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Monthly Archives: February 2017

What Toxic Jealousy Reveals

Love patterns from childhood repeat in adult romantic relationships. When early care meant dismissal, rejection or invalidation, people are more likely to seek the same traits in their adult romantic partners.

Toxic jealousy becomes a dysfunctional way to get the unmet, and very normal, childhood needs for affection and genuine care met in adulthood. Think of toxic jealousy as a giant tantrum, the equivalent of a 4 year old yelling and flailing about on the floor to get what they want and to get it immediately.

If early in life loving one or both of your caretakers left you feeling rejected or undervalued, then these are the feelings you will automatically call up when you reach for love in your adult relationships.  These early experiences mean you are likely attracted to people who are, similar to your parents, unpredictable or unreliable. Toxic love ensues when the patterns that you initially experienced are triggered in your adult relationships.

Toxic relationships at first may unfold like love at first sight. It is incredibly seductive to feel the instant chemistry of meeting a person who triggers old love patterns. Sadly the intrigue and allure that this shiny new partner first emits soon gives way, and you are left once again feeling that you cannot get your needs met. This upset triggers old childhood wounds, which can cause a person to lose footing and tumble into such an extreme emotional headspace that they cannot think clearly. They do things and say things they would never ordinarily do or say. After it is all over, jealousy abates and self-loathing rushes in.

A wound that never heals is easily re-injured. Take the example of Monica—growing up she never had full access to her father. He was aloof and uninterested, traveling a great deal for work. But every now and again, the family would go on a vacation and she would get his undivided attention—she lived for those moments. Now in adulthood, she is attracted to aloof and noncommittal types who cannot reliably be there for her. When they blow her off by avoiding or ignoring her, Monica goes into the toxic jealousy spiral. She stalks the offender onFacebook, leaves messages accusing him of having sex with other women and on one occasion, even showed up to his place of employment and publicly yelled that he wassleeping with his coworker. She is in overdrive to somehow possess what she could not have as a child.

If you see some of yourself in this story, ask the following 3 questions as a first step toward escape from the jealousy spiral.

1. What is your attachment history? Examine how you were loved in childhood and how your needs went met and unmet. What went well and what went poorly? Was one of your caregivers in some way absent or unavailable to you?

2. What “types” are you habitually drawn to romantically? Pull off the rose-colored glasses and take a hard cold look at the people to whom you are romantically attracted. Are they honest, emotionally available, and reliable? Or, are they unpredictable, send mix messages or demonstrate an unwillingness to fully commit to you?

3. What is the “love wound” you can identify in #1 and the choices you make in #2 from above? Identify the hurt that started in childhood and now gets reactivated in your adult romantic choices.  It is important for you to be honest with your self here. If you have a history of toxic love then there is something in your background that needs to be processed and worked through. Instead of continually looking for others to heal you, consider talking with a therapist or working through it on your own.

Is Age an Issue in Online Dating?

Are people less inclined to use online dating as they get older?  Do older people think there may be a stigma attached to this method of securing a date, or are they put off by having to use a computer or Smartphone?  Do older people find the idea of using a dating site or dating app to be an unconventional method for seeking a date?

The answers to these questions may not be as straightforward as you think, so let’s start by considering two possible viewpoints.  If younger individuals judge online dating to be an additional and extensive part of their dating repertoire and view it as more acceptable than older individuals, it may be the case that engagement with online dating will decrease as people age.  On the other hand, the process of ageing may change the way people think about their lives and Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST) developed by Laura Carstensen proposes that as people age, the realisation that they are mortal becomes more apparent and they become more focused on their current rather than their longer term goals(Carstensen, 1992).  Consequently, they will cease to be concerned about the possible stigma associated with online dating and will engage with it more as they age.

In order to investigate the issue of online dating engagement and age, Stephure, Boon, MacKinnon and Deveau (2009) looked at three different issues associated with online dating and how this related to age:

  • Involvement with online dating
  • Satisfaction with other methods of meeting people
  • The stigma of online dating

One hundred and seventy five respondents who ranged in age from 18 to 64 were asked about:

Demographic Factors such as age, gender and the number of hours they spent in chat rooms, or responding to personal ads.
Online Dating Activity such as asking whether respondents had posted or responded to an online personal ad and if so whether they had met someone face-to-face as a result of this.
Offline Dating Activity, with items such as ‘how satisfied are you with the traditional means of meeting people?’
Disclosure to their social networks such as having told family or friends that they use the internet as a means of meeting people, and the reactions of their friends and family to knowing that they use the internet to meet people.

