Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What Went Wrong? When Relationships Go From Hot To Cold

Everything was great.

We had been dating for 6 months. We shared the same interests, felt very at ease together, had (often) discussed future plans and had even spent some of the holidays together. Our relationship seemed right on track and just right in general.

Then, without warning, he said he "needs some time to think and figure things out." He stopped calling and rarely returned my calls. When he did, I was often met with silence on the other end of the line. When I asked "what happened", I just got a verbal run around of excuses about how busy he is and/or how much stress he is under right now.

What happened? What did I do? I don't know what to think.

Does the above scenario sound at all familiar? If so, you can relate to being confused and stunned over the sudden change in a boyfriend's/girlfriend's behavior.

Now think about this - What if your relationship wasn't what you thought it was? What if unspoken issues had existed all along? What if there were signs you chose to ignore or just didn't see? Are any of these possible?


This sudden change in a couple's relationship is reported quite a bit by individuals who have just broken up with a significant other. Unfortunately, it leaves the person who has been "dumped" with feelings of low self-esteem, regret, inadequacy and anger.

There is often no real closure, as the couple is never able (willing) to talk through what went wrong or was never right with their relationship.

So, how can you know what the problem was and hope to avoid a repeat of this hurtful experience? You can do this by examining your failed relationship and gaining insight and understanding about what just wasn't right between you.

In order to assist you with this; I am providing a basic framework of the relationship stages a couple must pass through TOGETHER in order to get to a place of shared intimacy and commitment. If either person's feelings change before, during or after one of these stages; it is not necessarily the "fault" of the other individual. It is simply a statement about the individuals' rightness (or not) for each other. It is also a reflection of each individual’s relationship readiness and ability to handle long-term, committed intimacy.

How an individual handles their changing feelings and resultant behavior toward the other is a subject for another article.

Relationships have stages. We have all read articles and books by authors who have come up with their own unique number or names for these. I will try to take a very basic approach to this and keep it simple and as universal as possible.


This is the first stage. It is physical, intellectual and emotional - on a very surface level. Girl sees boy and vice versa. They flirt, talk and get a very basic sense of the other. They are usually responding to a physical pull. He/she is cute, funny, charming, interesting to talk to, etc.

Without attraction, first dates wouldn't happen. It can therefore be assumed that the other person finds us attractive if we have gotten to a first date.

In a way, this is the easy one. We are unknowns to each other. Things progress from this point or they do not. Hurt feelings are minimal. We usually chalk up rejection to; "I'm not his type". There is no need to analyze or wonder what went wrong.

If both people feel a strong enough level of attraction continues to exist after a few dates, they usually move along to stage two. However, if one finds the other has unattractive characteristics or behaviors, this can lead to an abrupt change in the relationship.

Remember, these behaviors or characteristics would be ones that would manifest in the very early stage of dating. Some examples: frequently late, never offers to pay, dresses or grooms sloppily, rude to waitress, etc.

Romantic Relating

In this second stage, couples begin to test out the idea of themselves as a unit. Dating is no longer brand new. It is more comfortable and predictable. Sharing romantic dinners and exciting special interests are typical dates during this new and fun time in a growing relationship.

During this stage, flowers are given for no special reason and loving cards are slipped back and forth with words like "thinking of you". It's a happy carefree time, when lovers tend to idealize, romanticize and overlook that which can be right in front of them. The relationship seems effortless and spontaneous. Affection is shared openly and frequently. One's partner seems perfect. There is rarely conflict during this period. The partners often share the unrealistic belief that their relationship is so special and unique that it will always stay this way.

This stage can last from three or four months up to more than a year. It is actually the shortest stage that any long-term relationship goes through. It is also the one we wish we could hold on to forever and long for when it is gone. This is the stage that love poems speak about. It is also believed (falsely) by many that this is what long-term committed love will always be like.

Many relationships begin to stumble at the end of this period. For that is when reality begins to set in. As partners begin to experience some disagreement, conflict and/or shared challenges- the relationship shifts as do the dynamics between the partners.

