The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

Bride and zoom

I’m in love, and I just said yes to marrying the man of my dreams. We’ve only known each other for two months, but we’re in the Peace Corps. You really see the core of a person when conditions are not so comfy. We’re planning on traveling home to get married on our next monthly break. (We get two days off.) Afterward, we’ll have a big celebration back here with all our local friends. My best friend’s begging me to slow down, but my parents married two weeks after meeting, and that worked out. Marrying now feels very romantic and like the most right thing I’ve ever wanted to do. What’s wrong with saying yes to romance?

— Excited

It’s easy to find a lot in common with a guy when you’re both living thousands of miles from home: “Wow — you live in a mud hut?! I live in a mud hut! You have a hole for a toilet? I have a hole for a toilet!”

This could very well be the voluntourism version of two 14-year-olds deciding they’re the second coming of Romeo and Juliet because they like EXACTLY THE SAME MUSIC AND MOVIES! Eventually, the 14-year-olds hit their 20s. (Life in one’s 20s, like life back home, includes a few more complexities.) A mutual obsession with geeksta rap suddenly matters lots less when one turns militant vegan while the other has problems with hunting, but only because she prefers her meat already killed, skinned, and cooked, and delivered to her with a side of asparagus on fine china.

You say you’re in love, but it’s the part of love that can’t be trusted — the infatuation stage. (Say hi to your hormones, because you’re their bitch.) Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher and her colleagues found that infatuation correlates with a surge in the neurotransmitter dopamine, and Fisher told Psychology Today that infatuation shares elements of a cocaine high — “sleeplessness, loss of a sense of time, absolute focus on love to the detriment of all around you.” In other words, getting married now is like signing a binding lifetime contract while on an extended coke bender.

It doesn’t help that the human brain is like a grabby toddler, prone to go for immediate rewards without weighing the consequences. Later, it comes back around and does the adult job of justifying all of its unwise choices. For you, even the absurdity of marrying somebody you barely know becomes a justification: “I’m not an idiot; in fact, I’m bright! So marrying somebody I just met isn’t idiotic; it’s romantic!” You also turn your parents’ marital impulsivity into precedent. Guess what: They were dumb — and lucky. They turned out to be compatible, as you two may — or may not — two years from now, once you’re back in the land where chicken is something sold in shrink-wrap, not something that hops across your head at night.

Waiting to get married doesn’t preclude you from throwing a party. Use those two days back home to invite your friends to celebrate with you, to witness you experiencing the joys so many of us take for granted — hot showers, doing laundry in a washing machine, and encountering enormous bugs, but only the kind that come with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty.

 

Gone with the Schwinn

I’m a 31-year-old guy, a part-time model, newly single, and scared to talk to women. Yesterday, I saw a beautiful woman checking me out at Whole Foods. I didn’t know what to do, so I unlocked my bike and rode off. This happens maybe three times a week.

— Getting Ridiculous

The roof of Whole Foods will not open up while you’re shopping, and a beautiful woman will not fall into your cart and say, “Oh, wow — I’ve been waiting for a man like you to take me home and smear me with cruelty-free peanut butter.” Sadly, this means you’ll need to approach a woman, open your lips, and make words come out about something she’s wearing, doing, or carrying: “Kelp steaks! They’re even better than the tofu T-bone!” The way to get comfortable doing this is by actually doing this. For two weeks in a row, give yourself a weekly quota: You have to make moves on 21 women you’d be interested in dating — three per day — even if it takes going out expressly to find women to hit on. If you fall short one day, make it up the next. Come up with a punishment, like giving $50 to charity, should you fail to meet your weekly number. Every woman you talk to isn’t going to go out with you, but you’ll certainly get more dates than you do with your current strategy: “A beautiful woman is looking at me! Quick, unlock the bike and speed away!”

(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.blog
talkradio.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

 

The Dark Mite

I’ve been separated from my wife for three years, but I find myself craving her. I say “crave” because I don’t think I ever really loved her. We only got together 15 years ago because she asked me out. I would never have approached her, as I’m not attracted to her. She is overweight, has a 10th-grade education, and is wildly irresponsible with money. I’ve been in five one-sided relationships that started like this one, with my fear, insecurity or laziness allowing me to be led in. I’ve been spending time with my wife and realized that nothing about her has changed, and there’s little chance of our being happy together. I guess I should’ve had a bunch of dates and physical intimacy with attractive single women, but I haven’t been with anyone since our separation. What is my problem?

— Chained

If somebody needs an asteroid shifted or wants to know whether Lois Lane is wearing any underwear, they call Superman. You, on the other hand, are the anti-superhero, Do-Nothing Man. You don’t fly (or even crawl) after what you want; you just turn into a giant sticky target so the universe can drop space debris on you — a broken chair, a wife, beer cans the astronauts threw out of the Mir.

