relationship

These 6 Things Can Help Heal A Broken Heart

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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.

  • Wait, I take that back. I didn’t “get my heart broken.” I broke my heart.

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:

  • There is only one person who has the power to break your heart. I’ll give you one guess as to who that is.

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:

  • There is no shame in a broken heart.

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:

  • Win or lose, the game of love is still fun to play.

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?

Step One: Check your intentions.

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.

If you:

  • Are still feeling victimized by the situation yourself…
  • Can’t stop yourself from including an explanation (read: justification) of why you did what you did…
  • Will be devastated if you do not receive a positive response…
  • Need reassurance/recognition that you are a good person (or even worse, the “bigger” or “better” person in this situation)…

… 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:

Step two: Write a letter of apology.

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.

Step three: Explain your wrongdoing in your own words.

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.

Step four:

Express empathy/compassion for any consequences that befell them on account of that behavior.

Step five: Wish them well.

Step six: Fully accept that you may get a strongly negative response, or no response at all.

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:

Dear ________,

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.

– A

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.

How to love

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She left him but a note.  

“Dear Adam,

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.  

Goodbye Adam.

-Eve”

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.  

  1. What Adam wants that Eve provides
  2. What Adam does to create a relationship that Eve benefits from
  3. What Eve wants that Adam provides
  4. What Eve does to create a relationship that Adam benefits from

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:

  1. Things that make me happy:
  2. Things that help me survive better:
  3. Things that don’t fit into the above that I know I value:

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):

  1. Things that make me happy: Beer, hockey, fast cars, hot women, money, my dog, law school, pot, yearly charity drive, intelligent conversation, sex
  2. Things that help me survive better: Money, law school, food, air, good decisions, pragmatism
  3. Things that don’t fit into the above that I know I value: Love, attention, dedication

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.

Power vs. Passion

“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?”

“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.”

“Exactly!”

  • She had hit upon a discovery it took me 30+ years to make: that when it comes to romance, there is an inverse relationship between passion and power, between emotional safety and emotional satisfaction.

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.

 

HOT advice: dominating the dominatrix

 

Here’s the latest from HEADS OTAIL, this time we give advice to someone who wants to know when and how he should start dominating his submissive dominatrix girlfriend.

Wow

http://theattractivearts.com/advice/dominating-the-dominatrix/

For all the fellows who ask us how to get head

 

For all the fellows who have asked us how to get head from your girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, whatever.

Here is a step by step guide to making your partner want to give you more, and better, blowjobs.

Yes, seriously. Check it out:

http://theattractivearts.com/advice/enthusiasticblowjobsahead/

 

 

The 10 dating mistakes you’ve probably made (yes, you!) Part 2

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.

  • I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of attraction: show, don’t tell.

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:

  • – Sneak it into an unrelated story. “Anything but the gumbo for me. I can’t stand okra. When I was in Africa doing my Fulbright, I had to eat that slimy stuff every morning for breakfast. Yech.”
  • – Trick your date into asking the right question. Had I said to the hot Aussie: “Sorry, my voice is a little hoarse. I was up all night celebrating.” Chances are, I would’ve gotten a “Celebrating what?” in return. Then I would’ve been totally justified in answering, “Oh, I just found out I got a Fulbright scholarship!”
  • – Complain about a positive. “Well, now I’ve got no excuse not to go back to school. I can’t really say no to a full-ride scholarship to the M.A./Ph.D. program at UC Santa Barbara, can I? Although I have no idea how I’m going to get any studying done living so close to the beach.”

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:

  • “What is something you really want but have resigned yourself to never getting?”
  • “Tell me something you’re proud of.”
  • “If you could be anywhere, doing anything, where and what would it be?”

– 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…

  • Basically, if you wouldn’t necessarily want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.

– 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. 

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there can be no sexual tension without tension.