Though many relationships move past this stage, a number do not. Why? There are many reasons. These can include:

* lack of readiness for the challenges of the next stage

* issues with commitment and fidelity

* immature beliefs about what relationships should be

* being stuck on an idealized, romanticized notion of love

If one of the partners is not ready for a less than perfect and more demanding stage of love, they will exhibit this in their behavior, language and overall level of openness and availability towards the other.

This is when the couple begins to think more seriously of a future with each other. The focus tends to be; how well do we get along, do we share similar interests and do I want to date this person exclusively?

Growth Through Negotiation

This is a very challenging and growing time in all relationship building. Reality comes into play as the couple settles into the comfort and predictability of their togetherness. Little issues can become blown-up into large conflicts. The individuals begin to compete for their share of control and their place in this growing union. Differences can become highlighted instead of minimized.

This is often the period when couples experience their first fight. Hurt feelings can occur as that once loving and completely accepting other person airs a criticism or voices annoyance or concern. Often, the individuals believe it is the other person who needs to change.

This is where the need for (or lack of) communication, problem-solving and negotiating skills becomes apparent. For without an adequate measure of these, disagreements can break down into screaming matches where insults and recriminations are fired like missiles.

If the individuals can listen, be supportive of each other's feelings, compromise and not lay blame, they have a good chance of working through this stage and achieving a true intimacy. This does not mean they will share all the same beliefs and opinions or that they will necessarily even like the other's view. However, having and showing respect is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

Not only will relationships fail without these relationship-building strengths, they can also abruptly end if one of the partners decides that they don't feel the same way about this person in their less than idealized state. The reality may not be to their liking or just something they are not ready for in general. Either way, they will pull back, present differently or disappear without warning. How they handle their changing feelings is further information about their level of relationship readiness and maturity in general.


Intimacy is the reward that is gained when a couple has successfully worked through the difficult last stage of negotiation. It is almost like a new coming together with much greater self (and other) awareness. This new information can work to solidify the union or give one of both individuals enough new information about the other to require a reassessment of their desire to remain together.

Each person looks at the other in their (naked) state and asks; "is this the person I want to be with"? Here their individual differences are highlighted. The early romantic haze has cleared. What they have to offer to each other and to a future life together comes into play.

This is a time when couples often begin to contemplate each other's attributes in a more practical way. They look at the other's strengths and weaknesses. They evaluate each other's potential as a future spouse, parent, provider, caregiver, partner, etc.

Relationships can be tested more during this time. Infidelity is one dysfunctional way that some individuals do this. Often, this leads to the end of the relationship.

When differences can be seen, aired and accepted, the couple has a good chance of moving on together from this place. Essentially, they have decided they want to be with the other, warts and all.

When the behavior of one or both partners change, it is generally because they have made a conscious or unconscious decision regarding the wrongness of the other for them or for the type of relationship they seek.


This is the final stage of relationship building. Once individuals have reached this place, they are ready to cement their bond. While much growth and work will lay ahead in a future life together, they are ready to begin this life soon.

New challenges arise during each stage, and will happen here as well. However, if the couple has successfully worked through the previous stages, they should have many of the tools they need.

The external problems and pressures that come with life will test their resolve and commitment over the years. They may need to reassess, re-negotiate and renew their feelings and commitment. Fortunately, they will be in possession of the basic tools required.

If they choose well to begin with, they should be successful.

As you evaluate your failed relationship, note the stage you were in when the change occurred. Chances are that the necessary level of readiness and maturity was not present in one or both of you. Perhaps one of you decided that this is not the kind of partner or relationship I am seeking.

This new information and insight should help you to choose a future partner who is better suited to you and desirous of the same kind of relationship that you are.

Toni Coleman, MSW is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship coach and founder of http://www.consum-mate.com. As a recognized expert, Toni has been quoted in many local and national publications including: The Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel, New York Daily News, Indianapolis Star and Newsweek newspapers and Family Circle, Woman's Day, Cosmo Style, Tango, Men’s Health, Star (regularly quoted body language expert), and Nirvana magazines. She has been featured on abcnews.com; discovery.health.com; aolnews.com; MSN.com, Match.com and planetearthradio.com. Toni offers dating help and relationship advice as the weekly love and dating coach on the KTRS Radio Morning Show (St. Louis, MO) and through her syndicated column, “Dear Dating Coach.” Her newsletter, The Art Of Intimacy, helps over fifty-five hundred subscribers with its dating and relationship advice. Toni is a member of The International Coach Federation, The International Association Of Coaches and The National Association of Social Workers.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Social Phobia


Social Phobia

Provided by Psychology Today

Social phobia, also called social anxiety, is a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school - and other ordinary activities. While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.

Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation - such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others - or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Social phobia can be very debilitating, it may even keep people from going to work or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends.

Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social phobia and include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, and other symptoms of anxiety, including difficulty talking and nausea or other stomach discomfort. These visible symptoms heighten the fear of disapproval and the symptoms themselves can become an additional focus of fear. Fear of symptoms can create a vicious cycle: as people with social phobia worry about experiencing the symptoms, the greater their chances of developing the symptoms. Social phobia often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcohol dependence.

Prevalence of Social Phobia

About 3.7% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 - approximately 5.3 million Americans - has social phobia in any given year. Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although a higher proportion of men seek help for this disorder. The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.

A diagnosis of social phobia is made only if the avoidance, fear or anxious anticipation of encountering the social or performance situation interferes with the persons daily routine, occupational functioning, social life or if the person is markedly distressed by having the phobia. (DSM-IV-TR)

Fear of one or more social or performance situations if the person is exposed to unfamiliar people and the individual fears that he or she will behave in a manner that causes embarrassment
Exposure to social situation causes intense anxiety
The level of anxiety is recognized by the individual as excessive
The feared situation must be avoided or endured with anxiety and distress
The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress interferes significantly with the persons social, academic or occupational functioning

Research to define causes of social phobia is ongoing.

Some investigations implicate a small structure in the brain called the amygdala in the symptoms of social phobia. The amygdala is believed to be a central site in the brain that controls fear responses.

Animal studies are adding to the evidence that suggests social phobia can be inherited. In fact, researchers supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently identified the site of a gene in mice that affects learned fearfulness.

One line of research is investigating a biochemical basis for the disorder. Scientists are exploring the idea that heightened sensitivity to disapproval may be physiologically or hormonally based.

Other researchers are investigating the environment's influence on the development of social phobia. People with social phobia may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning or social modeling.

Research has shown that there are two effective forms of treatment available for social phobia: certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medications include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as well as drugs known as high-potency benzodiazepenes. Some people with a form of social phobia called performance phobia have been helped by beta-blockers, which are more commonly used to control high blood pressure.


Avoidant Personality Disorder


Avoidant Personality Disorder

Provided by Psychology Today

The word personality describes deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and the manner in which individuals perceive, relate to, and think about themselves and their world. Personality traits are conspicuous features of personality and are not necessarily pathological, although certain styles of personality traits may cause interpersonal problems. Personality disorders are rigid, inflexible, and maladaptive behavior patterns of sufficient severity to cause significant impairment in functioning or internal distress. Personality disorders are enduring and persistent styles of behavior and thought, not atypical episodes.

Avoidant personality disorder is characterized as a pattern of social discomfort, fear of negative evaluation, and timidity beginning in early adulthood; it is also known as extreme shyness. People with this disorder have an inferior self-perception and are preoccupied with external views. Avoidant traits include having feelings of inadequacy, being inhibited socially and being overly sensitive to criticism (note: these are common traits in children but do not suggest future personality disorder). Other behaviors associated with this disorder include holding off on starting relationships until acceptance is a given, holding back in social situations to avoid appearing foolish and avoidance of jobs with social demands.

People with avoidant personality disorders form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected. They are preoccupied with their own shortcomings. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people will choose loneliness rather than risking themselves in a relationship.

Symptoms include:

Being hurt by criticism or disapproval
Having no close friends
Reluctance to become involved with people
Avoiding activities or occupations that involve interpersonal contact
Shyness in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong
Exaggerating potential difficulties

There is no clear cause for avoidant personality disorder; some theories state that it is a function of how one is brought up, but biological factors are likely as well. Individuals with a disfiguring condition or illness may overlap with those with this disorder. This disorder is fairly uncommon and there is little information about occurrence by gender or about family pattern.


