the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Code goo

I’m a 33-year-old nurse in a five-month “friends with benefits” thing with a doctor co-worker. I am only 18 months out of an abusive 10-year relationship and wanted something fun and light. We get along well, but he rarely asks me ahead of time about getting together. I know he has a busy schedule, but this bothers me. He will do anything I ask (give me a ride, buy me a coffee if I work late) but doesn’t make kind gestures without being asked and doesn’t talk about his feelings or inquire about mine. My biggest issue is that he doesn’t compliment me. He once said his friend asked him how he got such a beautiful woman. But that’s it. The crazy thing is, he doesn’t even possess the qualities I want in a partner! Are my feelings here simply because he’s here? Can I learn to separate my feelings from what we really have?

— Help, STAT

I bet the doc doesn’t have patients show up at whim: “Hi, I was in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d have a physical.”

It’s understandable that you’d like a little more formal scheduling to your casual sex, but remember that the guy reads X-rays and MRIs, not minds. When you need medical attention — or certain attention from a certain medical professional — you need to make that known, same as you would with a friend: Don’t be so available on a moment’s notice and also ask him to make advance plans. (Enough with this “Undress and put on a robe; the doctor will be with you shortly.”)

Although the reasoning department of your brain keeps telling you that you should be friends with benefits, there you are jonesing for girlfriend benefits (flattery, little prezzies, and all). Anthropologist John Marshall Townsend explains that women evolved an emotional alarm system to read whether a man would be a good provider and to compel them to seek cues of commitment. Some women feel especially emotionally connected to their partner following orgasm, probably due to the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin, although the most conclusive research is on rats and prairie voles, and your ability to send email suggests you are neither. Regardless, Townsend’s surveys on casual sex showed that even when women fully intended to use and lose some himbo, many would wake up the next morning and find themselves longing for more from a guy they knew they wanted nothing more from.

An apple a day … mainly keeps the creditors away from the apple growers. To keep this doctor away, let on that you’re longing to use him as a boyfriend instead of just for sex. The thing is, this seems like exactly the right time for you to have exactly the wrong man. Having your sex life staffed up can help you avoid any temptation to get into a relationship, and you can instead figure out and fix whatever led you to be in a 10-year emotionally abusive thing. You may ultimately find casual sex too upsetting, but understanding where your feelings are coming from might help you intellectualize your way out of letting them rule you. Regularly reviewing all the ways this guy’s wrong for you is another way to put the meaningless back into meaningless sex. Remember, the only aisle you should be walking down with him is the one between your bed and your dresser. As that jewelry commercial (doesn’t) go: “Every kiss begins with K-Y.”

World Wide Web of Lies

Why do men OFFER (as in, announce unasked) that they aren’t dating anyone when that’s a lie? I’m a busy 30-something woman, meeting men almost exclusively online. A guy will often tell me right away (on the first date) that he isn’t seeing anyone. I stumble on the truth by accident on Facebook and what-have-you, lose trust for him, and stop seeing him.

— Baffled

The male brain is quick to note that eHarmony could be the ticket to eHarem. Even if a man’s looking for “that special somebody,” he may be dreaming of a stable of somebodies and feeling a little guilty about it. Or, maybe he’s dating a few somebodies but “there’s nobody” means “nobody of consequence.” Women evolved to seek commitment from men, and men co-evolved to understand that. Sometimes even an okay guy will engage in some duplicity to make the initial sale — waiting to see whether he’s into you before he ditches Helga, Svetlana, and Amber. You likewise might consider going on a few more dates to see more of a man’s character (or lack thereof) before making your final decision. Then again, maybe the best reason to ditch one of these liars is stupidity: a guy telling you he’s all lonesome, he hasn’t seen a women in years — just hours after his last date was streamed live on the Internet from some bar.

