The Island of Misfit Toys

It’s Christmas time. If you don’t believe me just turn on the television.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994 film)

There were years, many years, when as a single parent who wasn’t interested in dating I felt the sting of all the Christmas ‘perfect family’ tv shows. One year, while watching the newer version of Miracle on 34th Street I suddenly realized that at the end of the movie they shared a Christmas miracle that I could not. They found love, she got pregnant, and they got given a two million dollar house complete with Christmas cheer. Christmas in rich, white America.

For some of us being alone at Christmas is just a temporary bump in the road. We are between relationships, so to speak. For others, however, there is the terrible realization that we may never fit in, that we are… misfits.

You know who you are. You are the misfit toys.

For years I worked in a profession that was noticeable because of it’s homogeneity. It tended to attract the same temperaments – outgoing but controlled, opinionated but politically correct, dead smack in the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale. And passive-aggression, so many passive-aggressive leaders. It was a sub-culture, though a comfortable one for many.

I never really fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I really tried. I am, for lack of a clearer definition, a weirdo. I don’t necessarily play well with others. I enjoy being controversial, much to my own demise. I have written earlier about the well-known local personality who wrote to tell me that my biggest problem in life was my personality. That is still hard to digest some days.

I have changed a lot in the past couple years, or so I have been told. I have apparently grown-up some and learned about myself. Working as a counselor full-time has radically changed who I am. I get paid to perform self-analysis and it has been a very important ride.

I still have difficulty fitting in. I care about this less than I once did, but sometimes I cannot help wondering what life would have been like if I would have been less extroverted, or opinionated, or susceptible to such creative fits of passion. Don’t get me wrong, I have made peace with “me”. Unfortunately it has come at a price.

One of the things that helped me was to come to grips with the fact that I am not unique. Many of us, many, many of us, struggle with feelings of inadequacy or “less”. Even those of us with more acceptable temperaments worry that we will be misunderstood or rejected. Most of us can supply ample evidence to support that feeling. We have felt the sting of judgment, often over and over again.

You think you are all alone until one day you hear the bay of another dragon.

So here’s to you – you weirdos, you misfits, freaks, and artists. Merry Christmas Rudolf. You are fine just the way you are. If I have learned anything it is that I can never measure up to the expectations of my detractors; so I have stopped trying to impress. I am learning that the more I work on becoming a better me, weird or not, the healthier my life is and the lives of those I influence. I don’t really need to work on my marriage and relationships as much as I need to work on this guy. The healthier I get the more I can handle. The more complete I am the better I can be at reacting to stress and conflict, hardship and life.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

You are amazing just the way you are.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have things to work on, but then again we all do. The more you are ok with you, the happier you will be. The happier we all will be.

It’s Christmas time. Drink some eggnog even though it has a million calories. It’s not like you will become addicted, it’s only available for a month or so. Put it in your cereal and your coffee. Splash it on some rum. Smile, laugh, and if you do nothing else, watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. We can all choose to be happy, if only for a few moments.

Sex, Junk, And Menopause

English: graphic convention of manga, sweating...

I like talking about sex. After you have spent hours talking about depression, stress, marriage break-ups and anxiety it’s nice to talk about the clitoris. There is also the fact that I grew up in a conservative, Canadian culture that didn’t talk about female anatomy unless you are making a lurid joke; so there is the added risqué factor. I have actually caught myself, while in a conversation with a couple about their sex life, wondering, “Am I allowed to talk about this?”. It’s a childish, prudish attitude but frankly that makes it a bit more fun.

It will come as no revelation to anyone that women come to counselling far more than men. Without any verifiable data on hand I would guesstimate that at least 85% of my clients are female. This factor alone has radically changed my own life and taught me more about relationships, women, men, and psychology than any schooling or book. I am able, on some rudimentary level, to understand women far better than I ever did while working with men. I am still a Neanderthal, I admit, but hopefully a teachable one.

But I digress.

Sex is, unsurprisingly, a complicated thing for couples. Heterosexual couples have the added challenge of differing equipment, among other differences. Many men, surprisingly, still do not really understand female anatomy. True confession – as a teenager I didn’t know where women pee’d from. I didn’t have the advantage of an extensive and lurid porn collection and assumed women pee’d from that hole somewhere. My parents were actually very progressive and open about sexuality and I still didn’t figure it out. Laugh if you want – then ask your young teen. We’re dudes, our junk is on the outside and free to peruse at our leisure. Ok, now I feel like an idiot. As they say, laugh at yourself and you’ll never run out of material.

But I digress.

Menopause is another area that men don’t really understand. Why are you sweating without covers on? What do you mean when you say, “I feel like a furnace, the heat comes from the inside”? Can you really have a period for a month? Or not at all? Why does it suddenly hurt? Don’t you desire me anymore? Don’t I do it for you anymore?

Why are you crying? And once again, stop sweating!

It is easy to be critical of men and assume they are clueless about women because… well… we are. No one took us aside (outside of pornography where women all want sex all the time in every position imaginable and orgasm in about a minute) and explained your junk, or how to communicate, or even how to act like a man or a passionate lover. You don’t make any sense to us and we are usually too embarrassed and insecure to ask you for directions.

I love getting directions. But then again, I’m weird.

Women who are with men would do well to understand that we have not been properly taught how to understand you. Our teachers were our fathers (Neanderthals) and the dark side of the internet (run by Neanderthals). We don’t stand around at the job-site and ask each other about our feelings or talk about our relationships (at least not in a way you would appreciate). Few of us are in touch with our feelings and we do not understand how to ask for guidance or input in such a way that you won’t get disgusted or laugh. Telling me to “stop that!” only scares the hell out of me and further entrenches my belief that you are an alien species who cannot be understood. Add the male communication handicap and you have a recipe for misunderstanding. When it comes to the bedroom arena, couples really should spend at least as much time talking as they do… kissing. Creating an atmosphere free from ridicule or shame is the best gift you can give to your sex life. Talk, then touch. Then talk some more. You will be glad you did.

Are you done sweating yet?

Advice From A Divorced Man

great advice from Gerald Rogers via Huffington Post:

Obviously, I’m not a relationship expert. But there’s something about my divorce being finalized this week that gives me perspective of things I wish I would have done different… After losing a woman that I loved, and a marriage of almost 16 years, here’s the advice I wish I would have had…

1) Never stop courting. Never stop dating. NEVER EVER take that woman for granted. When you asked her to marry you, you promised to be that man that would OWN HER HEART and to fiercely protect it. This is the most important and sacred treasure you will ever be entrusted with. SHE CHOSE YOU. Never forget that, and NEVER GET LAZY in your love.