Related Conditions - Antisocial Personality Disorder


Related Conditions - Antisocial Personality Disorder

Provided by Psychology Today

Personality denotes characteristic ways of thinking, feeling, behaving, and reacting to the environment. A personality disorder is said to exist when a person chronically uses mechanisms of coping in an inappropriate, stereotyped, and maladaptive fashion. Personality disorders are enduring and persistent styles of behavior and thought, not atypical episodes.

Several alcohol and other drug (AOD)-induced states can mimic personality disorders. If a personality disorder coexists with AOD use, only the personality disorder will remain during abstinence. AOD use may trigger or worsen personality disorders. The course and severity of personality disorders can be worsened by the presence of other psychiatric problems such as mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders.

Diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality include a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others and cannot or will not conform to what is considered to be the norms of society.

The disorder involves a history of chronic antisocial behavior that begins before the age of 15 and continues into adulthood. The disorder is manifested by a pattern of irresponsible and antisocial behavior as indicated by academic failure, poor job performance, illegal activities, recklessness, and impulsive behavior. Symptoms may include dysphoria, an inability to tolerate boredom, feeling victimized, and a diminished capacity for intimacy.

Antisocial personality disorder, also known as psychopathic personality or sociopathic personality often brings a person into conflict with society as a consequence of a pattern of behavior that is amoral and unethical. Complications that might arise from having this disorder include: frequent imprisonment for unlawful behavior, alcoholism and drug abuse.

People with this disorder may appear charming on the surface, but they are likely to be aggressive and irritable as well as irresponsible across all areas. They may have numerous somatic complaints and possibly attempt suicide but due to their use of manipulative behavior, it is difficult to separate what is true and what is not.


Disregard for society's expectations and laws
Unlawful behavior
Violate rights of others (property, physical, sexual, legal, emotional)
Physical aggression
Lack of stability in job, home life
Lack remorse
Superficial charm and wit

People with a personality disorder often use alcohol and other drugs (AODs) for purposes that relate to the personality disorder: to diminish symptoms of the disorder, to enhance low self-esteem, to decrease feelings of guilt, and to amplify feelings of diminished individuality.

Many people with antisocial personality disorder use AODs in a polydrug pattern involving alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The illegal drug culture corresponds with their view of the world as fast-paced and dramatic, which supports their need for a heightened self-image. Consequently, they may be involved in crime and other sensation-seeking, high-risk behavior. Some may have extreme antisocial symptoms. They tend to prefer stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. Rapists with severe antisocial personality disorder may use alcohol to justify conquests. People with less severe antisocial personality disorder may use heroin and alcohol to diminish feelings of depression and rage.

The cause of this disorder is unknown though genetic factors are thought to be involved since the incidence of antisocial behavior is higher in people who have an antisocial biological parent. However, environmental factors are also believed to contribute to a person developing antisocial personality disorder since people whose role model had antisocial tendencies is more likely to develop the disorder. About 3% of men and about 1% of women have antisocial personality disorder with about 75% of the prison population suffering from this disorder.

Diagnostic Evaluation

Diagnosis is reserved for those over 18 years of age, though often there is a history of similar behaviors before age 15, such as repetitive lying, truancy, delinquency, and substance abuse. Antisocial personality is indicated by a psychological evaluation. As this is a serious diagnosis without any known effective treatment, other disorders should be ruled out first.

People affected with the disorder rarely seek therapy, but might be forced into it because of a "run in" with the law. So far, there has been little success in treating antisocial behavior and personality. In-patient programs have met with success when progress is what determines privileges, and more privileges result in the development of improved self-esteem. Some evidence suggests the disorder decreases with age; after turning 30 or older, many antisocial patients" symptoms fade somewhat and they may become "only" substance abusers. Homicide or suicide is highly common with people with this diagnosis.


Medications have not proved helpful in treating the disorder. Often they are not taken regularly or are abused, so are not effective in improving symptoms.


Group psychotherapy has been shown to be helpful if the patient feels comfortable in the group setting. Individual psychotherapy or cognitive behavior therapy may be helpful if the patient develops a sense of trust since often the person is afraid of forming close relationships with others and is resentful of authority figures. Family therapy may be warranted to help them understand their own feelings of confusion, guilt and frustration with the person who will not seek treatment. In one study with patients with mixed personality disorders, one group received brief therapy while the other group received no therapy. The group that received therapy was reported to have better general adjustment and a reduction in complaints and maintained these gains when they were tested 1.5 years later. Thus, while prognosis is thought to be poor, studies to develop effective treatment for this disorder continue to be conducted.