The Declaration of Independence talks about “the pursuit of happiness.” Hint: You actually have to chase it. That takes having the guts to go after what makes you happy instead of going home with whatever plucks you off the dessert table and drops you in her purse like a miniature cupcake among men.

Unfortunately, on the alpha male scale, you’re pretty much Hello Kitty. Let’s be clear: You don’t crave your wife; you crave the easy way out. You’d rather go back to a woman you find physically repellant than risk being rejected by one you actually want, probably because you feel your worth is determined by whether people like you (what other people think of me-esteem). In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (a book you need to read), therapist Nathaniel Branden writes that self-esteem — feeling worthy of happiness and competent to deal with what life throws you — comes out of self-acceptance: choosing to value yourself, to treat yourself with respect, and to stand up for your right to exist.

If you’re shipwrecked on one of those little islands in a New Yorker cartoon and you ask the lone woman there “You wanna climb the coconut tree with me?” and she says no, you have a problem. Otherwise, a no is just reason to ask the next woman out — and the next, and the next — until one you like says yes. Statistically, if you approach a lot of women you want, you should eventually get one — and, in the meantime, get to the point where rejection is something you mostly find boring. Yes, you do need to work on your self-worth, but you can’t wait for it to be all shiny and great. Fixing yourself takes time. Acting fixed takes only guts and a clean shirt, and then, if all goes well, making moves that suggest you’ll be an animal in bed, and not the kind that stands frozen in headlights in the middle of a country road.

Just tasing

A work buddy swears that if he’s kind of mean to women, they want him way more than if he’s respectful and nice. Seriously? I’m no wimp, but I wouldn’t know how to treat women like this and am kind of afraid to start.

— Han Solo

Women just love it when a man pulls the chair out from under them or leans over and says, “Shall I compare thee to a box of Summer’s Eve?” The notion that you can “neg” a woman — insult her into bed — comes out of the Pickup Artist community. In The Game, Neil Strauss explains the neg as an “accidental insult” meant “to lower a woman’s self-esteem while actively displaying a lack of interest in her — by telling her she has lipstick on her teeth … or offering her a piece of gum after she speaks.” “Accidentally” demeaning a woman into bed is a more successful scheme than trying to flatter her there, but it’s still a scheme and one plenty of women are now on to (marking a guy who uses it as loserville). If your first impulse isn’t to lick a woman’s shoes in hopes of making her like you, maybe the secret is not having a secret but being comfortable with yourself and letting women see that you’re warm, interesting, and fun to talk to. Unfortunately, this will leave you with a far less amusing “how we met” story for your future children than “Well, kids, I told your mom she had a fat ass, and the rest was history.”

(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

 

Life is what you fake of it

I’m in love. This person makes me feel like a shaken-up Coke bottle ready to explode with happiness! But, not even my therapist understands. She wants to hand me pills for the problem. Being in love isn’t the problem; it’s the fact that I’m in love with someone who doesn’t exist. I’m 19, and I’ve been in love with him for nine years, since I was a kid with no friends. I love him for his courage and willingness to help. He’d run faster than anyone in the world to catch me when I fall. I understand that he isn’t real and that I’m supposed to have had real relationships with real men by now. (I have the complete capability to get a real guy and have let lots of opportunities go by because of him!) Why am I in love with someone who will never love me back? How can something so unreal feel so good?

— Clinging
 

Well, you do have a great way to get those pesky flesh-and-blood guys off the phone: “Gotta go. Just heard my boyfriend’s unicorn pull up outside my apartment.”

When you are 7 and have no friends, an imaginary boyfriend is the ideal tea party guest. When you’re 19 and turning down real live guys for Prince Nonexistent But Charming, you’re digging yourself into a psychological ditch. You’ve been engaging in the literal version of what clinical psychologist Dr. Robert Firestone deemed a “fantasy bond” — when two (actually existing) people use the pretense that they have love as a way of avoiding the risks of real love. In Fear of Intimacy, Firestone calls this “an addictive mode” of retreating to “an emotionally deadened existence.” (Kinda takes the imaginary bloom off the imaginary 26 dozen roses, huh?)

An imaginary boyfriend never shoots you a disappointed look when you go back for more pie, but he also never challenges you in the good ways a real boyfriend would. A real relationship requires compromise and empathy. It’s also an interpersonal flashlight of sorts, pushing you to grow as a person by highlighting what’s less than ideal about you — stuff you can’t learn by spending your nights going to second base with your pillow.

