The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Gratitude adjustment

My boyfriend of three months seems wonderful. He is attentive and tries hard to please me, even in small ways (like always making sure I get tea I like when we’re out). Soon after we started dating, a relative of mine died, and he made a real effort to check in on my well-being. He’s always excited to see me; we kiss a lot right at the door. However, he never compliments me. He did it sparingly early on, telling me I had beautiful eyes, for example, but it’s been a while. He also seems uncomfortable being complimented. I called him handsome, and he mumbled something about it being dark. I guess I could fish for compliments, but I’m not so much looking to be complimented as I am trying to make sure I’m not being blind to some red flag.

— Underappreciated

Movies reveal a lot about men’s and women’s differing expectations for how men will communicate. Chick flicks are pretty much wall-to-wall chatter, down to that final scene where the male lead gets the girl — after giving a big Oprah-worthy speech about what an idiot he was not to love her from the start. In male-targeted action pix, the guy also gets the girl. All he has to do is grunt, glare, and incinerate 55 giant slimy things from outer space.

That said, the notion that men are mute lunks while women go around yapping like Yorkshire terriers, a claim made by self-help authors including UCSF neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine (in various editions of The Female Brain) just isn’t supported by the research. In 50 Myths Of Popular Psychology, Scott O. Lilienfeld and his co-authors note that when psychologist Dr. Janet Hyde crunched the data from 73 controlled studies, she found only a tiny overall difference in male and female talkativeness. And when psychologist Dr. Matthias Mehl and his colleagues gave 396 college students portable audio recorders to walk around with, they found that both men and women spoke about 16,000 words a day.

Where men and women do seem to differ is in emotional expression. There’s a lack of conclusive research in this area, but it’s clear that men have feelings — deep feelings. They just don’t always communicate them in a slew of words. Many seem to walk the talk — showing their feelings instead of speaking them. And frankly, shows of affection are probably a better reflection of a man’s sincerity. Any Mr. Smooth can read Man Cosmo (Maxim, Details, etc.) and rattle off 3, 8, and 9 from “10 sweet nothings that’ll have her clothes on your bedroom floor in 10 seconds or less!”

Since you say you don’t really neeeeed compliments, you could just decide to accept that there are two kinds of adoring boyfriends — those who compare their girlfriend’s hair to a golden meadow and those who stay up into the wee hours getting it out of her clogged drain. The thing is, research by Dr. Sara B. Algoe and others suggests that when romantic partners articulate appreciation for each other — in their thoughts and by telling their partner — both the appreciated partner and the partner doing the appreciating feel more bonded and satisfied with the relationship. It seems reflecting regularly on what you’re grateful for — how your partner thinks, how Hottie McBody they look in that sweater — helps keep you aware of what you have, making you less likely to treat your partner like an old pair of shoes you keep forgetting to put out on the curb.

Your boyfriend may be uncomfortable getting compliments or just those he feels he hasn’t earned. (He exists handsome simply because he came out of the birth canal instead of making like Waco, holing up in the womb and refusing to leave.) But everybody likes to feel appreciated. Instead of remarking on his looks, tell him how he’s made life easier for you through some sweet thing he’s done, or admire how he’s solved some problem. And don’t just compliment him in words; stroke his arm or give him one of those movie kisses where all the kitchenware goes flying.

