The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

The upgradest love of all

I’m a single dad of three children, who are my world, and it was a battle to get custody of them. For three years, I’ve dated a woman with grown children, and on our shared birthday (Valentine’s Day), I proposed and she accepted. Two days later, she ended everything via text and hasn’t spoken to me since. She claimed she wants to come first in someone’s life, and my kids and dealings with my ex-wife took priority. Didn’t she figure this out earlier? Three weeks after she broke things off, I learned she was “in love” with an older rich guy with no children and that she’s spreading lies about me to mutual friends. We had a great relationship, and using her words, were “total soulmates.” Now she tells people how miserable she was. Even her friends are confused.

— Baffled
 

It seems she’s got a new take on a classic soulmate anthem: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, except, hey, check out that old rich guy over there!”

What a lucky lady. No sooner did she realize that her current soulmate was no longer working for her than another popped up, right in the same town and everything. The truth is, even nice, well-meaning people can go floating along thinking they’re in a relationship they want until their partner says, “Hey, wanna make it for realsies?” Chances are, your girlfriend long resented your prioritizing your kids but just sucked it up — until you got down on one knee and presented her with the fork in the road. With the prospect of permanence on the horizon, everything suddenly became clear: One road leads to a lifetime battling for your cash and attention, and the other has Snow White awakening from her coma and realizing she could get a better deal.

 
A partner’s use of the term “total soulmates!” suggests that one is either dating a 14-year-old or somebody about as emotionally and romantically mature. The idea of soulmates actually traces back to Plato. He wrote about a “symposium” (ancient Greek for “kegger”) at which an apparently tanked Aristophanes claimed there were once three sexes — male, female, and this weird he/she thing, round like a soccer ball, with four hands, four feet, and two faces. According to Ari, humans got power-hungry and attacked the gods. The gods were pissed. They contemplated annihilating humanity with thunderbolts and then realized there’d be nobody left to leave them offerings. Zeus instead punished the humans by hacking the he/shes in two — male and female — and after Apollo reshaped them to look like we do now, the gods dispersed them, compelling them to forever be searching for their “other half.” Supposedly, those few who are lucky enough to find theirs spend the rest of their lives making googoo eyes at each other on a picnic blanket while all the other couples are taking turns sobbing into a pillow in marriage counseling or sex therapy.

Ironically, back here in the real world, a person who believes she’s your soulmate is actually a flight risk. Social psychologist Dr. C. Raymond Knee has explored the effect on relationships from “destiny belief” — the belief that people have “soulmates,” that relationships are either fated to be or they’re not — versus “growth belief,” the belief that successful relationships don’t just fall out of the sky; they take work. Partners with growth belief think that relationships are “cultivated and developed” over time, that problems are a natural part of them, and that working through them is a way to build a closer and stronger bond. A destiny believer, on the other hand, tends to see problems as a sign she’s in the wrong place and as reason to bail.

As for why your self-proclaimed soulmate dumped you via text and then trash-talked you all over town, well, some women are into shoes that match their handbags; yours turned out to have a cold heart to go with her cold feet. This strongly suggests that what she felt for you was not love but “love the one you’re with” (aka adventures in mercenary pragmatism). A romantic partner might need to end things with you, but if she ever loved you, she doesn’t turn on you the moment you’re no longer of use to her. In trashing you now, chances are she’s trying to punish you for her failure to figure out what she really wanted and maybe trying to justify dumping you to both herself and her friends. The way for you to go forward is by looking backward. Explore whether you bought into the idea that she was loving and didn’t allow yourself to see the woman she appears to be — one who’s looking for that special someone to take her hand and walk off into the sunset with her toward his bank’s nearest ATM.

(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

 

Coitus Frustratus

My boyfriend is a very spiritual person who practices yoga, meditation, etc. He showed me a website about karezza, which basically involves deriving sexual pleasure through long, drawn-out, non-vigorous physical contact without experiencing an orgasm. It sounds nice and all, but I would greatly miss the orgasm part of sex. Well, he recently revealed that he is a recovering porn and masturbation addict. I see from the way he talks how important it is for him that we give up traditional intercourse for karezza. I love him and want to help him in every possible way, but I’m not sure how to come to terms with giving up orgasms.

— Conflicted
 

You aren’t a bad girlfriend if you need your boyfriend to be something of an animal in bed, and not the kind found fossilized in rock.

OK, to be fair, there is some movement during karezza, just not enough that anybody participating would get anywhere near Orgasmageddon. Alice Stockham, the 19th century Quaker doctor who came up with karezza (named for the Italian word “carezza,” meaning “caress”), argued in her 1896 book about it that orgasms “without cause” (such as the desire to make a baby) are “degrading.” Stockham called for a more “ennobling” sort of sex, “a quiet affair” that is “devoid of lustful thoughts, that is, the mere gratification of physical sensations” — or, to put it in more modern terms, 50 Shades Of Reading Next To Each Other In Matching Snuggies.

