Latest Blog Posts:
  • Replay of “Design the Love Life You Want” Webinar

    Thanks to all of you who made it to the live webinar of Design the Love Life You Want. As promised, here’s the replay of the seminar:

    Or you can download the mp3 here (84min, 40Mb). The last 20min is Q&A which you’re welcome to skip.

    In the meantime, my profuse apologies to all of you who signed up way in advance and tried to get on the webinar but couldn’t. This was the first time I was using this software for a live class. What I did not know was the 100 person cap on the webinar capacity. In anticipation of glitches (because that’s what software does), I had put up a conference call number on the welcome page and Facebook, which some of you were able to use. In retrospect, I should have sent the call-in number along with the original mailing. Live and learn.

    Because of the glitch, I’m doing a second call this Thursday, 14 July at 12 noon PT/3pm ET/8pm London to accommodate all the folks who missed the first one, as well as the folks in Europe, Australia and Hawaii who made the request for a live session. Additionally, all offers mentioned on the call will be good until the end of day on Friday. We’ll still use the webinar interface for its ease of sign-up and ability to field questions, so please click here to sign up. But if it gives you any trouble at all on the day of, use the call-in number:

    DATE: Thursday, 14 July 2016, 12 noon PT/3p ET/20.00 London/21.00 Berlin
    Conference line: +1 712 432 3066
    Access code: 667202

    I look forward to catching up with you!

    All the best,
    Dr Ali





  • Webinar: Design the Love Life You Want, Tue 12 July

    Recently I got back from a 3-week trip, during which I read a few life-changing books. One of them was Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. I’m not going to do a full review of the book here – for that, you can either join my Brainiacs Book Club on Facebook or read my personal blog. However, there was one concept in the book that struck me as paramount – especially since I have been teaching it for years without knowing about the science behind it.

    That is the concept of mental representations. Basically, whenever someone excels in any endeavor, a big part of their success involves having a strong mental representation of their target performance. What should this Beethoven piano sonata sound like? What should this dish taste like? Where should my body be positioned as I’m making this high jump?

    As it turns out, the concept of mental representations also extends to the realm of courtship and love. Who are you, really? What kind of partner would you like? What does partnership with him look like? How do you like to be treated in this relationship?

    So on Tuesday, July 12, at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT, I’m holding a no-charge webinar to give you the tools to Design the Love Life You Want. In it, I will cover:

    • Who are you?: Self, identity and values
    • Self-love: the foundation for lasting relationships
    • Finding the Good Guys: Who, Where and How
    • Meeting the Good Guys
    • Attracting Good Guys into your life

    You’ll be getting tons of info you can use immediately, with special application of the science of Peak to your dating life. Sign up for the webinar here. I’ll be doing live Q&A during the call, so be sure to sign up! If there’s enough demand, I might do another earlier time slot more convenient for my European readers.

    This also serves as a preview of what’s coming up in the live cohort for the Project Irresistible course starting July 19 (note new date). If you’ve had it in the back of your mind to do Project Irresistible, or did it before and now want to go through it with a bunch of like-minded folks, join us on Tue July 12 to get in the right frame of mind!

    All the best, Dr Ali

  • What Would the Goddess Do?

    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) (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,

    Dr Ali

    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

  • “Should I be miserable, or slightly less miserable?”: The Framing Problem

    A great letter about an all-too-common issue: do you stay in a mediocre relationship, or stick around to acknowledge your partner’s efforts at self-improvement, in hope that things maaaybe get better:

    Dear Dr Ali — My on/off partner of 4.5 years (with breaks) has a very avoidant attachment style, manifesting through extreme workaholic behaviour, using work to put distance between us. His work is stressful which exacerbates the issues. I have left the relationship twice. I am generally secure, with a very close, supportive family and friends network, but under this type of stress I become quite anxious. I’ve left whenever I realised I was persistently unhappy and ultimately feel alone within the relationship.

    We have an 8 year relationship as creative partners and are currently still working together (sporadically, not everyday). Our working relationship is great, I’d say because he feels safe and not threatened by intimacy. We are always happy to see each other.

    Both times I have left, he has reached out to try again. This time he started therapy to address these problems and in a few months there has been a significant acknowledgement of issues but no change so far. We love each other but I am worried that his underlying issues are so deep, he will never be able to commit to a relationship in a way that will make us both happy.

    Do you think it is possible for a strongly avoidant person to smooth off those edges and feel happy and fulfilled in a relationship rather than trapped and panicky (especially during the stressful times in life)? Ages are 38 and 40. Thanks, Cleo

    This kind of question comes up a lot, and it’s an example of what’s called the framing problem. See, Cleo, the correct question here is not “Can this person who has been making me feel anxious, unhappy and alone for 4.5 years with whom I’ve already broken up twice suddenly change and become the warm, caring person who fulfills all my relationship needs for the next umpteen years?” but rather, “Why am I putting up with this shit?” The real choice is between the mediocre-to-toxic relationship you’re having right now, vs the mutually nurturing and nourishing relationship that you could have with any of the millions of men that you haven’t broken up with twice yet.

    What you’re asking me is, “Hey doc. I just got this hot dog, and it fell in the sand. Should I just eat it, or is it possible for me to pick out all the grit and maybe wash it and then have a soggy mess that’s almost edible again and maybe a little less gritty, so I don’t have to throw it away?” If you have 5 bucks in your pocket, I’d say go get another hot dog, toss the other one and never think about it again.