To encourage him to be more verbally expressive, sweetly tease him about how he hates to be complimented, and then tell him that it makes girls happy to hear they look pretty. Explain that this doesn’t take much — just noticing stuff he likes about you and letting you know (like when he told you you have beautiful eyes). Be appreciative for whatever effort he makes, and don’t start expecting miracles. In other words, be mindful of the limitations of the typical heterosexual male, who, for example, is unlikely to ever notice your hair is different unless you get it all shaved off and the stubble dyed electric blue — or it happens to be on fire.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Hawaii Five-No

Ten years ago, my friend and I met our husbands on the same night (they were friends who challenged us to a game of pool), and we both got married the same year. We all pledged to spend our 10th anniversary in Hawaii together, but my friend’s husband is making it difficult, saying no to every flight, activity, and hotel my friend and I propose. He’ll call a hotel “overrated” or “too touristy,” but his one bad quality is that he’s seriously cheap, and it’s becoming clear that he’s trying to torpedo the whole vacation because of it. (They are well-off, by the way!) He keeps joking that we should just stay home and celebrate — but I don’t think he’s really joking. I’m angry with my friend for never telling her husband to curb his cheapness and for not standing up for our plans and worried that my anger could affect our friendship.

— Frustrated

While the Hawaiian islands are home to some of the world’s most beautiful tropical gardens, your friend’s husband would like to point out that your hometown boasts not just one but several Olive Gardens. (You can still wear leis!)

Your friend probably feels embarrassed about her husband’s tightwaddy ways (and her inability to change them) but probably feels disloyal saying so. Still, despite how the man must get blisters from clinging so tight to a dollar, being married to him must work for her. (You don’t mention anything about his being horrible to her or even just making her persistently unhappy, like by promising to have children with her and then insisting they have goldfish instead because they’re cheaper.)

To feel less suckered, try to have some sympathy for the guy, who probably isn’t cheap just to irritate you and everyone he knows. People say “money talks.” To him, it probably says stuff like, “If I leave you, I’m never coming back!” The origins of his cheapitude may be in his upbringing — and may even be in his genes, according to a 2010 study by Dr. Itamar Simonson and Dr. Aner Sela surveying attitudes about risk and spending in identical and fraternal twins. As in other twin studies, identical twins (who are born from a single egg and are thus genetically identical) were significantly more alike in a number of measures, including how risk- and loss-averse they were, suggesting a genetic component to being a cheap mofo.

Swap your anger at your friend for acceptance of reality: She isn’t able to stand up to him, and he isn’t able to say yes to spending money on a pricey vacation when he probably spends much of his life worrying that he’ll someday have to pawn a kidney to buy groceries. Tell your friend — sans animosity — that you’re weary of searching, you’re booking a hotel, and you hope they’ll join you if it works for them. Who knows, when you’re all looking at celebrating your 20th together — maybe on a tropical cruise! — things may be different. Not because either of them is likely to change but because Orbitz may start offering great deals on floating to Hawaii on pieces of broken barrels.

 

Beta path to love

Those in the “Pickup Artist” community claim that looks don’t matter; it’s all about technique. Well, I’ve got the techniques down, and I’m still always going home alone, whereas my friend is constantly hooking up. He’s a 6’2”, traditionally handsome alpha male. (He looks like he could have been a quarterback.) I’m 5’9”, with a face grandmas love to pinch. I could lose some weight, but I’ve been told I’m cute and have beautiful eyes. Am I looking for excuses, or is technique not all it’s cracked up to be?

— Overlooked

Any guy can learn Pickup Artist techniques. Any guy who is 6’2” and has a jawline like cut glass is more likely to have them pay off. In fact, certain guys — the cuddly grandma-pleasers — may be wasting their time trying to get casual sex. As evolutionary psychologists Dr. Glenn Geher and Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman write in Mating Intelligence Unleashed, research suggests that men who are not “tall, masculine, muscular, facially attractive, and socially dominant … are not likely to be successful in short-term mating.” Geher and Kaufman suggest that guys who lack that “constellation of features” are probably better off taking the long view — developing relationships with women seeking partners instead of hookup partners. In doing that, they say technique also matters — being assertive, confident, easygoing and sensitive (without being wimpy). Follow their advice and in addition to all the women putting their hands on you in an “Oh, those dimples! Grandma’s gonna eat you up!” kind of way, you should eventually have one doing it in an “I sure hope my late grandma can’t see what we’re about to do” kind of way.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

 

Indignation wants to be free

What are your thoughts on gently dissuading a person from making a total fool of herself on Facebook? A woman I know had her husband leave her for the woman he was cheating on her with. She’s been venting about this almost daily on Facebook, in sometimes blistering detail, and I’m truly embarrassed for her. She’s looking for a job, and a prospective employer could see these posts (as could potential future boyfriends). Shockingly, not one of her 443 Facebook friends has suggested she put a lid on it.

