The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Do I look infatuated in this?                     

Is there anything inherently bad about getting into a serious relationship quickly? I met this guy about a month ago. We hit it off instantly, became boyfriend and girlfriend two weeks later, and have been dropping I-love-yous. It all feels pretty great; I don’t have a history of poor relationship judgment; and I wasn’t desperate or even looking for a new partner. However, popular opinion seems to run against getting involved so fast. Your thoughts?        

— Speedy

Ah, yes … your love is like a summer’s day — if a summer’s day chased its lemonade with two Red Bulls and a five-shot latte.

It’s easy for you to assume you’re in your right mind, just because you haven’t started throwing peanuts at people in the park while debating abortion with a squirrel. But there are three stages of love: the “falling in it” stage, the “figuring out how it’ll work” stage, and finally, the “you’re the one!” commitment stage. You’re in the starting days of the “falling in it” stage — getting hit by rushing hormones and neurotransmitters — which is to say that you’re chemically dazed. Which is to say that making any sort of decision about what you two have is like getting really high and going off to sign papers for a bank loan.

In fact, according to research by psychiatry professor Donatella Marazziti, it’s likely that right now, you and this guy are each chemically different people — and thus behaviorally different people — than you will be once the chemical storm dies down. Marazziti found significant shifts in testosterone levels in both men and women who’d recently fallen in love. Compared with single people and people who’d been in relationships awhile, women newly in love had elevated testosterone, likely making them more sexually tigress-y, while the T levels of men newly in love dropped, likely making them more gooey and emotional — to the point where even a Navy SEAL might start sounding like a Valentine’s Day card.

How long the biochemical inebriation lasts varies, but Marazziti’s research suggests that couples are pretty much out of the falling in love daze a year to two years later. It’s only then — once you sober up — that you find out what you actually have together.  

The kind of love that sticks around is not just a feeling but a feeling that inspires loving action. As novelist Marlon James, quoting a former lover, put it: “Love isn’t saying ‘I love you’ but calling to say, ‘Did you eat?’ ” Love that lasts should also inspire a sort of loving inaction — loving the person enough that you don’t hate them for all the ways they turn out to be a total idiot: how they can’t seem to understand that pee goes in the big white porcelain thing, not on the floor; that those gross phlegm-clearing sounds are not a mating call; and that socks left on the bedroom rug will not grow tiny legs, crawl up the hamper and fling themselves in.

 

Growing mold together                      

I’m a 70-year-old man, and my wife is 68. I suffer from ED, and we both seem to have lost our sex drive. Don’t get me wrong; we are still very loving and affectionate with each other. We just don’t have sex. Is this a problem I should be addressing or just a side effect of aging? My male ego keeps telling me that I should still be a horndog.       

— Older Dude

No need to pull out the hose if there’s no fire.

So, on date night, you have a romantic dinner (early-bird special!) and then repair to bed for some rough hugging. Assuming your ED doesn’t stem from some more serious medical condition, the only thing that’s wrong with you is your thinking that something’s wrong with you. OK, your sexparts aren’t as perky as they were back when Warren G. Harding (or whoever!) was president. Would you deem yourself less manly if you got osteoarthritis in your elbow? Probably not. But predictably, your elbow has probably stopped working as well as it did when you were 22 — just like Mr. Winky Senior.

The reality is there’s much more to physical intimacy than being all Vlad the Impaler — a point sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein makes in his book Sexual Intelligence. Touch and affection are essential, and you have those. So instead of lamenting what you don’t have, focus on what you do. You might also consider that your level of manliness is reflected in your character — what you do when the chips are down — not by how, lately, your favorite thing to do in bed is sleep through the night without getting awakened by the twins: your bladder and your prostate.


© 2015, 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

 

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Nappily ever after                     

I just moved in with my fiancé, whose 5-year-old daughter stays with us part of the week. On the evenings she’s at the house, my fiancé just goes to sleep, leaving me to entertain her. (She likes to play endless games like “Guess how many fingers I’m holding up!”) Well, I work a full-time job, and I’m exhausted in the evenings. He and I got into a big fight because I said he can’t just clock out like this. He told me that I need to “set boundaries” with her. Is this really my job? I’m not her mother, and I’m not even officially her stepmother yet.        

— Dismayed

So what did he do before you moved in, just chain her to the radiator while he took a snooze?

