Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hopeful Romantics: Transcending Dating Games

What We Seek
Claire and I like to see ourselves as hopeful (as opposed to hopeless) romantics. For us, this means approaching life with childlike wonder as opposed to arrogant cynicism. The least interesting people, for us, are the ones who pride themselves on their jaded and “cosmopolitan” outlook. If this is the “grown-up” version of “too cool for school,” neither one of us wants to grow up.  If you think you “know it all” and “have seen it all,” then you have a lot to learn and have “seen” nothing. In contrast, the Zen Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind,” advocates openness to learning and getting beyond your preconceptions, no matter how advanced you are in a subject.

Audrey likens her search for the Romantic Ideal to Humbert Humbert’s obsession with his adolescent love, Lolita, in Nabokov’s book of the same name:

“The neighbor boy was my Lolita. There was a time up until age 7, when I was still cute and looked like a little Midwestern Scandinavian doll. This was before I started getting bullied, and went through a chubby phase (that lasted until age 25) accentuated by a series of bad perms, haircuts, and regrettable fashion choices. It doesn’t matter that I now look like the adult version of the attractive Scandinavian girl, the person I am inside reflects the two earlier states: The time of Innocence and the time of (painful) Experience.
Art by Jana Brike

In my Age of Innocence, at age six, one sunny summer day my blond haired, cherubic Lolita kissed me for the first and last time, under a birch tree. The experience imprinted itself on my heart, so that subsequently, I found myself longing to return to that moment under what I began to call wistfully, “the Love Tree.” A few years later, now deep into the Age of Experience, I found and placed a heart shaped rock under the tree, as a tribute to this romantic ideal. Ever since that day, I have been chasing that neighbor boy, and the moment we shared together, pure and innocent, without baggage, connecting for just seconds to Eden and the Other, the sacred opposite. In adulthood, I find more beauty than most in a kiss. I could pursue this pleasure until my lips chapped if a partner would so indulge me.”

In the beginning we are unconsciously innocent. Then we fall from Grace. The goal, once we pick ourselves up from the Fall (and some people never do) is Resurrection, to be able to transform ourselves, like a Phoenix, into a state of conscious innocence.

The Beatles in “Golden Slumberssing, “Once there was a way to get back homeward, Once there was a way to get back home.” Joni Mitchell in “Woodstocktells us, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.” Thomas Wolfe informs us in his famous book of the same name: “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  We are all stumbling and fumbling and trying to get back home.

In this time, we were both vulnerable and more open to the world, free of the baggage that would later weigh us down. Poet Charles Bukowski speaks of a “Bluebirdin his heart that’s trying to get out and get back to that state before the world shit on our souls.



Connection With the Other

There’s this desperation in online dating, where people are dying to get their needs met. Most people seem to be looking for something very specific, It’s this desire to make an unknown other person fit into a one-stop shopping mold, whether it’s a desired physical type, sexual chemistry, or emotional chemistry, like they are looking for a car with a certain set of superficial specs, as opposed to being open to getting to know an actual other person. They want the “Stepford” date.

This is the teenage male-designed fantasy girl from “Weird Science” or “Pygmalion,” if you are more literary -- the magical designer, blow-up doll: who doesn’t talk. It’s like they are ordering a dish off the menu. Short of paying for this dish with cash, aka a hooker or a mail order bride, we wonder how often these men find her or how that “happily ever after turns out,” per Eddie Murphy’s classic comedy skit “Raw” where he talks about his search for the ideal “Bush Bitch.”

When we anticipate a new connection with a person, it is natural to project our desires onto them. The journey to connection is moving beyond projection and into being in each other’s presence and “seeing” the other person, not just as the projection of our fantasies, but as an individual person with their own hopes, dreams, and desires. Subconsciously, when we seek connection with others, we are seeking the missing parts of ourselves, those parts we have lost or desire. We also seek the other person’s validation of us, as being worthy of love, connection, or physical desire. From a Jungian perspective, we are encountering our animus (for women) or anima (for men), respectively the missing masculine and feminine sides of ourselves. We’ve been conditioned by our society to neglect these aspects of ourselves and become enraptured when we idealize them in another. 