1.  Involvement

The researchers firstly found that older individuals were more likely to respond to online personal ads, and also to report that they had met someone face-to-face who they had originally met online.  Furthermore, the number of messages people reported sending increased with age, along with the time they spent involved in online dating.  Finally, they also found a very modest relationship between age and the types of relationship people reported looking for in online dating, with older individuals being more likely to report using online dating to find marital and sexual partners.  Overall, their findings suggest that not only are older adults more involved in online dating, but they are also more earnest in their endeavors.

2.  Satisfaction

Secondly, the researchers found age to be negatively related to satisfaction with face-to-face methods of meeting people, suggesting that as people age they become less satisfied with meeting people in person.  Age was also negatively related to the number of offline methods people used to meet potential dates, again suggesting that as they get older people employ fewer face-to-face methods as a means for meeting.  Furthermore, older people in this study were less likely than younger ones to say that they had met potential dates in clubs, bars or even via friends, but were more likely to say that they used newspaper ads in their dating endeavors.  All of this is explained by the fact that older individuals find it more difficult to meet people through conventional means and therefore use online dating and personal ads in order to increase the number of chances they have of finding a date.

3.  Stigma

Finally it was found that over 70% of those who took part had told their friends and family that they were using online dating, indicating that the majority of people did not feel embarrassed by using online dating.  However, there was no relationship between age and people’s decision to tell others.


The findings from this study reveal that overall, general involvement and satisfaction with online dating increases with age.  But despite this, the prevalence of older age groups using online dating is much lower than for younger people. According to Pew Internet Research in 2016, this was 12% in the age group 55-64 and 3% in the age group over 65, compared with 27% of people in the age group 18-24.  Therefore it seems that older individuals who use it tend to be satisfied, but utilize it less.  It is entirely likely that older adults may be more likely to be divorced, separated or widowed than those who are younger, and this being the case, they may be likely to be more selective in who they choose as a romantic partner, perhaps because of adverse previous experiences.  Where online dating is useful at an older age, is that it gives people the chance to eliminate those to whom they are not attracted early on, before meeting up.

7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship After 50

Whether you’ve been with the same person for 30 years or you’re finding new love half a century into your life, it’s always the right time to brush up on your relationship skills or learn new ones. Maybe things have gotten stagnant with your spouse, or maybe you’ve found that dating has changed since you last tried it.

It’s never too late to learn these seven secrets to a successful relationship after fifty.

1. Open your heart fearlessly

To be successful in a relationship, you can’t be afraid to be yourself and share yourself. Real love requires honesty. Honesty about who you are, what you believe, how you feel, and what you want. Total commitment to reality and honesty supports the integrity of a relationship. You must be open and willing to share, listen, and understand. A happy relationship and a full life require the intention to learn about your partner and yourself and to continue to grow.

2. Create emotional safety

Healthy relationships depend on both parties feeling safe with each other, trusting that you are there for each other. Your circle of trust gets more important as you get older and as you must cope with the changes and anxieties that aging involves. For emotional safety to exist, you need to feel that your partner truly hears you, sees you, and accepts you as you are and that he or she wants the best for you. And you must be this way for your partner, too.

3. Address conflict in a spirit of love

A successful relationship requires successful conflict. Approach every disagreement with your partner with the intention to listen fully and respond in a spirit of love. Instead of responding in a knee-jerk way when your partner says or does something that upsets you, examine your feelings and mindfully consider what the other person said. It may surprise you how big a gulf there can be between what you think you heard—what you feel you heard—and what your partner actually said. Listen as much or maybe more than you talk, focus on common threads rather than differences and look for a solution that pleases both of you.

4. Practice positive communication

The way you communicate with your partner is vital because what you say—and how you say it—affects how your significant other feels, and emotions drive behavior. Some key principles of positive communication:

Avoid negative language. When you use words like no and don’t, you invoke your partner’s natural resistance to being controlled. Instead, tell your partner what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Avoid criticism. Remember: Success builds success. Instead of focusing on the things you dislike about your partner, focus first on what he or she does well and connect that to the behavior you’d like to see him or her change.

Give your undivided attention. One of the biggest mistakes I see couples make is that even when they both have the best intentions and follow all the advice they’ve read online about communication (“I” statements, etc.), they’ll answer their cell phone or glance at a text message while talking to their partner. This seemingly small behavior has a big impact on how you make your partner feel. As a marriage and family therapist, the advice I give to all my patients is this: Give someone the focus they deserve.

Tell them what they mean to you. Sometimes you may start to think that your partner can read your heart and you don’t need words. Totally not true. Words are still necessary.Consciously choose to actively show appreciation—finding things to appreciate in your partner to enhance the good feelings between you.

5. Support your partner’s independence.

No matter how close you are to your significant other, you remain individuals with your own needs and interests. Spending time alone doing your own thing, shows mutual respects, not relationship strain. Advocate for your partner’s goals, and accept and support each other’s life goals.