There are risks in dating a guy you can’t put your hand through. He might try to catch you when you’re falling but miss or not even notice you’re falling because he’s staring at some other girl’s jigglies. Of course, there are also risks in not taking a risk with somebody real, like waking up at 40 and realizing you’ve been pretending to have a life for 30 years.

Retiring from your emotional slackerhood starts with evicting “that special nobody” from your head. Whenever he pops into mind, recite the Turkish alphabet or count backward from 100. (You can’t do these things and moon over him at the same time.) You might even follow the lead of comedian Amy Sedaris, who told David Letterman that her imaginary boyfriend, Ricky, had been murdered — brutally stabbed 18 times. If that’s too violent for your taste, maybe tell yourself that yours finally realized he’s gay and he’s off at a pool party comparing little gold Speedos with his imaginary new boyfriend.

Fools Rush Inn

I’m 50-something, as is this man I met at a meeting for a nonprofit. We exchanged some e-mails, and then he asked me out. The week before our date, he texted me, asking me to go on a several-day trip with him, and he clearly wasn’t kidding. I found this inappropriate — my return text made that clear — and I nixed our date. He responded that he didn’t want to be with anyone so touchy, who couldn’t take him for who he is. Wouldn’t any man in his right mind know this invitation was out of bounds?

— Apparently Touchy
 

A man can have a crazy thought fly into his head, like “We’ve e-mailed three times already. Let’s spend 44 hours together in bed!” If he’s in possession of the Adult Social Skills worksheet, he’ll keep that thought parked in its thought hangar, predicting that a woman will answer as you did: “Don’t mind if I don’t.” This guy might’ve had a shot with you if he’d immediately pulled back: “Sorry … a little rushed on my part. Gimme another chance.” But, why would you want to take him for who he is — a guy who screws up and then hurls blame at you instead of taking responsibility? I mean, come on — for a woman who isn’t 22 and really impulsive or a needy mess, a weekend getaway invite from some man she talked to at a meeting is probably about as tempting as “So … deserted country road at 8? I’ll be the guy carrying the rope coil and the duct tape.” 

(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.blog
talkradio.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

Attention defici — oooh, shiny!

My girlfriend of eight months has ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). She was diagnosed about 10 years ago, in her early 20s. She takes medication that helps her focus better at work and has steps (like writing everything down) to avoid forgetting important things, stay more organized, etc. Despite this, she is very disorganized and often gets distracted. (I sometimes catch her checking out when we’re right in the middle of a phone conversation.) She often runs late when we are supposed to be someplace and forgets things — minor things as well as major things. She can also be very impatient. There are a lot of great things about her and us, and we do love each other. Still, when she forgets about me or is totally unready (as in, unshowered and wearing a towel) when I come to pick her up, I can’t help but feel like not quite a priority to her.

— The Boyfriend

There are surefire ways to get a woman’s attention, like kneeling and pulling out a big gleaming rock. For an ADHD woman, you may also want to hire one of those street-corner sign-spinner guys to stand next to you in a chicken suit jerking a big arrow at the ring. This should substantially improve your chances of hearing a simple yes or no instead of “Oh, no, I think I left my stove … we should order Chinese. Did I charge my cellphone? Look, a spider!”

ADHD is a stupidly named disorder. Those with it don’t have a deficit of attention; they just have problems controlling the allocation of their attention, explains researcher Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D., on Dana.org. People blame ADHD on too much videogaming, too much television, sheer laziness, and even the use of green chalkboards and yellow chalk. (Therapist Susan Tschudi, author of Loving Someone With Attention Deficit Disorder, heard that last one on the radio; a caller was convinced it had caused her son’s ADHD.)

Researchers can’t say conclusively what causes ADHD, but Tschudi notes that there’s strong evidence it’s a “neurobiological disorder in which the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine are not regulated properly and cause the brain to underfunction,” leading to problems “staying focused, sustaining effort, managing emotions, and accessing working memory (that is, remembering).”

Having ADHD is like trying to think while being attacked by a flock of crows or having 16 squirrels in your head, all scampering off in different directions. I know this firsthand, because I was diagnosed with ADHD about 15 years ago and take Adderall to make the little squirrels sit at their little desks so I can focus and write. Unfortunately, Adderall isn’t a life-wide miracle cure. As my boyfriend likes to joke when he’s asking me about something important: “Do I have your divided attention?”

People dating those with ADHD tend to take its effects personally. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that your girlfriend has a mind like a steel sieve. When one of her attentional shortcomings makes you feel like she’s messing with you, you might ask yourself whether she’s messing with her wallet when she means to put it back in her purse but instead puts it back in the freezer. That said, it’s important that ADHD be used to explain only ADHD-related behaviors; she can’t be all “Oh, my attention wandered, and so did I — into bed with your best friend.” (She may have the attention span of a tsetse fly; she doesn’t get to have the ethics of one.)