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

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

Witchful thinking

I’m a retired pastor in my 50s. A nearby church wanted my help with their Christmas musical, and I asked my wife of five years, who played bass at my church, to join me. She became angry at this suggestion and said I should do my own thing on Christmas and she’d do hers. She then announced that she’d be spending Christmas Eve with her (single, lonely) ex-boyfriend, staying the night at his place and hiking with him on Christmas Day. I was taken aback. I said this had the “whiff of adultery” and wondered if she wanted to end the marriage. She flew into a rage. How could I even think of calling her an adulteress, etc.? Their overnight got canceled because his son came home for Christmas, but she’s still mad — barely talking to or looking at me. I confess, I’m a conflict avoider and in counseling for it. But what do I do about a woman whose rage can last for several hours to a month or more? Who gives me lengthy, pedantic lectures about how pathetic and hopeless I am? If I say “Then why don’t you leave me?” she says “Because I love you.”

— Stuck

Your wife has some creative interpretations of classic Christmas songs: “I’ll be home for Christmas”? Naw. “You’ll be home for Christmas, and I’ll be sleeping over at my ex-boyfriend’s.” Question this in the slightest and the burning smell will be #your# chestnuts roasting over an open fire.

First, the obvious: Unless there’s some previously agreed-upon “interesting” marital arrangement, wives do not get to have ex-boyfriend sleepovers. As for a pastor’s wife picking Christmas for hers, what’s the matter, was he busy on your wedding anniversary?

A “love” like hers sends chills down a man’s spine — that is, when the man happens to have one. Did you forget yours at the airport? Maybe leave it at a hotel? Although your wife is engaging in outrageous emotional abuse, your reaction — your fear of her rage, which she uses to control you and get her way — is what keeps it going. You might have had a different relationship dynamic (or a different woman altogether) if only you’d put your foot down — stood up to her instead of always lying down and rolling over so she could better kick you in the head.

You should read No More Mr. Nice Guy, by reformed doormat Dr. Robert Glover. Glover lays out how conflict-avoidant men go limp in the face of abuse because of their approval-seeking (driven by low self-worth and fear of abandonment) and their hiding of flaws and mistakes (instead of accepting themselves as fallible and human). Transforming oneself from a chewtoy among men doesn’t happen overnight. Until you build self-respect, act like somebody who has it. Set standards for how you’ll be treated, and inform your exploding wife that you expect them to be met (which may take anger management), and tell her that you’ll walk if the rage and unloving treatment continue. And mean it. So, if she wants to have a little overnight with her ex, tell her that’s her prerogative — when your divorce is final. Remember, you’re never too old to be happy, and to instill healthy behavior, and to have something a little warmer and sexier at Christmas than a lecture about what a pathetic loser you are under the mistletoe.

Baby, I need your oven

I love good food and wine, but I hate cooking and I’m bad at it. When you’re dating, it seems like you’re supposed to cook your partner dinner at a certain point, especially if you’re a woman. I think I’m at that point now, and I’m considering setting a nice table and ordering takeout. Will he think I’m not that interested if I don’t break out the cookbook?

— Food And Whine

According to needlepointed pillows, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Actually, it’s through his sternum with a big saw. I say that a bit defensively because I, too, love good food but spend all of my time slaving over a hot computer. (I don’t cook; I heat.) Luckily, I have a boyfriend who likes to cook for me, but for some guys, a woman who doesn’t cook is an automatic dealbreaker. For others, it’s a bit of a bummer, but what matters is whether the woman otherwise is giving and shows in various ways that she wants to take care of them. You’ll find out which kind of man you have when you’re honest with him about who you are — a woman who sets a beautiful table and serves a delicious dinner right out of The Joy Of Calling Up The Chinese Restaurant And Giving Them Your Credit Card Number.