— Concerned Acquaintance

Social networking, at its worst, is like drunk dialing not only your rotten ex but everyone in his zip code. It’s easy to forget this when you’re home alone in your ratty old robe, typing a message into the Facebook status window. But, the moment you hit “post,” it’s like you lured 500 people into a room with a clip of a monkey skiing and then got up on an ottoman and yelled out a hate-soaked rant about how your cheating husband should’ve pledged, “Till skanky piece of trash do us part.”

If you saw a blind man about to step off the curb into speeding traffic, you’d probably tap him on the shoulder and say, “You know, that seems like a bad idea.” A similar approach seems in order for a friend in a blind rage wandering naked into Internet traffic. With Facebook’s confusing and ever-changing privacy settings and every computer user’s ability to take screenshots or copy and paste text, it’s best to assume that everything you post has the default visibility of “everyone on earth.” (Ideally, this is best assumed proactively — before some fisherman in China messages you, “Tell us more! Post pictures!”)

Now, it’s possible that others have privately messaged her, noting that staying connected can sometimes be the quickest way to alienate yourself from future boyfriends and employers. It’s also possible many are frozen by what social psychologists call “the bystander effect” — how being in a crowd (or even just imagining being in one) seems to lessen the likelihood that people will help a person in need. People will assume that someone else in the crowd will intervene or, if they haven’t, that there’s good reason they haven’t. (Maybe that’s what went on here — or maybe all these “friends” are just too entertained by the carnage to ask her to stop.)

Of course, people are also less likely to speak up when it might make somebody angry with them, which, in this case, could lead to their unfriending on Facebook and in reallifebook, too. If you’re willing to risk that, message her, sympathize about what she’s going through, and gently remind her that even if she isn’t vying to be secretary of state, those heading the “confirmation hearings” for her next job are sure to have access to the Internet. This isn’t to say employers won’t look at people who engage in social media overshare, but it’s best that their interest isn’t expressed with “Forget her résumé. Check out this YouTube video of her shoveling horse poo on her husband’s car and lighting it on fire!”

 

Unhappy as a clam

I’m a 30-year-old woman who’s very uncomfortable in social situations. I feel far too vulnerable, and I get mired in worry. Am I eating funny? Saying something dumb? So I clam up and stand to the side so I won’t do or say anything embarrassing. Going to things with my best friend helps. But I want to be able to socialize and meet people, possibly a boyfriend, on my own. Any ideas that don’t involve taking some sort of stupid public speaking course?

— Ms. Awkward

You’re at a party. You reach in your purse for your lipstick, and a tampon flies out and lands in the hummus — upright, like a little plastic-wrapped gladiator spear. You can duck your embarrassment — or you can own it, laughing to those around you, “Oh, you hadn’t heard? Tampax just launched a new line of carrots.” It might help to keep in mind that people warm to other people, not over how perfect they are but over how human they are, as in, “To err is …” In other words, you’ll connect better if you stop trying to hide your fallibilities and instead volunteer them. Try something new at the next party: Tell people about three really embarrassing things you’ve done. When you do, something horrible will probably happen — that is, if you consider it horrible to have people like you for having the guts to be real. In fact, you’ll probably inspire them to reveal something, too — and not that while you were in the bathroom, everybody decided to play dodge ball, and nobody wants you on their team.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

