he’s painting, but the evolution of his art is beautiful and surprising. Love requires narrative, power, directed creation, and commitment to your own values. Any one of these, if missing, will be noticed, but together they are the ingredients for an ideal relationship.
And that’s how to love.
“Ava, I’m screwed. I like this girl more than she likes me,” laments the adorable soft-butch lesbian on the phone.
“What gives you that impression?” I ask, never one to take such declarations at face value.
“I almost always contact her first, and do most of the talking. I compliment her all the time, and she rarely reciprocates. I got her more for Christmas than she got me. I’m always super affectionate with her, and she’s only sometimes that way with me. Usually just when we’re in bed together.”
“What do you think would happen if you pulled back a bit? Contacted less, said less, gave less, showed less affection?”
“Well, I tried that, actually.”
“And it sucked. I mean, she did pretty much what she always does, and I was doing less, so I guess it was more… even. But it also meant there was just less emotion going around. And I just started to feel sort of… empty and sad.”
“Because being effusive and affectionate with someone feels good.”
You see, it is a fact of human nature that showing less interest, affection, commitment, etc.—in short, being less passionate and emotionally invested—gives you more power in a relationship. The less you care, the more you control. But there is another, equally important piece of this equation: you get what you give, emotionally speaking. So the more you care, the more satisfying the relationship will feel to you.
On the Passionate end of the spectrum, people are quick to emotionally invest. They fall hard and fast, are quick to trust, wear their heart on their sleeve, and shower their loved ones in affection. The major benefit of being Passionate is the giddy enjoyment of the highest highs that romance has to offer: the ecstasy of sensual and emotional abandon. The major drawback, of course, being the other side of that coin: the devastating lows of heartbreak, betrayal, and rejection.
On the Powerful end, people are more reserved with their affections. They are slow to trust, slow to show their feelings, and less likely to offer unsolicited validation. They are the first to run, the first to reject, and the last to say “I love you.” The major benefit of being Powerful–aside from power itself–is the avoidance of deep pain. The major drawback is the incidental avoidance of deep pleasure.
Furthermore, in most relationships one partner will gravitate toward Passionate and one will err on the side of Powerful. At times they will even trade roles. And there’s a good reason for that.
Passionate + Passionate = codependence. Both partners care SO MUCH that they are consumed by the relationship, prioritize it over everything, including their own sanity. A relationship entrenched on the Passionate end of the spectrum often exists, and ultimately ends, in a cloud of drama so thick that no one outside the dyad can penetrate it, and occasionally devolves into violence.
Powerful + Powerful = stalemate. Nobody makes any moves, nobody takes any risks, and eventually it just sort of disintegrates into a puff of mutual “meh.”
As I told my client (once we had established that the relationship was, in fact, well-balanced in other areas),
“You’re the Passionate partner this time around. Embrace that. Make peace with it. Enjoy the ride and let her enjoy the comfort and security of the Power position.”
There is no shame in taking either position. Both are needed in a balanced, functional relationship. But remember that you are not confined to one end of the spectrum, and that there are benefits and drawbacks to both positions. I believe everyone can benefit from giving the role they normally shun a go, if for no other reason than to appreciate more deeply the benefits they receive from their usual role.
Indeed, the closer you can both come to the center, the healthier the relationship will become, and the more deeply you will both understand what the other is risking/sacrificing in order to maintain that delicate balance.
OK dude, have all the ladies left?
You are a fucking moron.
No shit, you are actually making things harder on yourself and every other guy out there who is trying to get laid.
Every time you are a misogynist, an angel closes her legs.
Every time you think to yourself that the careful etiquette that women (and men) are trying to create in order to combat the rape culture is just a bunch of feminist nonsense, women everywhere are that much less inclined to go out, and that much less likely to wear something sexy when they do.
Every time you fail to make eye contact with a woman you are sexing up, every time you fail to notice that a woman isn’t having such a great time, every time you fail to speak up when you see a woman looking uncomfortable with another dude, somewhere a woman decides that she just isn’t that into sex.
Every time you whistle at a woman walking down the street, or grab ass on someone without getting permission from her lips (or *at least* from her eyes), every time you speak to a woman like she owes you sex, or take the easy way and make a really bad rape joke at the expense of your audience member (Yes, Tosh, I’m looking at you), and every time you stand by and watch that shit happen, or even defend the douchebag who did it, somewhere else a woman says no to a man, gets an unexplained headache, or asks to be taken home early.
Eventually, that man will be you. And you will believe that her rejection of you is unjust, and you will probably think, or even say, unkind things about her to your friends, or even to her face.