Art by Eugenia Loli
There is a certain type of person who is all about seduction or is in love with the idea of “being in love.” CS Lewis described falling in love as diving into a pool of water. At a certain moment, we encounter the resistance of the water and have to do the work of swimming. Many people do not enjoy this work, so they simply get out of the pool and dive into a new pool, every time the drug wears off and the inertia sets in.

The Dating Game

There are two dating paradigms that Audrey and I both abhor. For women, this is the “Rules Girl,” immortalized (but certainly not created, this type of girl has been around forever) by the self-help gurus, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider in their book: “The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right.” Simply put, the Rules strategy is all about how to play hard to get so you get a man. The payoff for playing by The Rules is that you get Mr. Right and get to live happily ever after. What Fein and Schneider neglect to point out is that, thirty years later, he may morph into Suburban Golf Dad (see dating stereotypes in previous) and you may morph into Suburban Starbucks Mom.

The male equivalent of “The Rules” is the “Seduction Community.” This is a movement of men whose goal is seduction and sexual success with/access to women. The community was brought to greater mainstream awareness with the 1999 drama film "Magnolia," in which Tom Cruise portrays an uber douche and pickup guru, loosely modeled on pick-up artist Ross Jeffries.


Basically both these strategies are based on manipulating the other person to “get what you want,” whether it’s sex in the male dating stereotype or marriage and kids in the female dating stereotype. If ever two groups of people deserved each other, it’s Rules Girls and Seduction Community Men. These inauthentic games advocate establishing a “relationship” based on false pretenses to entrap another human being.

Wild Women Do…

...and they don’t regret it. As attractive, self-confident women, who know what we want, neither Claire nor I respects the idea of playing by “The Rules.” If we like a man, we are more likely to tell him. We won’t chase him, but we aren’t going to play “hard to get” either.  

We are not out there to enslave you and impregnate ourselves so that we can morph into domesticated “basic bitches,” the type of woman who holds out for a diamond tennis bracelet before “giving in” to ___ [exotic]  sex act. We are not going to force you to watch a romcom, read “50 Shades of Grey,” or go to a Maroon 5 concert with us. We would rather smoke weed, watch Louis CK stand up, and fuck our partner’s brains out. We do hope for emotional and eventually romantic connection, but we are not going to force anything on anyone. Our needs might be just as much about what the guy’s recovery time is.


“I’m not ever going to be the crazy girl that sends the crazy text: YOU DIDN’T WRITE BACK AFTER 3 HOURS!!! DO YOU STILL LIKE ME???!!! No, that will never be me. That’s where consciousness and mindfulness…and of course, a sense of humor comes in.”

We don’t need to chase boys and we certainly don’t need to chase men. A good relationship is a back and forth. It does not reek of desperation or a one-sided chase. It’s 1 + 1,  not ½ + ½.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Men of Online Dating

Claire and I browsed through online dating apps like OK Cupid, Tinder, Bumble, and Feeld, in hopes of discovering my (Audrey)’s mid-30’s satirical folk singer object of desire, Father John Misty, and Fitzwilliam D’Arcy, from “Pride and Prejudice” for Claire. Claire muses: “Couldn’t I find somebody who could write and express himself like Salman Rushdie...but looked a bit more like Imran Khan?” In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” We will leave it up to you, dear readers, to make your decision on that one. The good news is that there are a lot of men on Tinder and other online dating apps and platforms. 


The bad news is that there are a lot of men on these sites and separating the wheat from the chaff can be an extremely draining activity -- so draining in fact, that Audrey has often left the computer to actually listen to Father John Misty and Claire has put it down to re-read “Pride and Prejudice” or her favorite Salman Rushdie novels. If there is a Silicon Valley start-up with a magical algorithm that sorts through the Wild West that is the online dating world, Claire and I have not found it. What we did find were some some common trends in profiles. For this week’s post, we look at common stereotypes in male dating profiles. Next week, we’ll look at the women.


