6 Signs Your Friendship is Toxic

Some people just can’t play nice. Toxic personalities can seem engaging and energetic, but what at first seems to be friendly social behavior can often be a cover for a deep-seated insecurity. These are the friends who “can be nice when they want to be” but have the capacity to make your life a living hell. Here are six signs that your friendship with someone is downright unhealthy:

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(1) You’re exhausted after interacting with them. Just a phone call with this person can leave you feeling totally drained. All of your friend’s high-energy chatter, pique, or anxiety has just been dumped onto your defenseless ears, and your attempts to soothe, reason with, or comfort your buddy has you beat. Toxic friends often have an excess of energy resulting from stress or anxiety that needs an outlet in order to be released. And guess who the lucky wall socket is?

(2) Lack of reciprocity. It’s never about you. You may find yourself doing all kinds of nice things for your friend and discover that they never seem to get around to doing things for you. Toxic pals dominate conversation, expect you to be constantly available for them, and don’t return favors. Because these people are so self-obsessed, they can’t see far enough beyond themselves to realize they’re being obnoxiously self-centered.

(3) High drama. Something crazy always seems to be happening in your friend’s life. Fights with other friends, family crisis, job upheaval, relationship trouble… The list is endless, and you have to hear all about it. People with a lot of drama often feel the need to share it with whoever is available to listen.

(4) Absence of boundaries.  Toxic friends often don’t know when to quit. They may call at all hours of the day or night, show up unannounced, or expect you to drop everything to help them. No matter how you try to hint to them that they need to respect your boundaries, their dramatic rampage can’t be stopped for anything.

(5) Constant need for attention. Toxic people often fear being alone. They need to be the center of attention at all times, requiring heavy praise and sympathy from their friends. The worst thing you could do to this person is ignore them, and in all likelihood, this is exactly what you should be doing in response to their antics.

(6) Manipulative behavior. This friend may do anything and everything to get what they want. They may use guilt trips, threats, lies, or false promises to serve their own needs. If you feel like your dealings with this person always seem to result in the wool being pulled over your eyes, this is a clear sign that your friendship is toxic.

7 Signs of a Codependent Relationship

codependencyAs wonderful as it feels to spend time with your better half, there is a point where “being attached at the hip” stops being a joke and starts to become a genuine state of affairs. Every person needs time to themselves, space to breathe, opportunities to develop their individual skills and interests, and the power to assert their own sense of personal identity. But what happens when we lose these things? Is it really so bad that you spend all your time with your ball and chain? Here are seven signs that your relationship is codependent.

(1) Little or no personal time away from your partner. Have you gotten into the routine of doing everything together? Does it seem like even when you are doing things away from your partner, you find yourself talking or texting with him or her? This one may seem obvious, but it is essential to have fun or personal time away from your significant other. If you or your better half can’t have a girls’ night out, a beer with your buddies, or a personal day off without interruption from a cling-tastic partner, this is a strong sign that something is very wrong. Even if Twilight seems to say otherwise, love does not consist of constantly keeping tabs on each other. Both of you need a healthy amount of time away from the relationship to remind you of who you are when you’re not together.

(2) Asking permission. This one might not seem so obvious to most people. While it is natural to say, “Oh, I’ll talk to Jennifer and see what we’re doing that weekend,” there is an important difference between simple scheduling conflicts and a need to ask for a partner’s permission. If, when a friend or acquaintance invites you somewhere, you can imagine all the objections your partner could potentially raise (“I don’t want you going there alone,” “Who exactly is going to be there?”, “What am I supposed to be doing while you’re gone?”, “Why can’t I come, too?”), or if you’ve ever had to say “My boyfriend/girlfriend wouldn’t like that,” this is a clear sign that your relationship is codependent. While of course it is important to coordinate joint schedules, you are both adults, and no one should ever be asking anyone’s permission to go anywhere or do anything.

(3) The relationship has moved very far… very fast. While not all codependent relationships begin this way, avid declarations of undying love after two days of knowing each other, moving in within a month of dating, and other similarly speedy commitments are strong indicators of codependent relationships. This is true because making serious commitments within a short period of knowing someone shows that you’re not making these gestures out of love for this particular person (after all, you don’t really know them all that well and have not been together long); you’re doing these things so that you can feel close and committed to someone (anyone!) who will have you. Why make haste? There’s plenty of time to choose adjoining cemetery plots later.

(4) Someone tried leaving… but it didn’t seem to stick. If one or both of you have tried leaving but always wind up returning to the relationship, this is an indicator that your relationship is suffering from codependency. Whatever motivated you or your partner to leave in the first place is probably still a problem, but the pain of not being together makes you seek the devil you know rather than face the devil of loneliness. This level of attachment is incredibly unhealthy and is difficult to extract yourself from. Unless you or your partner have made significant progress in fixing whatever issue caused the split in the first place, getting back together is just another chapter this tale of dysfunctional woe.

(5) Breaking up or divorcing is unthinkable, no matter what. There are all kinds of reasons why people try to stay together when it’s clearly not working out: money, children, religious beliefs, whatever; and to some degree these are all legitimate considerations. But if your partner is abusing you, controlling you, cheating on you, or blowing all your money, none of these reasons justify eternal misery. It’s straight-up unhealthy, no matter who or what depends on your continued marriage or relationship. It takes courage to leave such a situation, but not leaving in the face of extreme circumstances is a clear indication of codependency.

(6) Justifying or enabling bad behavior. Do you find yourself needing to explain to friends or family why your partner is acting like an ass-hat? Most people in codependent relationships make excuses for their partners’ dysfunctional behavior. They say to themselves, “Oh, he’ll never do it again,” or “She’s only like that when she drinks.” Never make excuses for someone’s bad conduct; better yet, don’t accept excuses either.  You and your partner must take full responsibility for your respective actions, and enabling each other and justifying problem behavior only blinds you from the truth: that either you or your misbehaving partner is not emotionally healthy enough to be in a relationship at all.

