Use Your Compass

IMGP0127The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.                 Gloria Steinem

A long time ago and in a distant life I was a canoe guide in Northern Saskatchewan. Most people do not know that some of the best whitewater and wilderness in the world is found there. Don’t tell anyone, we don’t want the masses to know.

When canoeing on the Churchill River one is eventually going to have to traverse Nipew (Dead) Lake. It is not called dead lake because the flora and fauna is dead but because of some of the cool voyageur battles and imported white man diseases that ravaged the area during the fur trade. One can easily, when paddling the myriad of islands on Nipew, imagine being ambushed by Northwest Company voyageurs hundreds of years ago. People who say Canadian history is boring need to come north.

We always tried to get across Nipew Lake early in the morning before the waves got up. It’s a big lake and nasty from about nine a.m. to six p.m. everyday. It’s a long paddle. I’ve been stranded on the lake several times, taking refuge on islands or inlets.
We tried to get on the lake by about six am. Usually that is evilly early but I have learned that if I sleep in, the price is too high. It’s usually foggy on the lake and I’m headed for a tiny inlet eleven kilometres away. I can’t afford to make mistakes. I have learned how to read a compass. I know about things like declination and magnetic north. My compass was the most expensive piece of equipment I carried. I made my employer pay for it and if they want it back they can pry it from my cold dead hands.
When I was in the fog and I had eleven canoes and twenty potentially dead people, I learned to trust my compass, not my eyes. I didn’t trust my ears, I don’t even trust my experience. I have tried to fake it in the past and gotten caught. On one occasion, early in my guiding career, I was sure that I was going down the right arm of this confusing lake only to realize too late that I had made a six-hour detour with a large group of tired and frustrated high-schoolers. It is a lesson not soon forgotten.

SONY DSCThe point I am trying to make is that sometimes even our best judgment cannot be trusted. If you are depressed or anxious or prone to obsessing than it is very important to realize that you cannot trust your emotions and best thinking. Sometimes it is very important to consult a compass, a guide you can trust. I have.

You wouldn’t trust someone who is suicidally depressed to do your taxes would you? Would you trust them to take care of your children? Of course not. The fact remains, however, that day after day many of us who are struggling with mental health issues choose to trust our subjective and emotionally based cognitive distortions to guide us. We make decisions that are based on our depression or anxiety or worse. We allow ourselves to be guided by the worst advice imaginable – our own. Sometimes you need to find a compass. Basing your decisions on your own tired and stressed out emotions is usually a sure-fire recipe for disaster and ongoing illness.

I remember many years ago, when I was at my worst, the insane and destructive thinking that I engaged in. At some points I am certain, and I have a level of expertise in this area, that I was completely off my nut. The grief was so extreme I contemplated and did things that were absolutely not in my best interests. I made parenting decisions that I continue to forgive myself for even years later. Some of my career decisions were, for lack of a better word, insane. I do not choose to hold these decisions against myself still because I was not thinking like a rational and healthy person.

And that is the point.

Get help. Talk to a counselor that doesn’t suck. Be gracious with yourself. Don’t believe your own bullshit.

You’re worth it.

 

The Smell Of Rotting Fish

When I was a kid my dad took me fishing on Primrose Lake, a private military lake that is used for target practice and inaccessible to the general public. My dad pulled a few strings and before I knew it we were fishing between bombardments. It was incredible. The fish practically jumped in the boat. It took twenty minutes for three of us to catch our limit of big, big fish. The cleaning took far longer than the catching.

We filled our freezer with fish that summer. Summer also brought holiday time and before long we were off to the family camping trip, thoughts of Primrose Lake far behind us. What we didn’t know was that, just before we left, someone had accidentally pulled the plug on our huge freezer.

Two weeks later.

We got home and the house reeked of bad fish. Why, we wondered, was that odor so pronounced? It didn’t take us long to find our way downstairs and finally open the now completely defrosted freezer… full to the brim with brine and water and dead smelly fish.

What to do?

It was tempting to just close that lid and walk away. We could have dressed up that freezer, even painted it a new color, but that wouldn’t have changed what was inside it. We could have hired a psychotherapist to talk to the fridge, maybe a pastor could have come by and cast a demon out of the thing. It would not have mattered. Dress up that thing any way you want and the fact remains that it still is a freezer full of rotting fish. No amount of therapy could have changed that.

That’s alot like me… like you. I try to make excuses for my problems and blame someone else but at the end of the day the fact remains that it is still my mess-o-fish. It is not my ex-wife’s problem or my kids or my parents, it isn’t even my ex-bosses issue – it is mine alone. At the end of the day I can blame whoever I want, it’s still my problem.

So why is this so hard to accept? Perhaps because blaming other people relieves me of some of the responsibility. Many of us have been through horrific situations wrought by dysfunctional and abusive people who scarred us for life. Unfortunately, however, they are not going to fix us. Most of them will not even feel responsible. No one else is going to help us heal.

Other people may be to blame, but that doesn’t really matter much, now does it. It’s up to us to find a healing, a solution, or a way of coping. It may seem far easier to go through life wounded, blaming others for my issues but at the end of the day I am the only one who is going to miss out of this one life, this one chance at happiness and wholeness.

There is an iconic scene in the movie American History X where the skinhead Derek Vineyard, after being gang-raped by his once cohorts while in prison, has a visit from his African-American high school principal. The principal, Bob Sweeney, who has watched Derek self-destruct as he blamed everyone else for his pain, says, “There was a moment, when I used to blame everything and everyone for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me, that I saw happen to my people. Used to blame everybody. Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God. I didn’t get no answers ’cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.”

Derek turns to him and asks, “Like what?”

Sweeney replies, “Has anything you’ve done made your life better?”

That is a profound question. He knew Derek had pains and hurts, grudges both valid and vile. Like many of us Derek had been damaged by someone or something. Violated. Carrying that hate and that pain was all that he knew. How could he possibly get on with his life after what had happened to him?

Some time ago I wrote a letter to someone who had hurt me, never intending on sending it. The next morning my wife saw it before I could get up and mailed it, as a courtesy. A few weeks later I got a phone call from that old friend. He could not understand why I was angry.

Think about it. For seven years he had not been carrying that pain I felt almost everyday. For seven years he had been perfectly happy and content. He didn’t hurt, only I did. It hadn’t ruined his life.

Has anything you’ve done made your life better?

How To Argue With Your Emotional Teenager

I have, for some time now, been working with high risk and aberrant behaviour youth as a youth and family counselor. Few things in this world are harder to deal with than a teenager with a sense of entitlement, immature emotional development, poor discipline, and a bad attitude. Those of you who have gone toe to toe with a teenager can verify what I am saying.

It simply doesn’t work.

It’s all about energy. Yelling at a belligerent who is yelling back at you rarely, if ever, leads to a group hug. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity all over again – doing the same thing and expecting different results. Unfortunately, however, most of us continue to yell. Yelling feels familiar, and it releases pent-up emotion and frustration. The majority of us learned it from our parents who learned it from their parents. We swore we wouldn’t be that kind of parent when we grew up but sometimes, well sometimes that kid frustrates us so much we have no choice.

One more time. It doesn’t work.

If you want to win the argument, salvage the situation, or whatever it is you want to accomplish, you need to change the energy if you want to change the result. You need to change the rules of the argument if you want any hope of a positive outcome. Here’s a good guideline – Do not emotionally engage a screaming teenager unless you want to have a fight.

Stop arguing. Stop emoting. Stop gushing. Smile.

There is an old maxim: Love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.

Why is that? Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of us hate to be ignored. We feel disrespected. Something inside of us rebels against apathy.  When it comes to an argument with an irrational person a second factor comes into play as well. It is very hard to argue with someone who will not argue back.

When your out-of-control teenager is looking for a fight, seeking to make a point, and prepared to bully you to get their way, nothing will disarm and frustrate them more than a parent or person who simply smiles and says nothing. It works, I have used this methodology and taught it to dozens of parents. At first it drives them insane, later it shuts down the yelling effectively and with dignity.

There must be a more effective way to engage angry teens, while at the same time helping them to understand that emotional bullying is not just wrong, it’s ineffective. Those of us who were taught to yell by our parents inherently understand how ineffective their yelling was.

So why did we decide to use this dysfunctional method ourselves?

Simplistic Solutions

Just pray about it.

I did pray about it, hundreds of times, but my wife still had breast cancer. I’m not making that up. Maybe God was mad at me. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.

Maybe it was more complicated than that.

I’ve heard a lot of sermons in my life. Most of them I cannot remember. Some of them I’ve tried to forget. Many of us have been in churches and heard messages on stress, relationships and spirituality that offered solutions to our deepest pains. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we have to admit that most of the proposed wonder-cures never worked. Other people looked so happy and whole and we were left wondering if God hated us, or we were too sinful to be helped. Did everyone else get over their abuse and shame and horrendous childhood so quickly?

What is wrong with me?

I recently had an argument with a minister about sermons. Most of the ones I have heard don’t seem to play out in the real world. It seems easy on Saturday night to prepare three points on ‘how to fix your marriage or ‘how to quit sinning’. On Sunday he delivered the message, felt good about it, was complimented for it… but did it really change anything?

Really?

Many of us are discovering is that there are fewer easy solutions than we once imagined. People on stages, not just religious stages, love to offer half-baked solutions to hurting people who are suffering on a level that most of those hired guns cannot imagine. How many of us were sexually abused, molested, neglected, tainted, or damaged too deep for a quick cure? How often have we sat in church or tuned into Oprah or Phil only to be left feeling worse because we cannot get on board in less than an hour?

I remember watching the Cosby Show years ago. Every problem was wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. I vividly remember one episode where one of the perfect children decided to start drinking. Seven minutes later, hugging Bill on the couch, they promised they would stop. To this day I hate sweaters.

Then Roseanne came out. Now there was a family I could relate to. Life in that household was messy. Why did it feel so much more real?

The solutions to the problems we face are harder than we usually wish to acknowledge. Your issues can rarely be wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. Trite sermons and superstar speakers only reinforce the fact that most of us will only commit to half measures both in prescribing the cure and dealing with it. Foundational transformation takes years of pain and work. Yes work. You probably need to go deeper and darker than most of us are willing to go. You probably need to confess things that few of us are willing to confess. You need to open up a big can of worms.

Think I’m being dramatic? I interviewed a pastor once who said this, “I tell people that God forgives them and they need to forgive themselves, but how the hell do you do that? It’s not as easy as you think. What, should I pretend their shit never happened? I preach every week that change is easy and I pretend. I’m tired of glib answers.”

Talking about religion is usually not a great idea. The list of people who are going to tune me in about my lack of faith or understanding about their religious dynamic is probably long and heated. So let me tell you straight out – I’m not talking about your pastor or priest, or your church or healing center. I’m talking about someone else’s. Your pastor is a great counselor, it’s just the other ones that have 4-7 years of divinity school and two classes on counseling (neither of which is based on evidence-based practices). I know many religious leaders are amazing. I know I am speaking in generalities, I usually do.

Many of us who do this professionally have been shocked and saddened by clients who have been told to “just pray about it” when they told their religious practitioner that they had been raped or molested or (insert issue here). I have also been told, more times than I care to remember, that my client was unsure about seeing me because they wanted to see a ‘Christian counselor’ and were worried that I would undermine their beliefs. I am a person of faith, but because I do not work for a Christian counseling service and choose not to declare my personal beliefs, apparently some people think I will be tempted to drag them over to the dark side. The simple fact is that many counsellors/psychologists/psychiatrists are persons of faith, and those who are not have absolutely no interest in changing someone’s religious belief system unless they are fond of sacrificing chickens in my office.

I am not against Christian counsellors or even ministers helping people in need. I have a problem with anyone setting up vulnerable and fragile people for failure. I take issue with those who would, usually out of ignorance or prejudice, flippantly throw out half-baked solutions that leave wounded people feeling useless or worthless.

Not every issue can be solved in one session or with one act of faith. If you believe God can heal you I have absolutely no issue with that.

If God chooses not to, however, that’s where I come in.

Why Most Radical Change Is Bogus

Have you ever promised yourself that you would get in shape? Ever made a new Year’s Resolution that you couldn’t keep? Have you ever tried to make a radical change in your life? Ever been on a crash diet?

Don’t even bother. The likelihood that radical change will last is so low that if I showed you the statistics on dieting you would order a pizza. Real change rarely happens all at once, and when it does it is almost always because you have been trying and fretting and hoping and failing at it for so long that you are ready. You hurt so much and for so long that you have to change.

With few exceptions the majority of us wildly overestimate our ability to make significant change over a short period of time. Real change is incredibly hard and ordinarily demands months and years of work. Most of us do not get healed over night. I am not denigrating those of you who may claim supernatural relief but for most of us God does not choose to deliver us from our ADHD, or our abuse, or our mental issues. The vast majority of us can not claim fire from heaven, or legs regrown, or our malignant tumor disappearing. For some reason we must do it for ourselves or it isn’t going to get done.

We all want monumental change and we want it yesterday. Unfortunately, however, change that dramatic is often artificial and impossible to maintain. Ask any spouse who has decided to call it quits only to be bombarded by promises from their estranged spouse that, in spite of nothing happening for decades, they have totally changed overnight.

I also believe in the tooth fairy.

As a counselor I regularly meet clients who brag that they are radically redefining themselves virtually overnight. In just a few days they have stopped smoking, started working out, become a vegetarian, stopped self-medicating, got religion, and are going to become a counselor. In my business we call this a “red flag”. Such change rarely lasts. These people have the best of intentions and are incredibly dedicated, almost too dedicated. They have not considered the cost, or the fact that real change must be long-lasting. Authentic growth requires an alteration in lifestyle and the development of new coping mechanisms. In order for growth to become permanent you need to fundamentally change the way you think.

Most of us have tried for years to ‘fix’ our lives. We have tried everything and usually failed. That’s perfectly fine. Most of us, myself included, have tried to do the best we could with the wisdom and coping skills we had. We were told by people who should know that this quick fix, that power diet, that ridiculous philosophy or flavor of the week guru would magically give us what we have so desired and sought in vain for so long. We have been so desperate that we were willing to try anything, no matter how preposterous.

Unfortunately your good intentions are meaningless. Don’t tell me what you can do, show me what you will do. If you are willing to spend significantly more time and effort than you first imagined, if you are willing to be humbled, challenged, and question your childhood beliefs, your coping skills, your thinking, and the bullshit you so firmly believe to be true – than authentic and lasting change is not only possible, it’s probable.

In the coming year I hope to share with my subscribers my course entitled, “Change your life 52% in one year”. It is about 1% solutions, small but lasting change – one step at a time. That is how change happens, little by little, day by day, month by month. Anything else is probably not real.

Don’t give up. Make small changes and stick with them. Talk to a counselor that doesn’t suck. Challenge your cognitive distortions and when you hear about the newest fad that is guaranteed to work – set your crap detector on stun. You’ve had enough disappointment.

You’re worth it.

Living My Life To Impress A Five Year Old

Many of us were damaged emotionally when we were children. We were criticized, we were belittled, we were told how to live, how to act, what to wear and how to think… by other children. Have you been to a playground lately? Have you noticed that their opinions are fairly… stupid?

Or maybe it was a relative who criticized you and turned you into an introvert, or taught you to suppress your emotions, or hide who you are. A relative you now realize is an asshole whose opinion does not matter.

So why are you still acting like he told you to 25 years ago?

Perhaps you had a parent who told you that you were an idiot, or stupid, or worthless. Twenty years later you still battle insecurity, still feel like a loser. In counseling we find out that you feel this way predominantly because of what you were told when you were a child. You now realize that your alcoholic, abusive, degenerate father is a moron.

So why do you still hear that voice in your head?

My grandmother and other relatives told me/taught me countless times that I was a mouthy, disrespectful, immature burden that should be “seen and not heard” (and preferably not seen). I grew up to live up to some of those expectations, perhaps because I believed them on some level. I have taken the time to analyze why I spent so much of my early adulthood trying to fit in, rebelling against the status quo, saying everything on my mind without filtering, etc. In spite of great parents who loved and believed in me I now believe that those relatives taught me important and dysfunctional lessons that I have spent decades trying to come to grips with. With little effort I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. My uncle’s voice.

Mental health professionals are fond of telling us that much of our psyche was formed when we were little children. It is increasingly apparent that many of us had our dysfunctional coping skills, our poor self-image, and our self-destructive tendencies formed while we were yet little people – impressionable, ignorant, socially retarded, childish little kids who had no idea how to filter out the negative and destructive messages. We heard messages and learned lessons that continue to haunt us, regardless of what we understand intellectually. We believe, on one level, that we need to “get over” our past. Making that happen, however, is a different challenge altogether.

We have been imprinted, and those tattoos do not just wash off. It is one thing to realize that you have been molded by dysfunction, it is another thing altogether to effectively break free from that influence. Those attitudes and coping skills have become a part of who you are and how you cope. You have owned them. Really you had little choice.

Every day I talk with people who have been emotionally scarred by childhood or adult friends, or authority figures, or those who were supposed to love and protect them. In counseling they begin to recognize that several of their foundational beliefs and coping mechanisms, ways of dealing with the world that they have relied on for decades, may in fact be deeply flawed. It is a horrible and humbling thing to realize that you have been living your life believing distortions about yourself and your world.

For decades you have believed that no one can be trusted, and you have proven yourself correct countless times. You have evidence to support your cognitive distortions so they must be real. Anger is the way to deal with perceived slight. Always stick up for yourself. Never give up. If you want something done you have to do it yourself. Forget about the past. Meekness is weakness. All men are assholes. All women are bitches. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to cope. Never let anyone see the real you. Don’t take crap from anyone. Hurt them before they hurt you. Hitting your partner is ok if I say “I’m sorry”. I won’t measure up. Yelling works. Vulnerability leads to abuse. Nothing will ever change. I’m a failure. I can’t be honest. I’m damaged goods. No one could love me. I’m a loser. The list goes on and on.

Go back to the playground. Go back to that bedroom, that old house, that church basement. Take a hard look at that abusive parent, relative, adult, child. Healing and growth begins when we realize that the voices in my head and the attitudes and coping skills I developed to protect myself may not work anymore. They may, in fact, be keeping me sick and powerless.

You don’t have to listen to him anymore. She was wrong about you. That wasn’t your fault. The coping skills you so despise in yourself isn’t your fault either. You were doing the best you could with very little information and support in a dangerous world not of your making.

It’s not your fault. Talk to someone. Time to question everything. Time to be free.

 

When Having Sex With Your Man Makes You Feel Cheap And Used

It seems that almost daily women tell me that they are having obligatory sex, usually around once per month, to appease their partner stop the begging These women believe, reasonably, that if they give in it will allow them some time off from the emotional games/manipulation and help them placate that voice inside their head that keeps telling them they are frigid, or a bad spouse, or something far worse.  Most women I have talked to do the obligation sex thing for what they believe are the right reasons, hoping that this will somehow make things at least temporarily better.

They are wrong.

Men do not think like you do. The message you are sending is nothing like the message we are hearing. Women tend to have sex for very different reasons than men do (no new revelation here). When we are fighting, when our relationship is stale, when I don’t think you like me and then you have sex with me, as a guy I think, “everything is ok now.” I am not making this up. Sex puts a guy’s world back in order.

Is that the message you meant to send?

I do understand, at least as much as I am able, the frustration many women feel who are in a stable relationship when it comes to sex. Even as a dude I realize how incredibly invasive and penetrating (ya, I know…) such a biological act is; even devoid of the emotional, sensual, and spiritual aspects of making love.

I am also familiar with the persistent frustration many men feel and the temptation to beg, manipulate, promise and beg in order to have sex. I am still amazed that my wife would even let me touch her like that, and I’m not being trite. I feel a woman’s body, any partner’s body for that matter, is such an incredible gift that I can think and dream about her all day. She’s a redhead. It is no wonder that even the strongest among us can be tempted to entice and manipulate in order to get our way. Many men are guilty of selfishness in this area.

In my course for men on sex I challenge every guy in a relationship to continue to have sex but refrain from having an orgasm for at least a month or two. Why?

I believe in my deepest parts that it is quintessentially important for men, and women, to grow beyond their selfishness, greed and lust in order to become a great lover and a great person. NO ONE is born a great lover. Few of us are willing to do what it takes to become one.

You have only to read the comments on some of my blogs to see how many women have been hurt through the selfishness and douchebaggery of men who are only interested in their sperm count and have never learned to love selflessly. How many of us have stood up at weddings or witnessed the couple repeating those Bible verses you hear at every wedding about thinking more of the other than we do of ourselves? That isn’t just good spirituality, that is foundational truth.

My heart hurts for so many women who have been exploited, sexually abused, and treated like a prostitute, by a partner who swore to love them unconditionally. Often they relate that they constantly feel guilty and inadequate. In my practice by far the majority of sexual abuse I deal with comes from within a committed relationship. Consider that for a moment.