2) PROTECT YOUR OWN HEART. Just as you committed to being the protector of her heart, you must guard your own with the same vigilance. Love yourself fully, love the world openly, but there is a special place in your heart where no one must enter except for your wife. Keep that space always ready to receive her and invite her in, and refuse to let anyone or anything else enter there.

3) FALL IN LOVE OVER and OVER and OVER again. You will constantly change. You’re not the same people you were when you got married, and in five years you will not be the same person you are today. Change will come, and in that you have to re-choose each other everyday. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO STAY WITH YOU, and if you don’t take care of her heart, she may give that heart to someone else or seal you out completely, and you may never be able to get it back. Always fight to win her love just as you did when you were courting her.

4) ALWAYS SEE THE BEST in her. Focus only on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bugs you, all you will see is reasons to be bugged. If you focus on what you love, you can’t help but be consumed by love. Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love, and you know without a doubt that you are the luckiest man on earth to be have this woman as your wife.

5) IT’S NOT YOUR JOB TO CHANGE OR FIX HER… your job is to love her as she is with no expectation of her ever changing. And if she changes, love what she becomes, whether it’s what you wanted or not.

6) TAKE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY for your own emotions: It’s not your wife’s job to make you happy, and she CAN’T make you sad. You are responsible for finding your own happiness, and through that your joy will spill over into your relationship and your love.

7) NEVER BLAME your wife If YOU get frustrated or angry at her, it is only because it is triggering something inside of YOU. They are YOUR emotions, and your responsibility. When you feel those feelings take time to get present and to look within and understand what it is inside of YOU that is asking to be healed. You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them… when you heal yourself, you will no longer be triggered by her, and you will wonder why you ever were.

Allow your woman to JUST BE. When she’s sad or upset, it’s not your job to fix it, it’s your job to HOLD HER and let her know it’s ok. Let her know that you hear her, and that she’s important and that you are that pillar on which she can always lean. The feminine spirit is about change and emotion and like a storm her emotions will roll in and out, and as you remain strong and unjudging she will trust you and open her soul to you… DON’T RUN-AWAY WHEN SHE’S UPSET. Stand present and strong and let her know you aren’t going anywhere. Listen to what she is really saying behind the words and emotion.

9) BE SILLY… don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Laugh. And make her laugh. Laughter makes everything else easier.

10) FILL HER SOUL EVERYDAY… learn her love languages and the specific ways that she feels important and validated and CHERISHED. Ask her to create a list of 10 THINGS that make her feel loved and memorize those things and make it a priority everyday to make her feel like a queen.

11) BE PRESENT. Give her not only your time, but your focus, your attention and your soul. Do whatever it takes to clear your head so that when you are with her you are fully WITH HER. Treat her as you would your most valuable client. She is.

12) BE WILLING TO TAKE HER SEXUALLY, to carry her away in the power of your masculine presence, to consume her and devour her with your strength, and to penetrate her to the deepest levels of her soul. Let her melt into her feminine softness as she knows she can trust you fully.

13) DON’T BE AN IDIOT…. And don’t be afraid of being one either. You will make mistakes and so will she. Try not to make too big of mistakes, and learn from the ones you do make. You’re not supposed to be perfect, just try to not be too stupid.

14) GIVE HER SPACE… The woman is so good at giving and giving, and sometimes she will need to be reminded to take time to nurture herself. Sometimes she will need to fly from your branches to go and find what feeds her soul, and if you give her that space she will come back with new songs to sing…. (okay, getting a little too poetic here, but you get the point. Tell her to take time for herself, ESPECIALLY after you have kids. She needs that space to renew and get re-centered, and to find herself after she gets lost in serving you, the kids and the world.)

15) BE VULNERABLE… you don’t have to have it all together. Be willing to share your fears and feelings, and quick to acknowledge your mistakes.

16) BE FULLY TRANSPARENT. If you want to have trust you must be willing to share EVERYTHING… Especially those things you don’t want to share. It takes courage to fully love, to fully open your heart and let her in when you don’t know i she will like what she finds… Part of that courage is allowing her to love you completely, your darkness as well as your light. DROP THE MASK… If you feel like you need to wear a mask around her, and show up perfect all the time, you will never experience the full dimension of what love can be.

17) NEVER STOP GROWING TOGETHER… The stagnant pond breeds malaria, the flowing stream is always fresh and cool. Atrophy is the natural process when you stop working a muscle, just as it is if you stop working on your relationship. Find common goals, dreams and visions to work towards.

18) DON’T WORRY ABOUT MONEY. Money is a game, find ways to work together as a team to win it. It never helps when teammates fight. Figure out ways to leverage both persons strength to win.

19) FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY and focus on the future rather than carrying weight from the past. Don’t let your history hold you hostage. Holding onto past mistakes that either you or she makes, is like a heavy anchor to your marriage and will hold you back. FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM. Cut the anchor loose and always choose love.

20) ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. In the end, this is the only advice you need. If this is the guiding principle through which all your choices is governed, there is nothing that will threaten the happiness of your marriage. Love will always endure.

In the end MARRIAGE isn’t about Happily ever after. It’s about work. And a commitment to grow together and a willingness to continually invest in creating something that can endure eternity. Through that work, the happiness will come.

Marriage is life, and it will bring ups and downs. Embracing all of the cycles and learning to learn from and love each experience will bring the strength and perspective to keep building, one brick at a time.

These are lessons I learned the hard way. These are lessons I learned too late.

But these are lessons I am learning and committed in carrying forward. Truth is, I LOVED being married, and in time, I will get married again, and when I do, I will build it with a foundation that will endure any storm and any amount of time.

If you are reading this and find wisdom in my pain, share it those those young husbands whose hearts are still full of hope, and with those couples you may know who may have forgotten how to love. One of those men may be like I was, and in these hard earned lessons perhaps something will awaken in him and he will learn to be the man his lady has been waiting for.

The woman that told him ‘I do’, and trusted her life with him, has been waiting for this man to step up.

If you are reading this and your marriage isn’t what you want it to be, take 100% responsibility for YOUR PART in marriage, regardless of where your spouse is at, and commit to applying these lessons while there is time.

MEN- THIS IS YOUR CHARGE : Commit to being an EPIC LOVER. There is no greater challenge, and no greater prize. Your woman deserves that from you.

Be the type of husband your wife can’t help but brag about.