But YOU, you fucking moron, YOU are doing this to yourself.
And I can already see you thinking to yourself all manner of absolute childish tripe and justification after sophomoric justification about how this is “just how women are”:
Even if any of the above is true, you can’t do something about other people can you? But we CAN do something about ourselves, and we are lucky enough to be the gender that everyone seems to look to to make the first move.
So, I am going to do you a favor right now.
Now this is only a favor if you can be man enough to shut the fuck up, sit down and read this as if you cared to understand what it is really like for a woman.
Men, you overpower women by sheer muscle mass, your general weight is 60 lbs heavier by average, and as a combat specialist for 10 years I can tell you the honest truth about fighting: weight is almost everything.
Women walk around scared. Every. Fucking. Day. Now I am aware that you all walk around a bit scared too because, whether you admit it or not, you are scared of being rejected or humiliated, since you are EXPECTED to be the one to put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable. But women–the lucky bitches–women get approached all the time! Right?
Women get approached because they are viewed as targets!
As in: men like to hunt them. Usually the hunt ends in a conversation and a nice time, but sometimes it ends in blood. Lip blood, vaginal blood, sometimes dead cold drying blood.
Yes, that is what it’s like for a woman. Walking around terrified all the time that a man might just arbitrarily decide to hurt you, and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it. Women LONG for a man, partially for protection, but EVERY man is a threat until proven otherwise, and all they have for weapons is their social intelligence, a rape whistle, and a hope.
Now, why the fuck should you care?
Man, even if you are the most shallow guy in the world who just wants a pussy, ass or mouth to wet your dick in, you should care. Because the rape culture is making women afraid of you, and of sex in general.
Imagine a world where the CULTURE dictates that men who see any sort of misogyny should put a stop to it right away.
Where any man who sees some sort of excessive force takes action with equal force to put an end to it. Where fucking cops don’t spend their efforts convincing women it’s not worth fighting for justice.
Where the reaction from friends and family is not accusation and disparagement (“Are you SURE that’s what happened? You’re not just overreacting/dramatizing/mis-remembering? This is a man’s life we’re talking about here!).
Where a woman’s character is not pilloried because she was unlucky enough to be victimized. (“She was wearing a MINI SKIRT.” “She had been DRINKING.” “She flirted with him in front of everyone!” “She slept with half the neighborhood, why should we believe that lying slut?”)
In that world? IN THAT FUCKING WORLD?!
In a world where those who have the most power actually exercise it by–at the VERY LEAST–refusing to stay silent when they hear some dude telling a woman she is a bitch for not sleeping with him. All it takes is four simple words:
“That’s not cool man.”
In THAT world, you would get laid all the time.
Because women LOVE SEX.
They actually love it more than you do. They want men (or women) to fuck them. A lot. And IN THAT WORLD, many of them would not even be all that picky about a quickie.
And even though most of you reading this are not rapists and most have not even accidentally misunderstood a signal and gone too far; it’s not your actions I am talking about here. It is your inactions that are REALLY fucking things up.
1) Do it for the children.
Some reports show as high as 70% of all rapes are by an immediate family member. By making rape not OK anywhere, you give more options to those who wish to report abuse by their own family.
2) Do it for your fellow men who are raped
Yeah, even men are raped and a culture where people look the other way allows that to happen to anyone.
3) Do it for your mom
If 25% of women have been sexually assaulted in some way, then there is a decent chance that your own mom has been raped, Dude. Your own mom. But let’s say you hate your mom. What about your little sister? Or your second-grade teacher? Or your best female friend from elementary school. Chances are, some woman who has made a positive impact on your life has been or will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Chew on that for a while.
4) Do it for your self-respect
You know what is right. Just because you’ve spent a lifetime kowtowing to whatever Alpha attitude happens to be running the table at the moment, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it. Want to sleep better than you ever have? Want more genuine self-confidence? Put a stop to an injustice and stand up for your convictions.
5) Do it for your penis
Have you been paying attention? Not only will changing the culture make women more likely to spread their thighs for you, changing your attitude will do the same. That’s right, being RESPECTED is a serious turn-on, and integrity is fucking hot.
So the next time I see even one of you assholes make another disparaging comment about women, or respond to “I was raped” with “What were you wearing/doing/drinking/WHATEVER?”, or fail to stop some creep from making a woman uncomfortable, expect me to step in and stop YOU.
Because honestly, Asshole: you’re fucking it up for me.