6. Enjoy special time together.

Don’t forget to have fun together! It’s important to go on new adventures and try new things. Don’t have a typical “date night.” Instead of dinner and a movie, take a class together or go on a day trip somewhere. As you grow older and face mortality, your relationship with your significant other provides an opportunity to explore your humanity and seek a better and deeper understanding of life.

7. Build a relationship with yourself

The relationship we have with ourselves is the key to success for all the relationships we build with others. When you are happy and fulfilled independent of others, you are most attractive to the kind of healthy, happy people you want in your life.

If you’re dating for the first time in a long time, don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s the only way people will know what you want and what you’re about. If you’re celebrating your golden wedding anniversary, remember that even though it may feel you and your partner are one person, you still need to say, “I love you” and show your appreciation. Show affection. Have fun. Have sex! Love with the intensity of a teenager and thewisdom that your years on this earth have given you.

Why You Should Never Try to Change Your Behavior

It was then that I realized that I’d been scratching my right thumb on the top of the steering wheel by rubbing it vigorously backwards and forwards. As I was doing that, my extended right index finger was moving quickly in what looked like a pointing motion.

Someone’s scratching is another person’s pointing.

This is a fairly innocuous example of what can sometimes be dramatic differences between the insider’s, first-person perspective of behavior, and an observer’s, third-person perspective of behavior. Have you ever been asked “Why did you do that?” only to reply “Do what? I wasn’t doing anything.”?

We can never fully appreciate how our behavior appears to others just as others can never know the experience our behavior has for us. When I go through a stretching routine after having been on a run, I move my arms and legs in particular ways. Stretching for me, though, is creating particular feelings in my muscles. I definitely need to move my limbs to create those feelings but it’s the feelings that are important to me, not the configurations I place my body in to create those feelings.

A couple of days ago I wasn’t getting the feeling in my hip flexors that I had been able to create previously so I googled “hip flexor stretches” and found a couple of pictures of different body positions that looked like they might be suitable. Then I went through a Goldilocks routine of “too much,” “too little,” “Ah, just right” until I found a new way of creating the samefeeling of stretched hip flexors that I had previously experienced.

My description here seems to make a mockery of the title of this article because I definitely changed my behavior. Well, uh-huh. OK, sort of. What I changed, from my perspective, was the feeling I was getting in my hip flexors. It was what I wanted, not how I acted, that was crucial here. The positioning of my arms and legs was definitely affected by what I wanted but it was what I wanted that was paramount.

When you drive your car to work in the morning and then back home again in the afternoon, you’re consuming fuel and helping out with the global devouring of the world’s natural energy resources. But is that really what you’re doing from your perspective? Of course not. You’re just transporting yourself to the place you want to be. Other things are affected by that but, for the most part, you’re only aware of what it is you want.

In essence, we are want-satisfying, or goal-achieving, or state-maintaining creatures. Those times when you think you want (ah, there’s another want!) to change your behavior are usually the times when two wants are engaged in an evenly matched arm-wrestle. You really want to shed those last few pounds but you also want to go out with your friends and not draw attention to yourself. Or you really want to leave your sneaky, dishonest partner but you also want the security and companionship of a relationship. Or you know you should get out for some exercise but you really want to finish this report before the rest of the house wakes up.

It’s never behavior we need to change. We don’t even know our behavior except for the feelings, sounds, and sights it creates for us. So what does need to change when things aren’t going the way we want? Well, wants are always satisfied relative to other wants and also in particular contexts. If you want to eat pizza, you better make sure you’ve booked a table at an Italian, rather than a Vietnamese, restaurant. Taking yourself off to a Vietnamese restaurant when your pizza-want requires placating is never a happy event.

Perhaps most importantly though, if you’re not getting what you want at any point in time, first check that all of your wants are playing nicely together in the sandpit! Maybe you’re becoming increasingly irritated at this insufferably, but superficially, polite Sunday lunch you’re having with your partner’s family. Right at this moment you’d rather be anywhere else on the planet – or even off the planet. Could it be that the rage you’re keeping a lid on is the steam that’s coming out of the brawl between you wanting to support your partner but also wanting to tell her family how ashamed they should be of the way they’ve treated her all these years?

For any particular want or set of wants there are always wants in the background that are using the wants at the front of your mind to make sure the background remains calm, well-ordered, exemplary (just like in the Mary Poppins’ song). Finding out what these wants are, and focussing on them for a time, will help to restore harmony to the warring wants.

So when you’re feeling an intense “Grrr,” think about what you want, then why you want it. What do you really want? No, really!

When things need changing, it’s the wants that need attention not the behavior. Getting to know all that you want could be the most important learning you ever make.