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

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio: Nerd your way to a better life through fascinating and fun discussions about love, dating sex and relationships with the top brains from psychology and science. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET (, or download the podcast at the link (click “play in your default player”). Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

I smell a rut

I just got dumped by a guy who swore he was ready to settle down (after years of serial monogamy). His relationship history reminded me of the man you wrote about recently who had been married and divorced five times and was on relationship number six. Woman number six wrote you, “He’s in his 50s; his marriage-hopping has to stop.” Obviously, she’s fooling herself, but what’s his deal? What’s anyone’s who gets married over and over?

— Morbidly Curious

Some model their marriage on their parents’ and some on their parents’ car lease. (Sadly, hanging a new-car smell pine tree around the wife’s neck doesn’t seem to stem the flow of trade-ins.)

Everybody wants to believe their love will last, but when a guy’s marrying Wife Number Five, some honesty in vow-making seems called for — for example, “Till mild boredom do us part.” And in keeping with the trend of using movie lines in the ceremony, the groom can turn to the minister at the end and state the Schwarzenegger-accented obvious: “I’ll be back.”

The notion that the only valid relationship is one that ends with the partners in twin chairs on the veranda of Senior Acres, rocking off into the sunset together, keeps some of the wrong people chasing it. The truth is, some people just aren’t wired for forever. That’s okay — providing they’re honest with themselves and their partners that for them, lasting relationships last only so long (“when two become as one” and then one starts getting all fidgety for the next one).

Even for those who are determined to make forever work, there’s a problem, and it’s called “hedonic adaptation” — getting acclimated to positive additions to our lives and no longer getting the lift out of them that we did at first. This happens with boob jobs, lottery wins — and marriage, explained happiness researcher Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky on my weekly radio show. Lyubomirsky writes in her terrific book, The How of Happiness of a 15-year study in Germany showing that couples got a big boost in happiness when they got married — a boost that, on average, lasted two years.

According to Lyubomirsky, research shows that the most powerful ways to combat hedonic adaptation are adding variety and expressing gratitude. You add variety by shaking up your date night routine, going on vacation (even a quick one), and varying your daily life in small, fun ways. You can express gratitude by buying or making some little thing to say how much you appreciate your partner or by verbally admiring his or her hotitude and wonderful qualities. Lyubomirsky explained, “Gratitude is almost by definition an inhibitor of adaptation,” because adaptation means we’re taking something for granted. “Being grateful for something is appreciating it, savoring it – i.e., NOT taking it for granted.”

Predicting whether a particular guy is a romance junkie can be tough. (It’s not like a meth habit. There are no scabs.) A girlfriend-hopper might swear he’s ready to settle down and believe it — until the moment he realizes he’s not. You’ll want to believe him; we all tend to lead with our ego: “I’ll be the one he’s different for.” This is risky if your ovaries are on the clock. If, however, you can just live in the moment and hope for lots more moments … well, there’s always that chance you’ll end up being his eighth and only.

On crowd nine

The man I’ve been in a long-term on-and-off relationship with has started seeing someone else. He’s cagey about the details, but what’s really bothering me is that she has no clue that I exist. I’m tempted to write her an anonymous note, telling her that I was here first, have been here a long time, and am continuing to have sex with her Lothario.

— Pen Poised

Like many people around the holidays, your thoughts turn to the have-nots: “Hi, I believe you have not heard that I’m having sex with your new boyfriend.” The reality is, you’re looking to escape feeling vulnerable by lashing out. (When life gives you lemons … break some other woman’s windows with them.) The “anonymous” note is really about telling this woman, “Hey! I’m here! I’m lovable! I’m important!” Well, there’s a better way to say those things, and it won’t even take a stamp. Just call this man and say goodbye. This means finally admitting that the parameters of this relationship aren’t working for you. Come on…you’re well-aware you aren’t his one and only, yet there you are complaining, “Waiter, waiter! There’s a harem in my soup!” What is there to say to you but “Yes, madam, of course there is. It’s the Lothario special. It comes with other women on the side.”