The following guidelines for therapists treating patients with Antisocial Personality Disorder, especially with alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues, may be useful for those who wish to understand treatment goals for ameliorating symptoms of this disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Clinicians should be careful to avoid mislabeling patients. Although some women may have antisocial personality disorder, they receive this diagnosis less often than men. Instead, they may be misdiagnosed as having borderline personality disorder. Among the male prison population, 20 percent may have antisocial personality disorder. However, once they are abstinent, many AOD-using offenders may not meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder.


The Damaging Relationship: Getting unstuck


The Damaging Relationship: Getting unstuck

Provided by Psychology Today

I get letters. Lots of letters.

The vast majority of the letters are from women. A few are not. Most letters are from women who are depressed. It is abundantly clear that the reason they are depressed is that they are in miserable relationships.

Most have fallen into relationships with men who are egregiously unsuitable partners. Not men who changed and became difficult, but men whose behavior from the beginning was a blinking neon sign warning Bad Mate Material. These men had had affairs, sometimes with other men; they were drinkers or drug users; they had personality problems; they lied about themselves; they couldn't hold a job. That kind of thing. Serious stuff.

And often enough, no matter how loutish or just plain inappropriate the partner, leaving isn't an easy option. Sometimes they're still struggling to make the guy pay attention to them. Or they don't have the financial independence to break away. Or there are children they need help with. Or the depression is so severe they can't see out.

This is not a judgment on my part. Allow me to share some of their own observations.

"I've been dumped by my married boyfriend after having an affair with him for almost five years. How do I get over my obsession and let go of my intense emotional attachment to him? I've reached the depths of a profound depression because I've made him the focus of my life even though I know he's a chronic womanizer and a cheat."

"My boyfriend of seven years and I have a beautiful daughter together. I'm in love with a man who's gay and is using me to disguise it to the world. I still love him and it's killing me that he has no thought of my feelings. The situation sickens me and I can't stop crying."

"With all my experience and age, I still fell for a dishonest and untrustworthy man deep enough to marry him (it took me two years to agree). I am now suffering the consequences. Somehow these people have a way, a special charm, a special way of covering up."

These matters come to mind because there is so much evidence from so many quarters that women are especially attuned to relationships and take much of their meaning from them. And, in turn, the problems that develop in relationships are great fuel for rumination, the obsessive overthinking that gets increasingly negative and often pulls people down into depression. Women are more likely to ruminate over their problems than men are.

The letters make it clear that the women fall for the guys quickly, then spend a long time in struggles to transform their mate before coming to rue their choice of partner.

A good friend of mine, a well-known mental health professional, a social and political liberal, voiced an observation to me that makes her sound, to an outsider, like a screaming put-the-genie-back-in-the-bottle conservative. No, she wouldn't reverse the sexual revolution. But she did confide that she wished women wouldn't jump into bed too fast.


Choosing a Partner
Love Style Quiz
Desired Traits
Matching Moods
Closing Time Effect
Office Romance
Online Dating
Personal Ads
Mixed Signals


Looking For Love Q&A


Looking For Love Q&A

Provided by Psychology Today

The First Move

A guy that used to work with me moved far away. I always liked him, but his departure made me realize that I miss him and would like to pursue a relationship. He is very friendly, but he is a kind of guy that never would make unwelcome advances. How do I overcome my fear of letting him know how I feel about him and not make a fool of myself?

You need to test whether the door is open to a personal relationship. The safest way is to send an email message. Try to come up with a charming or intriguing line for the "subject." In the body of the note, let him know that you liked working with him and miss him. If you have an amusing anecdote or a bit of interesting news to report, so much the better. Make your note short and sweet. You needn't declare your intentions any further than saying, in closing, that you'd love to hear back from him.

