Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Will To Win

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
-Coach Red Sanders

I love sports, especially basketball, NFL football, MMA, and (when it's played well) hockey.

One popular quality that sports-writers, coaches and athletes claim set successful teams and competitors apart is the "Will to Win."

Will to win doesn't apply to relationships. In fact, it screws them up royally.

A lot of people have trouble with their interpersonal lives because they're focused on "winning" the relationship.

"He has to call me."

"I'm not going to go talk to that woman who's been looking over here. If she wants me, she can come talk to me."

"My friend got a phone number so now I have to get at least two."

"I refuse to let this argument go/start talking to my partner again until he/she admits I was right/apologizes/does what I want"

Wanting to win in a relationship is usually not about wanting to win. It's about not wanting to lose.

More accurately, it's about FEAR of losing.

What's intersting though is constant trying to win and 'score-keeping' in a relationship--any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is a sure way to lose.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Are Nice Guys Jerks?: More on the Friend Zone (editorial)

Dr. Nerdlove has an article up on the Problem with Nice Guys. As always on the internet when the topic of Nice Guys and the Friend Zone comes up, there's an explosion of comments. This discussion is more civil than most, which is one of the reasons I like that particular website.

As for me, my feelings have evolved to the point where I don't know what they are anymore.

I used to identify with guys in the Friend Zone. I grew up believing telling a woman how you felt about her was cheating. You were supposed to win her over with your actions, behaviour, and personality.

As I became more assertive, I started to feel...well, Dr. Nerdlove summed it up pretty good in his article. Read it if you like. But I also felt a vague contempt for guys who wouldn't make their intentions known. Maybe it was because I wanted to believe I was better than them now.

Now I'm just sad.

I mean we're all human beings. Men and women have been dealing with this issue since the dawn of civilization (or at least the eighties, anyway, when I was in school) and we STILL haven't collectively figured this out?

It's times like this I wonder if the gender essentalists have a point--men and women really ARE fundamentally different. And until they understand how those world views differ, there's no way we can hope to understand each other.

This morning, I had a ton of theories: Men and women don't relate to the world in the same way. Women have personal relationships with their own bodies, where men see their bodies as tools. Women are obsessed with having choices and decision-making; men are about action and don't even realize there was a decision being made.

I like my theories. But ultmately, they're just theories. They could very easily be wrong.

Besides, theory does not bring about happy relationships. Happiness happens in reality.

If you're looking for specific advice, I've written about it here and here for those of you who like someone who you aren't sure likes you back and I've written about it here for those of you dealing with the situation of being liked by someone who you see as just a friend. These things have worked for me in the past, and I continue to see them work, both in my personal life and the lives of other people.

I've come to believe though, that a lot of people don't WANT advice. They want to be heard and understood. And sometimes we're trying so hard to be heard or to be understood or to be RIGHT, we aren't thinking so much about listening or understanding others.

Those walls are hard to get around. They can only be taken down from the inside.

That's why I feel sad. We all have enormous power. Regardless of how things turn out romantically with any one person, it's within each of us to make the dating pool a much cleaner place which will have positive effects for us and other people.

But we can't make others make that same choice.

It's hard to watch people spinning their wheels. It's hard to watch them refuse help and refuse to help themselves or others.

I guess we can only do what is possible. I guess I could take my own advice and focus on the things in my control.

I still feel sad about it.

I still wish I could do more.

-May All Beings Be Called Back

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Applying the Cycle to Our Relationships

Before we move forward, let‘s talk more about the Cycle.

Most people who know about the Cycle associate it with family violence or abusive relationships, but I think it has some value in non-abusive relationships as well.

After all, negative patterns can show up in a relationship, even if nothing meets the legal definition of abuse.

Furthermore, we all have our own definitions of what ‘counts as abuse,’ and you know what? That’s fine.

Knowing what I know about the Opposites, I WILL add a little something for your consideration. Sometimes people in or around an abusive relationship have a hard time calling what they are experiencing, witnessing, or--in some cases--perpetrating as abuse. They tell themselves that they are misinterpreting things or worry about overreacting. They think…well, it‘s not THAT bad compared to what could be happening; others have it far worse. Or they try and convince themselves that the victim--even if THEY are the victim--has done something to deserve what they are getting. They may be blind to it because seeing it would obligate them to act on it, and so not seeing is far easier.

And sometimes it’s because people have an image in their head about what abusers or abused people should look like and that image looks nothing like a friend, co-worker, loved one, or the person they see in the mirror.

We now return to our scheduled topic, which is this:

A relationship doesn’t have to be abusive to be unhealthy. Heck, a relationship doesn’t even have to be unhealthy to hit a bad patch. Life happens to us all.

Understanding how the Cycle works can be helpful tool in such cases.

So if you’re finding yourself experiencing massive fights, icy silences, or other difficulties, followed by fantastic make-up sex and feelings of relief, exhilaration, and exultation, only to find yourself in the same position only worse less than a week later, it is very possible you are playing out the cycle.

