The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

When Hurry Met Sally

I planned a cross-country trip to introduce my girlfriend of five months to my family. She just sprang on me that she wants my family to meet “all of” her, which includes her 9-year-old daughter. My family knows she has a child, and I really enjoy her daughter, but I’m really not ready to introduce both of them. It would suggest that I’m taking on the role of a father, that she’s important to me, that I’m ready to care for her, and that they should accept her as part of my life. I’m OK with their meeting the daughter later if our relationship progresses, but it’s still so new that we haven’t even had our first big argument yet. Is it OK for me to first want to love the woman and decide whether she’s the one? Is it a warning sign that there are already issues regarding her child?

— Dating A Package
 

It would be clear you were in the wrong place if you’d spent the first date brimming with child-loathing: “Kids require a total commitment for 18 years — or maybe 13, if you can get them to run away as teenagers.”

But it’s perfectly reasonable to want to be called baby for a while before you commit to having one, and especially one at the soon-to-be-sullen age of 9 who already calls some other guy daddy. Ironically, it’s you, the single, childless guy who’s taking the more responsible, parental approach: waiting to see whether the relationship has legs before you start acting like you’re all a family, which could end badly. Kids need stability. Ideally, “Who’s your stepdaddy?” isn’t a question a little girl should have to answer while standing by the revolving door outside the men’s department.

Your girlfriend’s apparent attempt to leverage your affection for her into a Very Brady Vacation could be a straight-out power play or a fear-driven test to see whether you’re up to quasi-daddyhood. Think hard about the day-to-day details of being with a woman with a kid, like how her daughter will ultimately come first and how her presence will change the relationship dynamics. (You can’t just tie a kid to a parking meter and make it up to her by taking her to pee in somebody’s bushes after lunch.)

If, for the right woman, the tradeoffs wouldn’t be too much for you, reassure your girlfriend of that, and then lay out the path to a relationship that works for you (more of a get-to-know-you stroll than a get-to-know-you freeway chase). If that timetable doesn’t work for her, well, there’s got to be a door there somewhere. But the fact that you have self-knowledge and the integrity to be unwilling to rush things suggests that she’d be prudent to see whether there’s something between you — that is, besides an anonymous call to Child Services by someone making serious accusations: adults around her wearing Crocs with socks and not letting her wear makeup like all the other fourth-grade girls.

 

Wail watching

My girlfriend cries quite easily — over being sick, work getting frustrating, or even our evening plans going awry. I feel the crying makes a small problem bigger, as everything becomes all about her emotions and not the problem. I try to comfort her, but when she starts crying, it’s very hard to talk or reach her at all.

— Daunted
 

If you can’t stop the rain, you might just make the best of a bad situation and position your girlfriend over your Slip’N Slide. As for why she’s so often inconsolable, it may be because her tears are, in part, a cry for more attention from you. Holding back on giving it, like those parents who let their babies scream their little lungs out all night long, is exactly what you shouldn’t do, according to “the dependency paradox.” Social psychologist Brooke C. Feeney, who coined the term, found that in a committed relationship, the more a person feels they can count on their partner to be responsive to their calls for comforting and support the more independent that person can be. So, for three weeks, try being much more affectionate and caring — and not just when she’s crying. Maybe even give yourself a quota of three out-of-the-blue shows of affection per day. When she does cry, don’t try to “reach” her, except to hold her in your arms and let her sob into your shirt. Postpone any discussion till the storm subsides, tempting as it is to get right in there all guy-like and solve things — taking her, weeping, to Home Depot and calling over a salesperson: “’Scuse me, sir … got anything to fix this leak?”

(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

 

Barn yesterday

For two summers, I’ve traveled to work on a small organic farm. There, this woman and I had this amazing romance, including lovemaking during summer thunderstorms and dancing naked in the fields! It was all very romantic, and this spring, I moved across the country to live with her. I soon discovered that she was infatuated with a man living several hours away. She even pointed out ways she wanted me to be more like him. After a heartbreaking month feeling worthless, foolish, and ignored, I left. In retrospect, she showed signs of her self-centeredness on the farm (such as compulsively talking about herself) and a habit of dropping friends instead of working out conflicts. Somehow, I still long for her, and I can’t bring myself to unpack my things because they remind me of the love we shared.

— Stuck

The opportunity to dance naked in the fields with some hot hippiechick does explain some of the allure of your “hay-cation.” Still, my ancestors clawed their way out of some peasant existence in Eastern Europe not that long ago, so if I’m going to pick lettuce, it’ll be from a menu handed to me by a guy who also asks whether Madame would like more wine.

