The Lovely Addict

The Break-Up Journal: June 23, 24, 25

Three new entries have been posted on The Break-Up Journal. Don’t forget to scroll all the way down on The Break Up Journal’s main page and click the “Follow this Blog by Email” link so that you receive notices of new posts.

My favorite entry of these three is June 24th. A lot of soul searching and a perfectly formed description of what I now understand to be introversion:

…As I drifted through the streets yesterday and took in all the people and their sad and lonely faces and their bad smells and rotten circumstances I came to the conclusion that I do not belong in a city. I am too delicate. Fragile. Too easily influenced by the energy of others, both good and bad. Actually, too drained by the energy of others, good and bad. I don’t have a way to shut the world out and be peaceful within myself. I let everything in. I would like to learn evasiveness. I would like to imagine a wall around me where I can look out, but not let anything in to disturb me.

Sex addicts, avoidants and narcissists, oh my!

There’s a reason love addicts are attracted to sex addicts, avoidants and narcissistic types. What do all these types all have in common? They offer very little in the way of true intimacy, and that, my friends, is something a love addict cannot handle either.

Instead of focusing on the sex addict, the avoidant and the narcissist, focus on yourself. Ask yourself this very difficult question: if I crave the intimacy of a relationship so desperately, why is it that I keep going after people who cannot give that to me? If I crave an ice cream cone, why on earth would I go to find it at the hardware store????

Love addiction is a paradox. It is not about love. It is about avoiding the self and avoiding true intimacy (with yourself and with others). At least sex addicts and avoidants can recognize their intimacy disorder. It seems that many of us can’t. And yet, we are the same. We are opposite sides of the same coin.

Don’t be fooled by the “love” in love addiction. There’s not much love in a love addicted relationship. What is there instead? Fear (of abandonment), need, desperation, drama, pain…

Keep reading!

 

The Break-Up Journal

shutterstock_119808373So, I’ve created a new body of work called The Break-Up Journal. Many of you, throughout the years, have asked me how I recovered and what happened, and so, instead of “telling” I am showing.

The Break-Up Journal is an actual account of my last love-addicted relationship, the break-up that ensued, the withdrawal and my ultimate struggle into recovery. Because this is an actual account, transcribed from hand-written journals, nothing is held back. But, because of that, reading can often be cringe-worthy. There are ridiculously stupid lapses in judgment on my part, huge slips, relapses, and several stellar losses of dignity. At times, reading is painful. And trust me, when I re-read this journal, I want to whack this girl over the head and say, What are you an idiot? Don’t you see?! 

Fortunately that girl is long gone, but her story remains, and hopefully it can and will add insight into your own struggle with love addiction.

I am planning on posting five entries per week. It is meant to be read chronologically, so that means starting with May 31 (on bottom) and reading up.

Be sure to check out the About the blog page and the Cast of Characters, so you have better insight into the story line. And while names and dates have changed to protect identities, if you are familiar with my blog, you will probably be able to figure out who’s who.

break up cover

Discipline, a scary concept that will save you

19d5a118b366e57082a40a966743bfd0My guess is, if you’re a love addict, the concept of “discipline” either makes no sense to you (that’s only something the military needs to practice, right?), or you recoil from the mere mention of it (sex dungeons, disciplinary parents and hard work, oh my!). Either way, love addicts have virtually zero self-discipline. At least when it comes to relationships.

How and why we tend to be less disciplined people is a mystery. From my own experience, I was raised in a somewhat unruly environment. I would certainly get into trouble if I did something wrong (I used to sneak into my mother’s closet, pull out a dress of hers, and then take scissors and cut it  up into pieces so that it fit me. Needless to say, I got into trouble from time to time). But on the whole, I would have to say my parents were not disciplinarians, nor was their parenting very consistent. I grew up, in fact, believing that discipline was a bad thing for creative individuals and that people “like us” should be without boundaries or rules, simply living free so as to express themselves…

Those beliefs, as idealistic and freeing as they seemed at the time,  were not very realistic. They translated into a rather directionless, undisciplined adult who ended up not really knowing the benefit of boundaries, rules, self-discipline and deferred gratification. And who certainly never had the self-discipline to make many of her creative ideas come to fruition.

Only now, after years of recovery, do I truly understand how faulty and self-sabotaging those beliefs were. And they were all based on a lack of understanding about the idea of discipline. To me, it was “bad.” Discipline was for non-creative, military-types. Period.

I was so wrong.

Setting the record straight, here are three powerful definition of discipline, taken from Wikipedia:

  1. Discipline is the assertion over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for Motivation. 
  2. Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one’s desires, which is the opposite of Fun.
  3. Self-discipline—what many people call “will-power”—refers to the ability to persist at difficult or unpleasant tasks until they are completed. People who possess high self-discipline are able to overcome reluctance to begin tasks and stay on track despite distractions. Those with low self-discipline procrastinate and show poor follow-through, often failing to complete tasks—even tasks they want very much to complete.

For a love addict wanting and needing to become healthier, self-discipline is a must. We must learn to overcome obsessive thoughts, stop reaching out to our PoAs, change our current behavior, and change the way we think about certain big ticket items like love, relationships and who we are. All this takes loads of self-discipline.

So, how do you become more disciplined? There are a few resources on the internet to help. Forbes magazine gives a leadership version here. And then there’s Pick the Brain that offers tips for self-discipline when it comes to things like getting to the gym. Both set of tips can be applied to love addiction. But my personal favorite resource on self-discipline comes from Uncommon Help, a site designed for self-help and awareness. Read the 7 Self-Discipline Techniques. Then, print it out. Read it daily. Repeat.

Discipline is not scary. It’s the internal force that allows you to choose the apple over the donut, get up and go to the gym when you don’t feel like it or make decisions based on reason and logic, rather than emotion. Discipline is often a trait you’re born with, but it can be a learned behavior. But it is one concept that many love addicts fear. Why? Because discipline means change. It means giving up something in the short term to get to something far greater and far more rewarding in the long term. It means kissing the safety blanket of your addiction (i.e. your person of addiction and your addictive behavior) goodbye by stepping up to the plate and taking control of your life. It means having the willingness to take the risk to be a better person.

If you need a motivating mantra to start being more self-disciplined, use this: Enough already. I need to grow up. I need to stop being a little child, acting out, getting what he/she wants and crying when I don’t. I need to see value in disciplined behavior. Especially if it means living a more authentic, happy life. 

Now, go get ’em!

Are your needs being met?

All the self-help books tell you you have to meet your own needs. And while, for the most part, that is true, it’s not entirely true. If I break my leg and get rushed to the ER, there better be a team of competent doctors there to meet my needs because heck if I have to operate on myself.

Love addicts have a rough time figuring out which needs they can and should meet themselves, and which needs they believe should be met by others. I believe that much of the confusion over this choice stems from an inability or refusal to see one’s self as an adult versus a child. Love addicts tend to need attention and care that would normally be bestowed upon a child. But we’re not children. We are adults. And as an adult here’s how you figure out what needs you should be meeting yourself, as opposed to which needs others can meet for you…

YOU are responsible for meeting your basic needs: water, food, shelter (that means taking care of yourself financially), and clothing are all examples of basic needs. Basically, you need to be at the least self-sufficient.

YOU are responsible for meeting your own mental, emotional and physical needs: this means taking care of yourself, making healthy choices, keeping fit, eating well, incorporating spirituality into your life, filling your own void (if you think you have one), and working through or resolving any mental, emotional or physical issues you may have. This is no one else’s job but yours.

YOU are responsible for meeting your higher needs: higher education, finding and cultivating appropriate and rewarding friendships, finding a partner who is kind, respectful, loving, and compatible, being happy, finding and having a fulfilling career,  entertaining yourself and being the person you aspire to be are all examples of higher needs. YOU are responsible for meeting those needs. No one else.

So, what needs of yours are others responsible for meeting?

The need to communicate & be social

The need for intimacy

The need for common human decency: Whether you know it or not, you have a human need for respect, tolerance, decency and to be treated humanely. Everyone is not expected to love or even like you, but they (and we) must meet the need of every human to treat others with dignity and respect. Many love addicts ignore this kind of need in exchange for other seemingly more important needs (sex, companionship, etc.), never realizing that you should not ever have to give up this need. We all deserve respect. Period. If you’re not getting it from certain sources, you need to reassess why that person(s) is in your life. You need to recognize that this is a valid and essential need, and that it should be met by yourself AND others. If it is not, you move on.

The need for friendship: while you are responsible for going out and trying to make friends, those friends, in return, are responsible for meeting your need for a compatible friend. If, however, they cannot meet that need you should move on, or stop expecting them to be a friend. 

The need for intimacy with another human being: while you are responsible for going out and trying to find a mate, that mate, in return, is responsible for meeting your need for a compatible, respectful, intimate and loving partner. If, however, they cannot meet those needs you should move on, or stop expecting them to be your partner. 

Lastly, I think it’s important to note that no one owes you anything, once you are an adult, except for respect (and sometimes you don’t even get that). And while you are able to expect that some of your needs can be met by others, you, my friend, are responsible for the bulk of those needs being met. If you are not meeting them, today is a great day to start!

meeting needs

 

Healthy is a culture

healthy culture I want to talk about healthy as a culture, not a singularity. To be healthy is not to find one way of being and then, do that behavior (not drink, not act out, not see the PoA, etc.). That is often not enough. Creating a healthy person means surrounding yourself with healthy people, healthy work and healthy activities. In AA when recovery is underway, they suggest you “change people, places and things.” Don’t hang out at the bar anymore, ditch the drinking buddies and get rid of the alcohol bottles from your home. When you make choices like that, you stand a better chance of recovering.