(7) Putting your personal goals or values on hold. Many codependent people find themselves putting their dreams on hold or doing things they don’t really believe in for the sake of the relationship. You think to yourself, “I’ll just hold off on school for awhile so we can be close together,” or perhaps you have taken a job you don’t really want because it suits your relationship better than the job you love. Conversely, you may be the partner who thinks their partner’s job, family, hobbies, or interests are “getting in the way” of the relationship. I cannot be more serious when I tell you that this is the worst thing to do to someone you love. If you are the person giving up your wants or needs, you are losing out on important, self-defining, fulfilling activities for a needy and insecure partner. If you are the person who pressures their significant other to lose out on important opportunities in life, you are putting your own interests ahead of your partner’s self-improvement and happiness, and this is the worst kind of selfishness. Partners should always encourage and support each other’s individual projects and interests rather than hold each other back from reaching their full potential. If you find yourself modifying your chosen course in life for the sake of your partner or find yourself asking your significant other to change jobs or not pursue special opportunities, you are most certainly in  a codependent relationship.

When the Man You Love is Insecure

These days, I seem to find more and more young men who are desperately insecure. These men lack direction, feel protective of their ego, and often have a hard time “handling” independent or outspoken women in relationships. It’s a known fact that fewer men are attending college than women, that women are proven to be better suited to structured, cooperative work environments, and these facts have a measurable effect on men and their concept of their own competency. As women, we find this situation very difficult. How do we deal with these issues and reconcile these differences? Are relationships possible when we are painful reminders of how successful, rich, confident, or independent these men wish they could be? Here are my thoughts on the dynamics of dating insecure men.

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(1) Suss out the source. What is the underlying reason for your man’s insecurity? Is it because he hasn’t grown up yet? Is it childhood issues that give him an intense fear of failing? Is it frustration with the system? These are important questions, because the answers to them determine how you should behave in response. Depending on the source, you may be able to encourage him to take on more responsibility, try talk therapy, or educate himself more thoroughly on the opportunities that are available to him and how to take advantage of them. Though this is certainly not your direct duty as a girlfriend or spouse, keep in mind that encouragement and inspiration can mean a great deal to an insecure man hoping to change his ways.

(2) Determine if the situation is short- or long-term. If your man is just young and foolish, he may very well grow out of this floundering, awkward stage and make something of himself. In such a case, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to be patient with him during this crucial period, which includes dealing with any incidental spite, depression, or jealousy he may feel when he compares himself to you. If, however, it is apparent that your man suffers from consistent failure in his ability to hold down a job, find a career path, work toward goals, maintain a secure living situation, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, you may be dealing with a man who has lost all confidence in his ability to assert himself in the world. Such a person isn’t likely to manage failure well, and he probably loses more and more self-confidence each time he fails.

(3) Understand that you are a mirror. If you are dating or married to an insecure man, it is likely that your success will only aggravate his feelings of self-hatred and despair. You don’t represent a confident, capable woman to this man; you represent everything he cannot be, and the relationship is not likely to work out if all he sees when he looks at you are all the things he hates about himself. Relationships should be relationships of equals, and most men cannot tolerate feeling subordinate or inferior to women in any way. It denies their deepest sense of self. Men will do best with women whom they consider to be their equals or subordinates; rarely can even the most secure men find it in themselves to emotionally accept greater personal success in their girlfriend or spouse.

(4) Understand the male drive to provide. Men feel most secure and happy when they are capable of providing for their wives or girlfriends. Even if you wind up being the breadwinner, your man has to be confident that he can give you the things you want in life, even if in practice you are making the money or calling the shots. My advice? Let him provide for you, at least sometimes. Give him the responsibility and position of power he (perhaps secretly) craves in small ways. Many independent-minded women are opposed to this notion. Why should I let him think I need him to provide for me? What about my self-respect, independence, girl power, etc.? My response to these objections is that as independent or dominant as you may be, you are going to have to learn to share the reins if you want the relationship to survive. I’m not saying that you should be a 50s housewife; I’m saying that you need let your man know that you trust him to take care of things sometimes.

(5) Understand your own contribution to the problem. If you don’t trust him to take the reins sometimes, that says one of two things about you: (1) you justifiably do not trust your man to handle things appropriately based on his pattern of irresponsible behavior, or (2) you are unwilling to let anyone else take control. If the former is the case, this is a good sign that the relationship isn’t likely to work out. Why be with someone you can’t trust with important matters? If the latter is the case, then this is a personal issue you have with trust; unless you can bring yourself to believe that men can be as capable and trustworthy as yourself, you will always find yourself in a position where you are in control but unsatisfied with the fact that your man can’t (and doesn’t have the opportunity to) step up. In short, you can get through this road trip by sharing the wheel or you can drag him kicking and screaming the whole way. You may have the ability to drag him along behind you, but don’t expect him to be happy that he has been reduced to dead weight.

(6) Men take their cue from what they think you expect. Despite what women may think, most guys are willing to meet you halfway if you make your expectations clear. If you’re providing and you’re in control all the time, how does he know that you expect him to contribute? He may be getting mixed signals if you’re not willing to let him take the lead but always complaining that he doesn’t do anything. Understand that your best chance of redirecting male behavior is by giving a guy something to do or work toward. Men do not thrive in situations where expectations are unclear or inconsistent. Be explicit about the behaviors that are bothering you and be ready with some suggestions about what he can do to help remedy the situation. Keep your comments constructive and action-oriented. Having some notion of what should be done is infinitely more helpful to a man than simply presenting a problem and not clarifying what is expected of him.