The most common place I see this in non-abusive situations is where a relationship is nearing its natural conclusion, but one or both partners is not ready for it to end. The result is a break-up, followed by a make-up, followed by a period of tension and then another break-up.

Maybe they get back together again. Then they break-up again, but this time the time between the make-up and break up is shorter. A week instead of a month. A day or two instead of a week.

That doesn‘t seem unnatural to me. When you‘ve been together for a while, one or two (maybe even three) ‘practice break-ups’ before the real thing is normal.

The real nightmare is when a couple refuses to let go. They continue to break-up. And Make up. And break up again. Each break-up takes a little more out of them. Each make-up is less hopeful than the last.

Now the break-ups are closer and closer together. The fights are hours apart instead of days. The make-ups are no longer happening…instead one partner walks back through the door in sullen silence until it’s time to break-up or fight again.

It's a Relationship Death Spiral.

Some couples even lose the energy to break-up. Instead they live in a constant state of tension, taking on the grim and haunted look of exhausted soldiers in a hostile country. There’s no fighting to win anymore; it’s just going through the motions, hoping for the end, but unable to finish it themselves. The Cycle itself has turned to dust; all that’s left is two hollowed out husks, shackled to their own two-person Wheel of Pain.

Sounds crappy, no?

This is why it’s so important to recognize the Cycle. Remember what we know: It gets worse over time--the bad parts intensify, the good times disappear, and the cycle begins to happen faster.

Most importantly, it will not change by itself. Something needs to change in the relationship.

Finding yourself in a Cycle doesn’t mean you failed. It certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard enough. It means that it is time to do something differently, and the earlier you recognize it and start acting the better.

It’s tempting to wait. Things aren’t that bad, we tell ourselves. Maybe they‘ll get better on their own.

Those thoughts are dangerous. The best time to act is always BEFORE things get worse.

There are huge advantages to acting early when we see evidence of the Cycle. The bad isn’t out of control. There are still be positives in the good times stage. We are travelling through the Cycle slowly enough that there is time to seek help, find balance, and regain perspective. It’s easier to step off a Merry Go Round than a Gravitron.

If the relationship is salvageable, you have enough energy, willingness to communicate, and goodwill towards one another to grow, build, and change instead of needing everything you have just to hold on.

If the relationship isn’t salvageable, well…energy, willingness to communicate, and goodwill come in handy in break-ups too. Ending a relationship can be sad, disappointing, and frustrating, but in the long term, a good break-up generates a lot more happiness than a bad relationship.

The Cycle is not an enemy. It is a messenger. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it.

Most importantly, don’t be blind to it.

Because while the Cycle may not always be abusive, it does have at least one thing in common with abuse.

Choosing not to see it won’t make it go away.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cycle Tour

This is mostly a blog about dating, but I think it's important to educate people on the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships.

I learned about The Cycle (not to be confused with the Wheel of Pain) volunteering on the Distress Line. We mostly use it to let people in domestic violence relationships see the pattern in what's happening, but I think it applies to any unhealthy patterns in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. Sometimes it even occurs in a relationship with oneself (I'm thinking specifically of trying to break an addiction here, but there are probably other examples)

There are three phases to the Cycle.

Everything is fine. The relationship is great. Better than great, maybe. I can't believe I thought we had problems. They seem so distant now.

There might not be something overtly wrong, but you can feel a change in the relationship. It's a tension you feel in your body, even if you aren't sure where it's coming from. Many veteran abusees hate this part. Sometimes they may even provoke a fight just to get it over with and move on to the...

This is where the fight, abuse, etc. happens. It may or may not be physical, but it sucks. After the explosion, there is the making up, apologizing, and promising it will never happen again. Occasionally, the abusee may feel like the explosion was his/her fault. "He/She wouldn't have X, if I hadn't Y." The abuser may apologize, but may also encourage this line of thinking.

That takes you back to the Good Times stage and the cycle begins anew. Second verse, same as the first.

There are four things worth noting about the cycle.

1 - The Cycle tends to contract and tighten over time. The amount of time it takes to go through the cycle becomes shorter and shorter.

2 - The level of abuse tends to intensify and get worse and worse.

3 - If that isn't bad enough, the good times stage gets shorter and may even disappear completely so you end up oscillating back and forth between the tension and the explosion.

4 - The cycle won't change by itself. Something needs to change in the relationship.(It has to end, one or both parties need to seek help, etc). Usually that means the people involved have to make a commitment to change and stick to it.

If you ARE in a violent or abusive relationship, I strongly encourage you to get out or at least start thinking about boundaries--ie: What would have to happen for you to decide to leave? If you aren' ready to go yet, that's normal. Sometimes it takes a few tries. Take steps to keep yourself safe and (since I don't know where you are when you're reading this) use Google or local community agencies to find resources to help you.

-May All Beings Be Safe

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Can't Choose Who You're Attracted To...But You Can Choose Whether Or Not You Act On It

One of many moments of truth when dealing with a woman is the moment when I tell her about this blog and my experience being the Gateway Boyfriend. This last time, it was over the internet.