For love addicts, we need to do the same. We need to find healthier people to hang around, we need to create a better home situation (one of peace, respect, kindness, happiness). We need to take our work, job and careers more seriously and if necessary, find work that is meaningful and positive. Working in a fitness center or a bar where the atmosphere can be superficial and meat-markety might not be the best career choice for a love addict.

The same can be said about our interests. Reading romance novels, listening to love songs, watching love stories in films is not the best way to shake yourself free of romantic/fantasy notions of what a real, healthy relationship can and should be. Finally, if part of your unhealthy lifestyle entails staying home, filling in your time with hours of fantasy, you need to get out of the house and “do.” Put down the cell, quit checking your text messages and social media sites and walk, swim, shop, drive…Do. Be.

Surround yourself with healthy activities and people.

And lose the excuses. If you can’t quit your job or leave a marriage, try to create a healthier atmosphere right at your desk or in your home where you live and work. Go to therapy. Take a different route down the hall. Hang out with a more positive crowd. Create a space in your home that is “sacred” and only let positive things and people in this room (including you!). Figure out a way to improve your environment so that your environment is a healthier one.

 

“I know!”

If you think I give a lot of advice in this blog, you should see me as a mom. I dole out advice like a factory conveyor belt lined with Peeps at Easter. And one of the best responses I always seem to get in response to all my wise advice is “I know.”

You need to wear a jacket, it’s cold out.

I know.

~

You shouldn’t hit your brother.

I know.

~

You were supposed to take the trash out.

I know.

My kids say “I know” to almost everything. They know it all! It’s become a knee-jerk response to a question they know the answer to. And yet, in reality, they plan to do or have already done something else entirely.

Love addicts often have the same response. We know what’s right, but we tend to do something completely different.

You shouldn’t stay in a relationship with a man who hurts you.

I know.

Don’t go crawling back; have some dignity.

I know.

Stay away from bad boys. 

I know.

Oops! So, if you KNOW all this stuff, why do you still do it? If you KNOW you are worth more than scraps, then why aren’t your actions proving that you know this?

I’m not sure I have the answer, but I do know (I know!) that better health comes when our words and actions sync up. When we stop with the childish response, “I know.” Who cares if you know! Don’t just tell me (and don’t just tell yourself) that you know, PROVE that you know by your actions. A head full of “knowing” but not “doing” is fantasy. In recovery, we need our actions to be louder than our “I knows.”

 

 

How to argue

The words just slipped out. I could feel them clinking around in my head for moments before letting them loose: If you’re so mad at me then divorce me! Who needs this shit! And yet, divorce was the last thing on either of our minds. No issue, no fight, no behavior nor secret-thought has ever led to either of us wanting a divorce, and yet, there they were. Cold words that fell upon silence and couldn’t be reeled back even with the most sincerest regret. We were fighting about who knows what. But we were fighting long and hard with our emotions. Logic was long gone. It was late. We were weary.  The words came out as a form of  manipulation. But, I know this only in retrospect. They were designed as a challenge, not to receive the response, “OK, I will divorce you!” rather, to receive the response, “No! Why are we fighting? I love you and I’m sorry. I’ll never leave you.”

Sadly, manipulation rarely bestows upon you the hoped for outcome. If anything, it causes more trouble, especially if you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t subscribe to manipulation.  Which is my husband’s case. And yet, there I was, reverting back to scrappy love-addict tactics that really only worked in my unhealthy relationship, and, if I’m honest with myself, didn’t even work then.  And so, the night raged on. He became even angrier with me, which led to us sleeping in separate rooms, which led to us having a huge fight in the morning, which led to loads of crying and sadness and emotion and drama and shame and fear and…wait…Was I back to living that ‘ol life of chaos again?

Say it isn’t so.

OK, it isn’t so.

But, if I am to be realistic, arguments happen even in the best relationship. And we ultimately worked it out and went back to our happy selves. But my eyes opened to how much I needed to improve in this department. And I definitely realized, that night,  I needed to change a few of my bottom line behaviors from here on out if I was going to fight fair and be a responsible, loving grown up. I especially needed to stop engaging in “love addict tactics.”

So, here’s my 8 points to help you argue with your partner in a healthier, more dignified way. But, a word of caution: this list is written for healthy relationships, or rather, for individuals who have each others’  best interest at heart.  It’s not a way in which to negotiate or “fight fair” with an unhealthy individual whom you can’t seem to get a long with in any way. If you find yourself arguing incessantly, that’s another blog with different advice. And while you can (and should) certainly change and improve your arguing skills with darn near anyone, for your own sake, you may not get a matching result from your partner. If you do, this is a good sign! It means you are both moving in a similar direction and are equally working towards peace. If you don’t, it’s a sign that you are moving in separate directions and it may be time to reassess the value of the relationship.

Without further ado…

  1. Lose the drama: love addicts love drama. They say things and incite problems simply to drive the drama up to heightened levels. And for what reason? To feel alive? To release built up anger or emotions? Or simply because drama is something their chemistry craves. I don’t know. What I do know is that drama doesn’t equal dignity. Reassess your goals (in your head, while you’re arguing) by asking, what’s my hoped-for outcome? Is it self-centered? Is it to just yell and scream and blow off steam? Or is it to ultimately work towards peace with this person?
  2. Argue conscientiously: as hard as it may seem to switch off your impassioned, emotional brain and switch on your logical one, it can be done! I can clearly hear the rumblings of logic in my head when I am arguing, and in the past, I would often push those rumblings aside and opt for some crazy emotional response. Now, I try to focus. I take pauses. I breathe. And I use my logical brain as much as possible to get my point across. Arguing doesn’t always have to be hot and fiery. It can be approached from a level-headed, cool perspective. You’re in charge.
  3. Don’t manipulate: Saying or doing something to incite a response in your partner is manipulation. The classic example of this is the individual who screams, “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself!” That’s manipulation and quite frankly, it’s evil. My example, above, though not as extreme, is still manipulation. You cannot control people, and what’s more, people don’t want to be controlled. That’s the goal of manipulation, and it will only get you so far. Remove it as a communication skill. It’s an unhealthy one.
  4. Be honest: I read somewhere that truth brings you closer to people, whereas lies keep you apart. For love addicts, as much as we crave love, we often fear intimacy, and so, we lie to keep a “safe” emotional distance between us and the object of our desire. If you’re in a healthy relationship, or simply changing the rules from unhealthy to healthy, you need to lose the lying and as scary as intimacy might seem, it’s your responsibly to yourself and to your partner to be honest.
  5. Listen: Arguing inevitably entails two people trying desperately to be heard, albeit screaming their point across to the other, trying to grab center-stage and win over the other. Fight fairly. That means give the other person a chance to get his or her point across, to speak his or her mind. Don’t sit there and think of all the things you plan to say when he’s done. Really listen. You’d like it if he listened to you, yes?
  6. Put yourself in her shoes: people are different. They want different things and they respond differently in different situation. No matter how much of the time you’re on the same page, you and your partner will approach things differently. And oftentimes, they will seem like aliens to you! As hard as I try, I sometimes can not understand why D does certain things. But if I love him, I have to try to put myself in his shoes and trust that he knows what he’s doing. This is very hard to do. But worth it.
  7. Keep it real and keep it in the now: How often in an argument do you find yourself dredging up the past? If you’re anything like me, a lot. Well, don’t do it unless it’s part of the current landscape of discussion. There’s no need. You’ve forgiven for past transgressions and there needs to be a clean slate. I’m not talking arguing over chronic abuse that continues to happen. If this is the case, why are you arguing to begin with. You need to get out. And speaking of getting out, you need to keep your arguments REAL. What I mean by that, is don’t argue from a fantasy perspective, rather a reality-based one. Are you trying to change your partner? Get him or her to do what you want him to do? Are you unsatisfied with his or her behavior, but, if he just stops doing this one thing, it’ll all be alright? This is called fighting for the fantasy. And it looks like shadow boxing. You’re merely swinging hits at your own shadow and will not accomplish anything, especially not changing him. When we argue it has to be from a personal perspective, not a “I know what’s best for you” perspective. You are not dating your son or daughter. You are dating a grown adult. Keep it real. Accept his or her reality.
  8. Bow out gracefully: Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows! Take some cool down time to think it over. Apologize if you need to. I know I have a very hard time with this (I think I’m always right!), and so, apologizing feels like defeat. It’s really not. It’s deferring to the relationship, not always the other person. Letting go of a belief that you hold dear (as long as it’s not a value, big difference!), is tough. But, sacrifices and compromising are an occasional requirement of a healthy relationship. Ask yourself, what is the higher good? Being right, or sharing happiness between the two of you?

 

 

 

Are you a sexual communicator?

I heard the term “sexual communicator” many years ago, though not exactly in that form. My mother used to say that I had to be careful not to “communicate sexually” with people I was not sexually attracted to, otherwise, they’d get the wrong idea. Looking back, I definitely communicated on a sexual level, but I didn’t see it as a problem, until I got into recovery.

Sexual communication most often has three associations:

  • communication that is sexual in nature and appropriate between two people who are or who plan to be sexually intimate,
  • narcissism as it applies to the narcissistic personality disorder, and
  • excessive flirting as it relates to the sex addict

I do not want to talk about any of these types of communication, although the last one might be closely related to this discussion.

What I’m talking about is far more subtle and difficult to recognize. Here are some of the signs you might be a sexual communicator:

  • Difficulty talking to men as “friends” or “acquaintances” on a non-sexual level (especially men you are not attracted to or who are unavailable)
  • Not feeling comfortable in clothing unless it’s “sexy”
  • No interest in going out with friends unless the potential for flirting or meeting and talking to mates is present
  • No interest in people, places or activities that don’t have a sexual element to them
  • Feeling most comfortable only when able to flirt or speak using sexual innuendos or behavior
  • Averting eye contact with people, unless there is sexual communication
  • Displaying sexual body language or leading the conversation in a sexual, flirtatious direction with almost anyone
  • Consciously or unconsciously wondering if the person you are talking to finds you “attractive.”