Astrology and Relationship Ruin

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In light of the high volume of response to my post about Air-sign women and relationship troubles, I thought it might be interesting to discuss the potential problems that each sign may have with committed relationships. Most of what I have written comes from a combination of my knowledge of astrology and my personal experience.* None of it is going to be particularly complimentary, so readers be warned! This is the voice of tough love.

ARIES

Your partner may find you childish and impatient; you want what you want when you want it. Though you are passionate and attractive to others, you are your own number one and will expect to be the first priority in your partner’s life. You feel frustrated when you don’t get the attention you want and you may have a tendency to rush into relationships and fall into love or lust quickly. Watch your temper and try to overcome your need to put yourself before your partner; relationships only work if each partner knows there is mutual care and appreciation for each other’s needs. Try not to be so stubborn and domineering; your partner is never your subordinate.

TAURUS

You are an over-committer. You stay in bad relationships way longer than you should, and you consider it a duty to stay with the ship until the mast has sunk. You stubbornly refuse to heed anyone else’s advice about your troubled relationship, and you may be attracted to people who are unstable, particularly needy or wounded individuals.

You need to lose the savior complex, or else you will find yourself exhausted. You may feel the need to carry your partner’s burdens, but this will only wear you out in the end. Your heart and your home are deeply connected, so you are best suited to a partner who cares as much about your domestic security as you do.

Learning to trust your partner with important tasks may be particularly hard for you, but you have to start believing that other people are just as competent as you are if you are going to get anywhere. The “my way or the highway” attitude will only hinder your efforts to build trust in the relationship.

GEMINI

Commitment in general is hard for you. You are interested one day and not interested the next, and you may not know exactly why. It may benefit you to make a list of qualities you desire in a partner and seek relationships by those criteria rather than just reaching for what catches your eye. You tend to be a very self-involved sort of person, and you love being the center of attention.

This is not a problem if you find someone who can be patient with your behavior, but what will kill your relationships for sure is your habit of being distrustful and suspicious. You may find yourself building negative conjectures in your head about why your partner is behaving in a certain way, but it is better to talk out your issues rather than stew.

Your desire for revenge when wronged is terrible to witness and more than any other sign, you are prone to lying and infidelity. You will have to resist all of these to make it work. Though it is against your nature to trust in others, trust is absolutely necessary in building relationships. You also hate feeling tied down and will resent anyone’s attempts to control you. Understanding that relationships are voluntary bonds of love (rather than chains of imprisonment) is vital to your relationship success.

 

CANCER

Moodiness can be a serious problem for anyone dating you. You like to play it tough and argue because you don’t want to reveal how sensitive and vulnerable you really are on the inside, but trusting your partner with your vulnerability is the only way real intimacy can happen.

Try to curb your tendency toward clinginess, possessiveness, and jealousy. Resist the passive-aggressive urge to manipulate or guilt-trip your partner. No matter what your partner tries to do to prove his or her loyalty to you, they cannot resolve your deep-seated feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Learn to verbalize your feelings in a constructive way, and don’t punish your partner for your bad feelings.

You are a home-body and domestic family bonds are very important to you, so it would be best to seek out someone who supports and values the home and family.

LEO

Don’t let your need for control or attention get the better of you. In combination with your stubbornness, arrogance, and temper, these issues are the deal-breakers in your relationships. Your challenge is to overcome your own powerful personality; don’t let it rule over you! You may find that your own insufferably strong personality winds up repelling the very people you wish to attract. Let go a little and try to let someone else drive for a while. Relationships should never be a power struggle, and in time you will find that it is better to choose your battles. Also, resist the urge to take down any potential rivals by unsavory methods; if your loved one is meant to be yours, they shouldn’t need your interference to figure that out.

VIRGO

You are a perfectionist and love orderliness, but you can’t expect your partner to be perfect all the time. You are frustrated by partners who disrupt your sense of order and you hate the coarseness of arguments. You have a hard time telling your partner you are hurt and always want to appear nice and pleasant. To make it work, you have to learn to verbalize your hurt feelings and be willing to have the ugly, sometimes confrontational conversations, even if you don’t like them. You may take a perverse pleasure in stewing in your own hurt feelings, and you will have to keep this in check. You work hard at everything you do and may wind up being a doormat if you’re not careful. Stay away from dominating personalities and find someone who is willing to be sensitive to your needs.

LIBRA

Your personal ambitions matter far more to you than relationships do. Many Libras don’t even think too much about relationships because they are so focused on everything else the world has to offer them. If, however, you are willing to put the energy into finding and building a relationship, you’re going to have to overcome your inclination to focus on how wronged you feel; you may be unintentionally invalidating or dismissing your partner’s feelings because the injustice you feel at your own hurt feelings may take precedence in your mind.

You also have to be careful not to use others as a means to an end; though money and a high quality of life are naturally very important to you, this may be problematic if the main motivation in your relationship is to acquire material comfort. It’s a thin line between being attracted to those who are rich, powerful, or successful and being attracted to people because they are rich, powerful, or successful.

You may also find that others are put off by your unusual or free-spirited ideas, but try not to judge others for not thinking the way you do; you have a unique mind, and your ideal partner needs to offer you mental stimulation.

SCORPIO

You are predisposed to be proud and critical. You hold yourself to high standards, which often leads you to have high expectations for others as well. You are piqued by your partner’s attempts to challenge your authority, but at the same time, you don’t respect someone who won’t put up a fight when you inevitably push their buttons.