Karezza does get props from practitioners, who insist they feel way more bonded to each other than when they used to give each other screaming orgasms. However, the science-y sounding claims for its benefits by some of those who publish books and articles about it seem largely unsupported by research. Also, it is not a solution to your boyfriend’s compulsions but a way to avoid dealing with the issues underlying them. As addiction treatment specialist Dr. Frederick Woolverton explains in Unhooked, at the heart of any addiction is an attempt to avoid legitimate suffering — difficult emotions which are part of being alive.

You could agree to try karezza for three weeks to see whether it works for you, and by “works,” I mean gets you thinking, “Oh, orgasms, schmorgasms.” Unless it does, it’s unfair to resign yourself to the sexual equivalent of reading a 300-page crime novel … except for the last 30 pages, which you tear out and burn. And despite the spiritual window dressing around karezza, unless your boyfriend is doing as Woolverton advises — taking steps to “head straight into (his) emotional pain, which is what terrifies (an addict) the most” — what you’ll likely have on your hands is a meditating, yoga-doing, spiritual-talking boyfriend who’s only somewhat present. In other words, you support him by committing to help him deal with his feelings while he develops healthy coping mechanisms, not by replacing your “If the van’s a-rockin’ …” bumper sticker with “If the van looks like it hasn’t been moved in years …”

 

Whistle while you weep!

My boyfriend and I just ended our relationship and are trying to heal and move on. This is difficult because we not only work together but are in the same building and on the same research team. I love my job and feel lucky to have it, so moving on to another workplace isn’t the answer.

— Blasted With The Past
 

It’s hard to maintain a veneer of professionalism when the plant’s loudspeaker pages you, “Employee 442, Employee 440 is drunk-dialing you on extension 2.” Unfortunately, it’s easy to end up in that situation when you don’t have the usual benefit of a breakup, which typically involves separating once and for all, not every day at the end of the workday. Give yourself concrete reinforcement that it’s over by writing down five reasons you don’t belong together, and help yourself compartmentalize at work by drawing a line down a piece of paper and listing the appropriate behaviors for “Together” vs. “Just work together.”

Because research finds that ritual is highly effective in helping people assimilate change (and because it’ll probably be comforting to have a cackle with a couple of friends), maybe have a “funeral” for your relationship and “bury” a few symbolic items from it in the nearest Dumpster. That probably sounds a bit wacky, but acting like the relationship is dead and gone and you’re moving on should help you do just that. According to British psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of The As If Principle, numerous studies suggest that “the easiest, quickest and most effective” way to change your thinking isn’t by thinking about it but by acting “as if” you’re the person you want to be — in your case, the person who’s managed to demote one of her co-workers from soulmate to paperweight.

(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

 

Beating them about the head with a shtick

I’ve always made people laugh with my self-deprecating humor, but I was complaining about not having much luck with the ladies recently, and my buddy told me that my humor is a problem. He said I come off as kind of a downer to women. Other guy friends told me not to listen to him; women love a man with a sense of humor. So, who’s right?

— Overweight, Poor, And Ugly
 

Self-deprecating humor works best when a man seems to be kidding, not confessing: “Hey, ladies! Look who’s barely holding it together over here!”

So, the question is, exactly how much of a self do you have to deprecate? Evolutionary psychologist Dr. Gil Greengross sees self-deprecating humor as a social version of conspicuous consumption. (Outlandish spending implying that a person has so much money, he could use packets of dollar bills for firewood.) Poking fun at yourself can suggest that you have so much personal and emotional capital that you not only don’t need to sweat to impress a woman, you can laugh at what a loser you are. (This works especially well if you’re a loser like George Clooney.)

Greengross cautions that it’s risky to shine a spotlight on actual flaws, so if there’s a ring of truth to “Overweight, Poor, And Ugly,” avoid opening with “Hey, babe, how bout I sell my plasma and take you to dinner?” But say what you lack in looks and money you make up in confidence. You could show off how cool you are with that uncomfortable moment of hitting on a woman with “Hi, I really wanted to talk to you. Can we talk about the weather while I’m thinking of something to say?” And instead of mocking who you are, you’re probably safer poking fun at something you’ve done, like, oops, splashing beer down the cleavage of the woman you’re hitting on: “They usually just slip my water dish into my cage so these sorts of things don’t happen.”

Still, although some humorous self-condemnation can be fun, a constant barrage of it may make a woman’s ears try to coerce her arms and legs into a suicide pact. Also, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using humor as a force field so you never have to open up and get real. This tends not to go unnoticed or go over with the ladies. So, sure, disarm a woman with humor, but after she’s disarmed, see that you actually talk to her, person-to-person, not comedian-to-person. Your goal should be finding out things about her that resonate with you and responding to them and seeing whether there’s a connection there. It’s connecting with a woman that will make her stick around — and for far longer than if you just try to hammer her with jokes until she loses consciousness.

 

The Carpal Tunnel of Love

I’m a screenwriter with a job-job, so the early morning is the only time I have to write. When my girlfriend stays over, she’ll come in and start talking to me as I’m trying to work. I love her and don’t want her to feel ignored, but these interruptions really pull me out of my thoughts.