When Horndog met Sally

A male friend just tried to booty call me (texting after midnight that he was horny). I’m angry and revolted. I’ve known he’s liked me, thanks to his constant icky comments all over my Facebook photos, even while I was in a serious relationship. I deleted most, thinking he’d get the hint, and after my relationship ended, I hinted further by posting about how in love I still was with my ex. Yet, when I’d call this guy about volunteering we both do, he’d say things like, “I was hoping you wanted a date.” He scheduled a meeting, presumably with other volunteers, but I found myself across a restaurant table from him, alone. My body language conveys my distaste for any involvement with him — crossed arms, jutting chin, etc. I’m upset that he’s never cared that I’m not interested, and I’m ready to end our friendship. Unfortunately, we share work and social circles, so any tension would be noticed right away. Am I being rash?

— Disrespected

The guy’s style of romancing is right out of “Sleeping Beauty”: “Hi … oh, sorry … you sound tired … anyway, I was wondering, would it be OK if I stopped over and we had sex?”

And how rude that he has yet to accept how uninterested in him you are when you’ve not only left numerous obtuse hints about it on Facebook but used body language to make it perfectly clear. I mean, why would a woman ever cross her arms but to say, “I’m days away from filing a restraining order against you”? And regarding how physically revolting you find him, your chin must have told him so at least six times.

The truth is, men are predisposed to not get it, thanks to what evolutionary psychologist Dr. David Buss, in The Evolution of Desire, calls “cognitive biases in sexual mind reading.” This maybe calls to mind a confused psychic in a sex den but actually describes men’s evolved predisposition to make the least costly mating error — which would be overestimating women’s interest (from ambiguous signals like a smile or friendliness) rather than underestimating it. Overestimating it might lead to some embarrassment; underestimating it could mean that generations upon generations of a man’s potential descendants meet their end in an old sock (or whatever men used before there were socks).

Women tend to think kindness and bluntness are mutually exclusive. They’re not. The kindest thing you could’ve done — and the least socially awkward — would’ve been telling this guy, clearly and firmly, from the start, that the tone and quantity of his Facebook comments were a problem. Then, if inappropriate remarks and behavior kept flying, you’d tell him explicitly: “Friendship. Period.” Tell him so now — in the least embarrassing way, in writing. Explain that the text made you feel really upset and disrespected, and add, “I’m going to forget this happened (and hope you will, too).” To stop feeling angry, remind yourself that he most likely didn’t get the message because it wasn’t sent in a way he could understand — which kept him marching clueless doofus-style toward that ever-so-charming “Can’t a friend drop by at midnight for a quickie?”

 

The gift that keeps on giving you the creeps

For my birthday, my 26-year-old girlfriend (of five weeks) gave me an Alice In Wonderland decorative plate. I’m a 33-year-old man, and I couldn’t fathom why she thought I’d like it. I simply did NOT want to display that thing but knew she’d expect to see it whenever she came over. Feeling trapped, I gently confessed that it was more her taste than mine and suggested we keep it at her place. She immediately broke up with me. What happened here?

— Sad But Unrepentant

A gift for a romantic partner is a way to tell them, “I get who you are.” Apparently, you’re a 78-year-old lady with room in your curio cabinet next to your hatpin collection. Nothing against white rabbits with pocket watches and hookah-smoking caterpillars, but what woman buys this for any man who does not moonlight as a gay British country decorator with a love of whimsy? She may just be wildly clueless, but giving somebody an aggressively wrong gift can be an aggressive act. (Was this some twisted test — maybe to see how moldable you are?) Whatever her reason, this didn’t need to end with the Queen of Hearts yelling, “Off with his head!” (although you’re probably ultimately lucky it did). Gifting gone wrong, like other relationship misfires, is an opportunity to get a better sense of who your partner is and what is right for them. And an emotionally balanced woman could see it that way — bad as she might feel that she’s gotten you a gift that begs for you to reciprocate on her birthday with a Tiffany’s box containing a Peyton Manning bobblehead. 

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

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