You are fiercely protective of your way of life and loved ones, and you have a tendency to become jealous, suspicious, territorial, and downright paranoid when you feel these are threatened. Be careful not to unleash these instincts upon your unsuspecting partner; be sure the offense was intended before your stinger comes out.

Though you are suave, powerful, attractive, and sexually intoxicating, you must be wary of allowing your partner’s personality to get lost in the shadow of your dynamism and charisma. Also, be careful not to cheat; your magnetic energy can get you into a lot of trouble if you allow your many admirers to distract you from your relationship.

SAGITTARIUS

You may have conflicting feelings about committed relationships. While you appreciate and long for stability, you also have a desire to strike out on your own and buck authority. You hate being led around or told what to do, and you have a way of saying exactly what will hurt someone most when you’re mad. In fact, your mouth can get you into a lot of trouble because you are undiplomatic by nature.

You can’t stand clinginess and run at the first sign of it. Relationships can feel constrictive because you love your freedom and are inclined to feel restless. You may also find it difficult to balance your home and work life. Overall, your greatest challenge is striking that perfect balance between commitment and freedom.

 

CAPRICORN

You have a tendency to choose partners who are far too exciting for you. You desire this stimulation because by yourself, you are a little boring: you are very regimented and need order and stability to function. However, when your special someone messes up your carefully ordered world, you freak out. You are attracted to the very people who upset your sense of order, and whether this is a good or a bad thing for you is something you have to find out on your own.

You are a very hard worker and are desperately loyal to your family and loved ones, so you tend to feel underappreciated. You need to be reassured that your efforts count in your partner’s eyes, and when you don’t get the validation you crave, you sink into depression.

You are the kind of person who looks for serious commitment in a relationship; one-night stands and casual relationships just don’t do it for you. But choose wisely: your tendency toward overwork, sacrifice, and self-torment could become a very serious problem if you pick the wrong person to give your heart to.

AQUARIUS

You always know what you think but rarely what you feel. This is your major obstacle in relationships. Though you are strangely fascinated by emotions, you don’t understand them, whether they are your partner’s or your own; this is a scary combination if you find yourself in relationships with very emotionally complex people. Though you can register that you or your partner are feeling mad or sad, the motivations behind these feelings are very murky for you. Even when the reasons for feelings are given to you, you can’t seem to wrap your head around them if they’re not logical. The irrational completely bamboozles you, so emotionally intimate partnerships can be a real challenge.

You also have a deep-seated need to interact with a variety of people who can engage with you intellectually, so you may find yourself seeking the company of your friends more often than your partner would like. They may mistake your need for intellectual multiplicity for waning interest, so be sensitive to this fact.

You are loyal and true to your partner, but be wary of deluding yourself about the relationship: you are prone to see all things in an ideal light rather than a true one, and the reality of the situation in your relationship is easily lost on you. Generally you don’t fall in love easily and need to be assured of your partner’s intellectual compatibility before feelings of love emerge. More often than not, you fall in love with people’s brains before their hearts.

PISCES

You love freedom and hate being forced into a direction by another person, even if the direction is sensible or the motivation to move is necessary. My advice is not to resist a stable partner’s guidance: you are too unfocused and scattered to follow through with things yourself and need the sensible grounding a good partner can give you, even you it grates on your nerves. You don’t like being tied down, even though you are a loyal partner, and it seems like your partners are never certain that you are 100% theirs. You get in so deep with people emotionally that past loves maintain strong emotional ties long after these relationships are over. This can make your partner suspicious and frustrated, so take it upon yourself to reassure them often of your loyalty. You ultimately desire total emotional fusion with your partner, so be careful about who you choose for this role in your life.

You also need to stop living by the double standard of expecting your partner to be constantly available for you but being unavailable yourself when it’s your turn. You are the strange combination of flighty and clingy, wanting your partner’s total emotional attention but unwilling to lay it on the line yourself when your partner starts to demand this in return. Relationships are partnerships of equals, and whatever you expect of your partner you must also expect of yourself.

*Certain sign issues I have discussed are theoretical only because I am not well-acquainted with people of every sign (particularly fire-signs); therefore my descriptions of relationship pitfalls for Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius come purely from known aspects of the sign and do not reflect my personal experience on the subject.

Experimental Relationships: A Practical Approach to Love

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I have a philosophy about relationships that I have followed for most of my dating life that others never seem to agree with. In my view, relationships, especially in the beginning, are experiments. They are learning experiences, particularly for young people, and they are meant to help us grow and evolve as humans. They teach us essential skills and lessons: how to communicate, how to compromise, how to commit, and how to be emotionally intimate with others.

This may not sound particularly controversial, until I explain that these experiences, in my opinion, are the purpose of most relationships. Most relationships, sad though it is to say, are not built to last, particularly before the age of 30. There are simply too many factors that make breaking up nearly inevitable: you and your partner, as young adults, are changing far too quickly to know if you share lifelong compatibility; your security (job, living arrangement, location) isn’t established and is temporary at best; you may not have a depth of experience to lend you the skills you need to know to make a relationship work, and, most likely, attempting to stay in something long-term may prompt you to sacrifice other pursuits upon the altar of your relationship.

This is not to say that young love is never lasting. Certainly there are people who marry their high school sweethearts or find love at a similarly young age and are very happy. I am fortunate enough to be one of these people. But this opportunity isn’t available or suitable for most people, and I can give you a number of reasons why:

(1) Most people need to learn what a healthy relationship is. You would think it is simple to know what kinds of relationships are good and which are bad, but partnerships have complex dynamics that need to be experienced to be understood. Our relationship styles often reflect the relationship style of our parents, which can often be dysfunctional or otherwise ill-suited to us. This is why you often have to go through several relationships before you learn how to spot the danger signs that make intimacy unhealthy: abuse, infidelity, rage, mental illness, high drama, and other conflicts. Most people are not born knowing how to be a good partner or how to find a good partner; these are skills that must be learned.