Home Team Guy
Wears a baseball cap or football jersey. Multiple pictures of him at sporting events, supporting the home team, possibly with shirtless photo of him and his buddies with paint on their chests. You will always take a backseat to The Team. Comedian Whitney Cummings points out that these men act like they are part of the team. “They wear the jersey and say ‘we just didn’t score enough points’,” she said. “That’s like watching "Grey’s Anatomy" in scrubs and saying ‘we just couldn’t save their life.’”

Rico Suave
Looks like the Dos Equis Guy. Glamour shot meant to emphasize his material wealth or comfortable situation in life.


I Bring Baggage
Picture is normal enough, but text pre-emptively warns you of all the issues he has had dating or in past relationships - dishonesty, being hurt, etc. Says things like “I won’t be a living ATM machine, trophy boyfriend, or sex toy, any more!”

Bar Fly
Picture of himself with cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. Mr. Social.

Divorced Dad
Picture of him with his kids.

Gym Rat
Lifting and steroids guy. Big muscles. Multiple gym selfies.



Adventure Sport Guy
Picture of him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, skiing the slopes, or hiking. Requisite shot of him at the top of a mountain wearing a beanie. Leads you to wonder what he and his personality are like on the majority days of a year when he isn’t participating in his adventure sport.

Beach/Boat or Exotic Travel Guy
Self-explanatory. Also, leads you to wonder what he and his personality are like on the majority days of a year when he isn’t on the beach, on a boat, or traveling to some exotic locale.

Mr. High Standards
Lists everything he is looking for in Ms. Perfect, “not a duck-face, non-flake,” intelligent, athletic, preferably can financially support him. So my question to Mr. High Standards is: “That if I am a woman and I possess all the qualities you seek, exactly what about yourself would make me interested in you?”

Numbers Guy
Usually good-to-average-looking, often frat-boy type. His profile or first text communication with the woman is blatantly sexual. Example: “Hey Come Fuck Me.” You have to wonder how many women he sends this to for it to work, if it ever does? Swinger chicks tend to look at Numbers Guy with some humor and are tempted to respond: “Absolutely. Let’s put Journey’s ‘Anyway You Want It’ on the playlist, and I’ll be right over, with my strap-on and flogger. Do you take it large or extra-large?”

Christian Grey “50 Shades” Wannabes
“I’m a financial executive looking for a ‘50 Shades of Grey’ relationship, as in open minded. If interested and serious, happy to share face pics.” These types rarely have face pictures posted which immediately raises suspicion and conjures up images of the troll guarding the dungeon as opposed to the sexy dungeon master..

Metrosexual Boy
This is your classic “clubber” guy who uses way too much hair gel, possibly has a spray tan, and wears tight slut-boy shirts to show off his guns. He typically spends more money on clothes and more time getting ready than his female counterpart. A spin on this type is “Euro metrosexual boy” who has ambiguous European origin and writes you in slightly broken English that would be sexy, were he not so blatantly vain.


Hipster Dude
Has a Ph.D. in craft beer and indie rock. Sub variants include obsessions with yoga and sushi. In the alternative, may be an organic food guru -- possibly vegetarian or vegan. His environmentally conscious brethren most likely ride a bicycle or drive a Prius. Politically, he’s down with Bernie. Probably sports a man bun or shaggy Jesus hair and skinny jeans. Most definitely has grown a beard so sexy it will make you weak in the knees. May brag about not owning a TV.