Be like these guys instead:
Yeah, that’s right, the fact is that plenty of men reading this are already doing their best. And we really need you in order to stop the real evil predators out there.
And some of you could do more. I find more that I can do all the time. Even just in writing this I’ve learned a few more things I can do. But I, alone, making a change will make no difference if you go out tonight and let your friend tell another dumb blonde joke, or brag that he hooked up with some chick who was so wasted she passed out halfway through.
The culture is shifting. Be ahead of the curve. Re-read the 5 points listed above, go out tonight and put a stop to it.
Like a man.
—————————————————————————————————————————————–Please note: you are free to share, distribute or re-post this at will so long as you name the author and link to this post.
Ah summertime, the season of flings.
Not flinging yet? Try travel! Sure fire way to get the flings a-flying.
You know how when you hear a foreign accent you are immediately intrigued, and somehow more attracted to the speaker than you would otherwise have been? Well, the same works in reverse. When you go abroad, *you* are the one with the cute accent. Use it to your advantage.
Furthermore, you don’t have to go abroad to have a foreign accent! Just go someplace with a significantly different speech pattern from your own. If you’re from Seattle, go check out Savannah. If you’re a Jersey native, go hit the other shore in San Francisco. Ask cute people for directions until one of them directs you where you really want to go.
Do keep in mind, though, that if you’re traveling somewhere very different from home, that there may be different cultural rules in terms of acceptable courtship behavior. Do your homework ahead of time so as to avoid ending up in a sticky situation–which could mean anything from an awkward moment to a shotgun wedding.
Taboo, or not taboo, that is the question.
Finally, remember to BE HONEST. The fact that you are just passing through makes you MORE attractive, not less. The intensity of a now-or-never experience can be truly explosive (see Before Sunrise). So there’s no reason to pretend you plan to stick around. Unless, of course, you’re an asshole who just likes breaking hearts for sport. In which case, please feel free to disregard my advice about taboos and land yourself in a Turkish prison.
The countdown continues! Here are the top 5 dating mistakes you’ve probably made (along with everybody else)…
5 – You bragged. Once upon a time, I was on a date with a ridiculously hot Australian model. She was half Maori, half Italian, and completely gorgeous. She was also smart, and worldly, and had most recently dated Laurence Fishburne. Yes, that Laurence Fishburne.
Suffice it to say that I was a bit intimidated by her. So, on this date, I knew it was imperative that I impress her. I had to “be excellent” as Dex puts it in The Tao of Steve. When she asked me to tell her a little bit about myself, I brought out the big guns. I told her I had just been awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship and would soon be headed to West Africa to study Francophone African Theatre. Before I had the chance to list any other accomplishments, I could see that I had lost her. She tightened her lips, and looked up and away. I recognized my mistake immediately: Not only was I blatantly bragging, I was bragging about something that meant nothing to her.
I may as well have said, “I recently made a dollhouse out of blueberry pop tarts.” In fact, she probably would’ve been more impressed if I had.
“But for now I’m still just an actress/waitress/belly-dancer,” I quickly added.
Now her eyes brightened. “Ballet dancer? Like a ballerina you mean?”
“No, no, a belly dancer. Like this:” and I proceeded to break into “snake arms” right there at the table. She was instantly charmed (pun intended), and I managed to pull out of my braggart tail-spin with no time to spare.
Obviously, the most preferable way to do this is to actually perform some impressive feat, or show off one of your more excellent skills or traits in front of your date. But since that isn’t always possible, a close second is to convey the evidence of your awesomeness verbally via DHV. In fact, demonstrating high value without bragging is one of the most important tools in an attraction artist‘s metaphorical toolbag. Here are some tried-and-true tricks for conveying a really juicy accomplishment:
4 – You grilled. No, I’m not referring to your barbecuing skills, although if your date got food poisoning after you made baby back ribs, then feel free to interpret the title both ways.
There is a fine line between an interview and an interrogation. While just about everybody appreciates a well thought-out question that offers an opportunity to show off a bit or give insight into the deeper self, nobody likes to feel put on the spot or hounded by a relentless stream of questions. Here are some tips on how to get your date to open up without making her/him feel like there will be a quiz later.
– Ask evocative, open-ended questions. Think essay questions rather than yes/no or multiple choice. A few examples:
– Avoid questions that may incriminate your date. There will come a time when all the skeletons can come parading out of the closet, and you can go on a hunt for red flags, but all of that can wait for a date or two. Allow your date to give you the best possible impression up front, and trust that s/he will inform you in good time of any less-than-optimal details. General topics to avoid on a first date include: past relationships, criminal activity, drug or alcohol use, STI’s, income, living situation, political or religious affiliations…
– Avoid questions altogether by playing a guessing game. “Let me guess: you came from a big family? Lots of brothers and sisters?”
