Friday, June 15, 2012

Do men ever change?

Phrightening Photoshoppery
Hi, Edahn

Since you can answer any question... why do you think women change and men don't? To understand that would help relationships immensely. Thanks.

WELL, TO BE HONEST, I can't say with certainty that women change more than men. I've witnessed change and stubbornness in both men and women, but let's assume you're right. I'll give you a few possible explanations.

The boring explanation is that men are socialized to be more assertive and aggressive than women by their families and culture. A dad might counsel his son to stand up for himself and fight a bully, but might tell his daughter to talk to the teacher or try to befriend or reason with a bully. Culture also plays a big part in this. We watch TV shows and movies with assertive males and conciliatory females from a young age.

Another explanation might be that women are better at listening and adapting because they're more attuned to other people in general. Women are the default caretakers, both in the wider animal kingdom and even among humans. They carry their baby, nurse it, and nurture it. Roughly 84% of single parents are mothers, not fathers. Being able to read and relate to others might give them an advantage in compromising, looking at themselves, and making adjustments.

The interesting explanation has to do with dominance. Someone with typical alpha male characteristics like aggression and dominance eschew compromise and listening since an alpha male is possessed by a need to control and conquer, both physically and verbally. In a disagreement, an alpha male would be more likely to assert their position and get their opponent to submit. I do think women possess characteristics of dominance, but I also think men seek women that are slightly less dominant than they are. If that was true, you would see a trend whereby men would seem more stubborn than women. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Advice, and Other Stuff

I was thinking today about stuff, my life, and values. My values come from one place, which is the same place I think all real values come from: a place of inner-quietness. That's when I remember what's really important to me, and what just seems important. Important things are self-respect, self-compassion, and self-connectedness. The unimportant things are making people like me and doing things to earn the respect of others.

It's from that place that I try to guide myself and guide others. It's the only thing I know that will never steer me wrong with absolute certainty. It's the place I try to tap into when writing here on this blog.

At various times throughout the lifetime of this blog, I've thought about closing shop for various reasons. But I'm glad I didn't, and I really appreciate everything I've received from writing this blog and the people who have written in. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How do I Stop Fighting with My Soulmate?

Kiss-Cam Win
My boyfriend and I have been together for over 3 years. Since the day we met it has been an instant spark and our relationship has always been extremely passionate. We have that relationship where you just know that you've found it: real, true love and a soul mate. 

We began having fights like normal but we really started hitting some trouble last year when it started becoming a constant thing. They can range from idiotic pointless fights to his girl-friends or exes. I know he's faithful; I'm just a jealous person.

I know I get angry way too easily, and I've improved a lot, but I still get ticked off and start arguments about little things. Even if we resolve it I can't seem to let the anger go. His problem is that even when I am calm and try to talk to him about something he gives me one word answers or says "I don't know" or makes a sarcastic comment. 

We both think that the problem is that we never went through that awkward, getting-to-know-each-other-and-not-ready-to-fart/go-to-the-bathroom-in-front-of-the-other phase. We didn’t allow ourselves to learn about each other; how we fight, how we deal with stress, how we deal with problems, how we defend ourselves, how we react, etc. Do you think this is what the problem is? We both feel like we need a blank slate. How do we fix us? 
I THINK WHAT YOU'RE asking for is how to transform (or restore) your relationship. It's possible, but it takes time, effort, and commitment. Truth is, you could spend time trying to explore how things have changed and why they're not working, and could probably come up with a bunch of really interesting theories for your mind to wrestle with and enjoy. But that's not what's really going to help you. What's going to help you is developing a new interaction style and putting the old one on hold.

So we have to ask what a good pattern might look like for you too. Right now, things are tense. Your jealous thoughts (let's call them fears) are getting triggered easily and seem to linger. Your boyfriend sounds like he completely checks out when you guys are arguing. Maybe he feels like you're dominating the conversation or bullying him. It's not that you're intending to bully him, but maybe you're dismissing him or out-maneuvering him in the fight. Or, maybe he's just tired of being accused of things that originate in your own personal fears. Make sense?

So I ask you: what would it look like if things were better? How would you be interacting with each other? What would you be doing, and what would you be saying? How would you both be feeling? What would your body feel like? Picture yourselves walking down the street or sitting in a restaurant with humble smiles. You're talking, cracking up here and there, sharing something meaningful or something completely pointless. But you're connected to one another. It's not too intense or too dramatic. It's more just...nice.

The thing about passion is that it fades. Not just fades over years, it fades over minutes or hours. And when it fades, that loss of connection and intensity can be painful, so much that couple begin lashing out at each other. It's not really sustainable. You have to find something in the middle that's less intense and easier to maintain. 