Golf Dad
Suburban guy mid-40’s or older, aging version of frat boy, who has not updated his wardrobe or music selection in 30 years. He is a big Huey Lewis and the News fan - polo shirt, baggy khakis-wearing, often sports a dad bod. Expects you to be very impressed with his subdivision and white collar profession. Makes a point of telling you about the state-of-the-art home improvement he has installed in his house. Main topic of conversation is himself, or anything related to his extended identity. Tells terrible jokes and thinks they are hilarious. In case you did not realize he was telling a joke, follows up with an LOL or chuckles at self. Occasionally mentions self in third-person.


Negging Guy
Uses the awful “pick up artist” strategy called “negging” in which a guy uses a deliberately backhanded compliment or otherwise insulting remark in order to undermine a woman’s confidence” Example: sends a message simply writing “meh.” He wants her to respond, “What do you mean?” Power dynamic to undermine the woman and make her more vulnerable to his advances. He hopes she will turn out to be an easy lay.

Gramps
Very prevalent on SDC. While your authors hope to be the sluts of their respective nursing homes, we aren’t there yet. Geriatric sex and the blue plate special all you can eat buffet on Thursday nights at swinger clubs, aren’t our thing.

Jail Bait
Any guy under 25, for women 30 and up. Any woman under 18, for men 30 and up.


Generic “Bro”
Wants to get laid, so he puts out the least offensive, but also least descriptive profile you could ever imagine. Generic bro doesn't do or say anything that would raise a red flag. He avoids taking on any personality or interests, or saying anything of substance. He uses bland phrases in his profile like, "I like to have fun" and "I enjoy movies," “My friends think I have a great sense of humor.” He often lists "family" as one of the “six things he can't live without.” Generic bro sends you inoffensive messages such as, "You look fun and interesting. I would like to get to know you." Generic bro is the male equivalent of the "basic bitch." He takes the path of least effort, either because he's lazy, efficient, or, in reality, has no personality.


The Shirtless Wonder
Is more transparent about his intentions to get laid. He has littered his profile with pictures of himself topless, frequently in the form of selfies taken in the bathroom mirror. Occasionally, shirtless guy will take it up a notch and let the camera travel further south to the bulge in his briefs. Typically shirtless guy is pretty attractive, although you can only judge his body as he usually sees fit to cut off his face in all pictures. Leaving a gal to ask that all important question, "Am I attracted to that torso?" If he messages you, he will invariably ask if you're on KIK. This seems to be the go-to app for dick pics.


The Shapeshifter
This guy is whoever you need him to be. He will find the most accessible fact about you in your profile and write you about it in a message. At his least creative, he'll pick something like your love of sushi and ramble on about his "experiences" with the local sushi places he just looked up on Yelp! If he's a little more creative, he'll google your favorite author and copy and paste some quotes that he "likes" from said author. In my (Audrey's) case, his go-to is my interest in dream analysis, because, you know, everybody dreams.


Romantic Geek
His idea of romance is stealing words and phrases from "Game of Thrones" and incorporating them into proclamations of courtly love, copied and pasted just for you. This Dungeons and Dragons troubadour and Renaissance Fair regular would just love to gaze at you from behind his wire-rimmed glasses over a glass of your favorite wine. If he really puts on the charm, he’ll refer to as “Milady.”


Mr. Nice Guy
At first, he seems like such a good guy. He's got a picture of himself in a trendy hat, most likely a fedora and has a dog that would melt even the coldest heart. He even seems genuinely interested in getting to know you. That is....until...you take "too long" to write back. At which point "Mr. Nice Guy" launches a verbal attack in which he curses both you and the world for treating nice guys so callously. "Nice guys never win!" he proclaims. You find his tirade in your inbox after having taken a break in the conversation to use the bathroom. If you call him out on it, "Mr. Nice Guy" will then try to apologize for the "misunderstanding."

The Flasher
His sexually explicit opening line is the verbal equivalent of flashing you his naked body under a trenchcoat. Example: “Do you like to get rimmed?” Side Note: Rimmer guy’s profile picture showed him gazing out a window into the distance, because even rimmer guy’s got a romantic side.

