A lot of you wrote in via comment, letter and social media to reflect on the “Should I be miserable, or slightly less miserable” post. Apparently it struck a nerve! Here were some of your reactions:
“Dr Ali, This post was a true blessing for me today. I can’t thank you enough for you insight, wisdom and humor. It was as if it was written for me on a day I needed it the most. Profound and life-changing.” — Janey
“Hi Dr Ali. I really love your concept of reframing and your specific, cut-through-the-BS reframe – ‘why am I putting up with this shit’ – is just gold :). Could be applied to so many situations.” — Elle from Australia
“I thought this was amazing advice: ‘If you don’t feel psychologically safe on a day-to-day basis in your relationship, it’s really time to move on. Things like love, growth and joy only have room to happen when the parasympathetic nervous system and the mind and body feel safe. When your mind is in threat response mode, it just never gets past that. If that describes you, call on a trusted friend or counselor to discuss how you can extricate yourself from the situation.’ Thank you!” — Lisa
See, this is an issue that can’t really be overemphasized. If you haven’t read the article yet, read it now — and send it on to friends whom you think would benefit.
What happens in a bad relationship is normalization of deviance. Human beings are super adaptable. So if he/she’s less considerate now than when you started out together, it becomes the new normal if you don’t do something about it fast. Next thing you know, you’ll be counting it as a good day when you get yelled at less than 5 times, or when he/she gives you only one physical or emotional black eye.
NO! The standard should always be: Does this person have my back? Am I growing more as a person in this relationship than I would be out of it? Do I feel like I’m being treated like a goddess or a slave? It’s very easy to tell the difference between a person who geniunely supports you and one who wants to keep you down.
The problem is that once someone’s got you down, now you’re in fear mode. And when you’re in fear mode, you’re too worried about protecting yourself to think, “Hey, what has this bastard done for me lately?” But that’s exactly what you should be thinking. You deserve and should require to be treated with kindness and dignity, always. No exceptions. What would the goddess do?
And please, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever you hold sacred: Do NOT ever come and tell me, “Yeah, it’s pretty bad sometimes but when he’s good he’s so good.” Because THAT is the structure of maximum manipulation and sociopathy. The Power of Maybe, of the intermittent irregular reinforcement, of the perpetual uncertainty, is what maximally stimulates the dopamine circuits in your brain and makes you addicted to something that’s detrimental for you. Actually, that was redundant — when is addiction anything but detrimental? Put the crack pipe down and get out of that relationship already.
Anyway. Let’s get to some new letters now:
“Dear Dr Ali — I met a great guy while on vacation that I actually have chemistry with, but he lives 2 hours away. Should I forget about it since we don’t live in the same city or do you think I should be open to exploring getting to know each other? I will go back and look at what you’ve said previously on long distance since you may have already addressed this. I was just thinking that 2 hours may be close enough, but I don’t know.” — Julie, 35, San Francisco
I define “long distance” as “far enough to preclude spontaneity,” and have written many times on the myriad reasons why long-distance relationships suck. By that criterion, 2 hrs = 2 far. The distance just makes everything a much bigger deal. Had a bad day at work? He can’t come over and comfort you, and if he does, now it’s a major investment. Which over time goes in the “you owe me” account. Distance also makes it significantly easier for people to conduct separate lives unbeknownst to the partner. A good way to think about it is that a long-distance relationship is like the specialty store that has that one rare cheese you really like and are willing to trek crosstown for maybe once every month or two. But you’d be a fool to go to the speciality store instead of your local grocery store every week, since the speciality store is more expensive, has less selection, and is freakin’ far.
This will not play out well in the long run — trust me on this one. Also please don’t think that you’re case is different by virtue of being you. Nope, you are not the exception — that’s just a version of the fundamental attribution error. You also don’t have to let it go, but you do have to put it in its proper place in the dating seriousness continuum, i.e. fun short-term fling subject to availability, a nice lover to have in that city, but not THE lover. Since most women aren’t capable of doing that because of all the pesky bonding chemicals, maybe you should let it go after all.
Next one is from Ronnie, 58:
“Hi! I love your book and it’s helping me in my relationship with my boyfriend. A LOT. We started dating seven months ago, shortly after we met. I had been increasingly clingy without realizing what I was doing, and so about two weeks ago, he gently told me that he needed space, and that he still loved me. I almost cried.
He told me he didn’t want me to come to him anymore unless he let me know he wanted that. We’re in an assisted living place, and we’re the youngest people there! I’m 58 and he’s 53. And we both are in wheelchairs as he is paraplegic and I have an amputation. Goes to show love can be found even in the oddest of places!