If any of these points sound familiar, you may be a sexual communicator. But here’s the thing: communicating sexually with someone you are intimately involved with is acceptable and healthy; communicating sexually with your married neighbor, your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your friend’s boyfriend, or people you do not intend to have an intimate relationship with is, well, dangerous and unhealthy.

Communicating sexually puts all conversations –even platonic ones– on a heightened sexual level and removes the possibility of knowing people on many different levels, thus narrowing the scope and experience of relating to the world. When you remove sexuality from a conversation, what do you have? To a sexual communicator, you have a boring conversation. But to a healthy person, you have the potential to understand and know people on an intellectual, emotional or spiritual level. You also have the potential to create non-intense relationships that you are not instantly bound to. Sexual communicators tend to become intense and locked into close relationships with people, cross boundaries, date people with many red flags and hop into relationships they later regret.

So, how do you change the way you communicate if you’re a sexual communicator?

The first step is to be aware of these signs, aware of your motives when speaking to people and aware of your ability (or inability) to change your behavior.

I was a sexual communicator nearly all my life–until one experience changed my life.  I was in grad school and took a part-time job teaching at a community college. As many of you know, male students can and will flirt with their teachers. And nearly all my life, I was very used to flirting and getting male attention. But, I knew it was my responsibility as a teacher to create clear boundaries between me and my students. I noticed, however, that any time I spoke to a male student I would wonder, as I always had, “Is he attracted to me?” Almost immediately, I felt this wasn’t a healthy way to relate to my students. I was nearly 40, I was professional, and these students were here to learn, not to flirt with their teacher! It was at this point in my life I forced myself to communicate another way and block my sexually communicative nature. By doing that, it opened up a whole new world of relating to and understanding people.

I sexualized men all my life. Every man I would meet I would only be able to relate to him on a sexual level. This was so narrowing and limiting. Now, I communicate with men as friends and am able to have a better understanding of who people are on a personal level, not a sexual one. More importantly, was removing my habit of communicating sexually while dating. This allowed me to get to know my husband as a friend first. And while we are free to communicate on a sexual level now, it’s not the ONLY way we communicate. How nice.

Are you ready for a healthy relationship?

As badly as most of us want a healthy relationship, we’re simply not ready for one. I liken it to wanting to hop into a career before getting a degree. And I am reminded of a story I read recently in the news where a woman was arrested for practicing law without her law degree. She had taken a few classes at law school, but dropped out because she couldn’t afford it anymore, and instead, lied on her resume, got a job as a law clerk at a courthouse and then opened her own practice, taking on clients. Eventually, she was found and arrested. And while I’m not sure if her clients were pleased with her work her not, she was still a fraud. She operated through layers of deception and deceit and in the end, she had nothing to show for herself.

We often make this kind of misstep in our love life. We are not out of one relationship before diving into another. Or, we don’t have a decent model of a loving relationship, and so, we grab whatever comes our way.

Here are a few examples of not being “ready” for a healthy relationship and what you can do about it.

  • No model of a healthy relationship: If you witnessed your parents fighting all the time, or your dad ignored your mom, or your mom was an alcoholic, these are not the best models to follow. And yet, we go out into the world and find mates based on how we learned to love as a child. As an adult, however, you can learn to follow a new healthier model. I wrote a blog about it here.
  • No proper grieving period: When a relationship is over, whether you called it or not, you need to grieve. Period. You need to spend a decent amount of alone-time trying to put your life back together, figuring out who you are and finding your center. Without this period of coming to terms with the end of that relationship and self-centering, you risk choosing a new relationship based on flimsy things like loneliness, neediness and sadness. A mate is not supposed to “fill the void” in your life, he or she is supposed to compliment your own awesomeness. Not grieving is also a sign that you were not exactly in the last relationship for intimacy with the person, per se, but rather, for the intensity of any relationship. This relates closely to the next point…
  • Jumping into a new relationship before the old one is officially over: Like I said above, when you do not have a healthy amount of alone-time in between relationships, it tends to be a sign that you were not exactly in the last relationship for intimacy with the person, per se, but rather, for the intensity of the relationship. Almost anyone with chemistry can create that intensity, so replacing him or her is relatively easy. The healthier option, is to spend some serious time looking back at the person you broke up with to see where YOU might have gone wrong. What you might want in a new partner and what you might want to avoid.
  • Choosing the same unhealthy person over and over: My mother used to say “God will give you the same problem until you learn to fix it.” If you’re dating the same “type” over and over (especially one who tends to hurt you, frustrate you or create suffering) you have not learned to “fix” this problem. Read more about love addiction, build your self-esteem, learn what your values are. Learn what it takes to change. These are all ways in which you can grow out of repeat patterns that hold you down.
  • Not being a healthy person yourself: How do you expect to attract a healthy partner if you, yourself are manipulating, lying, cheating, acting out, abusive, angry, miserable and so on? You can’t do it. Well, you might be able to attract a healthy partner, but you will not be able to sustain a relationship with a heathy partner if you possess these qualities. Why? Because, forget what you were told about “opposites attract.” Not in this situation. In this situation, like attracts like. Water seeks its own level. You need to be the healthy person you want to connect with. And that means building self-esteem, being able to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, financially and physically, and be able to enter into a relationship as an equal partner, not someone who is looking for a fix or a hole to fill.
  • Expecting too much from dating: I’ve added this in because let’s be honest, dating is something you need to learn. It’s not exactly something that we all inherently know how to do. And for love addicts, who tend to set expectations way too high when it comes to dating, a book or two on how to date, what to expect and what not to expect is helpful. You can read my “Tips on Dating for the Love Addict” as well as Judith Sills “A Fine Romance,” which will really put dating into perspective.

Bottom line: A healthy relationship is a fantasy, unless you put lots of hard work into yourself and into your “career” as a healthy person!

Real Change: your addict doesn’t need to die, she just needs to shut up already

We often think that big change is black and white. That for growth and change to occur, one must become completely different. This isn’t exactly true. I watched some silly Lifetime movie on love addiction the other night and the character who played a counselor says to the love addict, “the addict must die, so that the healthy person inside can live.” I’m not sure I believe that. For years now, my addict has lived side by side with my healthy self.  Thing is, my addict changed in order to live in peace and harmony with healthy me. Addict Me now defers to Healthy Me because it knows that Healthy Me makes better choices and there’s less pain than when Addict Me was in charge. So, the addict inside has transformed itself; it has become subservient, tamed. But she’s still there. And while she no longer has the power she once had, she can still poke her head out of the ether and demand attention. Addict Me makes herself know when I long for “longing.” She rears her ugly head when I am ladened with anxiety and panic, or when I allow myself to turn completely co-dependent with my kids. She sometimes keeps me from making adult choices, and is always there when I can’t cope with stress. Most of the time though, she is a shadow self that follows me around dutifully and stays out of Healthy Me’s business.

Anyway, my point in relating this is that change doesn’t have to be so massive that a part of you must die. Unhealthy behavior can act like a shape-shifter. It is malleable. It can be taught to do better. Addict You doesn’t have to die. But it does have to be put in its place and told who’s boss…

1. The biggest and most successful change I made in my life was to grow up. That’s something I never really wanted to do. Being an adult scared the pants off me. It meant being responsible, working, being accountable, taking risks I didn’t want to take and facing fears I didn’t want to face. And while becoming a mom helped me to overcome some of my resistance to growing up ( a lot of it actually), I still remained emotionally anchored to my youth. That all changed in 2008 when the pain of remaining immature finally outweighed the fear of becoming a grown up. And I have news for you, while being a grown up is hard, it’s not that hard!!! :) The longer you do it, the better at it you become. Stunted growth happens when we AVOID ourselves. Period. We use relationships and sex to avoid (we also use drugs, money, shopping, food…) Once you realize that, it’s over. Your love addict can take a back seat, because you now know that the one thing it can’t have in order to be all-powerful, is self-growth.

2. The second biggest change was facing my fear of intimacy. In the past, I had always dated emotionally avoidant men who tended to be mentally, physically and emotionally unavailable. I did this as way to protect myself. I did this because I was unavailable. As much as I wanted love and a relationship, I was too immature and too afraid of exposing myself to someone who might have high expectations of me, to someone who might demand too much from me in the way of intimacy. I’m not a very intimate person. I can go “deep” every once in a while, but typically, I prefer to have very superficial relationships that don’t tie me down. I am this way because I have entrapment issues. My fear of entrapment ultimately led me to hop into relationships that were overly simplistic, where there was no real communication or intimacy (but lots of intensity). Getting over this meant finding someone who could love, respect, and show kindness to me, but didn’t trap me. Knowing yourself means knowing how much intimacy you are comfortable with. The more you experience intimacy with others and recognize that they will not “trap” you, and that YOU are in control to move about the cabin, so to speak, the safer you feel and the more intimacy you can handle. You also don’t want to confuse intimacy with intensity. Two different things. I could always handle intensity because it was a high that surged temporarily and gave me that feeling of connectivity with someone, but then it was over and I was free to remove myself from the intensity and recover. Many women experience this “roller coaster” of emotions. They experience the intensity of love and sex, then they crash and burn. I believe i subconsciously chose mates I knew would be this way (run away from me or neglect me) because I needed that recovery time to heal from the intensity. Surprisingly, I am still this way. Instead of a partner putting me on this roller coaster, it is my health and workout routine. I become intensely healthy and run and bike and workout to an extreme, and then I crash and desperately need to lie on the sofa and do nothing but recover for three weeks. Very strange!