When I was growing up, I’d have to play with toys by myself or go out and poke a worm with a stick. These days, parents go way over the top in how involved they think they should be in playtime, and kids exploit this, extorting constant adult attention. Developmental psychologist Peter Gray explains that play evolved to be the “primary means” for children to learn to solve their own problems, overcome their fears and take control of their lives, and this parents as playmates thing may stunt kids’ self-reliance. Gray, like anthropologist David Lancy, points out that parents being all up in kids’ playtime business is a very recent development. Throughout human history, parents have been too busy doing the little things — you know, like trying to keep the family from starving to death — to read the hieroglyphic version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to their kid 500 times in a row.

It isn’t fair for your fiancé to clock out and make you Youth Activities Director. (I’m guessing your Match.com profile didn’t have you listed as BirthdayClown777.) It’s also important that you develop a nice warm relationship with this little girl before you start going all Department of Corrections on her. Connection first, discipline second is the order in which the most successful stepparent-stepchild relationships are formed, explains stepfamily researcher Kay Pasley.

Of course, it is essential to set boundaries with willful, ill-behaved brats, including those who are, oh, 45. (Fatherhood is a journey, but not just from the living room to the bed.) As for how much of a role you’ll take in stepmommying, deciding that is part of deciding how your marriage will play out day to day, and that takes discussion: what you’re each comfortable with, what you need and what seems fair. (Who knew? There’s more to marital planning than cage fighting another bride for the hot caterer.) Once you and he figure everything out, you and your stepdaughter can play many fun games — starting with one of my favorites from Camp Tamakwa: “Let’s draw a pee-pee on your sleeping dad’s face with permanent marker!”

 

Grisly bare                     

I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I’m dating this guy, but I’m very insecure about my body. The other morning, I needed to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t want to walk naked out of the bedroom. I told him I felt self-conscious about being naked. He didn’t offer me a robe or a shirt or anything, and I found that kind of insensitive.        

—Modest

They’ll hand you a paper gown at the doctor’s office, but that’s because you’re probably speaking to the intake nurse for the first or second time; you didn’t stay up till 4 a.m. riding her like a pony.

This guy’s lack of “sensitivity” to your naked plight may also come out of how men generally don’t have quite so much insecurity about their appearance — and for good reason. Though a woman will go for a hunkbucket if she can get one, women evolved to prioritize men’s status and power over looks. (Think Henry Kissinger, Sarkozy, Shrek.)

Men’s attraction to women, however, is largely visually driven. Women get this, so a woman can feel anxious when her tummy-wrangling garment is dangling from the ceiling fan and fret that her breasts, unbra’d, no longer stand up like two missiles about to be launched. But, as in this situation, when a guy keeps calling and coming back for more, chances are he’s feeling appreciative of what you have and not worried that seeing it naked will have him hurling in the nightstand drawer.

Consider that a big part of sex appeal is confidence. Strutting around like you’re hot is a big step toward feeling that way. Try something for two weeks: Forget how insecure you feel naked and act as secure as you’d like to feel — tempting as it is to grab a pillow and back out of the bedroom like a cop when he knows the felons in the warehouse have him outnumbered.


© 2015, 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

 

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

Getting more exorcise

I went through a horrible divorce several years ago. Our marriage got very ugly, and I was mainly at fault. I’ve since worked very hard to get my life together and become a better person, but this past Saturday night, out of the blue, I got a slew of angry, abusive texts from my ex-husband. Some of these texts: ”I have a new wife & she’s younger than u & treats me way better.” “My career is going great. I bet ur more of a mess than ever.” “Ur a sociopath. I hope u die.” He also texted me an aerial shot of his new house and pool. A while back, I tried to apologize to him on the phone, but he was, to put it nicely, not interested. Is there a way to stop all this ugliness? (P.S. The new me stopped the old me from sending back snarky texts.)

— Changed Person

Nothing says “I’m over you” like a Saturday night text blitz of hate and real estate.

When life sends you hate, it’s tempting to make haterade: “Luv the pool. Will b over 2nite to swim with adolfo, my 24-yr-old underwear model boyfriend.” But the snarky low blow will just keep the ugly flying. Consider that anger comes out of hurt — from feeling that we’ve been treated unfairly — and try a counterintuitive approach: calling up a little compassion. Compassion gets confused with empathy, the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. But compassion is empathy plus an action plan — dialing in to the hurt that the person is feeling and then wanting to do something to make things better (rather than just taking the spectator approach: “Woo, is he ever having a crummy life!”).

Compassion is the gateway to accountability — taking responsibility for the harm you caused. You do that by admitting what you did and apologizing for it and then trying to make good in the best way you can. Sure, you tried to apologize to him before, but on the phone. The phone is easy. It’s the medium of prank calls and “30 minutes or less or your pizza is free!”