Web Feat

I met a gentleman on the Internet about six weeks ago .We are both divorced and have been spending every possible moment together. I have not ever had a true male companion to talk with or to make love to me. However, he does everything I have always dreamt about. I feel like I have started to fall madly in love with him. How can I tell if he feels the same? He has been divorced for six years and is 44. I am 38 and divorced for two .This is the only relationship I have had since my divorce.

The Internet is great. It literally widens the net of people available. It allows people to meet and discover mutual interests who might never have encountered each other in the course of their daily lives. But it should not steal your brain. It in no way absolves you of the need to judge the character of a candidate for partner, observe his/her behavior with other people and in other spheres of life, such as the capacity to hold a job and function without drugs or alcohol, as well as to enjoy common interests. You need to see him function in other arenas, and to observe how he treats his children, if he has any, or yours, and even his ex (beware of anyone who blames everything on an ex or who is still seething with anger at an ex).

You need to bring him, slowly, into your universe and see how he functions. Introduce him to your friends and honor their opinions of him. And he should gradually introduce you to his world.

Some people use the Internet constructively to solve problems in their life, such as using it as a tool for finding a compatible partner, others do not. Some people play around on the dating sites, never intending to get serious.

One measure of your boyfriend's seriousness is whether he has removed his profile from the website where you first encountered each other, or rendered it inactive for now.

Remember, great relationships depend on great communication. Surely you can find a way to tell your friend that you are really beginning to care about him. His reaction will probably tell you everything you need to know. But go slowly. It take many people a lot longer than six weeks to know how they feel. And caution in anyone who made a mistake the first time around is definitely a plus.

Who's the Jerk?

I am in love with the man I have been dating for over a year, despite some rocky points where I found out he had lied to me. Now I feel that I am pushing him away because I have become a person I never thought I could be: I care only for him to the point that I am not competitive in the important albeit immature game of dating. I show my emotions too quickly and this is turning him off. I am not enough of a bitch for him, no thing to work for him to get. He makes up for this by becoming more of a jerk to me. He tells me that if he cheats I will not be able to stop him. Maybe I am losing sight of myself in this relationship, something I never thought could happen to me.

Why do you insist on finding problems with yourself (none of us is perfect) when you clearly indicate the man you are "in love" with is, in your words, "a liar" and "a jerk"? Dating is always a difficult experience; we constantly risk rejection; for many reasons it makes sense that you'd want to settle into a stable relationship with a suitable mate as quickly as possible. But you shouldn't have to sacrifice your character and self-respect in the process. Regain your senses, girl, and examine the evidence you yourself provide about this candidate. Before you work on transforming yourself into the "bitch" this guy needs to "work" on, do something else for yourself-tell him so long. The disappointment won't last forever. And look for a nicer guy; there are plenty out there.

Dumped and Down

I'm 19 and my boyfriend dumped me after four years. I am devastated and can't eat or sleep. I love this guy with all my heart. Then I find out that he went out with one of my friends and told her that he loves her. He lied to her just to get into her bed. I think there is something wrong with him, like he enjoys doing this to us.

Next time try loving someone with your head as well as your heart. Unless you get smart about love, you're just setting yourself up for more trauma. Why not sit down by yourself or with friends, maybe even your parents or other adults you admire, and figure out what the ingredients are for a satisfying relationship and what personal qualities it takes to get there. I would think that trust would be at the top of the list of relationship necessities, and honesty would be one personal quality required for trust. Kindness would be good, too. Lover boy doesn't sound so hot by these standards. Next time look for someone who measures up on as many qualities as you can identify.

Deserving Better

I dearly love my 38-year-old alcoholic boyfriend, as he me. Besides the three quarts of beer he consumes nightly-20 12-oz. cans when he doesn't have work the next day-he has very little to do with wanting a sexual relationship. He says he does not like sex; I feel he has a low sex drive due to constant beer drinking since age 14. As a child he was sexually molested/abused by his dad. He has a heart of gold and is always doing good deeds to those in need.

When we have sex, he only performs the act for 15 minutes. Though he does satisfy me, he refuses to touch my erogenous zone, which he calls dirty or nasty. He is totally detached emotionally and shuns all affection I try bestowing. I know he masturbates-it is "quick" not "messy."