3. I learned what it meant to really love myself and have self-esteem. And while I don’t have nearly as much self-esteem and confidence as I would like (believe it or not you don’t need a slew of this to have a successful relationship) I found out that having just a little more than I had before was just enough to create beauty in me to the point of becoming attractive to a healthy partner. How much self-esteem did I find? Well, enough to know these few things: I’m not perfect. No one is. I have a right to a good life. I have a right to be respected and loved. I may not be the most beautiful woman on the planet, or the smartest, but I am the ONLY one on this planet with this particular combination of traits that make me unique in all the world. That means that I am a gift to others and that it is my job to surround myself with people who appreciate my gifts and see me as a gift. Being a “gift” to the world has very little to do with superficial beauty, intelligence, color, class, etc. It has to do with recognizing the importance of that unique combo of traits that only you possess. What do I lack? I don’t think I’m very pretty, or smart. I sometimes feel fat (although I only weigh 125 lbs at 5’4″ and am fairly athletic), I make a ton of mistakes as a mother, friend, wife, sister and daughter…I don’t always believe in my knowledge and experience…I feel shame a lot, and it is still hard for me at times to be intimate with my hubby and kids. Oh well! Like I said, I changed just enough for it to matter.

4. I said goodbye to fantasy and put action in its place. What does that mean? Well, to a love addict, it means that for most of my childhood and adult life I was very fantasy driven. I would dream of becoming a writer but not write. I would dream of falling in love with a Prince, but I wasn’t a princess. I would dream of great careers as a movie star or public speaker, but I would’t go to college. I had zero experience, I built up no wealth of knowledge in any field, but my dreams and fantasies about what I could be were enormous and elaborate. My rich fantasy life comforted me, UNTIL I was about 25, and UNTIL I actually had to socialize. And if anyone remembers back to being 25 what’s the one thing we all talked about? Or, rather, I should ask, what’s the one thing that HEALTHY people talked about? Their education. Their careers. Whether they were going to go on to grad school or if they were trying to find a job. Me? I was waiting tables at a beer and shots joint and trying to hop into bed with the first man that paid me any attention. This was not action. This was stunted growth. This was a refusal to grow up. My marriage was also a refusal to grow up. I felt protected from having to grow up while I was married. My husband would go to work and I could have babies and continue to feed my rich fantasy life. I could AVOID life. Trouble was, since I never did anything or became anything or gained any experience in any particular field (because I never invested in myself), I had a very limited pool of men to choose from who would want me as their wife. Who wants someone with ZERO responsibility and stunted growth and an inability to be intimate and mature? Well, someone who is EQUALLY stunted and immature. It wasn’t until I was about 36 years old that I realized the whole fantasy-world wasn’t sustaining me. And it wasn’t until I was 40 that I finally said goodbye to fantasy and was able to stand on my own. I went back to college, got a degree, even invested one year in graduate school. I rarely, if ever fantasize now. What I do now (duh! I could have been doing this all along) is make goals. Making concrete goals where action is required is the adult’s version of fantasy. You dream it, you plan it, you prepare for it, then you DO IT. Wow. What a difference. Since I gave up fantasy and became goal-oriented instead, I have had many accomplishments. And all these accomplishments are investments I have made in myself. :)

5. I realized that my failed relationships and the bad boy-avoidants that broke my heart did not CAUSE my love addiction. I did. The bad boys were a symptom of my love addiction. We often think that love addiction is  about love. Not getting enough of it, wanting too much, etc. It’s not about love. It’s not even about other people. It is about self-avoidance (torchbearing keeps you from living a realistic life; ambivalence keeps you from making important decisions; straight up love addiction keeps you from growing up). It is about using love and relationships as tools to help you soothe, cope, defend and avoid. Therefore, the object of getting healthy cannot be found in solving the issues of your current relationship. When the torchbearer’s dreams come true and she finally has the object of her fantasy, the reality will never be as rich and she will need to hold a torch for someone else;  if the ambivalent love addict ever makes a decision to stay or leave a relationship, more ambivalence will follow, etc.)  As I’ve written about before, your unhealthy relationship serves a perfectly functional dysfunctional purpose: to keep you from avoiding yourself and growing up. When you “fix” it (without fixing yourself), the relationship will no longer serve its purpose and the PoA must go and another put in its place. This is why I continued to repeat the same patterns and be attracted to the same character over and over and over.

6. I finally determined that I no longer had to “date daddy.” This was a big change for me as my idea of a perfect mate was wrapped up in who my dad was. Freud was right. A daughter’s first love is her father. And whether that love is reciprocated or not, betrayed or not, healthy or not, it doesn’t matter!!! A daughter will still see the combination of traits in that man as ones she must look for in a man of her own. If she gets along well with her father, respects him, and has a healthy relationship with him (and vice versa), her chances of finding a healthy partner are high. If, on the other hand, he neglects her, abandons her, does drugs, lies, cheats, steals, etc., and she loses respect for him and learns to mistrust him, her chances of finding a healthy partner have been sabotaged. I knew the psychology behind daughters dating their father. But I honestly thought that if I avoided men who did drugs or were alcoholics, I would avoid the problem of being stuck with a man like my dad. Wrong. It didn’t occur to me until much later that I was picking men with much subtler comparisons to my dad. Men that avoided me. Once I learned this lesson, I was able to finally recognize the avoidant and…avoid him :)

7. Equal in weight and importance to numero uno, was that I learned what values were and I made them more important than anything, even my relationships. Values are the most important thing in your life.  Well, at least they should be. If you want to say goodbye to love addiction learn what your values are and choose them over anything else. When you do that, you change. You become healthy. You become true to yourself. Eight years ago, I could not tell you what a value was if it came up and slapped me in the face. You know how all those self-help books tell you “you won’t ever find the perfect man” and “you need to learn to tolerate a few bad traits” and “no relationship comes without problems”? Well, those books are right. But, they are preaching some very dangerous information without full disclosure. Let me explain: as a woman who learned that info, I never knew which traits were acceptable and which weren’t. Sure, I knew to stay away from big ticket items. I wouldn’t remain in a relationship with a serial killer. But there’s an equation to this information that I had all wrong. I thought that if I “loved” this man, and he, in turn “said” he loved me, and if I could write down more positives about him than negatives, I should stay. And yet, using this equation caused huge amounts of ambivalence. I would see on paper with my very own eyes that this guy only had four problems and about 100 positives. What was wrong with me? What I never in a million years understood until much later in life, was that the groupings of positives and negatives that we all come with are weighted. Picking your teeth at the table might be a negative but it may only hold a weight of one point, compared to smoking pot, also a negative, but that weight might be worth 50 points. This system of weights is not arbitrary. It comes from one source and one source only: your value system. You have a system of values already in place that you either use or don’t use. Either way, it’s there and it’s functional. And it weighs things all the time. For example: every time your PoA cheats on you and you feel like your whole body is on fire? That’s a value speaking directly to you. It’s saying: this is a quality or an action that I do not like and which causes enormous pain. Wether you listen to that value or not is the key. And when you don’t know your values or that you have to choose them over a relationship, you lose. A value you tells you if certain qualities are acceptable or unacceptable. If some traits weights one point or one hundred. If it is, in fact a value, or simply a want (not a must have). It tells you this through your emotions and through your logical brain–if you listen. When I realized what my values were I was no longer ambiguous. I was able to clearly see that while some guy only had four problems, their weight was too enormous for me to bear and they went against my value system. Once I learned this, enormous change occurred. I operated in a different way. My old ways of figuring out if someone was right or wrong for me became outmoded. This new values-based way of determining someone’s staying power in my life was a much healthier approach. It taught me to look for people who SHARED my same values. Once I did that, relationships became less painful.

Our inner love addict may be part of our true self, but it is the part of us that just doesn’t get it. It is the hungry, lonely, tired, angry, scared side of us, that makes unhealthy decisions out of fear and self-protection as opposed to health and happiness. It is the yin to our yang. The Mr. Hyde to our Dr. Jekyll. It is Pygmalion: the bedraggled, vulgar, uncivilized flower girl that I believe we need to educate in order to turn her into a duchess–not just on the outside, but the inside as well. So, no, your Addict doesn’t have to die. But she definitely needs to move over and let Healthy You drive from now on.

When you look at him who do you see?

When you look at your Person of Addiction (PoA) who do you see? Describe him or her. Write it down. Good qualities and bad. Is he avoidant? Careless? Disrespectful? Dishonest? Happy? Kind? Funny? And then…(surprise, surprise) know that you are looking at YOURSELF.

If you are with a disrespectful man…it is YOU who is disrespecting yourself.

If you are with an avoidant man…it is YOU who is avoiding yourself and your deeper problems.

If you are with a dishonest man…it is YOU who is not being honest with yourself.

Furthermore, ask yourself, are you angry with him? Frustrated? Disappointed? Unfulfilled? When we take responsibility for our lives and start to deeply love ourselves, we realize that this is known as projection. We are angry with ourselves. We are frustrated with ourselves. And so, we attract partners that allow us to express these emotions, without having to put the blame on ourselves. If I am with an avoidant partner, it’s not my fault. It’s his! If I am with a man who does not give me what I want, it’s his fault, not mine! Right?

Wrong.

Like attracts like. Water seeks its own level.

In order to be healthier and attract a healthier partner, YOU need to be everything you’d like in a mate. And you need to find the source of frustration and anger within yourself and heal it. It’s not, after all, his fault he’s avoidant, disrespectful or dishonest. It’s yours for staying with him.

 

 

Chemistry or chemical reaction?

Now that I have been in a stable relationship for six years (longest passionate, loving relationship EVER. Thank you very much.) that feeling of initial urgency, deep passion and lust has naturally faded– the longing and feeling of “I can’t wait to devour you” is no longer there. This, by no means, means I’ve lost love for my husband. In fact, I love him more now than ever before. But the teenage puppy-love feeling has definitely…poof!…disappeared. Reality has set in. Fantasy over. And I am quite content with that. Life is good. And yet, every once in a while–randomly– the sensation of urgency and lust creeps back in, and I feel so overwhelming “in love” with my husband that it almost seems like we’ve been thrown back into some time machine and it’s January 2009 again. Did he do something especially different? Did we bond over something important? Did something in me change and realize some deep meaningful truth?