The Predator 
Shows himself with large bow-hunting weapon or assault rifle and quote from “The Hunger Games”: “And may the odds be ever in your favor.” He is telling the woman that he is some big prize, that SHE must hunt down, and should she be lucky enough to get him. Yeah, lucky enough to wind up in that secret basement under his house where he tortures his victims.
 
Blurred Out Face Guy
Most likely cheating on his wife or girlfriend. Expects you to be interested when trying to strike up a conversation before he’s even shared any photos.


Guys That Call You Miss
If he likes you, you may have the honor of meeting Mama soon. Leaves you to wonder if she raised him to be uber polite or if he has some kind of weird teacher or waitress fetish. Makes you feel very old. The only thing that would be worse is if he called you Ma’am.


Grumpy Misanthrope
His profile whines, "Why am I even on here? Everyone on here sucks." He is a militant atheist and nihilist, who probably listens to death metal or The Cure and has a Nietzsche tattoo.





Unicorn Hunters
In an open marriage or swings with his partner, looking for the mythical third woman, on the side or for his ménage à trois. Argues a little bit too adamantly for his wife’s bisexuality, leaving you to wonder if she really is. You wonder how ok she is with the set-up, since it’s not a couples profile.


The Interviewer
Guys that don't know how to strike up a natural conversation so they write a question that's completely out of context like, "If you were going to die, what would be the one food that you'd want as your last meal?" or “What’s the most important thing you’ve done in your life so far?” which leads you to wonder if you’re being interviewed for Miss America or applying to college all over again.

Mr. Persistence
Guys that continually write new messages when you deleted their other ones or guys that follow up on your lack of reply with whining pleas to be considered.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tools for Healthy Relationships with Self and Others

Claire and I have decided to dedicate this blog entry to the exploration of healthy and unhealthy communication and relationship strategies. While this issue is not specific to the LS, it is a very important one for people in the LS, because it is impossible to have a good swinger experience, unless your relationship with yourself or your primary partner is in a good place.

One of the core elements of a good relationship is the ability to be honest with the other person.

Certain behaviors preclude honesty in a relationship. This occurs when people draw boundaries around what you can and cannot discuss, tell you that you always have to be “happy" with each other, or punish you by attacking or withdrawing if you cross those boundaries. Other barriers to honesty include "Elephant in the Room" syndrome, sweeping all conflict under the carpet and avoiding facing issues that cause conflict with or unhappiness to the other person or yourself. We are going to discuss some positive and negative communication strategies and tactics people use in relationships.

Art by Alex Grey

Positive Relationship Dynamics

Recognizing somebody’s feelings without feeling threatened by them.

The ability to separate what’s yours from what’s theirs. You have to know WHO you are and WHAT you want. If you don’t know those two things, you are at risk of having THEM convince you of who you are and that you want what THEY want. Loss of personal identity will eventually come back to bite you. People cannot easily repress their true identity and self forever. Guilt is when you say, “I did something bad.” Shame is when you say, “I’m a bad person.”

Recognize that If they are angry at something about you or something that you have done, it is THEIR problem, not your problem. It is their problem to decide what they will do about this. It is YOUR  problem if aspects of another person’s or your own personality or behavior upset you. It is also your responsibility to determine what you are going to do fix YOUR problem. Do not waste any energy trying to fix THEIR problem. Any effort expended on changing another person, if that person does not desire to do so, will only lead to conflict, hostility, failure, and resentment.

You did not cause their unhappiness; you cannot control it, you cannot cure it.

Negative Manipulation Tactics

Playful teasing vs. Negative Criticism or Contemptuous Behavior. Playful teasing says: "I have taken the time to notice something unique about you, that you might be insecure about, but I accept it and I like it and I don’t take it too seriously." Negative or contemptuous criticism says more about the person making the statement, than the subject of the statement. Their goal in criticizing is not to affect positive change; it is to make you feel bad about yourself, and raise themselves up by devaluing you.