    This type of thinking is very common, Cleo. The problem is with the framing: should I keep a miserable relationship, or a slightly less miserable relationship. It’s a false choice. You can also have a great relationship. Just not with this guy. I’m guessing that right about now, you’re getting a pretty unified chorus of friends and family saying that you deserve better. Maybe it’s time to listen to that.

    The reason this comes up so often is because of the sunk cost fallacy. I’ve written about this before in Chapter 5 of The Tao of Dating (ebook, paperback, and audiobook), “Understanding Men, Understanding Yourself”, p93:

    The Slot-Machine Theory of Human Behavior
    “Let’s say you’re in Las Vegas, and you’ve decided to play a slot machine. You put in a coin, pull the lever, and – nothing. Well, that’s fine – you weren’t expecting to win immediately anyway. So you put in another coin and – nothing again. In fact, nothing is the most likely outcome every time. Funny that.

    But before you know it, you’ve sunk quite a few coins in this machine. Now you’re thinking, “I’m invested; I can’t just quit now! I’ve fattened this thing up – it’s going to pay off any second now! Jackpot City!”

    The fact remains that the most likely outcome of your next pull (and the next, and the next, and the next) is still nothing. And that likelihood does not change whether you put in one coin or 10,000 coins before this pull.

    Psychologists have noticed that one of the reasons why this happens (and why casinos are making a mint) is that the human mind grasps poorly the concept of sunk costs. Those first 100 coins that you put into the machine are gone forever, and they have no bearing upon the outcome of the next pull of the lever. People tend to mistake the sunk cost for an investment, which has an expectation of future payoff commensurate with the investment. A sunk cost, on the other hand, is just plain gone.

    The way this concept plays out in a bad relationship is that the aggrieved party thinks that she has invested two years dating a jerk, so she can’t just throw that investment away. Besides, through her efforts, he might reform and thereby reward her with the jackpot she’s been working on all along.

    Well, there is no way to retrieve or throw away those two years – they’re gone for good. They are sunk costs. And the jackpot isn’t coming. Just as in playing a slot machine, the best policy once you realize you’re in a sunk cost situation is to cut and run and immediately stop your losses. The sooner a woman leaves behind the jerk, the sooner she’s opening her life to the arrival of a guy (perhaps even a Good Guy) who can be a catalyst for fulfillment.” [end of excerpt]

    Your question once again brings up the central question of relationships: What do you want, Cleo? Do you want an on-again, off-again relationship that stresses you out? Because that’s what you’re signing up for by staying with him. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and the past behavior has not been promising.

    It’s nice that you say you love him, but your mission in this life is to be your most radiant, giving, generous, creative self so you can give your gift to the world, not to have it drained out of you by one person. This man does not sound like the kind of person who as a partner can catalyze your greatness. As such, staying with him would be an act of selfishness. You have a much bigger mandate than having to deal with his issues. Be strong and move on so you can open the door to the right partner who’s been waiting for you for a long time now. And if that means being alone for a little while, that’s still a better spot than what you’re describing right now.

    Please recall that I wrote The Tao of Dating because a friend of mine told me she was dating with a man who lived under her roof paying no rent and beating her up. That was a really clear case of someone being in the wrong relationship, because he was physically abusing her. But sometimes the violence isn’t so obvious because it’s occurring emotionally.

    All relationships go through ups and downs, but please be mindful of what the overall arc of the relationship is. Does it go down, then go up again, with a general upward trajectory? Or does it go down, and then stay down till you get used to the new normal, then go down again? There’s a term for this in decision science: normalization of deviance. And if you’re stuck in the middle of it, it can sometimes be hard to tell if you’re compromising too much in a relationship.

    So here are some ways of finding out whether what you’re putting up with is normal relationship fluctuations or a toxic relationship:

    Are your friends worried about you? Do they often express concern about the state of your relationship? Do they ever say things like “He’s not good for you” or “Y’know, have you considered dating someone else?” If so, you may be in a toxic relationship.

    Do you find yourself apologizing a lot in the relationship? Like you’re always walking on eggshells, trying not to set him off?  The whole point of relationship is for two people to support each other, not to create an atmosphere of fear. There are plenty of dark alleyways you can walk down in the sketchy parts of the city to make you feel unsafe. Why construct one in your own home?

    Do you have a history of staying in bad relationships? If so, your idea of “normal” may be skewed such that you’re willing to put up with a lot more crap than you should.

    Do you feel that you’re flourishing as a person in this relationship? This is the absolute criterion that doesn’t even need the rest of them. If the answer is no, it’s time to think about why that’s the case.

    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.

    Speaking of flourishing — I’ve got a little something for you. On Tue May 31 at 6pm PT/9pm ET, I’m giving a free teleclass called “Happiness Engineering: The Five Pillars of Authentic Success.” Sign up for it here and I’ll send you a reminder for when it’s happening.

    All the best,
    Dr Ali

    PS: By popular request, Therapy Thursdays continues. If you have an issue that you think could benefit from a one-on-one consult via Skype, send a message to drali at with “TT” in the subject line and I’ll see what I can do to accommodate you. There are 3 appointment slots per week, and they happen on Thursdays and Fridays.

    PPS: If you don’t have it already, you can get The Tao of Dating audibook for free when you sign up for a 30-day trial with Audible.

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