Jealousy And Obsession

Man thinking on a train journey.

I work a great deal with people who are in the throes of an obsession. It may be a love or a love lost, a new hobby or a destructive coping mechanism. No matter what the cause, obsession can be a powerful and consuming thing. The longer I work with clients the more apparent it becomes that a manic state is in many ways as destructive as a depressed state. Some of that emotional energy I have seen during a relational breakup, for example, is very destructive. Checking your email or Facebook every two minutes, writing out dozens of extensive apology or spite letters, overdoing it at the gym or at the bar or even at your church – manic obsession is not healthy.

Jealousy is a great example of how manic behaviour and thinking can get out of control. It can be insipid, especially if it appears justified. Sometimes we are jealous of another for good reason, at least we think so. This often leads to excessive passive-aggressive behaviour, incredible neediness, controlling and manipulative relationships, and eventual emotional ruin.

I know a little bit about jealousy. There was a time in my life when I was convinced that someone I cared about was attracted to another. The fact that I was eventually proven right actually was worse than if I had been mistaken. Fuel for the fire, so they say.

I have come to realize that most often jealously is actually about me, not the other person. If I am insecure, or envious, if I am needy or convinced that I am unworthy, this has a tendency to exacerbate any legitimate feelings I may possess. Finding out your spouse is enamored with some other guy or girl is bad enough when you are healthy. If you are an emotional train-wreck it can absolutely devastate you and those you are in community with.

Obsession.

Jealousy, like rage or fear, is an exceedingly powerful and consuming emotion. It turns otherwise rational people into psychotic idiots, passive people into tyrants, happy people into pathetic messes. Some of you know what I am talking about. Objective thinking goes right out the window. Like other obsessions jealousy takes up most, if not all, of your head time and thoughts. You start to catastrophize everything, think with your heart and not your head, live in a constant escalated state of pain and anxiety. Jealousy is almost impossible to talk someone down from.

Breathe.

Those racing thoughts are not healthy. Letting yourself dwell on the possibilities only makes you sicker. Trust me, you don’t need to feel all your feelings. You don’t need to process your pain twenty-four hours a day. What you do need is to put the brakes on the insanity and eat some chocolate, get laid, go to a movie, take a nap, or spend some time in prayer or meditation. Find out about mindfulness. Look into distraction. Talk to a doctor about Ativan. Read or listen to a book. Get sleeping pills. Give other people permission to tell you to shut up every now and then. Dwelling constantly on what may or may not be is a great way to go insane. Talk to a professional. Learn STOPP Therapy. Work on those racing and irrational thoughts. Deal with your self-esteem and insecurity and childhood issues. Stop the train wreck.

Realize that no one else can make you happy forever.

Married To Jesus

A true story given to me by a friend of a friend of a guy I used to know. It’s been sitting in my Inbox for some time now and I couldn’t find any good reason not to share it with you. It’s about living with a very nice Passive-Aggressive…

female jesusI used to live with Jesus, or so I thought. She was different from the people you would probably know – after all, most people don’t ever get a chance to even meet the Messiah, much less live with her. But I did.

People usually act differently in public than they do when no one is there to see what they are doing. Not Jesus. It was scary how consistent, how absolutely unflappable she was. Life is an exercise in guilt when you are married to the Holy of Holies. How do you get mad at someone who is always the same? How can you fight with someone you sometimes believe is always right? When you are married to the King of Kings it’s always your fault. Feel unloved? It’s your problem. Frustrated by her lack of empathy or the fact that she never panders to your emotional needs? Get over it, this is Jesus we’re talking about.

Living with Jesus is hard on your sense of self-esteem. After all you are clearly not worthy. People often remark, “I know why you married her but why did she marry you?” You are in love. You worship Jesus. You have a very twisted marriage.

But she wasn’t really Jesus. It wasn’t until much much later that you realized she was actually very repressed, very emotionally unavailable, distant. She was a textbook illustration of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. There was a whole world of anger and pain all closely hidden from the world, hidden even from you. You literally had no idea she was even remotely unhappy. That person whom you thought was perfectly happy and reasonable was in fact a deeply wounded and angry little girl who clearly had issues with self-awareness and vulnerability. There was even what some would call a passive-aggressive arrogance – quietly confident that in every situation she was always right.

The lack of emotional vulnerability contributed to my growing sense of neediness and romantic starvation. Jesus was apparently above feeling horny or expressing romantic intention. She also did not like to throw around phrases like “I love you”. She was an island and she expected everyone else to be likewise. Years later her best friend would confess, “I really never knew her. I don’t think anyone really did”.

No she wasn’t Jesus. In fairness she never asked to be put on a pedestal. I think. I was looking for a soul mate and she was looking for a business partner.

After almost two decades of being a burden she cut me loose to go “find herself”.

She said she couldn’t stay with someone who was needy.

It has been a while now and time has given me the insight that all those years of marriage could not. It turns out I was a pretty decent husband after all. Spending every day trying to impress the Christ will do that to a person. Apparently she was not perfect, though I would never have believed it.

No one is disappointed in me today. I haven’t failed yet today.

It’s going to be a good day.

Making It Work After Someone Cheats

The Pleasure and the Pain (1963) ...item 2.. M...

Not everyone can do it. I’m not sure I could, to be honest. Many couples choose to stay together after infidelity and I salute them. Remaining together is one thing, trusting ever again is another. So if you are in this situation, what can you do?

Earning trust back is a monumental task requiring an incredible amount of humility from both partners. It takes way longer than people want to admit. I have, however, seen couples who are committed to making things better, in spite of the horror and the obsessive thoughts, jealousy, and pain. Sometimes.

Working as a counselor I have, as you can imagine, my share of marital issues to wade through with people. Nothing comes close to the difficulty of rebuilding trust and safety. Trust and safety – two words that constantly come up when I talk to clients, especially female ones.

People don’t generally understand how devastating infidelity can be. For the partner who has been rejected (yes I said that word) the process can take years, if ever. There are nights and days of obsessing about the “why” of it all, about how they have failed as a lover and a spouse. There are hours and hours of anger and more obsessing. Even being touched by the cheater becomes loaded, and potentially volatile. The spouse who has cheated is often subjected to months and years of the “short leash”. They are forced to phone more often, report in more often, talk to potential attractions much less often. Sometimes there is punishment and condescension, anger and vengeance. The one who is on the short leash usually grows tired of the lack of trust. Why can’t your partner ever seem to move on?