She wrote:

It sounds like women who are wounded come to you and you heal them with sex.

Which isn‘t ENTIRELY true--the sex isn’t so much part of the healing process as something that happens naturally on its own--but also not totally inaccurate either.

I thought: put it like that, it sounds kind of fucked in the head.

I often look at the women I’m attracted to and the women who are attracted to me and wonder how it is we find each other. I find myself especially drawn to women who are hurting, sad or who have been damaged in some way.

Those qualities aren’t always a foundation upon which to build a stable relationship. They aren’t a guarantee of failure necessarily, but there’s something to be said for learning to read red flags.

I’ve learned though that wanting to take away a woman’s hurt is not a good reason to get involved with her. I don’t have to save every woman in the world. They're capable of saving themselves. I’m not some tragic romantic hero despite how I might market myself on the internet.

Now, these aren't the only things I'm attracted to--I also have things for plaid skirts, soft lips, and extensive vocabularies--but the difference is those other attractions don't have the same potential to turn into something unhealthy.

It also doesn’t change the fact that I’m attracted to women who have suffered (*). It’s also possible that attraction will never change, that I will always be vulnerable to it.

Which is PART ONE of Today’s Lesson: We are not always in conscious control of what attracts us.

Neither is anybody else.

What does that mean? Well, firstly, it means we don’t need to blame, shame, or judge ourselves or anybody else for liking what they like.

It’s tough when we are passed over by someone we like for reasons which seem arbitrary, shallow or even downright unfair. It’s not easy when we see our friends falling for the same jerk in different skin over and over. And when the person falling for the jerk is us...well, that's even harder to face.

That frustration is normal, but it doesn’t change facts.

Secondly, accepting that attraction is not always under our control frees us. Knowing we can't necessarily choose what we're drawn towards means we no longer need to judge ourselves or accept the judgement of others.

Make no mistake, those judgements are out there. They come out of the mouths of friends, family, and people who may or may not have your best interests at heart. We even judge ourselves: What is wrong with me that I keep falling for these kinds of guys/gals?

They're in the media. Many magazines and movies seem to want to tell us what we should find attractive. Even a lot of dating advice wants to describe the person we should be dating (Kind, trustworthy, a good listener who gives us the exact right amount of space, among a laundry list of other virtues).

Such advice also seems to hint that we are bad people for being attracted to anything else and ignores the fact that a) if this ideal partner actually exists in the real world, he or she is a rare breed and b) even if we were able to find them, some of us would find such a person exceedingly bland.).

You are not a bad person for liking what you like. People can’t control what turns them on. Many times we don’t even know why or how we become attracted to someone. When it comes to our hearts, we are all unreliable narrators.

This brings us to PART TWO of today’s lesson: We reap the consequences of our choices.

We might have limited control over our attraction triggers. But we have a little more control over if, when, and how we act on that attraction. And like it or not, we are responsible for those decisions.

Yeah. That’s the hard part.

Blaming ourselves, the world, or our partners seems so much easier.

It won’t change anything, though, and it won’t make anybody happier in the long run.

And that, ultimately, is what we want. It doesn‘t matter how attracted you are to someone if being with them leaves you feeling unhappy.

Attraction is not the same as compatibility.

Choose happiness. Choose freedom. Choose accountability for your life.

Just don‘t expect yourself to be able to choose who you‘re attracted to.

How aware are you of what turns you on? How well do you notice when you are attracted to someone? Try to separate what you THINK turns you on or what you believe you SHOULD find attractive from the things you actually respond to.

The best way to do this Practice is not at home thinking about it, but out in the world. Go for a walk. Talk to some strangers. Pay attention to any fluttery feelings at work, play or school. Where do you feel attraction in your body? What do you find attractive?

You don’t need to act on your feelings. In some cases, it’s probably a good idea that you don’t. But the more aware you are of what you respond to, the more you can make your response to it a choice instead of a reaction.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Honesty Vs Truthfulness

There is a difference between being truthful and being honest.

Truthfulness puts the onus on the other person to "ask the right questions."Or--taken to the other extreme--it might mean blurting out inappropriate truths at inappropriate times or the wrong context. Many people have been hurt by the words "I'm just being honest."

Are you?

Honesty is not about hurting people. It's also not about splitting hairs or being 'technically truthful.' It's not telling people what we think they want to hear in order to avoid hurting their feelings.

Nor is honesty only about answering questions. It's also about asking them. Honesty is also being truthful with ourselves about what we want to know about the other person. Honesty is having the courage to ask those questions.

Honesty is showing people we can be honest--and showing that we are able to handle honesty in return.

Honesty is showing people who we are and what we want, in our words and in our behavior, and giving them the choice how to respond.

What does honesty mean to you? Are there times when you struggle to be honest? What do those situations have in common? What about truthfulness--does it come easily or not? When have you felt you can be the most honest with someone?

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.