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:

  • – Be spontaneous. Change the venue at the last minute, or spring-board off of the first venue into a second, unforeseen excursion.
  • – Make it a game. Maybe your entire date is actually a scavenger hunt, or maybe your conversation is ruled by some arbitrary improv rule such as “every sentence must begin with a successive letter of the alphabet.” Or maybe you spend the evening making up dialogue for other couples at faraway tables. Anything that injects a bit of playful tension.
  • – Bring up controversial or slightly uncomfortable subjects. Nothing *too* upsetting (I would avoid politics, religion, and sexual-romantic traumas), and nothing too dark (the Holocaust is right out), just something that might take your date out of the usual first-date comfort zone. The goal here isn’t to piss your date off on purpose, but simply to let her/him know that you are a passionate person with strong opinions, and enough integrity not to change those opinions in the face of opposition.

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.

“Fine.”

“Just fine?”

“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.

Abusive or Socially Awkward? Parsing your partner’s behavior.

Although I am primarily a dating/attraction coach, I also dole out quite a bit of relationship advice in the course of my duties. Recently, I had a conversation with someone who I will call “Sam,” who is in a relationship with someone who I will call “Alex.” Sam was concerned because Alex wasn’t getting on well with Sam’s family. Okay, that’s a vast understatement.

You see, family is very important to Sam. Sam’s mother lives in a little Mother-In-Law unit in their back yard, and Sam always makes time for K & R, who are kids from a previous marriage. By the time Sam called me, Alex had already barred K & R from entering the household. In fact,

Alex went so far as to claim that, because K had recently been in the pool, it had been “contaminated” and Alex therefore refused to swim in it.  Oh, and Sam’s mother had thrown a vase at Alex. And that was just that day.

I could go on, but the phrase that caught my ear was: “[My family members] say Alex is abusive.”

“Do you think Alex is abusive?” I asked.

“Well, I found this website with a list of qualities that abusers have, and Alex does have some of them.”

As Sam began to rattle off the red flags listed on the website, I realized that a lot of those qualities could be just as easily attributed to a lack of socialization, or a low desire for social contact. I knew this because so many of my clients are lacking in the social graces many of us take for granted. But that doesn’t necessarily make them abusive, just tactless.

As I helped Sam parse the difference between an abuser and someone who is simply socially awkward, it occurred to me that this information is probably useful to a wider audience. So, I wrote up this quiz to help you determine whether or not your partner’s anti-social behavior is also abusive behavior.

 

1. You tell Your Partner (henceforth YP) you have both been invited over to another couple’s house for dinner, and that you have already accepted. How does YP respond?

A. “We’re too busy this week. Call them back and tell them no.”

B. “Are you sure they invited both of us over? Last time they barely talked to me.”

C. “Oh great, just what I wanted: another evening of mind-numbing chit-chat with Lord and Lady Douchebag. Why do you make me do these things?”

 

2. You tell YP that you like the couple in question and would like to attend the dinner, with or without YP. YP responds:

A. “Irrelevant. This is just not a good time for it.”

B. “Oh, I get it. You want to go without me. No, it’s okay, I understand. If you’d rather spend time with them than with me, I’ll just stay home and read a book or something.” *pained expression*

C. “Seriously? What do you see in those people? They’re such pompous hipsters.  But fine, whatever. If you want to waste your time on people like that, then you deserve each other.”

 

3. You tell YP that your parents have invited you over for Christmas dinner. YP says:

A. “Sounds boring. Let’s just stay home and watch movies this year.”

B. “I don’t know. Last year you kind of threw me under the bus in front of your family.”

C. “Your parents are awful. Why would I want to spend Christmas with them? Why would you? Can’t we just spend Christmas alone, just the two of us? I’ll make it worth your while…”

 

4. When you ask YP what you should tell your parents when they ask why you won’t be at Christmas dinner, YP says:

A. “Tell them we’re not doing Christmas this year.”

B. “Tell them we have plans.”

C.  “Tell them the truth: that you don’t want to have anything to do with them! Well, if it isn’t true, it should be.”

 

5. You take YP to a social function at work. It does not go well. At all. What is the most likely scenario?

A. Some of your co-workers were upset/offended by something YP said. You ask YP to apologize, but YP insists that the statement was true and thus refuses.