Spouses who cheat, especially men, are prone to verbalize how tired they are of not being trusted. Many will, after some months, flatly refuse to jump through any hoops or even talk about the infidelity… yet again. They are sick of the same tears, the same logic, the same belittling. A surprising number of relationships break up a year or more after the actual incident. Things just won’t seem to go away and both partners are not getting what they need.

If you have been betrayed in this way the first thing you need to understand is that there is no template for how to respond correctly to such a nightmare. It’s so easy for counselors to give out prescriptions for happiness but the sad truth is that most of us are permanently damaged. There can be forgiveness, even reconciliation, but the relationship will change. For some of us leaving is the only emotionally healthy option.

If you or someone you love is tortured by infidelity, either their own or someone else’s, encourage them to talk to a professional. The most important part of moving forward is personal healing, no matter what the outcome. Learning how to process what has happened is the key to healing. Time doesn’t hurt either.

No one really knows what you are going through although some of us can understand that pain. Whether it’s your parents or your partner you owe it to yourself to do everything necessary to be whole again. You’re worth it, in spite of how you may feel right now.

Men And The Female Orgasm

Young Couple in Relationship Conflict

You understand how to fix your car. You can recite hockey stats like a scout. You understand renovations. You are good at your job. So why can’t you figure out a clitoris? The G-Spot? Do you really know if she’s faking it?

It is staggering the number of females in a longterm heterosexual marriage or relationship who tell me they rarely orgasm unless they do it themselves. The percentage is so high that I am nervous about how believable it would sound if I ventured a guess. The words, vast majority, have a truthful ring to them. Many women admit that they used to have more pleasure. Often women will tell me that their partner tries to pleasure them. More often than not, however, it’s tempting to just “lie back and dream of England”. So what is the big deal? Why is this so hard?

It really isn’t. It is, however, embarrassing to talk about for many people. I personally LOVE the idea of asking my wife to teach me, but some people don’t swing that way. Most men have learned sexual technique from pornography or trial-and-error or a bit of both. Someone did a study wherein they timed the average length of time it took a woman in pornography to display signs of intense pleasure. The average was somewhere around eleven seconds. I’m sorry but you simply aren’t that good. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can tell you that sexual gymnastics settle down after a few years. Infatuation with the opposite sex drops a shocking 80% in that same time. Add kids or communication problems, weariness or stress, and it is going to take a lot longer than eleven seconds before a woman is even going to relax enough to allow the experience to blossom.

The female orgasm takes time. I never realized this years ago but women often report that they need to feel such bizarre things as “safe” and can “trust” before they can let themselves go. As a man it is hard to get my head around such things, but I do try to explain it to other men in a language they can understand. We don’t understand what you really mean by “safe”, but I have been able to explain to dudes how incredibly intimate and potentially violating the sexual act can be for women. As a man I cannot even imagine letting someone do something like that to me just so they will shut up and leave me alone.

Negotiating the female pleasure system can be daunting for men. We have no real teachers and frankly your plumbing can be confusing to the uninitiated. A surprising percentage of men do not know exactly how women pee and where it comes from, precisely. Add to this the confusion we sometimes feel about the female sexual-desire timeline, the way that women seem to behave differently in different circumstances (and we don’t know why), and your seemingly complex thought processes and beliefs about when and why sex is appropriate, and the result is a confused bunch of dudes who have no idea what they are doing. Again, we’re still trying to figure of your plumbing.

I’ll say this as plainly as possible – most men need to be taught how to pleasure a woman and why this is the most important job they have during sex. They need to learn to not be selfish, be taught how to put their needs last. Men have been raised to believe that their pleasure is really all that counts. We have had horrible teachers.

Take the time to talk about your parts. Play Show And Tell. Teach and learn. Learn by doing. Be humble. Take your time.

It will be worth it.

You’re Yelling Again

Yell

 

I don’t yell. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m fairly certain it was a dysfunctional coping mechanism.
Maybe it was because I had relatives that yelled and I repress such expressions as a response to that situation.
Maybe I’m just too shallow.
Maybe I just like it rough.

As a mental health professional I am, of course, horrible at analyzing my own stuff. I self-diagnose all the time. I’m just not that good at it.

I am one of those lucky people who gets to hear people yell on a regular basis. Some professions have it much worse, but I do get my share.

Yelling is an interesting psychological and sociological issue. I have watched spouses curl into the fetal position as a madman controls the situation and hurls verbal abuse. Notice the almost orgasmic effect that “letting off steam” has on the angry screamer. I have seen that horrible energy transferred to the victims as they get emotionally gut-punched. Long after the yell-er is satisfied the object of their derision still suffers. Yelling is a very selfish act.

There was a time when clinicians would tell the angry young man to go home and punch his heavy bag for an hour till he “worked it out of his system”. Today we realize that constantly giving in to that urge to ‘boil over’ only builds a dependence on purging yourself of emotion – a very poor model for impulse control. Such need has little to do with control and more to do with complete surrender. It is no wonder, than, that people have been known to even stop making sense when they are in the throes of an angry outburst. Anger can literally make you stupid. The effect is almost sexual.

Have you ever considered stopping?

Many people do not even realize that it is possible to go for years without yelling. Screaming is just “how our family is”. It is such a normal part of life that no one realizes how abusive it is. There are so many dysfunctional aspects to yelling that I literally do not have enough energy to fully define its ill effects right now. The act is so intrusive, so esteem crushing, so negative, so unloving, so socially acceptable. I am suggesting that we strip away the veneer and identify it for what it really issue – a lack of self-control.

If you are struggling with yelling, this is not intended to make you feel like garbage. Many, many, many of us struggle with this as well. Yelling is so ingrained in our culture that it is rarely even addressed anymore. We blandly accept that angry person without offering any accountability. Our children grow up believing this is an acceptable form of communication and… the circle of life.

If you struggle with this difficult problem talk to someone who can help. Read about it on the web, look up phrases like “cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy) and anger, or yelling, or impulse control. Find out what is behind that anger – after all, that is really the issue now, isn’t it?

Don’t give up. You can do this.

 

Relationships Are Tough…

I have just been putting together an intro for my new “Speaking Chick and Talking Dude” group starting tonight. I can’t remember where I stole this from but it’s a funny poke at the challenges…

Relationships are tough

Guy in Arizona who was hit by lightning 7 times. 7 times. Apparently he later killed himself over a woman. Think of it – God couldn’t kill this guy…. So bring in the experts.