How could you not see that you were just another crop to be rotated? Well, because you allowed yourself to fall prey to “confirmation bias,” our tendency to seek out information that confirms what we want to believe and to shut out information that says, “Come on … really?” When we make up our minds about something — especially something that shines up our self-image — we tend to make them up like beds with the sheets glued to the mattress.

Understanding this tendency is the best way to root out the ugly truth, the one suggesting that the summer romance is just a summer romance, since trying to squeeze love (or a scrap of empathy) out of a narcissistic person is about as productive as trying to squeeze orange juice out of a desk lamp. Sure, in the moment, it’s more fun to believe “She loves me, she really loves me!” but forcing yourself to take a few skeptical walks through the less than ideal bits about a woman can help you avoid spending a long winter weepily harvesting everything in sight at another farm — Pepperidge Farm.

To begin giving yourself a much-needed hippiechick-ectomy, unpack your things. As long as they’re together in your suitcase, they’re about her, but a lone shirt back on your shelf is just a shirt. And because research shows that trying to suppress thoughts makes the little buggers come back with a vengeance, use a surprisingly simple trick discovered by psychologists Jens Forster and Nira Liberman: In trying to stop revisiting a thought, admit that doing this is hard, which actually makes the unwanted thought far less likely to bubble up. You should also change the story you’re telling yourself. You weren’t loved by her; you were fooled by her. She might have run naked through the kale, shouting, “Shall I compare thee to a locally-sourced summer’s day?” but a woman who loves you doesn’t let you move across the country so she can spend a month comparing you unfavorably with Chad from the food co-op, with his wind-powered toilets and biodegradable sports car.

 

Worm feelings

My girlfriend and I broke up, and I want to move on, but she keeps trying to talk to me. I finally told her that we cannot talk anymore. She said that if I’m unwilling to talk to her, it means that we never had a relationship at all. I feel bad that she’s hurting, so I pick up the phone sometimes, but I have nothing to say, and I’m weary of the drama.

— Finished

There comes a time in a man’s life when he’s so desperate to be abducted by aliens that he goes to Roswell and tries hitchhiking: “Yer galaxy or bust!” But don’t stick your ex with all the blame. After all, nothing says “I never want to speak to you again” like picking up the phone to have yet another conversation about it. Talking probably seems kind, but giving her what she wants in the short term is cruel in the long term because it gives her hope — and reason to call back. Answer one last call. Tell her only that you will no longer be answering her calls and that you need to move on. If, somehow, she sneakily gets through, gently reiterate that message and immediately hang up. Sure, it’s a stock plot of chick flicks, a girl annoying a guy into loving her. Unfortunately, if this were a movie, it would be the sort shot by your doctor using a tiny snaking camera, with your girlfriend typecast as the polyp.

(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

 

Wuss it good for her?

I’ve been on three dates with a gorgeous, funny, kind and successful woman. Two weeks ago, we met for drinks with a group of my friends, and a guy in our crowd who’s in the habit of saying crass things showed up. He ended up insulting her by making a rude, totally vulgar sexual remark about her. He was trying to be funny, but I could see she was offended. I was so taken aback that I didn’t say anything. Shortly afterward, she said that she had to leave. I walked her out and apologized for him, and I have since apologized by email and in three voicemails. I’ve tried to set up another date so I can apologize in person, but she keeps getting off the phone really quickly. Would sending flowers to her work be appreciated or seem creepy?

— Friend’s Foot In My Mouth

Life sometimes presents you with a chance to show a woman what you’re made of, like when some creep aggressively disrespects her in your presence. Your response — staring into your beer — told this woman a lot about you, like that you’re the sort of boyfriend who would take her camping and, upon hearing a bear crashing through the woods, tuck a hot dog in her pocket and shove her out of the tent.

If your initial response wasn’t enough to make her never want to see you again, you probably sealed your romantic doom by taking immediate inaction in the wake of your inaction. Sure, you did say you were sorry … and email her that you were sorry and leave her multiple voicemails saying that you were sorry and then flap your lips some more and try to ask her out to say you’re sorry in person. Unfortunately, there’s a difference between a meaningful apology and regret-flavored borderline stalking.

Sending flowers — immediately — might have been wise, as a number of studies find that people are more likely to be forgiven, even for serious transgressions, if their apology is accompanied by a gift, which says that they value the person they hurt enough to invest in repairing the relationship. But no amount of flora will solve what I suspect is the real problem here: She probably now sees you as a passive wimp who responds to even a minor challenge by folding like a sheet of typing paper. (If you have a favorite blood sport, it’s probably crocheting.)