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

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

Axing a girl out

You overlooked the danger when you replied to the woman who was invited on a hiking date by a man she’d had a crush on. You said that he probably got interested because he saw her with her new boyfriend. Well, he could also have wanted to murder her because of that. Every year, there’s news of a female body being found in a remote area — or not found after a disappearance.

— Prudent Woman

Recall that this guy spent seven years barely noticing this woman before noticing she had a boyfriend and asking her out. This is not exactly the behavior of a man obsessed, brimming with jealous rage. Chances are, he just thought, “Hmm, I could hit that.” (And I very much doubt he meant “over the head with a shovel.”)

How likely is it that a date could end in a shallow grave? Well, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005, 513 women in the U.S. were murdered by “boyfriends” (men they were dating but not married to) and 164 men were murdered by “girlfriends.” (And yes, men, too, are victims of domestic violence, much of which goes unreported.) These intimate partner murder stats are a bit unreliable because the FBI doesn’t always identify the perp/victim relationship, but even if you include the 2,363 uncategorized murders of women, a woman’s chances of being a victim of “dinner and a murder” are seriously small. Divide the 513 number by the population of unmarried American women ages 15 to 64 — 45,752,000, per a 2009 Census Bureau sample — and a woman has an 11 in a million chance of getting offed by her date. (Statistically, she’s far more likely to speak Cherokee.)

Of course, those odds of getting murdered really only apply if she’s anywoman on anydate with anyman. Unfortunately, partly because people are reluctant to be seen as “blaming the victim,” there’s a politically correct popular notion that intimate partner violence happens at random, to random victims, kind of like an air conditioner falling out of a high window just as you’re underneath walking the dog.

But, various authorities on violence, including personal security expert Gavin de Becker and domestic violence researcher Jacquelyn Campbell, have independently identified very similar coercive, autonomy-limiting behaviors in men who murder their female partners. These behaviors echo the four items from a 1993 Statistics Canada survey that researchers Martin Daly and Margo Wilson noted were strong predictors that a woman will experience serious violence from a male partner: “1. He is jealous and doesn’t want you to talk to other men; 2. He tries to limit your contact with family or friends; 3. He insists on knowing who you are with and where you are at all times; 4. He calls you names to put you down or make you feel bad.”

Although government agencies and victim assistance organizations parrot the politically correct warning that intimate partner violence “can happen to anyone,” the truth is, certain women are more likely to be victimized, and research shows a stew of contributing social, financial and cultural factors. (Poverty and prior experience of family violence are two biggies.) Amazingly, there’s almost no research showing the particular psychology that might make one more prone to get into (and stay in) a physically violent relationship. (In the scant findings there are, researchers are unable to tease out whether, say, low self-esteem precipitated victimization or was caused by it.) But, it seems likely that women who have low self-worth, who are “pleasers,” and who have abandonment issues — women who are more likely to stay in emotionally abusive relationships — are more likely to stay in physically abusive ones. De Becker, in his vast experience with victims and victimizers, concurs, observing in “The Gift of Fear” that “men who cannot let go choose women who cannot say no.”

The muzzle of political correctness — intended to protect the feelings of victims — actually makes women more likely to be victimized by stifling discussion about who becomes a victim and how they might prevent it. Interestingly, the bounds of political correctness don’t extend to how we portray men. But, demonizing all men as deadly is like demonizing crossing the street because many people die each year at intersections (983 in 2009). A better idea is to look both ways. In relationships, this means assessing your individual risk for victimization and fixing feelings of low self-worth instead of trying to plaster over them with a partner — a partner you may feel compelled to cling to no matter what. In dating, this means engaging your judgment — not going off into the woods with some guy you barely know but also not seeing life as one giant “Law & Order” episode: “Hey, pretty lady … in the mood for a murder-suicide, or would you rather just see a movie?”

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

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

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio: Nerd your way to a better life through fascinating and fun discussions about love, dating sex and relationships with the top brains from psychology and science. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET (, or download the podcast at the link (click “play in your default player”). Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

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