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The Toxic Lover January 10, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Love, Relationship, Sex.
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Have you ever had a partner who doesn’t play by the same rules he or she imposes on you?  How about a girlfriend who continuously holds you down in a continuous pit of depression and hurt? Maybe your companion was so possessive of you that you felt imprisoned within an emotional cage. These are all strong indicators of a toxic lover.

There are many abuses that can metastasize in a relationship. It is so hard to comprehend at times that we DO hurt the ones we love. Some abuses are overt, such as physical abuse. Others are not so apparent and can easily be masked by the blinding effects of love and passion.

Scenario #1

The relationship moved quickly in the beginning for Bob and Linda. It was like magic. Before Bob knew it, he was feeling a close bond with Linda and felt she was coming closer to him as well. When he tried to discuss these emotions, Linda would just say, “I feel that way too Bob, but I can’t make any promises right now.” Promises or not, Linda began to display possessive behavior. She insisted on knowing Bob’s whereabouts constantly. She would demand that he return her texts immediately even when he was in meetings or classes. If he evaded her questions or was indisposed, she would blow up at him and accuse him of infidelities that were completely irrational. Worst of all, when Bob wanted to go out with friends, even though he would invite Linda to go with him, she would relentlessly monitor the evening through calling, texting, or showing up unannounced. At first, Bob felt excited and loved. After all, a little jealousy is an alluring thing. But after a while, Bob found himself staying home instead of going out with friends for fear that Linda would get upset. He felt enclosed and restricted. Bob finally realized that Linda wanted a commitment from him without making any promises or commitments to him.

Scenario #2

Karen met Matthew in her accounting class. He was deep and mysterious in his thinking. To her, this was alluring to have a man so connected to his emotion. Their discussions centered around feelings and connection, passion and love, pain and suffering. In the beginning Karen believed that the relationship they were building was itself, deep and passionate. However, when Karen had good news to share, or just wanted to involve Matthew in positive discussions or do something fun with him, he would make her feel guilty about her happiness by dragging her back into the darkness of his life. She began to feel as if the only way they could connect was through his lens of emotions. She began to feel guilty about feeling happy, wanting to do something fun, or sharing good news with him.

Scenario #3

Patrick thought Crissy was beautiful. She was the woman of his dreams. After a few dates, he was quickly finding himself falling for her. She had no problem telling him everything about herself. It seemed so easy for her to share her life with him and he loved every minute of it. As the relationship grew, she began to include him in her life in various ways. He would help her prepare class notes and prepare meals to take to her nutrition class she was teaching. She would ask for his advice about finances, include him in helping her study for an upcoming exam or writing her papers. When she was upset, she would come to him for consolation and advice. At first, this all made Patrick feel needed and wanted by her. Unfortunately, when Patrick wanted Crissy’s help on something, or even to spend time with her, in most cases she was unavailable for him. He started to wonder how Crissy even knew who he was. All they would talk about was her life. All that they would do together, was her projects. He began to feel used.

I am sure if you look back on your past relationships (or even your present one) you will see yourself in one of these situations.  They are more common than you think. All of these scenarios first feel like true love, want, longing, and trust. However, they quickly become a pattern of inequality, emotional abuse and mistrust. Why does someone tolerate a toxic relationship then? Love is blind that is for sure. The overwhelming excitement of a new love can mask many of the early signs that you are getting involved with a toxic lover. The rationalization that you may be partly to blame makes you feel like you have to work on the relationship. The fear of being alone can keep you there. In general, change, whether it is good or bad, is always difficult. Internally we tend to rationalize because it is much easier than changing our behavior (see Cognitive Dissonance) but it is even more difficult when you are under the mental and physical influences of love and sexual desire. External wake-up calls can be useful in this case.

Have you or are you experiencing any of these external indicators?

  • Does your partner expect you to follow certain guidelines in the relationship that she/he does not place on themselves?
  • Do your friends or family tell you that they see problems in your relationship?
  • Are you hesitant to go out with friends or even on your own for fear of upsetting your partner?
  • Do you feel you have to consistently change your plans to satisfy the needs of your partner?
  • Are conversations with your partner consistently one-sided?
  • Are you pulling away from your friends and other activities that you enjoyed before your relationship?
  • Do you feel compelled to consistently satisfy the needs of your partner before your own?

In the end, it is about balance. If you are feeling more like a possession rather than a mutual partner, maybe it is time for a change.

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The job hunt dating game December 28, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Dating, Job Search, Love, Relationship.
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As of November 2009, the unemployment rate is 9.4%. Even with the announcement that the recession has ended, the nation continues to bleed an average of 188 thousand jobs a month.

These hardcore facts translate into extreme competition for those looking for employment. Recently the average amount of job interviews a job hunter went on before landing a job is 17. That is up from 9 interviews before the recession.

There will always be the financial horrors associated with being unemployed. The worries range from house payments to putting food on the table. That alone makes for a stressful job search. However, there is an additional characteristic that compounds job hunting even more – the emotional aspect.