Nope. I probably ate spicy food.

Really. No joke. This fleeting sensation of heightened passion is a clear window into brain chemistry and how food, beverages, drugs and hormones can alter your emotions. It is also a clear window into your own emotions and what you believe about that. We humans, not just love addicts, can so easily be misled to believe we “feel” love, when in fact we merely feel the effects of the drinks we had the night before, or the coffee we are ingesting or a change in hormones during our menstrual cycle. These random chemicals can transform an average Joe into the love of your life in a split second, if you happen to have eaten too much sugar at the right time,  thus, making you “believe” there’s chemistry between you and good ‘ol Joe. This is kind of a sad reality for those of us who would love to believe we are making rational or even spiritual choices about people, but, at first sight, we’re kinda not. At least not all the time. My point is, we need to be aware of this phenomenon. If we are not aware of it, we can easily be fooled into thinking that we are on the right track with “Joe”, only to, days later, feel strangely ambiguous about him and wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Think about it. How often have you met someone out at a club or a party when you were drinking, hooked up, only to wake up the next morning (with or without him beside you) and thought, “What have I done?!?” The alcohol instance is an obvious example of brain chemicals influencing our behavior and, importantly, what we believe to be true. But it happens with much subtler, unexpected chemicals too–sugar, caffeine, aspirin, chocolate, high fat foods, low-fat foods, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Instances of these chemicals at work are when you wake up in the morning on the “wrong side of the bed.” Or suddenly just feel sad. Or laugh for no apparent reason. These are all examples of the chemicals at work in our body. And one of the most important things to realize, is that what we ingest has a huge effect. During our menstrual cycle our brain chemicals change too. Without us even knowing.

And, what is love but a chemical reaction in the brain. Endorphins; neurotransmitters firing neurons. Sure, we can have what’s called “chemistry” with people. And sure, we can rest our eyes on a person we find beautiful thus causing a physical, mental and emotional response. But is this because this person has done something to cause us to feel this way? Or is it merely a force within us that has created meaning and significance from a visual cue?

Lesson to be learned: be wary of emotions that seem fleeting, quick to come and quick to go. Look instead to the foods you recently ingested, even a few days prior. Know the difference between fleeting emotions and “feelings” about something or someone that linger for a very long time (even when they too seem to come and go). These latter types of emotions are much stronger indicators of something going on, on a deeper level. MOST IMPORTANT, try not obsess or assign any deep meaning to emotions that seem to hit you out of no where. More than cupid’s arrow, they could be indigestion. ;) I always think of a newborn baby when it smiles. We so often want to believe that they are smiling at us, but the truth is, it’s probably just gas.

 

Call for stories: childhood

childhoodIf you haven’t already heard, I am attempting to write a book on love addiction. And so, I am currently reaching out to fellow love addicts (in recovery or not) and asking for their “childhood story.” It doesn’t have to be very long, in fact, the shorter the better (under 1000 words, please), and I am not looking for worst case scenarios either. I am looking for TRUE tales of childhood. So, whether you were abused and ignored as a child, or loved and well cared for, I would like to hear from you. I will be selecting about three of these stories for my book and you would have to agree to having your story published, of course. But I will only publish first name, last initial, and you are free to give me an alias in order to remain anonymous.

A few more tips:

  • 1000 words or less
  • Please do not include any full names, locations, addresses, or information. If you do, I will most likely omit them.
  • Don’t be afraid to describe your caretakers, as well as your siblings, their jobs, behaviors, care-taking abilities, addictions, positives and negatives, etc.
  •  Tell me how you “felt” most of the time as a child. For example, were you afraid, happy, confused, spoiled, alone?
  • Be as descriptive as possible, but know that I am not looking for in depth details of actual abuse.
  • Finally, be as honest as possible. Your story, dramatic or mundane, might help someone someday.

You can post your story right here in a comment if you’d like to share with others (recommended),  or you can send it to thelovelyaddict@gmail.com

The deadline is April 1, 2015. THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Who do you love?

Who do you love?Who do you love? Take a good look at your partner. He or she is a reflection of what you think of yourself and what you feel you deserve in life. If it hurts to read this, maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s time to love yourself a little more.

Essential laws of love addiction recovery

So, on a previous post, I threw out there that I was breaking “two” of the essential laws of healthy recovery by not taking care of myself and not having a life of my own. And while that wasn’t entirely true, it was partly true (enough for me to notice it). But more importantly, there is no law book or list of rules for love addiction recovery, except my own very vague notion of what recovery laws actually are, created as I go along.

That being said, I thought I would create these laws, and post them so that others can share in the knowledge of what they should strive for. So, here they are…

Law #1: Thou shalt strive to be a mature, responsible adult: love addiction is all about stunted growth; recovery is all about growing up.  To successfully recover you really need to give up childhood survival mechanisms like addictive behavior, acting out, manipulating to get your way, chasing after unhealthy fantasies, and burying your head in the sand by focusing on your PoA instead of your adult responsibilities. In other words, learn healthier ways to manage your life.

Law #2. Thou shalt not avoid thy personal responsibilities: love addiction is not about loving your PoA, it’s really about using your PoA as an emotional distraction so that you can avoid yourself and that which you fear the most. Find out what you fear, and face it.

Law #3: Thou shalt take care of thyself: you are your best investment, so treat yourself as such. Eat well, exercise, challenge your brain, be an integral part of your community and block harmful people from your life. Your body and mind are temples. They are sacred places. Do not pollute them with bad food, negative people and defeatist thinking. If you can care for and love others, why not you too?!

Law #4: Thou shalt exercise thy logical brain more than thy emotional heart–at least until you “get” how to use your logical brain. But, love addicts tend to reside in their heart and emotions. They allow their emotions to make decisions for them, and do not enlist the help of their logical brain (which can detect red flags and recognize safety). Let the pendulum swing in the opposite direction for a time. Give up “thinking” with your heart and try to think with your brain. Can you see the difference?

Law #5: Thou shalt have a life of thy own: It’s time to quit depending on others for your happiness. Why is it everyone else’s responsibility to make you happy? What role do you play in your own happiness? Search for activities and emotionally and spiritually stimulating pursuits that you can do on your own in times of solitaire. This is how you begin to like yourself

Law #6: Thou shalt learn to accept and if necessary, forgive thyself: Look in the mirror; what do you see? Do you wish you saw someone far more perfect? Flawless? Wealthy? Famous? Get over it. You’re not perfect nor will you ever be. But that does not mean you are not loveable. Even the most handicapped, disadvantaged, challenged people in the world are still worthy of love. And so are you. But  if you think you can just waltz out into the world and expect to be validated and loved by others, you’re in for a bit of disappointment. When you do that, it’s hit or miss. You never know who will like you and who won’t. But guess what, when the love and validation comes from within YOU, you always know what you’re gonna get. Make peace with the mistakes you made in the past, and move on to being your best source of love and strength.

Law #7: Thou shalt not participate in harmful or hurtful behavior, to thyself and others: no affairs, no sleeping with or becoming emotionally bonded to a married or otherwise unavailable person, no cheating, no stalking, no physically, mentally or emotionally harming others for your own personal benefit, no acting out in ways that may harm or hurt yourself or others.

Law #8: Thou shalt abandon obsessive fantasy in exchange for reality, and stay in the now: obsessing over every Tom, Dick and Harry you meet, falling in love hard and fast (in your imagination), and becoming hopeless to addicted to someone is all fantasy-based. About one percent of what’s going on might be driven by reality. Let all that go and stay in the NOW. What does that mean? It means every time you catch yourself “wondering” or “day-dreaming” or fantasizing about someone new (or even your current PoA) STOP, and bring yourself back to what you are physically doing. If you’re doing nothing, find something to do. But stay present in only that which is happening now. Love addicts create their addicts, and FANTASY is how they do it. (More on this at “Tips On Dating“)

Law #9: Thou shalt be true to thyself and thy values: most love addicts do not know what a value is, let alone what theirs might be. If there’s one thing you learn in recovery, learn your values. They are your map. They help define who you are, what you need, and who to look for and connect with in the world (when you’re ready).

Law #10: Thou shalt no longer be a victim: chances are that many of your dysfunctional behaviors were learned from dysfunctional caretakers. They may have even physically abused you, mentally abused you, or even neglected you. But, as an adult, you not only have the responsibility to care for yourself, you have the FREEDOM to care for yourself in much healthier ways than ever before. So, quit blaming your parents, and the world for what you don’t have and be grateful for what you do have: the opportunity to learn healthier behaviors. Right now. No need to forgive your parents for their faults (although it helps), but do recognize that you’re the captain of the ship now, and YOU are in charge of your own destiny.

Law #11: Thou shalt live and let live: stop trying to control everything and everyone. It’s too much of a task to take on. It is said that people who have had traumatic or chaotic pasts tend to be very controlling in their adult life. As adults, even though we may have the power to control our own lives and our immediate environment, we cannot control everyone and everything. Every person we are in a relationship with is beyond our control. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with people who address your inner most needs. If you don’t like chaos, don’t fall for a guy who is impulsive and unpredictable. If you like excitement and spontanaity in your life, don’t fall for a girl who prefers to be at home watching back to back episodes of Downton Abbey. Accept what you cannot change; but ONLY if you can handle it in your life. If you can’t, don’t accept it. Move on and reconfigure the players in your life.