(2) Most people pick badly (at first). We often assume that we know what we want out of a partner and that the things we want are the things we need, but this is usually not the case when we begin dating. Some people are attracted to qualities in others that are destructive to the relationship and to living a happy life. Others seem to know only how to attract people who wind up hurting them. It takes a great deal of introspection and experience to understand the balance of what we want and what we need from our partners, and many people lack this type of insight, especially when they are young and have not fully discovered their inner selves.

(3) Nothing lasts forever. Someone once told me that all love is tragic: you either break up or someone dies. As morbid as this sounds, it’s true. Most people don’t realize how impermanent life is; they assume that many things that they enjoy about life last forever and walk into relationships thinking that they’ve found “the one.” Why set yourself up for such fantastic disappointment? Better to let time speak for itself and not make assumptions about how long things will last. Be fully committed in the now; don’t bank on the uncertain future. Whether or not the relationship will last will become apparent in time.

(4) Idealism kills. Most people have an idea of what the “ideal” relationship is supposed to be like; the messages we get from our favorite movies and music, our secret wishes, and the model of our parents’ relationship all influence our beliefs about what love should be, and when we impose this ideal upon others, we are disappointed when they fail to meet our standards. This is why I think the best approach is to go into relationships with an open mind and experiment with how the dynamic feels rather than forcing your preconceived notions on your partner. And who knows? You might even learn something.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have standards, however. Of course you have the right to protect your interests and to receive everything you want from a relationship; just make sure that you are open to alternatives and willing to work with what you have rather than attempting to conform reality to your ideals.

It is easy to forget how serious this last point is and how often it is the doom of relationships. Have you ever fallen out of love with someone or had someone fall out of love with you? It’s probably not because you or the other person changed drastically; it’s because one or both of you have fallen out of love with the idea of the other. What you fell in love with was the idea this person represented to you, and when you started to realize that this person wasn’t what you thought they were, the feelings of love began to fade. This is why going into relationships with your eyes fully open is so important: you have to see what is there, not what you wish was there.

So how do you win? How do you overcome these pitfalls and find true love? For me, I found that by noticing my relationship patterns and understanding what I needed to change in myself to break free from those unhealthy patterns, I was able to move away from dating people who were bad for me. I kept an open mind, dating people of different personalities, races, genders, appearances, and ages until I finally found what worked for me. I tried to see the value in each person I dated without thoughts of forever; I appreciated who they were and what they added to my life in the moment, not what things could become “someday.” In time, whether the relationship was lasting or not made itself clear all on its own.  I put my best efforts into maintaining the relationships but understood that my effort was not spent to receive a big payoff in the end; you work hard at it because the person you are with deserves your best no matter how long or short the relationship is.

From my experiences, I learned a great many things about what kind of relationship was right for me. As it turns out, I am best suited to a committed, mature, and domestic relationship style with a busy, older man who gives me the freedom I need to pursue my own interests paired with the security, affection, and romance I have always craved. It turns out that I am at my best with someone who is very like myself rather than someone different, and despite being a talkative sort of person, I am happiest with someone I can listen to and learn from.

These are things I would have never learned about myself if I hadn’t spent my earlier dating years studying the dynamics of my experiences with other partners, if I hadn’t given certain relationships a try just to see what would happen. Though I tried my hardest and was fully committed to each relationship, I did so without any thoughts of marriage or other lifelong commitment until I gained enough experience to know who was worthy of that level of commitment. Though I am now in the relationship of my life, it took a lot of practice to get there.

Contrary to popular belief, relationships that do not last are not a waste of time; they are only a waste if you are not learning from them. So the next time you’re asked out by someone you don’t normally date, give it a try. Take a chance and see what you learn. No matter how it turns out, the skills you build and lessons you learn follow you for life. And who knows? The person you least expect may just be the one you’ve always wanted…

Sign and Gender: Why Air-Sign Women Can’t Seem to Find Love

air-signs

In the last few years I’ve been making a lot more friends with women who are Air signs – Libras, Geminis, and Aquarians – and there is one distinct trend I see with them all: these women have fundamental challenges with making relationships with men work. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The deeper I delved into the issue, the more I began to suspect that the problem these women are encountering comes from the fact that there is a misalignment in their gender energies. Here is my theory:

Air corresponds to the realm of the mind and is traditionally understood to be a “male” element in symbolic terms. Women who are born under a male sign are in a particularly strange situation because they have “male”-oriented minds and personalities trapped in a female body.

What do I mean by having a “male” mind? The Air-ruled mind is logical and methodical. Air-minded people are dispassionate thinkers: they rely on their intellect rather than their feelings to tell them what they need to know about people and situations. The rational rules their understanding of the world. Libras, for example, are constantly concerned with justice and fairness, and unfairness drives them crazy. Aquarians, on the other hand, are idealists – always concerned with how things ought to be rather than seeing them as they are. Geminis understand the world through the creative part of the intellect, enjoying the process of following thoughts and theories to the far-flung reaches of the imagination. All in all, these qualities –justice, idealism, and imagination – are “male” in the sense that they are “projective.” Air signs seek to mold and shape the world around them to bring new forms of order and achievement to society. Air signs want to put their talents to use to create and structure the universe (rather than nurture it, as the “female” or “receptive” signs seek to do).

So why is this a problem for Air-sign women? After all, we live in a modern world where women can freely have ideas and ambitions and be just as intellectual, powerful, and creative as men. In fact, Air-sign women are the most capable of competing with men in the professional field and are the best examples of advancement for the feminist cause.