In my panic, I asked him if I could call him, and he made the gesture that I could call him and he would tell me Y or N. And also that I can still call him to tell him anything I want. We have been together every day for seven months, so this has been very hard on me. But I’m doing better, and I credit The Tao of Dating for that.
My burning question: Even though he told me I could call him to ask to see him, do you think this is ill-advised for me to do so? Because I called him once, and he said No. Which pretty much killed me. And I haven’t called to ask that anymore. I think it gives him power that’s mine, doesn’t it? Thanks muchly, Ronnie”
Well, Ronnie, I was about to write you a response along the lines of “holding on loosely”, but you seem to have beat me to the punch! One exercise that can be useful is to consider not the present situation and how you can tweak it a little to fix it, but rather to consider the ideal, target situation you would like to be in. In other words, think “What would the goddess do?” She would not be slightly less needy, or use some other gambit to get the guy to hang out with her. Rather, she would be so self-sufficiently radiant and nourishing that all sentient beings just want to be around her. That’s a long way from needy, and perhaps a better target to aspire to.
Dr Ali — Thanks for responding so quick! Yes, I agree about the traits of the goddess. I mean, everybody loves to be around me and to hang out with me. I’m a magnet, apparently. It seems like I’ve already been displaying the traits you list in your book; I just wasn’t aware of that on the surface, so to speak.
So if I’m a magnet for everybody else, then it follows that I’m also a magnet for my BF. And by the way he behaves, this must be true… Thanks for turning around a negative (i.e., not being needy) into a positive (that of aspiring to be self-sufficiently radiant). That’s a terrific way to reframe. :) Blessings, Ronnie
Look — I know most of you understand the principles that I’m talking about. But it’s one thing to read something and nod your head, another to deeply get it, and yet another to integrate it into your behavior, and yet another to make it a new habit. So if you’ve been doing something the same way for a long time, it’s challenging to change that overnight. Re-training your neurology takes time and my harping on the material week after week until you can’t ever forget it. And maybe an accountability partner. And exercises, and more repetition.
That’s why I’m launching a LIVE COHORT of Project Irresistible, starting Tuesday, July 5, for 6 weeks. You still get access to the full content of the Project Irresistible online course. And I also assign you to an encouragement partner and do a group coaching call every week.
And why are we doing this now? Because it’s summer, that’s why. And if that doesn’t make any sense, provide your own excuse — something like, “Y’know, maybe I should take care of this whole love life thing after all.”
I’ll also be introducing new material from the Happiness Engineering course I’ve been developing. Because here’s the big secret: this whole Tao of Dating thing isn’t just about dating. It’s about your flourishing and fulfillment as a human being. Dating just happens to be something that involves your whole person, so it’s a good place to start.
Regular price for the course, without coaching calls, is $247. However, I like to reward initiative, and my birthday is coming up mid-month, so I’m offering a super early bird discount for all those who sign up this week (up to June 15): code “SUMMERTIME” gets you $100 off the course, so it’s only $147. And anyone who has ever purchased or participated in Project Irresistible is welcome to join this and future cohorts, so long as you fully commit to the 6 weeks of helping out your partner in the course. Deal? Deal.
If you’re one of those people like me who want all the details before deciding, click here for the full long-winded course description. In the meantime, here’s what the six weekly sessions will be about:
Session 1: Who Are You Really, and What Do You Really Want?
Session 2: Self-Love: The Foundation of All Relationship
Session 3: Finding Good Guys: Where’s His Natural Habitat?
Session 4: How to Meet Good Guys– and Have Him Think it Was His Idea All Along
Session 5: Foolproof Strategies to Attract Good Guys into Your Life
Session 6: The Secrets for Keeping a Good Guy in Your Life
Here’s the link to register: Alright, fine, I want to join the Project Irresistible July 2016 cohort
If you’ve read this far, thanks for your attention! Send your questions with subject line “Question” to drali(at)taoofdating.com (200 words or less, containing a question regarding what you want). For consultation/therapy requests, put “TT” in the subject line (stands for Therapy Thursdays, but other days can also work).
All the best,
PS: For those of you who like the principles of The Tao of Dating but find their application elusive because, where, there’s a lot of them to remember, may I recommend the audiobook version. And if it’s the first audiobook you’re getting on Audible as part of a 30-day trial, it’s on them! Bonus.
PPS: On a more lighthearted note, I write attempts at humor every once in a while. Here’s the latest: For Millennials: The Guide to Using a Telephone, on my personal blog and Huffington Post Humor