Tips on Dating, for the love addict


It’s Spring! And many of my dear friends on the LAA boards have started to date again (or want to date), after a long winter of introspection and recovery work. But are they ready? Are you ready? If this wasn’t a love addiction blog I would definitely say, Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Go for it! But a recovering love addict is a totally different, unique individual who has to approach dating with far more precaution than the average guy or girl. Just as a recovering alcoholic has to reconfigure the people, places and things in his sober life, so too does a recovering love addict. And when you know this, the safer and more successful you will be. So, without further ado…

1. Know when you are (really!) ready to date. You may think you’re ready. You may even fantasize about the hot guy or girl at the office who gave you a “look.” But when it really comes down to it, and the question gets popped (How about Saturday night?), some of us are simply not ready, emotionally, mentally or physcially. How do you know? You know when the idea of dating doesn’t scare the hell out of you to the point where you simply cannot make the date, when it sounds “scary” but exciting too, when you don’t curl up into a ball and start crying hysterically after a first date because all you can think about is your ex, when you start to feel comfortable around strangers (not 100% but enough to have the courage to do so), and when being alone is not a bad thing, but you’re ready for something new…

Many love addicts who still have a person of addiction (PoA) on their brain long after the relationship has ended (this is a torchbearer, by the way) do so not because they still love them or think they will get back together, but as a form of protection. If you are still emotionally attached to a person, it keeps you safe from having to date someone new, and thus, experience the possibility of new pain and rejection. Some love addicts become emotionally or sexually “anorexic,” which is a form of sex and/or love addiction also. Lastly, there is the issue of replacing one PoA with another, diving from one relationship into another, thus being “ready” for the wrong reasons. In this latter case, the person is not ready to date. He or she is simply looking for their next “fix.” How do you know the difference between being ready and looking for your next fix? See Tip #4. Otherwise, these areas of emotional  and behavioral unrest need to be resolved first, before you’re ready.

2. A date is JUST a date. Learn to put dates into perspective. A date is not romantic, it is not your future, it is not love, it is not a dreamy Hollywood story of passion and ardor. And while a date may have elements of all those things IF there’s chemistry and attraction, don’t get too hung up on the chemistry and attraction. A date is a meeting. Someone finds you physically attractive (or you find them physically attractive, or both), and they want to get to know you a bit more. They want to talk to you, maybe they even want to kiss you at the end of the night. Who knows! Whatever the case, treat it like a meeting. It might be fun but it might be awkward; it might make you happy, but it might make him never want to call back. Who knows! Your first date will most likely not look like the fantasy you’ve created in your head. WHen you meet up with someone for the purpose of getting to know you, and vice versus, you have to try and remove the romantic element, otherwise, you leave yourself open to fantasy and high expectations, which brings me to tip #3…

3. Lose the expectations. If you go into a date looking for your soulmate, you will probably be sorely disappointed. Why is that? Because you’re expectations are far too high for an unsuspecting stranger who doesn’t know what you want or need and basically owes you nothing but a little common courtesy–that’s about as much as can be expected on a first date. Any more than that and you’re barking up the wrong tree. You see, understanding the concept of expectations is probably a love addict’s biggest hurdle. We have high expecations too soon, or of the wrong people, and then, once we see that our expectations are not getting met, we whine about it, but settle anyway. But there’s a simple formula for expectations: we can only have high expectations of people who are healthy enough, interested enough and capable of meeting our expectations. And we also have to be willing to expect the same from ourselves. You can’t go on a first date and expect to be treated with basic human kindness and respect from someone who is not a kind and respectful person. You can’t go on a first date and expect that a person will call you back for a second date, if that person is not interested. And you can’t go on a first date (or a second or third) and start expecting that the two of you are automatically a couple. These are all unrealistic expectations and you are setting yourself up for a huge let down. Expect NOTHING. And be happy. Don’t expect a call back! Don’t expect a text! Don’t expect a second date! You are owed nothing. You didn’t go on this date “expecting” for a second or third date. You went on this date to simply ENJOY this person now. That’s all you get. (P.S. Having high expectations like, “I will be respected,” comes under “Values” in #10)

4. Know the difference between dating and desperation. Are you ok with just you? Or are you looking for someone to save you? Can you handle being alone? Or do you hate your life because it’s missing a soulmate? Is it a combination of both of these things? Knowing what is driving your desire to date can have a huge impact on WHO YOU CHOOSE to date. If you are OK within yourself then you can be far more discerning with whom you choose to date. Why? Because you have nothing to lose. You’re not dating out of need or desperation to fill a void. You are simply dating because you would like to meet someone that you can enjoy.  Period. A love addict has to be on constant alert of his or her personal motives. If you feel a void within you, you may pick and choose prospective dates for the wrong reasons. You may be willing to overlook red flags, put up with abuse or neglect, or date “down,” all for the purpose of stuffing that void within you. Remember, when we date, we are not looking for our second half. We are not looking to be “completed.” We must begin to understand that we are complete, as is. And if we don’t feel complete on our own, we need to bring ourselves there first. Healthy dating is about meeting other people who are also complete.

5. Let things happen organically. Letting things happen organically means removing the fantasy…100%. That means that when the date is over, it’s over. You can think about the wonderful feeling of his touch, but do not try on his name and imagine the two of you on an Alaskan Cruise as Honeymooners. You can certain enjoy the thoughts of her that pop into your head the next day, but don’t imagine what your children will look like. Letting things happen organically means living in the now. If he  hasn’t called, he hasn’t called. Gently push those wanting, needing and fantasy thoughts from your head and replace them with thoughts on your work, or what you are presently doing. Remove the ruminating! If he doesn’t call in two weeks, let it go. The more you fantasize, or obsess the more you remove the organic nature of what is meant to happen versus what is not meant to happen. This is hard work, but in the end, it’s EASIER this way!!!! Trust me.

6. Step away from the computer. One of the most important steps a recovering love addict can take is to abandon any idea of online dating. DOn’t do it. Say goodbye to it. Online dating sites are a petrie dish of toxicity for the love addict. Why is that? Because they are filled with three things: the hope of instant gratification (finding someone with one click), the promotion of fantasy-based exchanges (when you don’t have a clear picture of someone you are free to “fill in the blanks” and create what you want that person to be), and the almost complete removal of  the crucial human necessity to judge someone realistically, in person, FIRST, before getting emotionally attached to them. Because love addicts need to learn to defer gratification,  control their susceptibility to fantasy, and  be able to judge people realistically, online dating is a bad idea. It’s like an alcoholic hanging out in a bar after he has given up drinking. It’s only a matter of time before he will slip. Online dating may be great for healthy people, but not for love addicts.

7. Don’t have sex on the first date. Cosmopolitan magazine recently wrote that not having sex on the first date is “outdated.” In other words, go ahead, girls, that rule is “antiquated and harmful” and produces “unnecessary anxiety and shame about something normal and natural: dating and sex.” Unfortunately, they were NOT talking to a love addict. Like it or not, you need to play by the antiquated, SAFE rules from days of yore. I say this not just to the women, but the men as well. Sex to a love addict is never taken lightly. It means something. It usually means a full blown commitment and an excuse to obsess over someone. That’s why it needs to be put on the back burner for a significant amount of time (3 months? 6 months?). A love addict’s job is to learn to defer gratification. To sniff out a person for red flags FIRST, before making any heavy duty commitments, physical or otherwise. And here’s something Cosmo won’t tell you, what’s the hurry? If you’re into someone, and they’re into you, and you plan to spend your lives together, why not wait? You’ve got all the time in the world. Why not make it about other stuff first? Sex on the first, second, third, etc. date is Russian Roulette to a love addict. Put it off. It can wait. He/she’s not going anywhere. And if he/she does leave, they weren’t worth it anyway and you were able to hold on to your dignity. More than that, it might save you from obsessing more than you would if you did have sex.

8. Do keep a journal. The perspective and instincts we have before we get to know someone intimately are amazingly sharp. I am convinced that every red flag a person might have pops up on the first or second date, if we really pay attention. Trouble is, when we something bad enough, we are willing to ignore the red flags, and ignore our gut instincts. Keeping a journal helps us to stay on track and remember how we felt and what we sensed in those first hours. Be sure to write down your first impression, how you felt, if you noticed or felt anything funny, if something didn’t add up. What was your logical brain picking up on, versus your heart (emotions)? While this may seem like overkill, it will help you in your process and your ability to “learn” to date healthily. Looking back we always see with perfect vision.

9. Don’t trust your emotions. I know. It sounds counterintuitive when talking about dating. But it’s not. A love addict can’t trust his or her emotions. Not yet, anyway. Why? Because we tend to be ruled by our emotions and our logic goes right out the window. We are imbalanced in this way. Our logical brain will pick up on abuse, red flags, neglect, shame and general danger. Our logical brains are screaming at us to leave a bad relationship. But our emotions are screaming back, “Never! I love him!!!!” This is an extremely unhealthy way to make life decision. You cannot be ruled by emotions only. You need a balance of both your head and your heart. Trouble is, because we have been off balance for so many years, we need the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. We need to depend more on our logical brain so that we begin to trust it again. Only then are we able to allow our emotions to “speak up.” Once our logical brain has first determined that we  are safe and secure. So, all those emotions howling at you, telling you that they are convinced 100% that it’s love,  after the first or second date. IGNORE THEM. Focus on the brain. On the logic. Turn back to your journal. Check for red flags. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to seek out the possibility of red flags. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you unearth something that you know in your head and your heart you probably cannot or should not live with if it doesn’t agree with your set of values.