If you’re wrong, your date will happily correct you: “Nope, I’m an only child!”
And if you’re right? “Wow, how could you tell?”
3 – You hesitated. In the world of attraction, hesitation is deadly. When opportune moments present themselves, you have only seconds to take action, or risk landing in the friend zone permanently.
Another personal example: Back in high school, I had a huge crush on a soccer player whom I will call “Spike.” Spike was clearly into me, too, but never made a move. So, finally, as graduation loomed large on the horizon, I invited Spike to go hiking with me. There we were, just the two of us, sitting on a giant slab of pink granite, surrounded by nothing but gorgeous scenery for miles around. I lay myself down on the rock, wet my lips appealingly, and gazed up at Spike. Spike looked down at me, gave me a crooked grin, and…
And nothing. She just sat there, grinning at me, and not coming any closer. For what felt like an eternity. Until finally, bored and vaguely humiliated, I got up and started hiking again.
On the hike back, I questioned everything. Maybe it was just wishful thinking that the crush was mutual? Maybe Spike wasn’t even into girls? By the time we got back to Spike’s car, I had already mourned the loss of her affection.
“That was really fun,” Spike chirped, dropping me off at my place, “we should do that again sometime!”
But we never did. Because the truth is, I had already reassigned Spike to the role of “friend” in my mind.
Years later, during a chance encounter on the Pearl St. Mall while visiting my hometown of Boulder, Spike confessed to having desperately wanted to kiss me that day, and being deeply disappointed that a second date never materialized. *facepalm*
Having learned from Spike’s mistake, a couple of years after that, when the object of my affections (who, for various ethical reasons, could not make the first move) took me for a picnic on a deserted beach, and lay down next to me, and–that’s right–licked his lips, I went for it. I kissed those pre-moistened lips, and then I pulled away to gauge his reaction.
“Did that just happen?” he whispered. I nodded, and he kissed me back with twice the force of the initial kiss.
The moral of the story is: be bold, be brave, take chances.
Which brings me to number 2…
2 – You played it safe. So you got all dolled up, and you took your date to a nice restaurant for a delicious meal, and then you went to see a funny and touching Rom Com, which you both enjoyed. You avoided all the aforementioned pitfalls, and when it was all said and done, you even got a goodnight kiss. So, why didn’t you get a second date?
Sometimes, doing everything “right” just isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to throw away the playbook and do something entirely unexpected.
How do you insert tension into an encounter? Put less focus on creating comfort, and more on creating excitement. Here are some specific tips on creating a fun, tension-laden first date:
The trick here is to pick a topic about which you are genuinely passionate. Are you deeply concerned over the rapid decline in bee populations? Seriously pissed off about Seattle traffic? Do you think pirating music over the internet steals from starving artists? The what is much less important than the fact that you care about it.
Note: this isn’t a license to be an ass. Be respectful of your date’s point of view, even if you strongly disagree. That way you’re not just creating good tension, you’re also displaying your ability to handle tension with diplomatic aplomb.
1 – You were forgettable. A girlfriend of mine once called me the day after a first date.
“How did it go?” I asked.
“No, better than fine. It was good. We had a nice time.”
“So, what was he like?”
There was a long pause. Finally, she admitted, “I don’t remember.”
You can’t get a second date with someone who barely remembers you. Any performer will tell you that the kiss of death at an audition is to blend into the background. At the end of the day, you need to be the one who sticks out in their minds.
So, how do you make yourself memorable? Yes, all the aforementioned techniques for creating tension will go a long way toward getting remembered. But there’s another element that is equally memory-triggering: contrast.
Your look, your voice, your physicality, and your conversation should all collude to paint a picture of a dynamic individual with a multi-layered personality that can’t be neatly summed up in just a few sentences.
If you have a generally clean-cut look, consider throwing in a hint of punk rock, say a fauxhawk, a spiked collar, or a tasteful piercing. If you’re a veritable tapestry of tattoos, wear something that goes against type, something classic with clean lines and plenty of buttons.
If you’re a computer programmer, consider taking up an altogether unexpected hobby, such as rock climbing or martial arts. If you’re a personal trainer, pick up a copy of Moby Dick and hit the NYT crosswords.
Teach to your weaknesses, embrace your contradictions, and advertise your quirks. Not only will it get you remembered, it’ll make you a more well-rounded human being.