Defensiveness and deflection: When a person NEVER takes ownership of, responsibility for or apologizes for their actions. They care more about being right, than the relationship. They claim their behavior is justified by your behavior or somebody else’s. These justifications can take the form of their past (shitty childhood, bad previous relationships), something you did in the past that is completely unrelated, or current stress, that is job, health or financially related; or they may just have a general “Poor me, the world is out to get to me” attitude.

Withholding: If you don’t give me what I want, I won’t give you what you want.

Rewarding: Do what I want and I will give you what you want.

Exploiting the target’s vulnerabilities

Being ruthless enough to harm the target (whether psychologically or physically), if they do not give you what you want.

Intermittent Reinforcement: this is actually far more powerful than consistent reinforcement. With this strategy, the manipulator hooks the target by “love-bombing” with positive reinforcement, then slowly and imperceptibly begins to devalue them, to make them insecure. The target craves the memory of the past positive reinforcement and puts up with the negative reinforcement, in hopes of returning to the positive stage of the relationship. By not being able to predict whether reinforcement will be positive or negative, the manipulator conditions the target to focus on them all the time, so the target can anticipate and satisfy the manipulator’s desires.

Crazymaking ala the Mad Hatter's tea party
   
Gaslighting: making the person think they are crazy by denying actual things they have heard, read or observed.

Triangulation:  using a third party to reinforce the manipulator’s view or objectives, pitting the target against a third party to distract and control them, sometimes used in conjunction with gaslighting.

Using deception to hide one’s true objectives or actual behavior

GroupThink: Failure to recognize the other person or other people as an individual or individuals with their own thoughts and preferences, that they have the ability to communicate. Overuses the pronoun “We,” talks for the other person, “We think….”

Defining another person’s reality for them:  “You are crazy; You are hormonal; You can’t survive without me; You are attracted to losers, they will treat you like shit; You will fail. You are not special; You are immature; You are self-centered. You abused my trust; You used me for sex; you are emotionally needy." This tactic turns a person into an object or fixed thing. Instead of saying: “I didn’t like when you did BLANK,” they say: “You are a BLANK person.”

Diminishes or mocks your dreams and aspirations

Attitude of Entitlement: Enjoys controlling other people and feels entitled to “supply” from those people  -- whether it’s attention and having others cater to their (the manipulator’s) ego or obtaining assets from other people. These assets are not necessarily money, but can be association with those people’s positive attributes, such as attractive physical appearance, empathy, dynamic personality, social connections, professional skills, intelligence, loyalty, creativity, passion, ability to achieve things.

Creates or loves crises because they destabilize the target and make the target more dependent on the manipulator.

Positive Relationship Dynamics

Listening to another person, as opposed to offering unsolicited advice

Not judging.

Offering empathy: ”I know what you are going through” -- as opposed to “one-upping” -- “Whatever happened to you, I’ve experienced worse,” which is invalidating.

Sculpture from "Burning Man"

Being present: Don’t feel like you have to offer a solution. Most times that is not what the other person is looking for. What they would prefer is your presence as a sounding board for them to come up with their own solution. Letting a person come to their own conclusion recognizes that they are the expert on their life. When you tell them what to do, you infantilize them. If you follow your own advice and fail, you learn. If you follow somebody else’s advice and fail or become unhappy, you are likely to blame them.

Establishing boundaries instead of relying on shame and manipulation: There is a difference between erecting healthy boundaries and making demands to manipulate others. Demands are about controlling and punishing. Boundaries are about asking that your needs be recognized and respected. If a person cannot or chooses not to respect your boundaries, then you may set a further boundary by ending the relationship.

Boundaries need consequences: A consequence should not be “Do this and I will punish and hurt you.” A good consequence is: “If you talk to me in this abusive manner, I will leave our house and come back, when you have calmed down.”

Believe in your self-worth: Before you can establish boundaries, you need to develop a sense of your self-worth. Without this, you may get sucked into a cycle of people-pleasing, in which you continuously sacrifice your needs for theirs. In general, when establishing boundaries, it’s important to learn how to say, “No,” unconditionally.