10. Know Your Values. Attraction, chemistry, passion, flirtiness–those things are fine and good and all. But they can’t shake a stick at something called values. Knowing your values is critical to dating. If you don’t know your values, how can you know if someone else’s values are right for you? How can you tell if someone has the same belief in loyalty, respect or kindness as you do? Does he or she share the same work ethic, family values, or relgious beliefs? Where does he or she stand on marriage, affairs, children, parenting, age, eating, working out, drugs, sex, and so on. Most of these things seem world’s away from a first-time meeting. And I do not suggest you try to find out what your date thinks about child rearing on date #1. But I do suggest that you know what YOUR values are on all these things so that you know what to look out for and how to assess the other person.  Case in point, I went on a date many years ago with a good looking guy who, on our very first date, asked if I wanted to get high. I said, no thanks, and despite it bothering me enormously  (because it’s something I can’t handle) I kept dating him. I kept dating him because I didn’t know my values. I knew I didn’t like drugs and I knew I didn’t like being around people who did drugs. But I didn’t know it was SO IMPORTANT to me that the relationship would not work. And it didn’t. I eventually couldn’t take his smoking. Had I known my values, I would have saved myself a lot of time and emotional angst.

You need to hold people up to the light and really look at them and not be afraid of what you might see. Your happiness depends upon you being honest with yourself. And while I do not suggest scrutinizing people too early on in the dating process, I do suggest being open to communicating, and being patient in cultivating a relationship. You will not get to know someone over night. It takes months, years. You cannot rush things. People who fall in love fast are red flags. That goes for you, and for your date. It is a sign of instability. Healthy people are cautious, curious, protective with their emotions.  They don’t call every two seconds, they don’t profess love right away. They don’t drink like a fish or do drugs or try to sweet talk you into bed after a 2.5 hour date. Know the signs of healthy partner, and be one too.

Good luck!

You are entitled to something better than scraps

  • When I was a teenager, I let a very unattractive kid, with brown broken teeth kiss me because I thought I could do no better.
  • When I was in my twenties, I went to a community college, not because I couldn’t afford better, but because I believed I couldn’t academically do better.
  • When I went out in the world to get a job, I worked as a waitress because I didn’t believe I was smart enough to work anywhere else.
  • When I was a woman, I married a man I’d only known for six month. I married him on the side of a highway, no white dress, no wedding reception, no gifts because I didn’t believe I was worth a big, beautiful wedding or a man who would love me after six months.
  • And when I was divorced and newly dating, I fell in love with a diner cook who never showered or brushed his teeth, who smoked pot, wore dirty clothes and never wanted to have sex with me because I though he was the best I could find at my age.

When you believe you have value, when you believe you are worth not just a little but A LOT, you do not accept dirty, broken teeth, waiting tables in a beer and shots joint, or people who never shower or want to make love. You do not put up with neglect, disrespect, abuse, mind games, cruelty or anything else from someone who is dishing it out.

When you believe in yourself, you teach people how to treat you with respect. When you do not believe in yourself, you teach people that they can treat you anyway they want.

Curing love addiction is as simple as this: having a sense of entitlement. When you believe you are entitled to better treatment, you get it. Something in you changes and you no longer accept less. A perfect example of this is food. Even at my lowest, I would never eat food from a trash can because firstly, I can afford fresh food. Secondly, eating food from the trash doesn’t even make sense unless I were homeless, and might possibly die if I didn’t eat it. But lastly, and most importantly, I feel entitled to healthy, fresh, good tasting food that not only keeps me alive, but keeps me healthy and happy too.

So, if I can feel entitled about food, why not the people I allowed into my life? Why not feel entitled about work, education, income, friends, and so on?

Here’s one reason why: “entitlement” has had such a bad connotation to it. The rich have a sense of entitlement. Famous people have a sense of entitlement. Proud people have a sense of entitlement. We imagine individuals with their hands out, expecting more, more, more. And quite frankly, that is an ugly picture. Even in Christian and other western religions, it’s frowned upon. According to some religious teachings, we’re supposed to be humble and grateful for whatever we’re given. We’re supposed to be happy with scraps.

But I think that’s a detrimental belief, especially when it concerns close, intimate relationships. When we lack a sense of entitlement to who we should meet and fall in love with, when we have no clear sense of what we deserve, we accept darn near anything! We end up with scraps.

And let’s face it, scraps don’t taste good. And eating them is embarrassing. And being seen eating them is even more of an embarrassment. And so, you suddenly have this huge disconnect. At first you were grateful to have scraps. But then, when the scraps left a really bad taste in your mouth and left you feeling ashamed and worthless, you suddenly started to suffer and feel pain. You were torn between your belief in being humble, and this instinctual need in you to have better for yourself.

Love addiction is when we are at this point, we recognize we are eating scraps, it makes us sick to our stomaches, but we stay anyway.

Or, conversely, love addiction is when we do not realize we could be eating something better than scraps, (because we’ve eaten them all our lives) and so we keep eating them, thinking they’re great sustenance , but every time we take a bite, we want to vomit. We have no recognition that eating is not meant to be like this.

So, how do you create a sense of healthy entitlement? Well, you start by creating a set of values for yourself. Start to define what hurts you and what makes you happy. Make a list. And place boundaries around yourself. Let the good in; keep the bad out. The more you know yourself, the more you stick to your values, the more you begin to demand better for yourself. It’s a natural progression that comes from within and changes your whole life.

Someone on the forums recently posted this amazing quote: How empty of me, to be so full of you. So, my advice today is to fill yourself with a new sense of entitlement. Focus on your worth. Grab a copy of The Self-Esteem Workbook and start working!

Failing at recovery is easy. Here’s how…

failing-at-cro

Success versus failure is not always black and white. There’s no distinct “finish line” to success, that, once crossed, leads to bliss, perfection and the absence of failure. But, there are bad choices that if you continue to make will hold you back from progressing in recovery and feeling better emotionally and mentally. So, if it’s failure at recovery you’re looking for…do these top 10 things. I gaurantee you will continue to feel crappy, unfulfilled, frustrated and miserable!

1. Continue to talk about/analyze your PoA: Like it or not you’re obsessed. And talking about or analyzing, or stalking the PoA is confirmation of your obsession and your addiction. If you really want to wreck your chances of getting healthier, this is the top best way to do it. Also, when other people tell you to focus on yourself and institute no contact (NC) with your person of addiction, ignore them and continue to pine away and ask, “but why doesn’t he love me.” You’ll be able to spend a lifetime trying to figure out the answer to questions like that because, guess what…there is no answer! At least one you’ll never be fully satisfied with.

2. Vent (about how miserable your life currently is): I’m convinced that venting is an art. The longer you do it, the better at it you become. And the irony of venting, is that, as you become better at it, the worse you feel. Yay! Why is that? Because venting, although helpful for blowing off temporary steam, accomplishes absolutely nothing. It’s just another way to obsess over someone or something that is completely unhealthy for you. It’s just another way to stay anchored to your addiction.

3. Blame the PoA (and everyone else) for your problems: Of course we all know that none of your problems relates to you but rather to all the jerks who messed up your life, took advantage of you, held you back, never loved you, lied, cheated and broke your heart. You didn’t ask for any of this, right? Heck no. So…when it comes to really assessing the situation at hand, and your ultimate happiness, don’t take any responsibility. Blame others! And depend on others for your happiness. Happiness, afterall, is something that comes from outside sources, not within. And you have no control over your own attitude, your own behavior or the fact that you have to deal with this situation in the first place. Right??? Oh, and one more bit of advice: blaming others is so much easier too and will never challenge you to think that maybe, just maybe you do, afterall, have responsibility for your actions. So, if you really want to just take it easy and continue depending on others for happiness, blame them for not being what you need and want them to be.

4. Trust your fantasies: When you were a kid, you dreamed up big dreams of love and happiness and castles and unicorns. None of it was real, but it was a necessary process that either helped you begin to identitify dreams that would eventually shape your reality, or it was a defense mechanism that protected you from a reality that you could not manage well, or that scared you. Chances are, if you’re a love addict, those “fantasies” you still carry with you are defense mechanism that served (past tense) to protect you, but now, only stunt your growth and wreak havoc on your ability to face life and deal with what’s really in front of you, as opposed to what you wish were in front of you. The more you spend in la la land, the less time, knowledge and experience you will gain in the real world, learning real world skills to help you actually achieve your goals. So, if you plan to get a big fat F in recovery class, trust those fantasies in your brain and keep telling yourself that they speak the truth. Of course, they’ve never steered you wrong before, right?

5. Remove all boundaries, let everyone in and say or do anything you please: Yay! Freedom! Who needs or wants boundaries?! They have such an unappealing reputation, especially if you’re a child of the 60s or 70s. And while good, healthy boundaries serve to protect you and those around you (they keep bad, unhealthy people out of your life and likewise, keep YOU from saying or doing things you really shouldn’t), let’s face it, they hold you back, make you responsible, and deny you that childhood fantasy that believes that everyone will love us and be good to us if we just give them a chance.

6. Cause lots of drama: When you were a teenager in high school…oh, the drama! Remember? Well, don’t give it up. Continue to gossip, manipulate, and act totally histrionic at the smallest sign of strife. Because, guess what, who needs to grow up and act rational? Not you. Acting like a teen, making mountains out of molehills and getting involved in other people’s problems, which then in turn, affect you beyond all comprehenion is exciting! Or dangerous! Or riveting! Heck, it’s your own little slice of Hollywood. It gives you the perfect excuse not to face your actual problems, or work on them, let alone interact with grace and dignity.

7. Don’t change anything: Don’t change your behavior (notice I used the word “behavior,” I didn’t say change YOU). Keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing (notice I used the word “doing” not “being”).  Continue to hang around toxic people, and of course, keep pursuing your PoA (how’s that working for ya?). Keep frequenting places that compromise your desire to be healthy and safe (bars, online dating sites, your PoAs street). Really, why bother changing? Change is hard! It’s actual work! It requires the meaningful attempt to alter or modify one type of behavior for another, for the sake of improving one’s situation. And you have no interest in improving your situation. You like things as they are (that’s an educated guess, or you would be on this website), so…simply ignore this entry and keep doing what you’ve been doing. The definition of insanity, afterall,  is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But then again, you don’t want different results, do you? You want exactly what you’ve got, er, except you want HIM to change. But not you.