The problem, however, lies at home, where all of the gender roles we have been taught to accept as women catch up to us. Air-sign women reject traditional gender roles and the lack of freedom that they imply. Libras think it’s unfair, Aquarians object to it from an idealistic, sociological perspective, and Geminis just have issues with commitment in general. Yet this is all intellectual. Air-sign or not, we are still women, and it is incredibly hard to shake off the early messages we received as young girls about what a woman is in relation to a man. Air-sign women may despise the notion of depending upon men, but as women, there is a part of us that longs to be protected by one. They may raise their hackles at the idea of serving a man, but as women we are taught to be thoughtful of others’ needs. They may intellectually object to the idea of being ruled by a man, but as women we are taught to be agreeable and compromising.

These conflicting aspects of sign and gender cause one of three problems: (1) Air-sign women enter relationships according to their sign qualities, in which they are intellectually satisfied with their power status in the relationship but dissatisfied as women, (2) Air-sign women enter relationships according to their gender qualities, in which they are satisfied as women but are left feeling intellectually dissatisfied with their place in the relationship, or (3) they don’t enter relationships at all because they can’t seem to find someone who can suit both needs.

Of the twelve straight Air-sign women I know well (varying from ages 22-60), none of them are in happy, healthy relationships or have a history of such relationships. They are either in dissatisfying relationships, are single and have had a history of dissatisfying relationships, or have never had one at all. In fact, four of these women are or were still virgins by age 22 or older with no relationship experience to speak of.

This is not to say that this small set of data reflects badly on all these women. One of these women happens to be particularly selective and struggles with interacting with men without seeming like “one of the guys.” Another two are religiously abstinent and do not date, adhering the ideals of their faith. But as for the rest: two of them never seem to meet guys who want more than one-night stands, and the others have strings of messy relationships and failed marriages that never seem to work out.

My point in all this? Air-sign women face a difficult challenge in their relationships with men. What they want intellectually doesn’t agree with what they have been taught to want as women, and it is often a confusing and tricky balance between these forces. When they’re not scaring men off with their progressive attitudes about gender roles, they’re caught in a struggle for power in the relationship or are incapable of getting men to see them as both women and equals at once. They often find themselves confused about what the opposite sex thinks of them or disappointed in how men approach their needs.

But don’t lose heart, my Air-sign girls! There is hope for you yet. You just have to be willing to settle these conflicts within yourself and decide which parts of your dual nature you are going to let rule your relationship life. If you can find the balance and be honest with yourself about what you want from a relationship, you can make it happen for you.

And who knows? Maybe this is just coincidence. Maybe there are many Air-sign women out there who are in happy relationships with men and what I’m saying here isn’t relevant. But if you are an Air-sign woman reading this post and this is sounding familiar to you, the difference between what stimulates you intellectually versus emotionally may be worth looking into more deeply to enhance your understanding of your relationship woes.

Or you could be like the thirteenth Air-sign woman I know and work around this whole problem… by being a lesbian! ; )

7 Signs That You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

“Guys: If you want a woman to stay in your life, don’t call her a bitch. Don’t say she’s stupid. Don’t tell her to fuck off and expect her to be there when you want her. Cause if you’re not making her feel good someone else will. One day she’ll realize she doesn’t need you, and one day you’ll realize you should have acted better. 

:'( it’s embarrassing that I put up with it for this long.”

— a friend’s Facebook status

These days, most people are well aware that physical abuse is unacceptable in a relationship. What a lot of people don’t know, what is harder to catch, is emotional abuse. Arguments happen even in the healthiest relationships, and part of love is forgiveness, of course. But where is the line between arguments and abuse? How do you know you’ve passed the point of no return?

Portrait of the angry young couple

Here are seven signs that you are in an abusive relationship:

(1) Put downs. You may think that it’s common for there to be some nasty name-calling during arguments or that a little sarcastic banter is normal. But when your chips are down, when you partner knows it hurts you, there is no excuse for your partner to put you down. The world is full of people who will hurt you, and your partner should not be one of them. Chronically being called “bitch” or “asshole” is not normal. If your partner lacks the self-control to have a basic level of respect for you during a disagreement, they obviously care more about their hurt feelings than affording a fellow human being that they claim to love a little respect. Small as it may seem, this kind of behavior speaks volumes about your partner’s character.

(2) Blame. Abusive partners often vent their frustrations by blaming you for anything that they cannot control. They gain satisfaction out of holding you responsible, because they cannot take responsibility for their own feelings or actions. Blame resolves nothing, and if your partner is obsessed with blame, either overtly or indirectly, it indicates an inability to own up to mistakes or accept circumstances outside of their control. Blaming you is a convenient escape from your partner’s frustration with what is happening.

(3) Controlling behavior. Suddenly you find that you can’t go to certain places, talk to certain people, or do things you used to enjoy. Controlling behavior can be obvious, such as when your partner directly tells you what you can’t or must do, or, more commonly, it can present itself subtly through guilt trips, moodiness, scathing comments, sarcasm, or a self-righteous attitude. You should not have to adjust your basic nature or lifestyle to be with someone, and you should never feel like you have to ask permission from or report to your partner on everyday issues.

(4) Cyclical highs and lows. It isn’t all bad, though, right? Sometimes, perhaps after a bad fight, your partner is very sweet or kind to you, and suddenly it feels like all the ugliness was just momentary. This loving side that emerges after a bad bout is their true nature, right? Wrong. This is what is referred to as the “honeymoon phase” after a major blowout. Once they’ve let out all their rage and stress, of course they’re nice to you!  They’ve just used you to blow off all their steam. But watch the tension slowly begin to rise again, only to culminate in another massive episode. These honeymoon phases can give you a false sense of security; don’t fool yourself into thinking your partner’s next blowup isn’t coming.