Emotionally, job searching is much like dating. Think about how this all works.  You write letters of ‘interest’ to a prospective employer, much like posting your bio on an Internet dating service.  You then wait to see if there is interest. There isn’t much emotional energy expended at this stage but when you get that call asking you to interview, the anticipation rises. The interview is much like a date. You exchange information, maybe talk about some personal things, you exchange business cards and then say, “Goodbye, I hope to hear from you soon.”  Then the waiting begins – more anticipation, more anxiety. You wonder if she liked you enough to give you a callback for another interview. Maybe she didn’t like you as much as you liked her and thus you may not get a call.  Or, like the dreaded Dear John letter, you may even get the rejection e-mail, or a phone call wishing you luck on your job search, however, “We have hired someone more fitting to our needs at this time.”

If you have been unemployed for a long time, much like being single for a long time, it is hard to resist saying yes to any job. All you want to do is pimp yourself out to the first taker. There are so many things wrong with doing this, much like pimping yourself sexually. The very least being that you will end up with a job you are not interested in. The very most accepting a job you just are not qualified for (under qualified or over qualified.) This will only necessitate an early separation and a continued search. Much like the stigma of a divorced single dater, this doesn’t look very positive on your resume. Even worse, after being told you are over or under qualified for this position, it is, “Too bad you weren’t around 6 months ago, we had a position open that you would have been perfect for.” Just like dating, sometimes you fall in love with someone who is not ready for a relationship. Or worse yet, found someone just before you showed up on the scene. Bad Timing.

There is another related scenario as well. You may go to an interview for an appropriate position and see that you just could not live with the organization. It could be that the position is way too overwhelming. Maybe the people you meet vaguely remind you of the TV show, “The Office.” Possibly, what was discussed in the interview is nothing like the posted job description. Much like a first date that reveals personal inconsistencies from online discussions or dating site postings, you tuck tail out of there and hope you never hear from them again. Of course, just like a Dear John letter, it is ethical to call or send an e-mail withdrawing from the candidate pool. I have been in this situation twice. Both were a case of false advertisement. The job descriptions were not really what the actual job was. I wrote a polite e-mail thanking them for their time, however I just didn’t see, “us moving on with this relationship.”

Who knows? You may just get that call that asks you for another appointment. Yes! – another date!  The relationship moves on. There is more discussion. You get to know the organization a little better. They get to know you deeper. You hit it off. There is another round of “goodbyes’ and “we will be in touches” and then … more waiting. What happens next?  Another call? No call? “They must like me, they called back, right?” At this stage there is some jealousy involved. “Are they romancing other candidates?” “Who are they seeing today?” “Can’t they see I am the right person for them?” You may have a deeper connection to the organization at this time. “I thought they liked me. I really like them.” Then, like dating, there is the anticipation of the third call. We all know that in today’s dating world, the third date is the date when you will quite possibly sleep with him/her. This translates into a job offer in the job hunt dating game. The third call comes. There is another meeting set up. You think, “This is it!”  You wear clean underwear. You get a haircut. You wear your best suit. You may in fact hear those magical words, “We would like to offer you the position.”  However, you must always be aware that it may just be another phase in the job search dating game. Some organizations like to get to know you better before going to bed with you. In this case, more waiting, more anxiety, more emotions.

With today’s economic environment, it is a very difficult time to be playing the job search dating game. The emotional roller coaster of all of this is exactly the same as dating.  With several rejections, self-esteem suffers to the point that it impedes your performance on the next job interview. You may even start thinking about dropping out of the job search dating game all together. You become depressed. You wonder if you will ever be wanted or needed again. Keep in mind that it is not always about you. More than likely, you were more than qualified for the position. More than likely, the person who they chose over you was an internal candidate (costing them less than hiring externally) or someone they had intended to hire all along. It could also be a case of reevaluating the need of the position in respect to the cost. Many positions are closed without filling them. Also keep in mind that the pool of candidates for many positions has tripled in today’s market. The competition is stiff and you have to be creative in finding ways to stand out among the others. Like dating, you will never know what qualities they are looking for. Because of this, it is important to just be yourself and display the qualities that you feel are your best. The worst thing you could do is pretend to be the person you think they want. Remember you are looking for a long-term commitment here. Not a one night stand.

Like dating, you need to remain positive. Stay in the game. More than likely, like finding the perfect love, you will find that perfect position when you least expect it. It will be true love and when you love what you do, the money will follow.

We are all going to make it December 18, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Life, Love, Relationship.
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We just need to stay together in the dark.

The Love Triangle October 27, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Love, Relationship.
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The Love TriangleHow many of you are thinking about the love triangle in your relationship? No, I don’t mean a ménage a trois. Where is your mind? I mean Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. There is a big difference. But hey, whatever makes you happy 😉

Over the past five years or so, I have made an unofficial attempt to research the elusive feeling called love. I have talked to colleagues, struck up conversations in bars and coffee houses, and interviewed friends. Hell, I have even contacted ex-lovers. What have I discovered? Absolutely nothing except for the fact that everyone has a different interpretation and experience with love. There is no common thread. There is no magic formula.  In fact, most of my research found more pain and hurt than joy and happiness.