Types of Boundaries

Material boundaries: such as sharing, giving or lending money or objects
Physical boundaries: such as personal space and privacy
Mental boundaries: such as your thoughts, values, and opinions, and your vision of reality
Emotional boundaries: knowing your emotions from theirs. You are NOT responsible for their feelings or actions.
Sexual boundaries: who, what, where, when, as regards to sexual touch-- getting adequate consent in both directions. Do all parties really want to be there or have one or more been manipulated into this situation?
Spiritual boundaries: relates to beliefs regarding God, a higher power, or lack thereof. Have respect for other people’s spiritual boundaries and require that others respect yours.

Self Care

A healthy relationship starts first and foremost with a healthy you. Do not neglect taking care of yourself. If you have an incredibly complex spreadsheet of all the responsibilities and people you have to take care of in your day, do not neglect to put time for yourself in that spreadsheet. It is impossible to nurture and take care of other people, when you are physically and emotionally drained.


Mindfulness: observe your thoughts throughout the day, without judgment, and be especially mindful of where these thoughts come from. Have you internalized what others have said? Where do they stop and you begin? Become the silent watcher of your own thoughts. Buddhist Jack Kornfield suggests using this phrases like: “There’s the doubting mind” or “There’s the critical mind” to create a space where you can avoid attaching to every thought.

Journal work: this kind of writing allows you to reflect on your experiences and work at constructing a narrative that makes sense to you, that also furthers your growth. It is also an opportunity to vent about the other person and make yourself feel better, in a space where you are not tempted to hit the “send” button.  If you are going to write the other person, ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Do you want to make them feel bad by pointing out past wrongs? Are you trying to get an apology or for them to recognize the validity of your experience? Is this realistic? Is what you are writing likely to accomplish that, or will this just fan the flames of the other person’s anger? “Sit with it, before you send it.”

Transforming our experiences: Franciscan friar Richard Rohr said: “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” Ask how what you’ve experienced might provide you with wisdom in the future. Sometimes our deepest wounds are guideposts for a life of service to others in similar circumstances. For many, there is healing in advocacy, creating art, or sharing your story.

Yoga/Meditation/Exercise: Taking time to breathe and slow down. This helps us get in touch with our bodies and be more present in the moment, the Now.

Negative/Stressful Thoughts Log: record them and think of positive thoughts to counter them. This helps break up our habitual thought patterns and get out of the rigidity of believing they are the only reality. Every time you get caught in an OCD loop of negative or angry thoughts, try to replace with affirmative thoughts and experiences you are grateful for.

Spend time with people who validate you: A true friend is somebody who makes you feel like a better and happier person when you are around them. You trust them and can be honest and vulnerable with them, and they with you. There is give and take in this relationship. These are also people who share important qualities that you value, and with whom you resonate. Unless you are very extroverted, most people do not have more than five good friends. This does not mean that the other people aren’t friends, there is just a diminishing level of intimacy. Most of us only have so much energy to give.

Engage in activities that validate you: listen to music, take a hot bath, go for a walk, read, go to the movies, eat or cook your favorite meal, etc.

Therapy/Support Groups/Online Support Forums: being able to share your experience in a safe place with other people who understand is extremely important.

Realize that you don’t have to solve all your problems at once. Take one step at a time. Realize that with decision making, not taking a decision or changing your mind are valid options, as is simply saying “Not Now.”

We recommend for further reading:

For Survivors of Abusive Relationships:
“Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself” by Shahida Arabi
“Malignant Self-Love” by Sam Vaknin
“Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft

Communication:
“Non-Violent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg
“The Seven Principles for Making for Marriage Work” by John Gottman and Nan Silver

Self-Healing:
“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown
“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
“Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Validating Non-Monogamy
“The Ethical Slut” by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
“More Than Two” by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
“Stories from the Polycule” by Elisabeth Sheff
“Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan