Archive | May, 2013

You are not your emotions!

31 May

People often don’t distinguish between how they feel and how they think.  It’s a really important distinction particularly in relationships when feelings can come up unexpectedly and harshly.  For example, say your incredibly faithful boyfriend says they saw a sexy, attractive girl in a bikini at the swimming pool.  He is not a cheater and has no intention of acting on it.  He is just sharing an observation with you.  You have years of experience and a pair of beautiful children with this guy and know with 100% certainty he isn’t going to stray (without permission).  Despite this knowledge you still get upset.  Pissed in fact.

First off emotions don’t follow logic.  You can feel emotions 100% contrary to your actual intellectual beliefs about a situation.  You can feel secure intellectually and threatened emotionally.  In these moments you need to know that though you feel pissed your relationship isn’t in trouble.  You are not in trouble.  Everything is fine.  You are not your emotions.  Your partner also hopefully understand this point.  Hopefully if you slip and say something snarky he can more easily forgive you knowing that you do absolutely trust him but in the moment your emotions got the better of you.  You are not your emotions.

So where do these negative emotional responses that don’t jive with our greater theories of life come from?  I think emotional responses are part of societal norms.  We are programmed to react a certain way in certain situations by examples from adults, movies and sitcoms from an early age.  That’s part of why being Polyamorous is so difficult for many people.  It requires working through emotional responses like, “I feel threatened and scared when my boyfriend sleeps with a new girlfriend.” and replacing them with, “I don’t think my boyfriend sleeping with a new girlfriend detracts from our relationship and I feel safe and secure in the life we share together.”  Yeah it’s not easy.  The benefits of a life filled with lots of love is a really fantastic payoff if you can get there though.



Rogue in-law

31 May

I’ve been in an extremely satisfying relationship with my boyfriend for the past two years. Both our families love us as a couple. Since we moved in together six months ago, however, his mother (Sara) insists on introducing me to her friends and relatives as her son’s fiancée—even though he hasn’t proposed yet! People invariably ask to see the ring (SHOCK—I have none) or ask how he proposed (GASP—he hasn’t yet), and his mom (Sara) just stands there and smiles and smiles. How can I get her to stop doing this? The poor man hasn’t even had a chance to get down on one knee! —Frustrated and Flustered

Dear Frustrated,

I’m worried for you.  This is a really simple problem to address both with your boyfriend’s Mom and in the moment.  In the moment all you have to do is correct her in public.  Why should you take the heat for crazy Mom’s fantasies?  Just laugh when they ask to see your ring and say, “We aren’t engaged.  We are just having fun living in sin (wink).”  or “Did Sara spin wild tales about us being engaged again?  Tsk Tsk.” or “Engaged?  When did I get engaged?  Sara show me my ring right now!”  It shouldn’t be that difficult a situation to address simply because Sara is at fault for making shit up.  It’s not on you.  You have nothing to feel bad about.

Offline have you told her that it makes you feel uncomfortable that she says you two are engaged?  I think most people will just stop after confronted directly but you MUST confront her directly.  Your silence is tacit acceptance of her shitty behavior.  Finally because she is your boyfriends mother you can ask him to talk to her for you.  Tell him it makes you uncomfortable that she introduces you as a fiancee.  Does it make him uncomfortable too?  Hopefully he can get his Mom to modify her behavior.  Good luck.


My boyfriend’s cell phone addiction

29 May

Q. My boyfriend is addicted to his cellphone. He is always texting or taking calls from his family and friends while we’re hanging out.

I only see him a few nights a week, but he says that if we spend a lot of time together I can’t expect him to just not respond to people. He’ll usually take one or two calls while we’re together and texts people. I tell him I think that it’s disrespectful and that it hurts my feelings. I also feel very unsafe when he texts while driving while I’m in the car. I offer to text for him and he always tells me that it’s fine and nothing will happen. I ask him how he’d like it if I was always on my phone. He says that he wouldn’t care.

He has also taken his phone out during dates to read articles. When I told him to put the phone away during one of these dates, he told me that he was bored and just wanted to read something.

It really bothers me because I believe that it comes down to respect. I feel ignored and that he’s putting my safety (while driving and texting) at risk. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who would rather be talking to other people all the time.

Just to clear up: I’m not at all worried that he’s cheating. I can usually see his phone and know the person he is talking to.

Am I overreacting or is there a better way that I can deal with this? Please help!


Dear Tired,

I agree with you that having split attention from electronics is not a fun way to date.  That said not everyone agrees and the world seems more and more interested in less and less personal interaction.  Less interactions without interruption.   So how should this play out?

You need to figure out what your boundaries are.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to leave someone because they don’t respect your personal safety by driving in the car, they find you boring and insult you and don’t feel like he is connecting with you when you are together.   You need to decide if this behavior is a deal breaker or if there is some middle ground.  Middle ground might be a night off from cell phones per week or no cell phones during dinner.  Think if this will really be enough for you to continue in the relationship and also if the relationship is heading the direction you want.

I’m glad your boyfriend isn’t cheating.  Personally I don’t mind my partner having sex with other people but it would bother then hell out of me if they were distracted all day long playing with electronics while I was trying to share my day/time/life with them.  Each to his own of course.  Hope you guys figure it out.


Boyfriend getting fat

28 May

I adore my boyfriend of six years. He’s intelligent, accomplished, emotionally mature, kind, loving, and funny. But: He’s fat. When we first started dating, he was a very hot, very muscular mountaineering guide. Now he’s a lawyer, and most of the muscle has turned into fat. When he gets home from work, he sits on the couch, drinking beer and watching bad TV. He’ll do that for an entire weekend if I don’t persuade him to get out and do things. Our sex life has almost always been thrilling, but the laziness and fatness are enormous turnoffs.

I’m an athlete and go to the gym at 5 A.M. every day before my job (which we agree is even more demanding than his). Though I’m still madly in love with him, I find myself looking at in-shape men. Superficial, I realize! I drop hints, and it never goes well. Is there a way to tell him to shape up? I work hard to stay sexy; shouldn’t he? I don’t want to make him feel bad, but he can’t let himself go indefinitely! —My Sexy Man’s Gone to Seed

Dear sexy businesswoman,

Being attractive can be important to maintaining a relationship.  On a couple of levels I think it’s reasonable to sit down and have a conversation about his fitness and how it relates to you and your lives together.  I do think you shouldn’t drop hints.  If you want real change you have to state your case and make sure you are heard.  Second your “I work hard to stay sexy; shouldn’t he?” is a terrible argument.   You can’t justify change in someone else just because you have good behaviors.   Here are some things you can do.

You should tell your boyfriend how important it is to you that he remain physically attractive and healthy.  Make sure that he knows you are on HIS side.   You love him and don’t want to be a pain in the ass but also really want a strong vibrant relationship and body image does impact you ability to connect with him physically and otherwise.  Hopefully he will understand how his health choices are negatively impacting the both of you enough to make real changes.

There are significant health impacts from being even a little overweight.  Even a 20 pound increase in body weight doubles your risk of heart disease.   Starting the conversation from this angle might seem more neutral than a purely image focused argument.  My guess if he has changed body type significantly his lab scores might look a lot worse now than years ago.  You might encourage him to get a physical for comparison purposes.  This might enable you to enlist the help of his physician in the conversations about weight.

Couch potatoes often default to sedentary activity with the absence of other activities.  Perhaps you can research some trails or suggest he start taking you hiking.  Even if you aren’t terribly excited by hiking the replacement of couch/beer/TV with exercise will make a real incremental difference.  I know a lot of people have also had success with modern techy tools like myfitnesspal.

And if none of that works ask him if he minds you sleeping with thinner more attractive men since he isn’t willing to provide that experience for you.  Kidding… kidding…


Feeling appropriately guilty

27 May

I am currently facing what feels like the worst problem I’ve faced in my life and with no idea where to turn, I’m asking for your guidance and compassion. I’ve been married for two years to the love of my life, but for the past year or so, our life together hasn’t been what we dreamed about when we got married. My husband has serious anger issues and it has felt like he is angry about anything and everything. When he’s angry, he yells, shuts me out, and says incredibly hurtful things about our marriage and me. He’s been depressed and seeing a therapist, but his anger has been tearing us apart. I’ve seriously considered divorce several times over the past year.

Then, about six months ago, I did a terrible thing. My husband and I were at an event and drank way too much. We befriended a lesbian couple seated near us and continued to drink with them at a nearby bar after the event ended. At some point during the very hazy drunken night, one of the women and I kissed briefly in the bathroom. I have no idea why I did something like that. I woke up the next morning with a hangover and an indistinct memory of what had happened. I didn’t tell my husband.

He recently had to take a trip without me. While he was there, we began emailing each other during the day and something about the distance and writing instead of talking allowed us to be honest about our feelings about our relationship without arguing. We both expressed sadness at how badly our marriage had broken down and we talked about how to fix things. We talked about how to change the patterns we’ve fallen into when fighting and how to rekindle our love.

For a long time I was able to pretend the kiss had never happened, but recently it has become all that I can think about. I am consumed with guilt and regret. I’m having trouble concentrating at work and I want to cry every time I look at my husband. Things are slowly getting better between us, but I feel awful every second of every day. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I think the kiss happened because I was so unhappy for a long time and just wanted to feel loved/desired. I’ve barely looked at another man since I met my husband, so something about this woman felt safe or better somehow. I was drunk, confused, and very sad. I know I can rationalize my behavior all I want, but it doesn’t erase what I’ve done.

Which brings me to my questions: Should I confess this to my husband? Will the amount of time that it took me to tell him ruin my marriage? Will telling him just hurt him and make things worse? If I should tell him, how do I go about doing that? How do I move on from this?

– Horrified and Terrified, Massachusetts

I’m glad things are getting better in your relationship.  Personally I think you have eaten way to much shit in this relationship in the past and I’m sure at many points previous to the current one I would have advised you to draw some serious boundaries around behavior, require change from your husband and walk away when it doesn’t happen.  That said it sounds like you two are making real progress in your relationship and perhaps you have a happy future in store for you if you can push through your unnecessary guilt.

Why do you feel guilty?  You are worried about a drunken kiss in a bathroom with a girl.  This is encouraged behavior for girlfriends in male culture.  Upon finding out most guys would be more angry that you didn’t let them watch or take the girl home for a hot threesome.  This single lapse (if you can even call it that) is so minor that it shouldn’t even cause a single night of lost sleep.  How is this remotely close to the, “When he’s angry, he yells, shuts me out, and says incredibly hurtful things about our marriage and me.”  I bet he slept fine after breaking your heart night after night.  Have some perspective.

I would investigate why you are so wrecked?  Are you afraid this revelation will cause your husband to fly off the handle?  I would expect him to have the same appreciation for the improvement in your relationship that you do.  In that scenario he should be able to cut you some slack for minor errors committed long ago.  If he loses his shit and throws a little toddler tempter tantrum it becomes a new chance for you to define deal breaking behavior.  All fights between a couple should be with the goal of improving the relationship, not making point or making yourself feel better by blowing off steam.

So yes I think you should come clean and tell him what happened.  It will ease your conscience (which shouldn’t need easing) and hopefully be an opportunity for you two to work on your ability to resolve conflict together.  In some ways that’s the most critical skill in a relationship.  You can’t predict all the bumps in the road but you can have a process for dealing with them productively.  I wish you luck.