Recently a guy on a Carnival Cruise line threw himself over the side because of an argument with his wife. The guy drowned rather than deal with the argument. That story makes no sense to anyone… who hasn’t been married. I can see how it went – You’re drunk. I’m on vacation. You’re drunk. I’M ON VACATION. You are supposed to be up at seven for ice sculpturing tomorrow morning. If you don’t shut up I’m going to throw myself over the side of this balcony. YOU DON’T HAVE THE GUTS!

An Open Letter To The Men Who Date My Clients

My name is Scott and I’m a clinical therapist. I, or someone like me, has probably counseled a handful of women you may have thought about dating. For various reasons most of my clients are heterosexual females, often in their late thirties and forties, in the midst of trying to figure out a relationship which has turned into a convoluted mess and broken their heart. Many of these women eventually decide that it is not worth spending the rest of their lives with an emotionally stunted and rapidly aging guy who does not seem prepared to do what it takes to win them back. They complain that their partner is emotionally lazy, only makes small and temporary changes, and does not understand them nor seem to want to. They have been deeply hurt, and often. Some of these women will eventually show up at an office like mine. They have been scarred by a bad history and a bad relationship and carry emotional and psychological baggage. By the time they get to my door they, for a myriad of emotional reasons, struggle to make healthy decisions when it comes to the people they date. They are the newly single, or the suffering spouse, the newly hurt.

Many of these women do not last long in the dating market before they are snatched up again. Many fall prey to the first or second guy who listens to them and seems to understand their pain. We are smarter than you think and many men have learned to be the man you are looking for, at least while you are still newly infatuated. Many women, at least in my experience, do not see the warning signs and fall for someone who is either much like the past losers who have let them down or has manipulated. When you are hurting, lonely, and emotional it is tempting to go too far too fast and before you know it you are physically and emotionally too invested to simply walk away.

Counselors are tempted to spend their time pleading with clients not to jump into another relationship while they are still unhealthy. We warn vulnerable clients how crucial it is that they not date just because they need someone else to complete them or fill that hole in their heart.

So before you decide to approach my client at the bar, the grocery aisle, or in the church foyer, there are some things you need to know:

1. She is more vulnerable than you know. As you are no doubt aware the single life is hard to adjust to when you have been with one person for years, and most of us are desperately lonely at first. This is, however, only part of the problem. She has been with someone who has not met her emotional needs for years and is prone to misinterpret your affections. She also has a heart brimming with disappointment and self-recrimination and THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. You may not know it right now but you deserve an emotionally healthy girlfriend who will not use you to mend that hole in her heart. If you really want to impress this girl don’t be afraid to take it slow and platonic, Give her time to heal, you’ll be glad you did.

2. Most of my clients are not ready to date. People who engage and pay for therapy are usually dealing with crippling issues and are in no way whole or objective. That is the reason they are seeing me in the first place. People dealing with crushing fear, anxiety, depression, loss, loneliness, self-esteem issues, etc. are not ready to be in a healthy relationship and are too vulnerable (see #1) to make long-term or binding decisions. Their heart is often broken and I am telling them, “Don’t date until you don’t need to”. Respect that and if necessary protect her from herself – keep things “hands off” until she is emotionally healthy.

3. This person is not who you are going to end up with. The very idea of therapy is to change the way we cope with life and define ourselves and our world. She is telling you that she is seeing a counselor for a reason, even if she doesn’t fully comprehend why. We are working together to create a very different life and the woman you see before you right now is only a transitional entity that is endeavoring to look at life differently. Don’t be surprised if the girl you are interested in changes and becomes healthy enough not to need you to define her. THAT IS A GOOD THING. In spite of what you may think you do not want to be with a broken and needy person. We are working to create a strong and independent person who does not need you, though she may wish to date you. This person is in a state of becoming and if you fall for her because of how she is now you are likely to be disappointed later on. If you are attracted to her neediness, for example, how will you feel if she gets better and doesn’t want you as much? Wanting you is one thing, needing you is another. Chances are the woman you see before you is very little like the one you are going to end up with.

4. Please do not exploit her sexually. Many people in transition are willing to do things that they would otherwise not even consider. Be a real man and protect her, even from herself. Many of my clients have come from conservative backgrounds and are not sexual athletes, in spite of what they are trying to project. Most of the women have not been nurtured or honored sexually in a very long time, if ever. Be gentle with her heart. Many of us give a piece of our heart away when we give our body to someone else. It’s very easy to misinterpret our need for love and touch. Many people in therapy need a hand to hold much more than a body to fondle. Please try to remember that.

5. They are not choosing you because you are the best candidate. We all know that people who are newly single are on the rebound. This is not just and old wives tale and some of those old wives were pretty spot on. Needy people pick others to love based on a set of criteria which is not healthy and may not lead to a healthy and lasting relationship. The best relationships start out as friends first so get to know this amazing woman first before you decide to buy her flowers and try to touch her candies. The more you realize that she is making choices that are not necessarily objective, the more you will come to understand that she may be choosing you for the wrong reasons. This is information you need.

6. They might fall for you too soon (and too hard). This is based on a sound psychological principle that when we are in a vulnerable or transitional state we are prone to exercise something called “cognitive distortions”. People dealing with major issues employ all or nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, and other cognitive distortions that are coping mechanisms we employ when we are stressed, anxious, uncertain, biased, and hurting. Think of it this way, would you let someone who is suicidal take care of your children? Why not?

The logical answer is no, you would not do that because that person is not thinking or acting rationally. They are, in point of fact, mentally unstable and before we all became politically correct we would have labelled such thinking and behaviour “insane”. That beautiful woman who is sending you all the right signals off-handedly mentioned earlier that she is going through a messy divorce and is struggling emotionally. This is a red flag. Emotionally damaged and hurting people rarely have healthy boundaries and tend to jump too far, too fast. If you really are interested in my client then back off and respect her boundaries that she has worked so hard putting in place.

7. You deserve someone who is not a massive “work in process”. The whole point of this article has been to help us understand that hurting and vulnerable people need therapy, not a date. If you have been dating for any time you already know that the scene is full of needy and broken people looking to find someone to fix them or love them enough to fill their emotional craters. Unless you are simply looking for a good time you owe it to yourself to be discerning when it comes to whom you will date. Good looks fade but a big dose of crazy can last a lifetime. It is far better to be alone, in spite of how it feels right now, than to be with someone who hurts you, drives you over the bend, or simply does not get you. You owe it to yourself to date someone whom you believe has it more together than you do, not less.