If your partner is not willing and committed to foregoing their own pleasure in order to ensure your safety and trust (notice I didn’t say anything about sex there), as well as your pleasure first; then I have serious concerns about their level of commitment. I tell women on a regular basis that they are not obligated to have sex when their partner whines, abuses, or manipulates. You have more power than you know. Use it.

Next week I will write about how to teach your male how to be a great lover, but for now I want to reach out to those many people who have been exploited, or who have had their needs ignored, or have been fooled by a man who started out loving you and now is only using you. You are not dirty, ugly, loose. You especially are not frigid. That is his word, not yours. After all, who among us would not be willing to give ourselves to someone who will truly honour and love unconditionally, having only our concerns and safety at heart?

If you are a guy reading this, don’t be like the other pigs we all know. Be an amazing lover. Ask your partner to teach you. Be humble.

It’s the best learning you’ll ever do.

P.S. – Experts tell us that having sex with your partner ten times per year still qualifies you as being in a sexless marriage. (maybe I’m doing the math wrong). Did you hear me, experts!

How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women

...And The Home Of Depraved.You just got out of a messy, abusive relationship with a guy who doesn’t understand you, never took the time to service your needs, and was emotionally unavailable. You are working your way back into the dating world and you may not know it, but you are in a potentially dangerous scenario.

You are prey. I am a predator. I know you are hurting and vulnerable. You probably haven’t been with a guy who is emotionally sensitive, vulnerable yet still strong, willing to listen and laugh and be everything you ever needed; and yet somehow allows you to feel safe. Let me be that guy.

I actually do a seminar for women on how an average looking guy can pick up women in their late 30′s and beyond using emotional and psychological manipulation. It’s scary when you realize how easily vulnerable people can be manipulated by a guy who is willing to pretend he is sensitive, a listener, who makes it “all about her”, is a bit aloof, and knows how to say the words that will push the vulnerable buttons of a girl they have just spent two hours milking for information they can use to control her emotionally. So sad.

Last year, in front of a group of twelve women, I announced that I was going to emotionally seduce one of them in the group, under the fluorescent lights, without any alcohol, and asked for a volunteer. In front of eleven hostile witnesses, in just over twenty minutes, I was able to confuse a woman who knew I was trying to manipulate her. Let’s be honest, I’m simply not that good-looking.

I started by talking about her life, her fears, her hopes and the pain she must have experienced. I used the information I knew about her that she shared in the group in confidence and violated her emotionally. Half way through I announced that I was stopping the exercise so that I could explain what I was doing. I lied. I used that next five minutes to confuse her and convince her that I actually did have her best interests at heart. I apologized, back-paddled, asked about her needs, and then cried with her. I never touched her.

I have done this in several groups and have never missed. I tried it the first time almost by accident and scared myself by how evil and dirty I felt. And how powerful.

Please, isn’t there something you can learn from this?

Dating: The Big Con

The Dating GameNo one thinks they are going to divorce, and usually literally hate, the person of their dreams.

But so many of us will.

We are a generation in love with getting what we want, when we want it. The idea of dating for years is fast becoming a myth of yesteryear. We have fallen in love with the idea of falling in love.

The entire process is broken and it starts with dating, the big con. If we are honest we know that all of us, and I include myself in this, lie like a used car salesman to our prospective partner. We pretend we have our act together, that our problems are minor; that we are sophisticated. What guy hasn’t pee’d on the rim of his girlfriend’s toilet so she won’t hear him splash. What girl hasn’t pretended she has it all together to keep the man of their dreams from knowing how crazy she really is?

Dating is all a big lie. If it isn’t a lie it surely is a misrepresentation of what we are in for if we buy the entire package. Almost without exception each of us is tempted to skew the truth, to reinvent ourselves as to be more palatable. It’s very important to understand that this person you are interested in isn’t really this person you are interested in. That man you are so intrigued with because he is such a good listener may not, in point of fact, be sensitive at all.

Every guy knows women fall for that sensitivity crap. You aren’t as mysterious as you think you are. I see you at a crowded bar and know that I want to impress you (why are you looking for a guy at a bar anyway?). Most guys will come on too strong but I’m the guy who loves to listen. I won’t even hit on you, you’ll know I’m different. You are looking for someone who is emotionally available so I ask you about yourself, your life, your dreams; because with me it’s all about you.