— Scribe
 

Writing and solitude tend to go together. Just think about it: Where was Thoreau’s girlfriend? Bottom of the pond?

Writing often looks dignified in movies, but in real life, it’s a grubby business that tends to involve some sobbing into the keyboard and humiliating attempts to bribe God in exchange for a working plot twist. In between, however, there are moments of what’s called “flow,” a term by psychologist Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describing the blissfully productive state where you get so single-mindedly immersed in some activity that time and everything else fall away. Interruptions, no matter how well-meaning, are the death of flow, and not exactly fantastic for lesser states of concentration, either.

Explain this to your girlfriend so she can understand that your need for solitude isn’t a form of rejection and that, when you’re writing, the sweetest and most supportive thing she can do is act like she’s not speaking to you (but without the door slammings and mumblings of “remorseless turd!” that usually come with). Block out a few hours in the morning as “do not disturb” time (which she should feel free to ignore whenever she catches fire). And when you aren’t blackening pages, maybe make an effort to be extra-affectionate in addition to expressing appreciation for her support. This should help keep her from feeling bad and acting out, and you, in turn, from rebelling against any such rebellion and, say, revising your pet name for her from “Sugarbooger” to “Writer’s Block.”

(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

 

Ennui Go!

My girlfriend and I love each other, but we feel we’re becoming numb to hearing it from each other. We’ve been together three years, so I assume that time is what’s put a damper on the “three little words.” I suggested that when we are about to say “I love you,” we come up with something more personal and meaningful. This, sadly, was difficult and lasted about a day. Now we’re back to expressing affection the rote way. Yes, we could have a bigger problem, but beneath this is a bigger worry — that the relationship will get old, too.

— Same-Old, Same-Old

The pressure to be original in love can be pretty trying. Imagine Shakespeare tentatively mumbling to a woman “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and hearing back, “Ugh, Will … for the third time this week?”

Likewise, the first time you heard “I love you” from your girlfriend, you probably thought, “Wow, she loves me! Hot damn!” But once a relationship gets going, sometimes “I love you!” wells up from the bottom of the heart and sometimes from the need to say something a little more feel-good than “Gotta get you off the phone so I can clean up this cat vomit.” Sometimes, one partner is needy and says it constantly so they can hear it back constantly. (If not for somebody being there in their life to respond, they’d be standing for days on end yelling it into the Grand Canyon.)

So, yes, it’s probably time for a little rationing of “I love you” if it’s become shorthand for everything short of “pass the salt.” But there’s actually research by Dr. Sara Algoe and others showing that expressions of appreciation seem to keep a relationship alive, keeping partners from taking each other for granted and feeling taken for granted. This doesn’t necessarily require blithering on in detail about your partner’s great qualities, especially not when you both know what you’re really saying with a laughing “I love you!” is “You are simply the greatest for coming over and resting your boobs on my head while I’m stuck writing these boring reports.”

Of course, one of the best ways to make “I love you” more meaningful is by showing it — ideally, at least once a day — just by thinking about what would make each other happier and less stressed and doing it. This could involve small kindnesses like getting up to refill your girlfriend’s drink when you’re eating dinner or somewhat bigger (and ickier) kindnesses like telling her to stay put while you clean up after her puking cat. Any guy can go through the romantic motions — say “I love you” on Valentine’s Day with $50 worth of chocolate truffles and a suspiciously funerary flower arrangement — but it takes a truly loving guy to say it on a random Tuesday with a rag full of cat vomit.

 

Getting over the frump

Is there a nice way to tell your girlfriend that you really don’t like what she wears to come hang out with your friends? My girlfriend can look so cute in certain outfits, but whenever we’re seeing my friends, it seems she dresses more conservatively, and often, she really looks kind of frumpy. I’m not looking for her to look like a stripper. I just want her to look as good as she does when she’s out with her friends or we’re out together.

— Holding Back

A woman can go a little too far in trying to avoid crossing the border from sexy to slutty — all the way over to “sturdy Amish woman about to churn butter.” Chances are, your girlfriend thinks she’s protecting you — keeping you from looking bad in the eyes of your friends or from worrying that she’s covertly shopping for your replacement. Unfortunately, women don’t always understand the workings of competition between men. Basically, it’s good to get the girl. It’s even better if your guy friends and any passing male strangers hate you a little for it.

To get your girlfriend to dress a little more Mad Men than Ma from Little House on the Prairie, pose a question to her with a compliment folded in: “Hey, can I ask you something? You dress so cute when it’s just us hanging out. It seems like you feel the need to dress more conservatively when we’re out with my friends.” Explain that she really doesn’t have to do that, and add, “I just want everyone to see how gorgeous you are.” The compliment will rise to the top, and she should get the message: You aren’t asking her to wear something that will have drunks trying to slip dollar bills in her bra, just something more in keeping with a night likelier to end in a game of poker than a plague of prairie locusts.

(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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