Day after day vulnerable, wonderful women sit in counseling offices all over the world and ask if there really is a guy out there who will meet their needs. There isn’t and you aren’t him. Healthy relationships start with healthy people making healthy decisions. Life is hard enough with the right person and I need the best odds I can get. Knowing my wife is here everyday because she is healthy enough to choose to love me, in spite of who I am, is the best esteem booster I have ever known.

Do I Like It Sick?

Many spouses will stay in a relationship that is sick and twisted, but why?

It is a truly terrifying story – a young girl grows up in a sick home and is repeatedly sexually abused by a relative or family friend. This person then becomes sexually active at twelve of thirteen with a boyfriend who in his mid-twenties or beyond. Often this is followed by a period of extreme promiscuity. They are sexually intimate with every boyfriend and come to believe that this is expected of them if they want to stay in that relationship. She starts to associate sex with being loved or loving someone else appropriately. They often engage in sexual acts which they do not enjoy, most of which are degrading in some way. They have an overwhelming compulsion to “perform” in order to be loved. For some strange reason, however, after they have settled in with someone they discover they are not truly happy and still have trauma and self-esteem problems. They struggle to find the intimacy and completeness in romance that they so desperately yearn for.

In counseling it often becomes apparent that this person is actually attracted to the sickness they have come to associate with love. They go after the “bad boy” or they seem to hook up with men who are always emotionally unavailable, their romantic interests usually are selfish, misogynistic or emotionally unhealthy.

If you can relate to what I am writing about then it’s time to ask yourself a question, “Am I attracted to this person because of their sickness or their health? Is this person irritating me right now because they are desiring something healthy (emotional connection, vulnerability, working on the relationship, planning for the future, stability, etc)?

Is it sick or is it healthy? I often send my patients home with this homework. For the next two weeks ask yourself, whenever you feel emotional in your romantic relationship, is this sick or is this healthy?

When he ignores me I pursue him. Is this sick or is this healthy?
I feel repelled by his attentions. Is this sick or is this healthy?
I am overly critical or easily angered by this person. Why? Is it sick or is it healthy?
He/she never seems to live up to expectations. Is this sick or is this healthy?

You get the idea, a good exercise for whenever we are struggling with our loved ones. Ask yourself, “Is what I am experiencing a result of a healthy and legitimate concern, or is this an unhealthy response to a sick situation?”

That may not be a bad idea for any of us.

What’s A Guy To Do?

Romance in Manhattan

Some men hate my writing, and with good reason. I have a propensity to tell men that they are not meeting their partner’s needs – without offering enough positive and practical advice. It’s almost as if I am saying, “Here’s the problem but you need to figure it out yourself.” That sounds suspiciously female to their ears, their partner (if they have a female partner) has been saying that to them for years. What am I, one of them? Where is the step-by-step guide to winning her heart? Where are the slick tactics that you see on other websites (which appear far more helpful because they offer quick and easy solutions)?

Part of being a man, I am convinced, is often needing clear instructions when it comes to emotional issues. Emotional intelligence is something we never worked on much growing up. We spent far too many hours shooting things and talking about farting (or was that just my family?). We need to fix things and it would be very helpful if women came with an owner’s manual (such a sexist comment…). They aren’t rational, we think. They don’t process things like we do, don’t seem to have the ability to communicate like we communicate; they think about too much stuff (and apparently they think all the time!). How many times do I have to watch “Say Yes To The Dress” (Atlanta not New York, Randy’s a poser) before she warms to my form?

Men ask me all the time, “What can I do?”

The answer is simple. All you should do is learn how to communicate with women, learn to understand how women think, become a student of the female psyche, spend hours and hours listening without offering solutions until you are sure she is looking for one, activate the emotive side of your personality, learn to give while feeling misunderstood, talk, talk, talk, talk, get counseling and marriage counseling, take some psychology and feminism classes…

Or just do this…

Although I am only a man I am immersed in female culture and constantly hear that female spouses don’t feel safe in their relationship, struggle with trust, and don’t feel important or valued. Many have spoken of feeling emotionally abandoned after a few years of commitment. Time and time again my female clients tell me that their issues with their man wouldn’t matter nearly so much if only they felt special, felt important, believed that they were completely loved.

This sounds really naive, but what if there is something to it? What if I didn’t need to try to fix a thousand past slights but only had to try, try really hard, try every day to win this girl back? What would happen if I decided to make this person whom I love more than anyone the absolute first priority in my life for the next three months? Spoil her.
Listen to her.
honour and cherish her.
become a student of her.
engage with her as much as she wants.
Treat her like a goddess.
Do the things you did to win her heart in the first place.

Even as I write this, after all this training and all this experience, there is still a minuscule guy part of me that thinks this is so lame. So unmanly. So hard.

This may be completely off, especially in cases of abuse, but what if it was a game changer? What have I to lose?

Willing To Settle?

Netflix

One of the constants from this website is my preoccupation with dating emotionally unavailable persons. I have already written several times on the subject and there is not a day goes by that I do not talk to a client who is dealing with this issue. Whether it’s the bad boy, the “strong/silent type” or in my own case the ultra-mature and conservative person whom you find you are drawn to.

It is not a universal maxim that opposites attract, but it does seem to be a generalization that often proves correct. Let me paint the scenario for you: an outgoing and even aggressive girl finds she is inexplicable drawn to a certain guy/girl. This person is a great listener, passive, and the perfect yin to your yang. There are often warning flags, but you cannot see them initially. He/She has a hard time planning dates and usually leave the details to you. Their idea of a romantic evening is a night watching Netflix, in spite of your many hints that you would like to go into the city for a concert or an event. They don’t get excited when you are alone but come alive when you are with other people. They like to listen when you talk but as the months go by they are less and less interactive. They are more sedentary than you first thought. They don’t seem to tell you what they are thinking anymore. They are nice but if you really admit it to yourself they are, well, boring.

Run.

I’m not being dramatic, this is a far more dangerous scenario than most people realize. This relationship is not likely to make it. Seriously. Often this person is not only strong, not only silent, but also passive-aggressive, manipulative, and emotionally childish or unaware. They are almost certainly emotionally lazy and will become more so the longer you are together.

The key thing I will tell you, when you eventually come to see me, is that you need to settle or bolt. If you want to make this relationship work (and by this time you are probably invested heavily and maybe even have children) you need to accept that they will not be the person you can become emotionally intimate with. They will not share your soul, they will not even remotely meet your emotional needs.

Is that enough for you?