Referencing the work of apology researcher Aaron Lazare, M.D., I explain in my book Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck that a meaningful apology is a “costly apology” — one that requires the person doing the apologizing to invest time and effort, take a hit to their ego by admitting wrongdoing, and maybe even spend money. (On that last one, that’s if you, say, broke someone’s vase, as opposed to their ability to trust women, which is a little harder to put a dollar amount on.)

A “costly apology” starts with a full jerktopsy — your dissection of three things: 1. Why what you did was wrong; 2. What it must mean to the person you wronged; and 3. How things could have (and should have) been different. Laying out these details — first for yourself and then for the person you harmed — helps them see that you understand what you did and that you aren’t all “yeah, whatever, bro” about its effects on them. By making a meaningful effort to clean up the damage you did to their dignity — their feeling that they’re worthy of care and respect — you may allow them to stop clinging to what you did and maybe even forgive you (putting an end to the fun game of “I’ll claw your back; you claw mine”).

Send your apology to your ex in a letter — one that is detailed and thoughtful, reflects self-knowledge and healthy humility, and expresses remorse. He may or may not accept your apology, believe you’ve changed, or change his attitude toward you. But apologizing is the right thing to do and, ultimately, something you need to do for you. Getting in the habit of being accountable makes you a better romantic partner, a better friend and a better person (and probably a person who sleeps better, as you tend to do when your conscience isn’t yoo-hooing you with 3 a.m. wake-up calls).

Sometimes you can’t entirely do right by the person you hurt (like when anything beyond a letter of apology would be unwanted and/or require body armor). Unfortunately, there’s no “undo” command in life, and a working time machine is probably at least 50 years behind my tragically nonexistent flying car. So when you find yourself still owing, it’s good to do something for somebody — maybe some sort of volunteer or philanthropic work — with the explicit purpose of making up for the harm you did. And then, when the confused homeless guy wonders why you’re giving him not just the bag of groceries but the car you loaded it into, you can mumble, “Um … let’s just say marriage wasn’t my strong suit.”

© 2015, 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

Advice Goddess

AdviceGoddess-NewBy Amy Alkon

Wait Lifting

 

I’m a 37-year-old woman, and I’ve always been quick to have sex, but I’m trying to just “date” first. Well, I’ve been on five dates with this one guy, and all we’ve done is kiss. Now I’m beginning to think that he isn’t attracted to me or is put off by my past, which, unfortunately, I was honest about.

 — Dismayed

Try to think of this as artisanal dating. Maybe he’s finished building the bed out of antique Popsicle sticks but his carpal tunnel kicked in while he was killing the flock of ducks for the mattress or spinning the cotton for the sheets.
If that sounds like a stretch, well, it’s no more of one than your notion — that the guy’s gone out with you five times because he finds you repellant or stays up nights picturing your sexual past (complete with barricades and rent-a-cops for crowd control). Do you think he’s enrolled in some underground rewards program, like you go out with a woman six times and you get a complimentary latte or maybe an iTunes gift card?
Evolutionary psychologists David Buss and David Schmitt point out that “human mating is inherently strategic.” Genetically, they explain, it’s generally in a man’s best interest to pursue a “short-term sexual strategy.” (Scientific journals and tenure committees frown on terms like “hit it and quit it.”) Basically, a man can limit his participation in sex to the fun part and still pass on his genes. Women coevolved to expect men to try for this sort of limited participation (so your bewilderment at his crossed legs isn’t exactly surprising). But a man can come to a point where a “long-term sexual strategy” becomes wiser, and it’s generally when he’s serious about finding a partner and not just a sex partner for the evening.
Note that the guy keeps coming to pick you up, and not because he is an Uber driver or is being held at gunpoint by your mother. You could say something to him — maybe “Hey, I was really hoping you’d take me home one of these nights.” This may be the nudge he needs to make a move — or at least tell you what’s up. And sure, it is within the realm of possibility that he has ED, an STD, low sexual desire, or a seriously small penis and is waiting until you’re emotionally attached to break out the news. But it’s also possible that you aren’t the only woman he’s seeing and he’s trying to be adult about it, meaning that he’s learned that many women get emotionally attached after sex. Sleeping with two women is a good way to end up with a girlfriend — and one would-be girlfriend in the bushes with ricin-tipped blow darts or at least searching Yelp for the best-rated local assassins.