You didn’t have to challenge the guy to a parking lot duel. You just needed to say something — perhaps just a stern, “Dude, you’re really out of line.” Even women who can defend themselves just fine want a man who’ll stand up for them. Being a stand-up guy comes not out of memorizing a list of the right things to do but from becoming a person who can’t help but do them. This, in turn, comes out of personal standards for courage, generosity, fairness and integrity. Of course, in order to assert these standards, you’ll need self-respect. If that’s a problem area for you, pick up The Assertiveness Workbook, by Dr. Randy J. Paterson, and No More Mr. Nice Guy, by Dr. Robert Glover. Put in a year manning up, and if happy hour again becomes insulting hour, you’ll take action — and it won’t be scurrying to the nearest florist to ask, “Excuse me, but which color roses say ‘I’m a man who will rise to the occasion instead of hiding under the table’?”

 

Prance Charming

I’m an accomplished, caring, sensitive and funny guy. I do well talking to women in social situations where I’ve had time to warm up. I’m not great at approaching women on the street. How can I increase my street-side “swagger”?

— Need Game

The stride itself — that wide-legged rolling gait — isn’t hard to adopt. Just pop a sleeping gerbil in your underwear. But you’re probably talking about the street meaning of swagger: self-assured cool. That’s a way of being that you can’t just throw on like a sweatshirt. Guys who try to put it on usually end up coming off cartoonishly cocky. Sometimes what’s most endearing about people are the small ways they aren’t totally put together, especially if they’re gutsy enough to put themselves out there, flaws and all. So maybe talk to compelling women you see on the street — a tough audience for any guy — but do it as you, not with your best imitation of Jay-Z. And accept that your natural hunting ground is probably your local coffeehouse, where you won’t have to charm a woman before the light changes and she won’t immediately suspect that what you’re really saying is, “Hi, I’m a purse snatcher, and I was wondering if I could distract you with some small talk while I root around for your wallet.”

(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

 

It’s scold in here

Online dating isn’t going so well. I’m a 34-year-old professor seeking a relationship. I listed an age range of 18 to 35 on my profile, not because I particularly like 18-year-olds but simply to avoid limiting my options. I messaged a 24-year-old woman, noting that I loved that she “enjoys supporting people who have a purpose and a passion.” She wrote back: “You seem really cool, but the fact that you’re considering dating women as young as 18 is a deal-breaker. 18-year-olds aren’t people yet. You’re a professor. You know that.” She then scolded me for failing to admire that she clearly has purpose and passion — she doesn’t just support those things — but considering my interest in 18-year-olds, purpose and passion probably don’t matter much to me anyway. Huh?! Should I really be faulted for being open-minded?

— Reprimanded
 

Online dating can be so efficient. It used to be that you’d have to wait to say hello to have your first argument.

This woman probably couldn’t go out with you anyway, as busy as she must be getting the ignition lock replaced on her broom. However, she may have done you a favor. Although most women won’t turn online dating into online berating, many probably share her anger and suspicion at the lower end of your listed age range. But, but … you protest, you’re just trying to be open instead of assuming that every single 18-year-old will be the dating equivalent of going out with a steak in a short skirt.

Your open-mindedness seems to be a rational approach. The problem is, we aren’t the rational animals we smugly insist we are. Research by evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss suggests that we evolved to make protective errors in judgment — erring on the side of perceiving whatever would have been least costly for our survival and mating interests back in the ancestral environment. This makes us prone to believe there’s a snake behind every rustle of a pile of leaves because the embarrassment from shrieking like an idiot would have been less costly than dying from a snakebite. In the mating sphere, women evolved to be “commitment skeptics,” prone to overperceive men as hookup-seeking cads until they prove otherwise. For men, it would have been costly to miss any mating opportunity … leading to a 34-year-old man being “open” to a wide range of women, including a woman only slightly older than some of his socks.

You can turn this into a positive experience in two ways: by thanking your lucky stars that you won’t be the boyfriend she’s ripping into at the supermarket for eyeing the wrong potato and by listing an age range that’s less ire-producing. This actually shouldn’t limit you in the slightest, since you can write to any woman you find attractive — including those who’ll think you’re “like, so much more amazing” than the other “men” they’re dating, because you don’t live with your parents or have a job that requires a paper hat.

 

Don’t just mall a woman

I’ve saved some money to get my girlfriend something special for her birthday. I know what she likes at REI, Pottery Barn, and Williams-Sonoma, but nothing feels special enough. Perhaps I’m an idiot for asking you, a stranger, what to get the woman I know and love, but maybe you can point me in the right direction.