Don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible to live a rich and rewarding life with an emotionally distant person. You can become very very bitter, you can have an illicit affair or series of affairs, you can settle and make the best of your situation and appreciate the person you have for what they bring to the table. No relationship is perfect and there are far worse ones out there. The truth is, however, is that you will not live the life you once dreamed of. There will be no fairy tales, no knights in shining armour, no “sipping Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain”.

I have been asked why I am so passionate about this topic. Once, a generation or two ago, most of us got married for life and this issue was mute – you did the best with what you got. Today, however, most of us will date much more than our grandparents did, and many of us will pick the same ill-suited temperament time after time.

Tips for Talking To Men And Attracting Them Like Crazy

English: Romance icon

from here: Most women dream of the day they will attract the man of their dreams. Many describe a man who is “tall, dark, handsome, (preferably) rich, sensitive, loves kids, has an advanced degree and loves his mom.” I’ve described this same man, listened to my friends describe men of similar ilk and pondered, plotted and schemed about how to meet this mystery man. Here, after watching (and experiencing) numerous disappointments on the dating scene, are my top tips for attracting the man of your dreams…” 

Kind of makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?

I hate these things. As a clinical counselor I spend months with patients helping them to become more self-aware, more authentic, and more secure in their own beauty and individuality. But forget all that. Just be a bimbo and say the right words and men will love you forever. Be mysterious, be aloof, laugh at our jokes, compliment us, you will drive us crazy.

That’s it, lie.

After all, dating is a big con anyway.

Recently I was speaking with a client about dating sites on the web she admitted that she felt insecure because she had chronic pain and all the guys out there were into zip-lining and rock climbing, white water canoeing and hang gliding. She felt that she wouldn’t measure up to such rugged men. I turned to her and said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret – they are lying.” It’s true, we lie to impress you. I can tell in a few minutes the kind of guy you are interested in and become that person – you want a guy who is a good listener? I’m all about you. I’ll talk to you for hours, laugh at your jokes, even shed a tear at your story about your puppy or uncle Bart. This is because of one simple reason, I’M TRYING TO PICK YOU UP. It’s a game.

We put our best foot forward in order to snare a mate. Is that honest? Is that actually a good strategy? It really doesn’t matter, he lying to you as well. You are coming to intimately know a person who doesn’t actually exist. Throw in a few tricks and traps from the internet and you are good to go. Years later, when you realize this person doesn’t really understand you, you can rest confidently in the knowledge that you “got him/her” under false pretenses anyway.

I don’t mean to sound condescending (just a wee sarcastic perhaps) but I have come to realize that so much of what passes for romantic communication is dysfunctional and actually harmful. I was a single parent for years and realized early that I could not engage in a mating ritual that was designed to encourage short-term, shallow, and dishonest relationships. This is further compounded by the propensity for new couples to immediately move in together before they truly know and appreciate the other person for who they really are. No one talks about this but couples who move in together early are WAY more likely to split up. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. A couple begins a full-time with another person they do not really know. They have been conning each other since they met and now they are about to meet the real person – that farting, burping, smelly, angry, stressed, emotional or emotionally repressed real you. You simply have not had the time to develop your relationship to any mature level. Love at first sight is a wonderful Disneyland dream but it is really a cognitive distortion on the highest level. Real love takes time and knowledge. Infatuation is instant.

I can just hear someone blurt out, “But if you love someone you will make it work”. This is again a very hopeful, though absolutely naive sentiment. Lasting relationships are not based on romance, a feeling which every divorce lawyer in the country can tell you will come and go. Relationships that work are based on commitment, loyalty, perseverance, selflessness and a ridiculous amount of humility. You hear these words about what real love looks like at every wedding for a reason:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

You won’t find those words on any dating site because they are not sexy, only the truth.

If you really want a tip for attracting men like crazy than here it is – Be who you are and learn to be happy without a romantic relationship. It took me years to do but learning to love yourself and be happy in spite of your situation, not because of it, is the best advice I can ever give you. No dude can fill that hole in your heart, we’re selfish and childish pigs. Never date until you don’t need to. Think about that for a minute.

No woman can fill that hole either.

No one else should.

Guest Blogger – Your Gift To The World

fixmeforyouDavid Flowers is a counselor and doesn’t suck. He sent me a head shot to include in his bio but I never post a picture of someone better looking than I am so you’ll have to go to his blog to check him out at davidkflowers.com.

This is from David:

I came across a meme on Facebook this week that blew me away. Perhaps you’ve already seen it.

A great deal of my work is in premarital counseling, mostly with people who have never been married before. The main work I do in premarital counseling is help couples understand the usually unreasonable expectations they have of each other, and of what marriage will be. They naively think the most important thing they’ll do in marriage is take care of each other. My work is to get each partner to understand that a healthy relationship, by definition, consists of two healthy individuals. This means the single most important gift spouses can give each other is for each of them to get their own act together, to deal honestly with their own issues.

Five Reasons Why Getting Your Act Together Is An Awesome Gift To Give Someone Else:

1. The more deeply and honestly you deal with your own issues, the less inclined your spouse will be to bring them up.
Let’s face it, most arguments between couples consist of each of them telling the other what is wrong with them. The faults of others are easy to see. “You’re so stubborn.” “Yeah, well you’re so critical.” If stubborn lady works on her stubbornness, and critical guy works on being less critical, and they are open with one another about it, they will each be less likely to use those things as ammo in an argument. The best thing you can do is admit them and work on them.

2. The more you get your act together, the easier it will be for others (not just your spouse) to love you.
Conversely, the more broken you are, the harder it will be to love you. If you are needy and insecure, you will suffocate your partner. If you are demanding, you will exhaust them. If you hate yourself, you will always be miserable. If you take everything personally, almost everything your spouse says, no matter how well-intended, will hurt your feelings. People who love themselves have faced their issues squarely, and people who have faced their issues are easier to love because they are not constantly spewing their unresolved goo all over others.

3. Getting your act together is a way to keep investing in the relationship.
In too many relationships couples think (or worse yet, say!) “We’re married now. You have to love me, warts and all.” This is when she starts greeting him after work in an old bathrobe and a mud mask. He returns the favor by farting under the covers. They eventually end up in my office for counseling and can’t figure out how the magic leaked out of the relationship. Answer: The magic leaks out when you stop trying. Since no one ever fully gets their act together, working on yourself is a way to keep trying, all through your life.

4. You’re the only person you can change
Too many couples want each other to change, and to be completely accepted by the other. When you commit to a life of getting your act together, you turn it around. You determine to accept your partner completely and change yourself — the only one of the two of you that you can change.