In order to find some grounding on this topic, I turned to Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. This is an excellent model to map out various kinds of relationships from empty love to consummate love.  Sternberg maps out the various relations on a triangle grid with each corner representing the three elements of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Each element alone cannot support a healthy relationship.  For example, passion can only support infatuation and even though many intimate relationships begin this way, they will more than likely wither quickly without intimacy or commitment.

The more elements that are present in a relationship, the more stable and deep the relationship is. For example, if a relationship lies on the side of the triangle representing passion+intimacy, this equates to romantic love and manifests in an intense physical and deeply emotional connection.  However, without the third element – commitment, it may lack the staying power to survive. If a couple has commitment+intimacy, this is companionate love. Sexual desire is lacking in such a relationship and is often seen in marriages where the passion has ended but the commitment and deep affection that remain are enough for the couple to remain together. Companionate love is also commonly seen in platonic friendships.

If lovers are lucky enough to have all three elements in their relationship; passion+intimacy+commitment, this adds up to consummate love (the center of the triangle.) This is the complete form of love that most couples strive for.

In all, the theory rationalizes seven different types of love. Sternberg cautions that even consummate love is not permanent. Couples can move from one type to the other and it takes work in any situation for love to last.

Recently, I had an in-depth discussion with a friend about what a person would settle for in a relationship. Can one of the sides of the triangle be enough for some? Would some be happy in just one of the corners? Maybe. If that is the case, then there is less to strive for in a relationship. But I would speculate that there would be less rewards as well. Maybe many of us are still single because we won’t settle on anything less than consummate love. We want it all and would rather be single than to have to settle for anything less.

What is your love triangle?

Want more information?

Sternberg, R. (1988). The triangle of love: Intimacy, passion, commitment. NY: Basic Books.

My Run Today (repost from Oct. 4th) October 16, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, running.
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Mary and I after the race

Mary and I after the race

Today was my 4th running of the Wineglass Marathon and my 6th marathon overall. You can try to predict your run but in all the years I have run this distance, I have found that exercise to be a fruitless endeavor. Every marathon is unique. Every marathon brings with it new lessons to be learned.

Besides the staple worries of hydration, nutrition, correct training, rest, and yes, bowl movements, my main concern this year was that this was going to be my first solo marathon. In previous years, I had a bank of running buddies with me whom I trained with and ran with. In many marathons, a good friend in our group always served me well as my pacer since I tend to go out too fast. I didn’t have my anchor this year. It was just me. I had to focus on taking it easy and conserving energy as long as I could. This is hard for me. I tend to get caught up in the moment and run stupid. By mile 5 I knew I was not doing too well with pacing. I was ending up with 8.30’s when I wanted to start with 9 minute splits. I was off to a bad start. Then out of the blue, there was Mary. Mary and I started chatting like so many do in the early stages of the race and we found that we both had the same goal; sub-4 hour finish with a 3.50 as icing on the cake. We quickly decided to hang with each other as long as possible and work as a team toward that goal. There is nothing better than to have someone to talk to, to pace with, to support, to care, and as we both knew – to share the pain when the pain came. Mary and I talked about several things; from the weather to relationships but our main topic was our love for running. I found out that Mary, 42 years old and a mother of three, was diagnosed with cancer a few years back. It was bad and she went through 6 months of chemotherapy. When she was finished with treatments she told her doctor, “I am going to run a marathon.” He replied, “Why on earth would you do something like that?” She said back to him, “Because I can.” After a moment of silence, I turned to her and said, “You know Mary, I run because of people like you.” The miles melted away. There was more talk and more support. Then Mile 18 came. 18 is the landmark mile in a marathon because this is where problems start cropping up. Both of us checked in with each other. All was a go. Mile 20; still a go. We were elated and at this point banging out 8.30’s like it was a walk in the park. Our teaming up proved to be beneficial for both of us and we were on schedule for an easy sub-4 finish. By mile 24 however, I was feeling the fatigue and told Mary to not allow me to hold her up and I let her go. At Mile 25 I resorted to the “marathon shuffle” and tried to focus on just moving forward. The pain was incendiary but I was elated that it was happening now and not back at mile 18. Mary was about a minute ahead of me by then and I was close enough to the finish to see her cross the line. I was in shortly after way ahead of both my goal and my “icing on the cake.” My finish time was 3 hours, 46 minutes, 11 seconds. I found Mary and we embraced as we thanked each other.

Marathons can be very emotional for many of the runners. Just finishing can bring you to tears and I am no exception. There are always tears. I was holding it together pretty well after the race until a moment when I was finally capable of sitting on a bench with minimal pain. A young woman asked to sit on the bench with me. Of course I said yes. When she sat down she immediately broke down in tears. I put my hand on her shoulder and cried with her. It was cleansing.

Another year. Another marathon. Another lesson learned. Another celebration of life – because I can.

I would like to thank Nicki Conroy who was my support team this year. I could not have done it without her. She was instrumental in keeping the anxiety low by arranging all the logistics before the race and then facilitating my recovery after the race. I owe you big!