8. Don’t reach out for any help or take any advice: There absolutely IS a light at the end of the tunnel, but you need to know how to navigate that tunnel. It’s not a straight line. It’s more like a maze. And whether you turn to reading books, chatting on a Love Addiction forum with others, or attend LAA meetings, one or all of those things will help guide you. Why? Well, for starters, you never learned how to love in a healthy way ( love can be learned!), you most likely have low self-esteem (self-esteem can be improved with more knowledge), and what you’ve been doing up to this point obviously isn’t working (people with more experience, with years of recovery make great guides!). But, you’re an adult and probably know it all. You probably resent advice, and hate to be told what to do. Well, take my advice, doing it on your own, without the coursework or without help from teachers will most likely get you a D or F. Try doing brain surgery without any prior learning. Coming out of love addiction is equally as challenging!

9. Replace your current PoA with a new PoA: This one always works so well. When you can’t have a successful relationship with your PoA (for whatever reason), at least you can go out and replace him or her with an equally bad choice. And you can continue to do this until hell freezes over because there’s an infinite amount of bad choices out there to be made. If you want an “F” for recovery, this is the way to do it. Repeat the same mistakes of the past without ever changing and without ever recognzing that real change doesn’t mean just changing the players around and expecting different results, it means redefining what you find attractive, acceptable and meaningful. We so often tend to thing that we will get different results from different people, and we’re always so flabbergasted when different people treat us exactly the same as those who have come before. Does that tell you something about human nature? That while there are subtle differences between us, we still react to people one way: the way we teach them to treat us. When you teach people to treat you differently (healthier) than you did in the past, you tend to attract a different (healthier) caliber person (those who can step up to the plate and provide the kind of relationship that you expect), AND those, like your PoA, who start to notice that you expect more of them usually cannot step up to the plate. Change must come from within YOU, not the player. Unless you want an F.

10. Never find out what your values are/Continue to believe you’re worthless: Why are you in this situation to begin with? Well, 99.9 percent of it is because you have low self-esteem. How do I know? Because the very second (well, maybe a little longer) a healthy person with healthy self-esteem recognizes they are not being treated decently, kindly and lovingly in a relationship, they don’t stick around. Period. Love addicts do. Why? Because love addicts don’t have the same level of intolerance for things  like neglect, avoidance, physical, mental or emotional abuse, manipulation, and so on. And whether it be because they were never taught self-esteem from their parents, or simply don’t have a healthy perspective on their own lives it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there are certain components to self-esteem that you need to possess in order to change and be healthier. The most important component of self-esteem is to have VALUES. A value is a thing we regard as super important that we believe we deserve in our lives for no other reason but that it is something that will make us feel alive, comfortable and happy. Being treated with kindness is a value. Believing that you should never be physically beaten is a value. The trouble is, either we don’t know what our values are, OR, more importantly, we have a vague idea of our values, but  don’t stick to them. We walk around and puff out our chest and say “No man will ever hurt me again!” and then we hop into bed with the first hot guy we pick up at a bar and only later find out he’s a player. Having self-esteem means having values, and sticking to them! We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. If you know in your heart that every time you date someone who drinks heavily or does drugs it makes you feel uncomfortable then that means you have a value that says: I do not want drugs or alcohol in my life. It also means you don’t listen to that value. Success is recovery means you put your values ABOVE your need for a man. Self-esteem means you put your health and safety ABOVE your desire to get laid, above your desire to connect to someone as quick as possible and above your desire to feed your hunger for anything so that the pain goes away. Don’t write down your values or stick to them if you want to fail at recovery. Believing you are worthless, or going through life without a “Values” road map is a surefire way to guarantee a unhealthy, unhappy life.

What are Values?

As we work to transition from unhealthy to healthy, one of the most important lessons, if not THE most important lesson we need to learn is that creating personal values and sticking to them is the basis of all other learning experiences going forward. Your values, or lack thereof, can and will set the stage for your success or failure. And so, if you want to change from unhealthy thinking and behaviors to healthy, you must have a set of values, and they must be more important to you than anything else.

To a love addict, the term “values” can be hugely confusing, because we either don’t know we have any values, or if we do, we do not consider them to be something very important. Case in point: have you ever stayed in a relationship with someone who degraded you? Who did drugs and made you feel uncomfortable? Who lied all the time and it hurt you?  These are all examples of entering into relationships (or remaining in relationships) with limited personal values. But…I am getting too far ahead. Let’s start here:

“How do I figure out what my values are?” That’s a very good question! And like I said, not many people even know what values are. I didn’t really have an idea about my values until age 40. I thought I’d explain here…

First of all, a value is a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless. It’s a MUST HAVE, not a want or a wish. A value ( a MUST HAVE) is something we cannot live without and it’s different for all people, save a few biggies. Being treated with kindness is a value. Believing that you should never be physically beaten is a value. Respecting others is a value. The trouble is, either we don’t know what our values are, OR, more importantly, we have a vague idea of our values, but  don’t stick to them, and other things become more important.

In order to figure out what your personal values are, I would suggest you start with a list of your own personal likes and dislikes, as well as what you like or don’t like in other people. Think of the people currently in your life and those from your past. Did they have any qualities that really disturbed or upset you to the point where you said, “I cannot deal with this person at all!” For example, say your ex PoA always “neglected” you. When you wanted to talk to him he wouldn’t pick up his phone even though you knew he was home. The feeling of this “crushed” you. That being said, one of your values might be “I cannot remain in a committed relationship with someone who ignores or neglects me.” Remember, a value is a MUST HAVE. It’s essential to who you are. Once you put this on your list, YOU STICK TO IT. You don’t bend. And the reason you don’t bend is because this VALUE is about maintaining your honor and self-worth. This value is your way of protecting yourself.

What’s not a value? Say you dated a guy (or girl) and he or she picked their teeth with a toothpick at the dinner table (funny, perhaps. But this type of behavior bothers some people). Every time this person did this particular behavior it drove you nuts and you didn’t like it. Is trying to avoid this kind of behavior a VALUE? Probably not. It’s more of a preference. But the bigger VALUE might be “I need to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t embarrass me in public.”

So you see, VALUES are things, concepts, ideas that you recognize as being EXTREMELY important to you (must haves) and once you know what they are, you stay true to them. By staying true to them, you only let in people that are good for your well-being. Your values will not be the same as mine. Everyone has different values. What is really important to you, might not be to me. But when you find someone who SHARES your same values, it makes the relationship feel good to you and it makes the relationship work well.

VALUES are personal.  But they rarely change throughout the years, unlike “preferences” (i.e. the guy picking his teeth at the table). More importantly, some values are very difficult to recognize. For the longest time, I thought I could handle a man who smoked pot occasionally. So, I kept dating men that did drugs socially. I thought I was wrong for being so critical of “socially laid back” behavior. I used to hear all the time, “C’mon, T, lighten up! You’re too rigid.” And so, for many years, I thought the goal was to learn to lighten up. I WAS SO WRONG! The goal should have been to find people who thought like me,  who also could not handle social drugs in their world. What a difference it made!

Here’s a list of my VALUES, and below, is a list of my “preferences” in dating. See if you can see the difference.

MY VALUES:
1. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who drinks heavily or does drugs. Absolutely no way.
2. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who lies.
3. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who cheats.
4. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who cannot take care of himself
5. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who does not treat my children or his with decency and respect
6. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who hurts or abuses me mentally or physically.
7. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who does not enjoy physical affection and sex.
8. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who doesn’t allow me my space
9. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who is an avoidant
10. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who is not mutually committed to me.

My preferences:
1. I would really like the person I am committed to to be intelligent and teach me things.
2. I would really like the person I am committed to to be musical and play guitar.
3. I would really like the person I am committed to to have a great sense of humor
4. I would really like the person I am committed to to be a good listener
5. I would really like the person I am committed to to be great in bed
6. I would really like the person I am committed to to enjoy travel
7. I would really like the person I am committed to to be financially stable (this might be a VALUE for someone else)
8. I would really like the person I am committed to to be open-minded about religious views and tolerant of all religions
9. I would really like the person I am committed to to like spending lots of time indoors
10. I would really like the person I am committed to to enjoy my family and friends.

Do you see the difference???? Remember your VALUES need to be written in stone, whereas your preferences can change. So, how do you know if something should just be a preference or it should be a value? Say for example you met a guy who you found to be cute, friendly, kind-hearted, but he wasn’t well-educated. Because of his lack of knowledge of the world or college education, you start to feel a rift. Maybe you even start to feel slightly embarrassed when you bring him around your college alum friends and he can’t keep up with the conversation. How does that make you feel? Is it a situation that you can overlook and live with and accept because his kindness outweighs everything else? Or do you feel as though it is making you lose respect for him? If it’s something you can live with (and be tolerant and ultimately happy about) then this is a mere preference. If it’s something that begins to agitate you and you find yourself constantly handing him a catalog of college courses, then “Intelligence in my partner” is more of a VALUE. In fact, intelligence should be moved to my VALUES list as it is more important that I initially thought.

Lastly, a more easier approach to understanding values is the act of having things in common. I’m not talking about the same color hair, or the same birthdate or you both went to the same high school twenty years ago and now you’re the perfect match. I am talking about shared beliefs. When two people share the same beliefs about religion, money, sex, intimacy, family, it tends to be easier for those two people to co-exist and have a healthier relationship. In my case, I thought if we both liked the same music, or we were both dumped by our exs that was a sign that we had stuff in common. I was so wrong! When you don’t know your values, you do not know how to discriminate. When you don’t discriminate (put up boundaries and keep out the weirdos) you are not taking care of yourself. And that is the ultimate goal of values.

Why don’t you share your list here, for others to see. :)

Here’s a comprehensive list of personal values.

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