— Stumped

Too bad the two of you aren’t cats, or you could just come by with a dead cricket between your teeth. But you are wise to think outside the cardboard box. Researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton write in Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending that the purchases that ultimately make us the happiest are not material things but experiences. They cite research showing that new “stuff” soon stops giving us the same zing, while experiential purchases not only contribute to our sense of self and our connection with others but get more meaningful over time through the stories we tell about them. Also, they never need dusting.

So, instead of deciding between the espresso machine that’ll guess her weight and the one that gets basic cable, think about an experience she’d really love. It could be a Champagne balloon ride or driving a racecar around a track (nascarracingexperience.com). But fret not if these are too pricey. The research suggests that even when people spend just a few dollars, they get more lasting pleasure from an experience than a thing. And even when experiences go wrong, like a romantic picnic that ends in horrible poison oak, they tend to be viewed fondly in hindsight. Your girlfriend may not have asked for a series of hydrocortisone injections for her birthday, but years later, she’ll be laughing with you and friends about that and not the story of how you once got her a bowl from Pottery Barn.

(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

 

Too mush too soon

I’ve been dating an amazing guy for a month. Our first amazing date turned into an amazing night, which turned into an amazing month. We completely adore each other. Every time we hang out feels like the greatest day with a best friend. The problem is, I work and go to college full time, and I really wasn’t ready for anything more than fun and sex. In fact, “more” is freaking me out. Because we’d initially agreed that we were only looking for something casual and short-term, I told him that I was developing feelings for him and gave him the option of walking away, but he actually seemed happy to hear how I felt. I have such jitters now because I cannot afford to risk getting distracted from my studies. When I think about this, I sometimes get so anxious that I feel I need to ditch this amazing guy, which is the last thing I want.

— Good Reasons To Avoid Getting Serious

Love sometimes calls upon people to do more than just show up to bask in its glow. Take that emperor, way back when, in India. When he wanted to memorialize his beloved wife, he built the Taj Mahal, not the Taj Ma lean-to.

Luckily, Mr. Amazing won’t have to muster 20,000 workers to spend 20 years building an “elegy in marble.” What you need is a boyfriend who’s willing to have what amounts to a long-distance relationship while living only a short distance away. In other words, he’ll have to be up for long walks on the beach — by himself — while you’re back in your dorm room, in bed with both Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. And as lovely as it is when a man “says it with flowers,” when you need to pry yourself away from him to get back to your studies, he should show you that he loves you by handing you a single red crowbar.

It’s possible that spending the next few years as your sainted boyfriend will wear on him and cause him to walk. If, however, he does stick around, it’s either because he prefers martyrdom to checkers or Ultimate Frisbee or because you two have something special. It’s easy to be supportive when a big bed and a couple of mai tais are all that’s on the agenda, so it says a lot when a guy’s always got your back, and not just because he’s looking to unhook your bra. Be sure that you don’t take this for granted and that you regularly express your appreciation. It won’t be easy to maintain your job, schoolwork, and even a muted form of a relationship simultaneously. The stress may leave you needing to lose the freshman 15 pounds, but if your amazing relationship is as amazing as you say, there’s a good chance you won’t need to lose the freshman 165.

 

Hell No, Kitty

My girlfriend is a smart and accomplished 33-year-old woman who wears little girl-type clothes. She always looks pretty, but there are times I wish she would dress more like an adult. For instance, last week, we had dinner with my boss, and she wore a pink Hello Kitty T-shirt and pigtails. How does a man ask a woman to sometimes dress a little more sophisticated?

— Eggshells

I used to worship Hello Kitty, and then I turned 7. Some women do work the head-to-toe little girl look longer than others, but 33 sounds a little late for it. Maybe your girlfriend has gotten in a style rut and hasn’t noticed that she isn’t pulling off 22-going-on-12 like she used to. Then again, she might be wearing these clothes because she’s aged out of them. (Paging Alanis Morissette, because isn’t it ironic?)

Clothes say a lot about a person, but there are times your shirt or skirt or whatever really needs to shut the hell up, like when you’re accompanying your boyfriend to dinner with his boss. This would be the time to dress to make him look good (more business casual than monkey bars casual).

Tell your girlfriend that you always love looking at her and that you aren’t asking her to change her style entirely, just to dress more sophisticated on occasion, especially occasions for your work. She probably has something passable in her closet, but you might offer to take her shopping for a few new additions to her wardrobe. If she’s just forgotten to look up and notice she’s 33, a new little black dress might lead her to realize it’s time to say Goodbye, Kitty, and start dressing in a way that suggests she got out of college about 10 years ago, and not the stroller.

(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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