What I want you to do (you or both of you) is spend time visualizing that more stable, nice interaction. Ponder it during your shower or whenever you have time. Develop as clear a picture as you can of the two of you interacting in different situations. Imagine how you'd deal with your fears, and imagine how you'd deal with your frustration with his jokes--wisely and lightly. Then try it on. Don't discuss it, be it. Over time, you may start to see some shifts in the way you guys interact. It's important that you keep up the visualization exercises even when they seem pointless. Give it 3 months and if you don't see any results, I'd recommend finding a therapist. My heart goes out to you guys. It's a tough situation.

Got a question? Go here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Improve Self-Esteem after a Bad Relationship

This question is a follow up to this post.

And what about the self-esteem? What if I feel I am completely useless and no one will ever like me?

I'M A FIRM BELIEVER that self-esteem is something that everyone already has. Therefore, self-esteem isn't something you need to work to get, but something you need to work to uncover.

Uncovering self-esteem isn't really an intellectual process of analysis and thinking. It's really more anti-thinking . You can uncover it by stripping away the layers of self-doubt, self-judgment and future-thinking, and just looking at the person you already are in a very simple and quiet way. Looking at yourself that way and being with yourself that way makes you embrace the person that you are and see the value that you already possess. Again, it's not an intellectual process, it's just a process of being with your thoughts and feelings. You can call it authenticity. I call it Rest.

It makes sense to me that you feel so distanced from your natural self-worth, because your relationship was incredibly complicated. How often (and how deeply) did you feel like your natural, best self? How frequently did you feel calm and connected? In a relationship fraught with conflict, betrayal, and judgment, I would venture a guess that you felt this rarely. If you think you were completely yourself, then I would challenge you to contemplate the question who am I, in my heart?

In my previous post, I suggested you stop ruminating about the relationship and focus on yourself, your hobbies, your friends, the things that you forever enjoyed that made you feel like you. Try it. By doing that, you'll start to feel those layers of doubt and judgment will start to melt away and you'll naturally start feeling more authentic and more in touch. Your self-worth will slowly start to radiate out of from you, and along with that, a very sacred thing: hope. You'll start to see the possibilities for a satisfying life within reach and find the means to make it happen. Like you did long ago.

Got a question? Go here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

How do I move on?

Hi, Edahn 

I really need a word of advice. I have been in relationship for 10 years and I truly love the guy. He's been openly cheating on me all these time but because I was so happy with him I tolerated that. I hoped we would get married, but he's recently married somebody else. I'm 37 years old and alone. I'm crazily in love with him and I can't control my emotions. I'm depressed all the time, I cry (even at work and when other people are around) and I hate the girl he's married. It's been a year and I still haven't moved on... What should i do? I don't want to be miserable and lonely any longer...

THIS IS A SITUATION where you need to be aware of the difference between reality and perception. We tend to think that our perception is the same as reality, but there are lots of times when our perception gets distorted. One of those situations in being in love. When you fall into love (which is kind of like infatuation) your body and brain are going nuts. Neurons are firing, hormones are releases, and your emotions are all over the place. One of the key things that happen when you're in love is that you do things to preserve the relationship. There are obvious things, and then there are subtle things. 

Obvious things include not cheating. Subtle things include ignoring obvious character flaws, excusing misbehavior, and overlooking serious problems. It's hard to really recognize when you're doing this because your mind will conjure convincing explanations and justifications to protect the relationship, but if you look for patterns, you'll see them. You'll also starts to see your friends--who aren't as susceptible to distorted perception--telling you that you need to move on.

Now let's get to you. This is what I see: (1) you were very much in love; (2) hard as it may sound, he was not deeply in love; (3) you're still in love. In love in not the same as loving. Loving is feeling close and connected, whereas being in love has a more possessive quality to it. Being in love comes and goes, whereas loving someone is both more rare and more special.

It sounds to me like you're still very wrapped up in all your feelings and desire for this guy, and that those feelings--the in-love feelings--are preventing you from accurately assessing this man and this relationship you had with him. What you need, in my opinion, is to put this all down for a while. Your feelings will still be all over the place, but what you can do is let them be there and not fuss with it. Give yourself a break from all of this for a while. Let yourself breathe. Get back into some of the old hobbies and projects you had before you started seeing this man. As much as you can, stop obsessing about the relationship or what he's doing now, and stop talking about it. Obsessing will just refuel the emotions that are preventing you from moving on. 

It sounds counter-intuitive because most people would tell you to talk it out. I do think there's a time for that, but the time for that will be when your body and brain chemistry have normalized and you can get better evaluate this relationship and what it was really worth. That doesn't mean you didn't love him, and it doesn't mean he didn't feel a lot for you. But there's perception and there's reality. Over time, as things start to calm down, I think you'll start to see the difference, and that'll help you get the closure you need. 

Got a question? Go here.