Yuck. But women in their thirties and forties eat that crap up. We know you’ve been burned. We know you are looking for a guy who is emotionally in tune, who is strong like a man but sensitive like the stereotypical gay man.

It’s all a game, but a game that can break your heart and steal your soul. It is incredibly important that single people realize that decisions made after a few weeks or months are extremely risky and the likelihood of finding your love of a lifetime in a few short weeks is next to impossible.

I will repeat this again so that there is no confusion. If you get into a serious relationship with someone after only a few dates or weeks you are almost guaranteed to have your heart broken because you really have no idea what you are getting involved with and the likelihood that this person is right for you is infinitesimally small.

It is no sin to want to impress the opposite sex but it may be one to make a lifelong commitment to someone you barely know and haven’t known through at least four seasons (a little nod to Dr. Laura Schlesinger there). I have an entire course on learning to speak so the other partner can hear. It takes a commitment to live sacrificially with another person, gay or straight, that is incredibly difficult and painful, no matter who you marry or shack up with.

Oh, and one other thing. Several times a month I am informed by someone who wants this oh so badly that there are exceptions to the rule. Yes there are, and chances are you aren’t one of them. I only say this from counseling thousands, actual thousands of people in relationships, so what do I know?

The stark reality is that you are signing up to live with someone for fifty years based on a few months of information. Any guy can pretend to be sensitive for a month or two. Any woman can pretend that she wants everything he wants, for a while. Living together in a lifelong commitment has very little in common with today’s dating rituals. Marriage/ living together takes place in what we call the real world – the world of diapers, arguments, problems and financial commitments, with two species who don’t have a clue what the other is thinking trying to make a life together.

Making it in this world is hard. Making it with another person is challenging and you deserve a chance at success and happiness, so don’t settle for Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right. You are incredibly special and need to be as picky as you can before you give away your heart and your future to someone who may trample your soul.

Take the time to find out about that other person. Don’t trust your heart – use your head. You’ll be glad you did.

And don’t get me started on cyber-dating!

You Don’t Even Know Me!

Many men have no idea how to really pleasure a women.

Time after time in marriage counseling the female will turn to her spouse and, with a deep level of frustration, tell their man that he doesn’t know anything about women. “You don’t even know me. You don’t know how to please me sexually, you’ve never spent the time to learn about my body, my desires and my needs.”

For a man to hear he is a poor lover is a very bitter pill to swallow; especially in front of a counselor.

Almost without exception the man will look dumbfounded and confused and will have difficulty understanding what she has said. He is also extremely frustrated. She doesn’t seem as romantic as she once was. She constantly sends out mixed signals which he cannot decipher correctly. He has been shut down so many times he is now afraid to initiate anything.

The woman will often go on to say, usually in very hurtful tones, that she views sex as a duty, devoid of the passion it once had. He is not the only partner that is frustrated. Many men appear to lack the ability to understand what makes a woman tick; their needs, their hopes and the way they relate sexually and emotionally. I have met few men who have spent the necessary time to find out about their lovers anatomy or her sexual and romantic preferences. I’m not blaming men exclusively, this issue strikes to the heart of our insecurities and most of us have no idea how and where to learn about women except from the twisted perspective we have seen in pornography. What guy is going to ask his buddies for sexual advice? We’ve been lying about our sexual prowess for years and we’re not about to admit that we don’t know how to satisfy a woman.

It is tragic that men really have no idea where to turn to learn and they are afraid to ask. It’s time to pull back the curtain and be honest with each other. In my couples groups I challenge men to learn about their ladies. I challenge women to teach their man about what pleases them. I encourage women to talk about the role of trust, safety and the need to feel affirmed and connected before romance, because a majority of men have no idea what I’m talking about right now, and how important these things are to women. A shocking number of men do not appreciate or understand such elementary female parts as the clitoris. They continue to think that women are instantly ready for sex even after a psychologically draining day or commitments, arguments, and hassles.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if couples could put aside their insecurity and shame and see this as an opportunity, not just a problem – a challenge, even a dare, to find out the most intimate physical and emotional details of the person that means the most to you – with some amazing homework! There are even websites and hundreds of books dedicated to helping men understand what apparently is uncharted territory.

What a challenge. What an adventure! Women teach your man, you’ll be glad you did. Men, humble yourself enough to ask. Work on this together, you’re worth it.