5. It gives your spouse what they want
Your spouse married you because they love you. Assuming your spouse is a basically good person, they want you to be happy, healthy, and whole. The more you improve yourself, the happier you become and the happier you are, the happier your spouse will be with you.

I have directed this post toward married couples but unmarried couples can apply it, and parents can apply it to relationships with their children. Parents are always asking me, “What is the best method of discipline” or “How long should I keep my child in time-out.” I always say, “Parents — get your act together personally. When you are secure, when you feel good about yourself, when you know you are loved and valuable, you will naturally raise your child with this same assurance.”

Getting your act together, then, is a gift to the world!

Question: How have you seen important relationships improve as you have continued to get your act together? What relationships do you now realize suffered because of your unresolved issues?

Living with An Emotionally Closed-off Spouse

The Unloved

I’m not just the counselor, I’m also a client.

I have been told that I have come a long way in the past years. I have difficulty writing that, it feels arrogant to a good Canadian. The truth is, I had a long way to come. There was a time in my life when I was a mess, even though I was still pretending to be an authority on life. I have been needy. Very, very needy. There was one point in my life when I had such an enormous hole in my heart I was quite sick emotionally. I made decisions and did things that were based on poor reasoning and a brokenness that shocks me when I look back.

There are many reasons why we develop dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Some of us are in abusive relationships and have a sick sense of guilt that has been beaten into us emotionally and perhaps physically. We know we should leave, people tell us all the time, but we just cannot seem to pull the trigger. After all, he has many good qualities we remind ourselves. You have a profound and deeply entrenched belief that you are not worthy of a healthy relationship. He or she has told you a hundred times that you are unlovable  unworthy, and you believe them, at least on an emotional level. It taints everything about you.

Perhaps you were physically or sexually or emotionally abused as a child. You find that you have a hard time enjoying normal sexual contact or perhaps you tend to be drawn to poor choices when dating or committing. Maybe you have a hard time with impulsivity or finishing projects. Many who were abused as children are control freaks, have an aggressive startle instinct, or consider themselves more discerning or intuitive than others around them. No one has ever told you that everything I have just listed, and many more weird quirks besides, are often associated with trauma. It can affect your entire life.

Back to my neediness. I fell in love with an emotionally unavailable person who was everything I was not – chill, mature, mysterious, a good listener. I had no idea how that decision would profoundly affect my life. Living with someone who never told me she loved me, ever, who did not need me (I am a caretaker by nature), who was not interested in sexually intimacy or emotional connection, fundamentally changed who I was as a person. I became needy. I found myself experiencing emotional starvation and as a result would act out or say or do things to attract attention. I became sarcastic, judgmental, provocative. I can look back and psychoanalyze myself, see where I went wrong, and learn. I could not do that when I was young, madly in love, and emotionally less self-aware.

Many of you know what I am talking about. Women who are attracted to the bad boy or the strong and silent type, who love men who are quiet or passive-aggressive really know what I mean. Looking to someone else to complete us, even at the best of times, is a dead-end street with  guaranteed disappointment at the best of times. Living with or loving someone who is emotionally unavailable can destroy your self-esteem, your dignity, and your sense of worth if you let it. There is a constant feeling that you can never measure up, that your lover is disappointed in you no matter what you do. You try harder and harder and harder until one day you are disturbed and frustrated beyond your capacity to cope.

We cannot change the past, we can only learn from it. I have learned that we cannot always trust ourselves when it comes to romance. We tend to be attracted to people who we believe complete us. Apparently opposites attract. This can be a very flawed arrangement if we tend to fall for someone who does not share their emotions or is unable or unwilling to emotionally invest in a relationship.

It is never to late to become self-aware.

Why Do I Care What You Think?

We are a people who struggle with self-worth. I meet few people who are happy with who they are. We are the chronically under-valued and the terminally insecure. We have a tendency to look to other people for approval and live our lives in order to be loved. We tell our children to love themselves, but battle with self-loathing.

For years I considered myself a rebel, a person who lived outside the box, who didn’t give a damn about what others thought of him. Looking back it is easy to see how this was a coping mechanism, a way of finding acceptance, if only with myself, as a marginal personality who did not easily “play well with others”. If I couldn’t win at fitting in I would give the finger to the establishment and act as if their opinions did not matter. I gave the impression that I was vain, when in fact I was insecure.

I can see, now that I am getting older, the temptation within myself to act like a performance monkey. Seeking to fit in does not end after high school.  We have been programmed since birth to base our feelings of self-worth on what others think of us and what we do. For some reason we are extremely conscious of the opinions of those around us. Those people who choose to criticize us may, in point of fact, be idiots and subjective to the highest degree but this seems to matter very little. Jumping through the hoops of people who don’t even respect is what we do.

There was a time in my life when it seemed important that people liked me. I was running a non-profit and had shareholders who were strongly opinionated and often very negative. I was always available to help salve their broken lives and marriages, and they were always available to critique my performance. I remember vividly one meeting with a couple at a local coffee shop wherein they decided that I needed to be “fixed”. It was to be the last of several meetings, all designed to help me come to grips with my glowering flaws (in their opinion). Late in the conversation it finally dawned on me, I didn’t even really like or respect this couple. I knew their dirty little secrets, their insecurities, their propensity to be condescending and arrogant. I realized that if we did not have a shared vested interest I would never want to be their friend or hang out with them… ever. I had been emotionally prostituting myself in order to appease them – something that now seemed impossible to do. My fear of their disapproval and perhaps disengagement from the non-profit had created a sick codependence.

It is one thing to seek to be kind and a person of integrity. It is another thing altogether to base your self-worth on the opinions of fallible and fickle people whose opinions should not matter. Wholeness is found in the realization that I cannot jump through enough hoops, suck up to enough people, to fill that hole in my heart that wants to be loved. Chasing that dragon is like chasing any other addiction, it just leaves us broken.

Accepting who and what I am, right now, is a daunting and difficult task. Letting go of our need to make everyone happy feels completely wrong. If people had to accept us for who we are would anyone still like us?

In counseling I admonish single clients, often fresh out of dysfunctional relationships, not to date until they don’t need to. They usually look at me funny and I find it necessary to explain – don’t bring your garbage to your next relationship. Don’t use that next person to fill that hole in your heart. Don’t depend on someone else to make you whole or happy. Don’t date… until you don’t need that person to fix anything. Become emotionally self-contained. Work on becoming whole.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?