(5) Lack of empathy.  If your partner invalidates or dismisses your feelings, fails to comfort you in times of hardship, or doesn’t seem to care about your suffering, you have a partner who lacks empathy. They do not have enough regard for you as a human being to be in touch with your feelings, so naturally it is easy to treat you badly. This is a major sign that your partner isn’t right for you. Partners should be supportive of each other, and what your partner isn’t doing is just as telling as what they are doing.

(6) Lost friendships. Does it seem like you don’t get to see your friends anymore? Does dealing with your partner’s behavior make it impossible to fit in time with your old buddies? Or are they are all avoiding you these days? This is a natural consequence of being in an abusive relationship. Your friends are alienated by the demands of your partner or sickened by the way you continue to defend, enable, or justify your partner’s bad behavior. No one can understand how you put up with his or her antics, and you seem to hear the same advice over and over again. While the majority doesn’t always have it right, it should be a red flag if everyone around you seems to be telling you that your partner is an ass-hat. A relationship should never prevent you from maintaining healthy friendships, and troubled times at home are when you need your friends around you most.

(7) Feeling beat down. You know how badly your partner behaves, but you’re in a place now where you don’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. After awhile, it even starts to feel normal. This is the worst sign of them all. Not only are you getting abused, but you no longer have the will to correct or leave the situation. But you must find your self-respect! No one deserves to spend their life with someone who can’t respect them, and by remaining with such a person, you are making it clear that you don’t respect yourself much, either.

Do Men Still Feel Pressure to Provide?

Fellas, I want to hear from you!

6 Steps To Freedom From Family Drama

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Everyone’s got them: family members who drive you nuts. You’ve tried and tried but can’t reconcile with them. And the worst part is, there’s no escape, because you’re related to them for life. How do you deal with your intolerable relatives? Here are my tips (assuming that you are not the intolerable relative!):

(1) Acknowledge their permanence. A lot of people think you can just opt to never speak or associate with family members you don’t like. This is faulty reasoning from the start; no matter how skilled you think you are at cutting these people off, you are connected to them forever precisely because they are your family. Sooner or later, you’re going to run into these people at a family gathering or by association with other relatives, and avoiding them only gives you the illusion of freedom.  Once they’re in your space again, you’re stressed out and upset, because you’re not dealing with the real issue. You may need to take a break from this person to air out your feelings and calm down, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that avoidance is a permanent solution.

(2) Realize your independence. It’s difficult when the person you don’t get along with is a very close relative, such as your mother, father, or sibling. A lot of early childhood experiences are tied to these people, and if they are chronic shit-starters, naysayers, and emotional homewreckers, it’s hard to feel like you can ever be free of their influence. But this is not so; you must remind yourself that you are your own independent person with your own identity. You have the power to decide who you are and what you do, and no amount of likeness to or pressure from a relative changes the fact that you have free will. Acknowledge the bond to your family and all the history that connection entails, but don’t let it determine who you are or what you choose to do with your life.

(3) Emotionally disengage. This is very hard to do, and it often takes years of practice to achieve. Family members often know exactly how to get your goat; they know your weak spots and they’re not afraid to push your buttons. Your job, however, is to make sure that they don’t succeed.

I have a little trick that I do when someone starts to touch an old but tender nerve. I tell myself, “I know this person. I know that this is exactly what they do and that they’re only doing it because they don’t know how to behave any better. This has nothing to do with who I am or what I do.” Once I can confirm to myself that they’re just being their usual batshit selves, it becomes easier to be emotionally distance myself from how they are behaving. By being above their antics, you are able to see this person’s behavior for what it really is: a dysfunctional attempt to cope with a situation that they cannot handle.

Granted, we can’t be perfect at this all the time, but if you can learn to emotionally distance yourself from your family member’s upsetting behavior, you can understand how little it really has to do with you, and in time it will cease to upset you. You are the one in control of your bond with this person, and if they take advantage of you or hurt you, it is only because you allow them to. See the reasons behind their behavior, and don’t take the bait.

I have a saying that I use often in these situations: “People will only do to you what they think they can get away with.” If you make it clear that they cannot get away with emotionally abusing or manipulating you, you have already won the war, no matter how many times they try to draw you into a battle.

(4) Set clear boundaries. Don’t let your irritating relative step on your toes. Once you’ve emotionally disengaged, it’s important to give your less-than-charming relation a clear message about how much or how little you are willing to put up with. The key point here is consistency; once the person gets the message that you aren’t going to support certain behaviors, they will soon realize that either (A) they aren’t going to get what they want from you, or (B) they are going to have to go about getting it from you some other way, a way of your choosing. You have now put this person in a position where they either have to learn to behave or back off. Either way, it lightens the load for you. Don’t weaken your resolve or send mixed messages; this person probably knows how to turn hesitation or confusion to their advantage. Make a set of rules for yourself about how you will behave around your rotten relative and stick to them.

(5) Be benevolent. This is also very difficult for some people. You may be asking, “If I’m doing Step 3 and 4, why should I even care about doing good for this person?” The answer is that even if you are emotionally free from your relative, it does not mean that this removes you from responsibility to this person. They are, as I said in Step 1, still your family, and like it or not, you are probably obligated to them in some way or another. Now of course the level of obligation varies; you don’t owe as much to your cousin as you do to your mother, for example. But even if your obligation only extends as far as being polite at family functions, fulfill it. Your behavior must be independent of what the person may say or do, and it is important to be sure that your own behavior is above reproach. Otherwise, your behavior is reactionary to and contingent upon your relative’s behavior. It is better to adopt an attitude of benevolence, to do right by that person regardless of if they do you good or harm. Their bad behavior is not an excuse for you to forget your obligations, morals, or good manners.