Wuthering Fights

My friend says that you only find out who somebody truly is when you break up with them. He suggests that I pick a few fights with anybody I’m dating so I can see their true colors. Is this really a wise idea?
—Skeptical
If you really want to see what a person’s made of, after goading them into a fight, you might do a lung capacity test, like by holding them down and trying to drown them in a bathtub.
Though it seems an obviously bad idea to pick petty arguments, your friend has a point — that you don’t find out who somebody really is when the most pressing question they’re asked is, “Do you need a few more minutes to look at the menu, monsieur?” What comes out in the early stages of dating is temperament more than character. In social psychology, temperament is basically what “flavor” a person is — introverted or extraverted, loud or quiet, happy or glum. Character is values-driven behavior — meaning whether a person’s likely to do what’s right as opposed to what’s easiest. (Like if there’s a landslide, do they try to save you or just wave goodbye?)
Character is mostly revealed in two ways: over time and through stress. To speed up the character revelation timetable, do challenging activities together — the sort in which “party manners” are hard to maintain: Camp. Go on a high-stakes scavenger hunt. Go on a juice fast. Go on a juice fast while camping. Who a person really is can’t help but come out when they’re in the middle of the woods with you, they haven’t eaten solid food in a week, and a hiker walks by with a bag of Doritos. (It’s the little things that count — like how they lovingly brush that telltale orange dust out of your hair before the cops come.)© 2015, 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.
Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Wait lifting                   

I’m a 37-year-old woman, and I’ve always been quick to have sex, but I’m trying to just “date” first. Well, I’ve been on five dates with this one guy, and all we’ve done is kiss. Now I’m beginning to think that he isn’t attracted to me or is put off by my past, which, unfortunately, I was honest about.      

 — Dismayed

Try to think of this as artisanal dating. Maybe he’s finished building the bed out of antique Popsicle sticks but his carpal tunnel kicked in while he was killing the flock of ducks for the mattress or spinning the cotton for the sheets.
If that sounds like a stretch, well, it’s no more of one than your notion — that the guy’s gone out with you five times because he finds you repellant or stays up nights picturing your sexual past (complete with barricades and rent-a-cops for crowd control). Do you think he’s enrolled in some underground rewards program, like you go out with a woman six times and you get a complimentary latte or maybe an iTunes gift card?

Evolutionary psychologists David Buss and David Schmitt point out that “human mating is inherently strategic.” Genetically, they explain, it’s generally in a man’s best interest to pursue a “short-term sexual strategy.” (Scientific journals and tenure committees frown on terms like “hit it and quit it.”) Basically, a man can limit his participation in sex to the fun part and still pass on his genes. Women coevolved to expect men to try for this sort of limited participation (so your bewilderment at his crossed legs isn’t exactly surprising). But a man can come to a point where a “long-term sexual strategy” becomes wiser, and it’s generally when he’s serious about finding a partner and not just a sex partner for the evening.

Note that the guy keeps coming to pick you up, and not because he is an Uber driver or is being held at gunpoint by your mother. You could say something to him — maybe “Hey, I was really hoping you’d take me home one of these nights.” This may be the nudge he needs to make a move — or at least tell you what’s up. And sure, it is within the realm of possibility that he has ED, an STD, low sexual desire, or a seriously small penis and is waiting until you’re emotionally attached to break out the news. But it’s also possible that you aren’t the only woman he’s seeing and he’s trying to be adult about it, meaning that he’s learned that many women get emotionally attached after sex. Sleeping with two women is a good way to end up with a girlfriend — and one would-be girlfriend in the bushes with ricin-tipped blow darts or at least searching Yelp for the best-rated local assassins.

 

Wuthering Fights                  

My friend says that you only find out who somebody truly is when you break up with them. He suggests that I pick a few fights with anybody I’m dating so I can see their true colors. Is this really a wise idea?

 —Skeptical

If you really want to see what a person’s made of, after goading them into a fight, you might do a lung capacity test, like by holding them down and trying to drown them in a bathtub.

Though it seems an obviously bad idea to pick petty arguments, your friend has a point — that you don’t find out who somebody really is when the most pressing question they’re asked is, “Do you need a few more minutes to look at the menu, monsieur?” What comes out in the early stages of dating is temperament more than character. In social psychology, temperament is basically what “flavor” a person is — introverted or extraverted, loud or quiet, happy or glum. Character is values-driven behavior — meaning whether a person’s likely to do what’s right as opposed to what’s easiest. (Like if there’s a landslide, do they try to save you or just wave goodbye?)

Character is mostly revealed in two ways: over time and through stress. To speed up the character revelation timetable, do challenging activities together — the sort in which “party manners” are hard to maintain: Camp. Go on a high-stakes scavenger hunt. Go on a juice fast. Go on a juice fast while camping. Who a person really is can’t help but come out when they’re in the middle of the woods with you, they haven’t eaten solid food in a week, and a hiker walks by with a bag of Doritos. (It’s the little things that count — like how they lovingly brush that telltale orange dust out of your hair before the cops come.)


© 2015, 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

 

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