For your relationship to work, you both need to try harder, but in different ways. You need to accept that she isn’t a regular-brained person, and she needs to avoid acting like she probably does in the world of the regular-brained — by hiding it when her attention wanders off. (You can’t have a life with somebody if she’s always pretending she’s heard what you just said.) She also needs to admit it when she’s feeling too impatient to discuss or do something. (Better than pushing herself and snapping at you.) She needs to see that she’s on time when it’s important to you, and you need to have perspective when she comes to the door in a towel when it’s not. Ultimately, making things work comes down to the most basic of basics — love — and wanting to be together so much that the tradeoffs seem worth it. As I’ve noticed in my own relationship … my dog needs a bath. Kale. Like Pauline Kael but spelled differently and also it’s a vegetable. Do you think the Iranians have nukes? Sorry … what was I saying about ADHD?

(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.blog
talkradio.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

 

Love me tinder

I met a woman, and we hit it off like wildfire. It seemed everything she said and did was perfect. In six months, we were engaged. She and her four kids moved in with me and my two kids. Shortly afterward, it turned sour. We parent quite differently. Her kids are bad-mannered, curse at her, respect no property or space, and constantly get kicked out of school. When I tried to correct them and improve their behavior, her ex-husband got a restraining order on my fiancée to keep their children away from me. She and the kids moved out, but we kept dating. I soon became aware that she was also dating an old boyfriend. She said she was scared and wanted a backup plan in case we didn’t work. I got sick of this and ended it. She claimed she wanted to be with me, yet she now seems very happy with the old boyfriend. How does a person move on so fast? How do I get past feeling totally dumped?

— Heavy Heart
 

As a parent, you’re supposed to be in the business of buzz-kill, not only setting boundaries for your kids but modeling the mature, adult thing to do. For example: “Come on, kids — I found this hot stranger we can live with!”

There are people who can act this impulsively; they’re called “single, childless adults.” Six months into a relationship, you’re in a sex fog, meaning the windows of your judgment are steamed over, meaning it’s the perfect time to commit to nothing more long-lasting than a week’s vacation. You defend your impulsivity by saying you two “hit it off like wildfire,” which, if you think about it, is like saying “like one of the most dangerous and destructive natural disasters.” (Not exactly the best basis for forming the new Brady Bunch.)

This woman didn’t change; you just saw more of her as time went by. As I’ve written before, people don’t break up because somebody’s got a great laugh or they’re awesome in bed — the stuff that’s apparent at the start. That’s why, before you commit to somebody, you need to put in time and effort to dig up all the unpalatable things — like mouthy delinquent children and an ex with an itchy court-filing finger — and see if you can deal. Doing this takes wanting to see what a person’s all about, as opposed to wanting to believe you’ve found true love and tightening your blindfold. When you’re honest about who a woman is, you can predict what she’ll do instead of learning it through hindsight — a term which pretty much spells out the problem. To put it delicately, you should re-read the directions on your contact lenses, because you’ve probably been putting them in the wrong area.

 

Mommy Disappearest

After mutually ending a 20-year marriage that was more friendship than passion/romance, I met a man I love. We’re considering buying a home together. The complication is my 16-year-old daughter, who’s downright frosty toward my boyfriend. It’s hard to be spending weekdays with my daughter and weekends with him, like I’m living in two camps. She’s got two years of high school left, and it’d be OK with me if she wanted to live with her dad (if he were OK with that). Should I ask her if she would consider that? I’m afraid she’ll feel really rejected.  

— Divided

You’re essentially suggesting doing what some people do with their pets. The dog growls at the new boyfriend, so she gets “rehomed”: “She’s really not working for us anymore. Here’s her dish and her iPhone.”

Sorry, but “I’m just not that into you” isn’t something a mother gets to say to her daughter. Divorce is damaging enough to a kid. Sometimes it’s the best-case scenario — like if there’s constant high conflict. But it’s extremely indulgent of parents to break up a family simply because their romance waned and the sex got kinda yawny. This is of no interest to a kid — nor should it be. And what are you thinking now, what’s a little more psychological damage on top of what you’ve inflicted? “Honey, I know you wanted a car for your 17th birthday, but I thought I’d give you abandonment issues instead.”

You’ve got just two years until your “complication” leaves for college. You can either build a working time machine and go back and use birth control or act like a mom and treat your daughter like a priority instead of excess baggage keeping you from the life you want with your boyfriend: “Wherever do we put her? I guess we could store her at her father’s for the next couple years x…”

(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.blog
talkradio.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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