(6) Seek fulfillment elsewhere. If your close relative isn’t giving you the kind of fulfillment you desire, it is best to look to other people or things in your life that give you comfort and joy. Even if you have a manipulating mother, a controlling father, or a jealous sibling, you can still find other, more satisfying relationships in your life. Look to the relatives that you do get along with (hopefully you’ve got at least one!). Look to your friends, your partner, or your mentors, people who you have chosen to keep in your life because of their positive influence and esteem for you. You may always want your family’s approval and good opinion of you, but if you surround yourself with supportive people, you can work on not needing it to be happy.

How Women Play the Game: A Commentary on the Male Plight and the Hazards of Relationships

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The modern woman lives in a dynamic socio-sexual paradigm. On the one hand, we want men to think of us as equals. On the other, we still enjoy many of the perks of being a woman when we interact with men: better customer service, free drinks, and other fringe benefits that come our way. I’m reminded of some relevant words from Blanche Devereaux: “Honey, I don’t want to be your equal! I expect to be treated a lot better than you!”

I have noticed that a lot of women ride the line on this issue, and I am not exactly innocent on this charge, myself. We get angry or annoyed when we get comments or stares from creepers, but if it’s a cute guy (which is entirely theoretical, because it never seems to be), we might smile back. We expect to be treated as equals, and yet some of us have certain double standards where men are concerned.  Most women my age and older who still believe that men should pay for dates, that men have to do all the asking out, and that the ball is still in the woman’s court as far as “getting lucky” goes.  I even know some women who will string a guy along over several dates to get a few free meals, all the while making him believe she is interested in him (or at least not undeceiving him if he thinks she is).

We expect men to know what we want without having to tell them, and when they fail, we are disappointed that they aren’t using their inborn telepathic powers to anticipate our wishes. We internalize the stereotype that men are pigs and write off the lot of them as brutish, crude, and socially retarded. We see nothing wrong with a little subtle manipulation (otherwise, how will they ever learn?), and we make a project of “fixing” all their bad habits, because toilet seats are a justifiable cause for war.

Not to say that all women are like this, and not to say that there aren’t men out there who aren’t worthy of our natural despite, but once you add these little bits of information up, the final picture isn’t appealing. From the male perspective, dealings with women are hazardous, confusing, and sometimes downright emasculating. But do they have a choice? No straight man plans to spend his life alone, so men calculate all of these factors into the cost of being with a woman.

I often see a kind of defeated look in men who are in long-term relationships. It’s the mark of a man who has been beaten into submission by a skilled player in a game that is too complex for him to play. Most guys can’t or won’t be satisfied with being bachelors forever, and eventually they have to face the following scenario:

Let’s name our hypothetical man Fred. Fred has to work up the nerve to ask a girl out or else he will miss his window of opportunity. He has to select a viable candidate, someone who is attractive but also accessible to him. Accessibility matters a great deal for two reasons: (1) so that the odds of rejection aren’t intolerably high, and (2) so that he can securely maintain a relationship with a woman who is not overly attractive, intelligent, or competent in comparison to himself. This last point is important, because whatever benefit he may receive from dating a woman “out of his league” cannot compensate for the kind of stress and worry he will feel about whether or not she will figure out she can find or be found by someone better than himself.

 Assuming he’s not shot down in the bitter flames of rejection (which happens more often than he cares to think about), he now has to go about wooing his chosen lady. This is usually a bit expensive, since she’s not likely to be impressed by his usual meal of Top Ramen and Hot Pockets, and even then there’s no guarantee that he will manage to get the magical formula of lady-killing down well enough to get her interested in a long-term arrangement.

And this isn’t even taking into account all the performance anxiety. Women are not like cars: you can’t test drive them, and each one has a unique make and model that you can’t read a manual about or refer to any other experience to know how to drive.  Your first time with a woman is not a drill; it’s the real deal, and the pressure’s on. Size, stamina, practical skill, everything counts.

Assuming he survives these major pitfalls and doesn’t embarrass himself too seriously, he then has to start remembering all kinds of new and unfamiliar information. He must consider how to uphold the level of material comfort she is accustomed to or desires, frame himself to her habits, and change whatever habits he may have that are making her unhappy. What begins as polite suggestion soon becomes outright nagging, and before he knows it, he’s responding more the stick of nagging than the carrot of pleasing his lady. Try as he might, he never seems to get the hang of her changing moods and wants. She’s not as interested in him as she once seemed to be, and more often than not she’s annoyed with him over something he did wrong.

But it’s too late now. He’s put so much work into pulling off this job that it seems like a bad idea to abort now. The thought of starting the process all over again is daunting. So, he figures, this is just how it goes. He’s committed, and being a decent fellow, he’s not going to ruin things just because they don’t seem as good as they were in the beginning. He loves her, and maybe, just maybe, he can get it right someday if he stays with it. He realizes that tacitly accepting her constant stream of nagging criticism is the path of least resistance. Her persistence wins out over any fight he might have had in him to begin with, and now it’s all one long trial of endurance.

Now in light of all this, don’t we feel a little bad for Freddie? Of course he has many good experiences with his lady and he would never abandon her, but he has had a very hard time trying to make her happy. The relationship is a game he’s just not good at playing, so he has to hope that the few moves he knows will carry him along to the end.

My point in all this, ladies, is to remind you of what an incredible advantage we have over the male species. Yes, we suffer a lot as women, both historically and presently, but this isn’t a good reason to make relationships, our natural seat of power, an occasion for retribution or a platform for justice. Matters of love are too important and deeply meaningful to be a game. Be patient, have some compassion, and play nicely. You’d want the same if you were in Freddie’s shoes.

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