I have been to a counselor and therapist and have only been asked, "Why do you stay with him?" He and I enjoy the same music/foods/movies/concerts/plays/weekend getaways. It's amazing we have so much in common since I am 24 years older. We have genuine respect for each other and never quarrel. I feel we both have been hurt enough in our life. I had two disastrous marriages, one lasting 10 years, until I divorced him; the second lasting 31 years, until he passed away March 2002. Both husbands abused me physically/verbally. My boyfriend is always cool, calm and collected. Can he be taught to love?

I'm definitely not going to ask why you stay. I have a different question: why do you think you don't deserve better? And here's another: What beliefs do you have about yourself that draw you to men who can't give you sex, affection and respect in one package? You had two abusive marriages and now you're hooking up with a guy who's rarely conscious (all that alcohol) and shuns closeness. It's a new (for you) variation on the theme of dishonoring yourself.

Your boyfriend is repeating with you the truth about sex as he so brutally learned it; touching erogenous zones was indeed "nasty." Beer is his first love because he can always count on it, unlike the adults in his life who were supposed to protect him but failed miserably. This is a deeply wounded human being.

Your empathy and concern for him are admirable, but they can't power an adult relationship, which can only be based on mutual affection, respect and support. Emphasis on mutual.

Perhaps he can be taught to love, but his liver and brain may give out before then. If he stops drinking, the pain he's running from will come crashing down on him-but only then can he seek out more constructive ways of dealing with it. It's not easy and he could benefit from good professional help and especially the support of other men, as in a men's group.

Keep him as a friend, if you wish. But throw away the Viagra. There is no drug in the world that can counteract the deadening effect of three to six quarts of beer. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It has effects on sex hormones. It kills liver and brain cells.

Stop paying so much attention to this shadow of a relationship and start respecting your own needs.
... more


Boost Your Social Confidence


Boost Your Social Confidence
- Developing Social Confidence

Provided by Psychology Today

Perhaps the single greatest source of mental energy is positive interaction with others. Even if you were the class nerd in high school, it's never too late to achieve social success. You can develop social confidence by following a few simple steps.

Schedule Your Social Life

To hone your social skills you have to invest time in them. Practice makes perfect, even for the socially secure. By surrounding yourself with others you create a rich supply of opportunities to observe interactions and to improve upon your own social behaviors.

Stop turning down party invitations and start inviting people to your home. Plan outings with acquaintances you'd like to know better.

Think Positive

Insecure people approach others anxiously, feeling they have to prove that they're witty or interesting. Self-assured people expect others to respond positively--despite the fact that one of the most difficult social tasks is to join an activity that is already in progress.

Engage in Social Reconnaissance

The socially competent are highly skilled at information gathering, always scanning the scene for important details to guide their actions. They are tuned in to people's expression of specific emotions, sensitive to signals that convey such information as what people's interests are, whether they want to be left alone or whether there is room in an activity for another person.

To infer correctly what others must be feeling, you must be able to identify and label your own experience accurately. That is where many people, particularly men, fall short.

Good conversationalists make comments that are connected to what is said to them and to the social situation. You don't have to be interesting. You just have to be interested.

Enter Conversations Gracefully

Timing is everything. After listening and observing on the perimeter of a group they want to join, the socially competent look for an opportunity to step in, knowing it doesn't just happen. It usually appears as a lull in the conversation. Tuned in to the conversational or activity theme, the deft participant asks a question or elaborates on what someone else has already said. The idea is to use an open-ended question that lets others participate. "Speaking of the election, what does everybody think about so-and-so's decision not to run?"

Once the conversation gets moving, back off and give others a chance to talk. The goal is to help the group have a better conversation.

Learn to Handle Failure

Everyone will sometimes be rejected. The socially confident don't take rebuffs personally. They don't attribute rejection to internal causes, such as being unlikable or inability to make friends. They assume it can result from any of many factors--incompatibility, someone else's bad mood, a misunderstanding.

Self-assured people become resilient, using the feedback they get to shape another go at acceptance. When faced with failure, those who are well-liked turn a negative response into a counterproposal. They say things like, "Well, can we make a date for next week instead?" Or they move onto another group in the expectation that not every conversation is closed.

And should they reject others' bids to join with them, they do it in a positive way. They invariably offer a reason or counter with an alternative idea: "I would love to talk with you later."