B. YP stays glued to your side from start to finish, and continually monopolizes your attention. Afterwards YP accuses you of flirting with co-workers and ignoring her/him all night. S/he sleeps on the couch.

C. After half an hour of watching YP mock your co-workers behind their backs, you ask YP to please knock it off. In a fit of pique, YP gets into a sarcastically enthusiastic conversation with your boss, glaring at you all the while: “Oh REally? I had NO IDEA you liked SOCCER so much. Now that is just FASCINATING.” On the car ride home, YP says only three words to you: “You owe me.”

 

6. You think it would be good for YP to get more social contact, and you say so. YP’s response:

A. “I don’t see why. What’s your supporting evidence?”

B. “You know I have social anxiety! Why would you even bring that up? You can be so cruel sometimes.”

C. “Just because you enjoy wasting your energy making nice with idiots doesn’t mean I should, too.”

 

7. You and YP have tickets to see a romantic show. At the last minute, YP says s/he isn’t up to it. You are disappointed and say so. YP says:

A. Why don’t you just ask someone else to go with you?

B. I really don’t feel good. Why are you always trying to make me go out when I’m sick?

C. Why are you fighting me on this? That show probably sucks anyhow. Next time ask me if I’m even interested before you spend our money on this crap.

 

8. Someone stops by when you and YP are in the middle of an argument. YP:

A. Continues the argument, regardless of the outsider’s presence, and/or tells them to leave outright.

B. Pouts and/or acts unpleasant until the visitor feels uncomfortable enough to want to leave.

C. Puts on a happy face and pretends like nothing is going on, and is even angrier when they leave, and/or attempts to get the interloper on his/her side.

 

9. You present a convincing argument as to why YP is in the wrong. YP:

A. Conditionally agrees with your assessment, pending further research, and declares the argument over without apologizing.

B. Throws a tantrum of epic proportions, screaming something like, “I’M ALWAYS WRONG!” and possibly causing harm to his/herself and/or others.

C. Changes the subject to some wrong you are “always” committing, or something positive you “never” do.

 

10. Your friends and family think YP is:

A. Blunt, rude, robotic.

B. Needy, delicate, melodramatic.

C. A downer, two-faced, mean.

 

If you answered predominantly A, chances are you are dealing with someone who is simply rough around the edges rather than abusive. An A probably falls somewhere near “Asperger’s syndrome” on the autism spectrum, and A’s inability to read other people’s emotions is often mistaken for callousness. Your friends and family may not always be pleased by A’s blustering honesty and logic-based approach, but that’s no reason to assume that A is actually abusive.

A lack of tact and a preference for one-on-one rather than group interactions may not be ideal, but they aren’t indicators of abuse, either.

So long as YP is honest and consistent, you could do much worse.

If you answered predominantly B, your partner may be using emotional manipulation to control you and keep your attention focused on him/her. That is, indeed, abusive behavior and needs to be addressed.

If you answered predominantly C, your partner may be using blame and judgment to control you. That is most decidedly abusive, particularly if C tries to isolate you from your support system and/or turn others against you.

The main questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not your partner is abusive are:

– Is there an implied threat (emotional or physical) behind YP’s words? As in, “If you do not do what I want, I will be angry/sad and can’t be held responsible for my reaction”?

– Is it impossible to reason with YP? If you offer a convincing argument, does YP ever change course and/or admit to being wrong, or does YP instead go on the attack, blaming you and criticizing your actions?

– Do you spend a lot of time trying to please and appease YP? Does it often feel that there is no pleasing YP?

If you answered yes to any of these, trust your instincts and, as Dan Savage would say, DTMFA.

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