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Aug 03 2010

Is Your Boyfriend a Werewolf?

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that mayseem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.
Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse. But here’s the key part: He wants to be released from his curse and the only way that can happen is for someone who really loves him to shoot him through the heart with a silver bullet. He has to be in a relationship with someone he really loves and she has to see the darker side of who he is and then she has to destroy him.
Someone who approved this script said, “That’s right. That makes a certain kind of sense.”
How does this weird lesson apply to the successful creation of a long term relationship?

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Jul 23 2010

Tisha B’av and Jewish Grief, versus “Get Over It!” and “The Power of Now.”

By Philip Belove, Ed.D. ,,

“When I look behind, as I am compelled to look, before I can gather strength to proceed on my Journey” –Stanley Kuntiz, from his poem, The Layers.

This blog starts out with a story about an argument I couldn’t win. It ends with a teaser about the next blog entry, which will be about forgiveness.

But about that argument. It was difficult for me. I like to be an agreeable person and don’t like disagreeing. Yet disagreeing is a skill I feel obliged to practice, along with speaking up.  Still, I work hard to find ways to do it respectfully.  My commitment to being able to argue well is, in part I believe, because I’m Jewish. In our tradition, every word in the holiest books is surrounded by pages of discussions about what they really mean. Having your own opinion is an obligation of Jewish adulthood.

But anyway, the argument I had with the woman went like this:  Her new boyfriend told her about his grief for his ex. She said, “If you still have such feelings you aren’t ready for a new relationship.”  He said, “I still have grief and I might always. It was a genuine loss.”  She said, “Live in the present.” He said, “I can’t. I’m Jewish.” So they broke up.

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May 31 2010

Little Steps that can Make a Big and Positive Difference in a Relationship.

What’s the biggest challenge in dating at midlife? I don’t think it’s finding an available single. The dating at midlife sub-culture is enormous. Census figures suggest that more than 30% of all adults are not married. It’s easy to find another single person who is looking for a relationship.  It’s even easy to get into a  relationship if you aren’t particular.  The real challenge is once you are in.

And it’s not so much the relationship per se that’s the problem. It’s the process of designing the relationship.

Every relationship needs a little tailoring. (I once read an interview with a fashion designer and the question was, how does an ordinary person, who can’t spend thousands on clothes, dress to look good. The designer said “tailoring.” He said that even those t-shirts the movie stars are wearing get a little bit of sewing here and there.)

The challenge is in finding a way to tailor the relationship to fit well for both of you. In other words, you both need to find a method for negotiating that relationship.

Every friendship has its little storms. The challenge in dating at midlife is creating a climate that, despite the ordinary storms, is so pleasant you want to settled down and live in it. How do you do that?

The Gottman Ratio.

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May 20 2010

Ten Commandments, Shavuot, Zen, Happiness and Relationship Success. by Dr. Belove

Complex title, I know. But the pieces do fit.

This week I joined friends to celebrate Shavuot (Shah VOO oat) the Jewish holiday commemorating the day that Moses was said to have carried down from the mountain the tablets with the Ten Commandments.  The celebration was an all night study and discussion party, sort of like a pleasant version of a finals week all-nighter, with tea and cookies and singing.  Among other things we talked about something the Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, had written about the Ten Commandments.  (Bear with me.  One point will lead to the next and will end up with me sharing something vital that I re-learned about how to be a good relationship partner. )

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May 20 2010

The All Important Difference between Forgiving and Trusting

“He cheated on me. I forgave him. Then he cheated on me again and I forgave him again and then he cheated on me and I can’t forgive him anymore.”

People confuse forgiving someone with trusting someone. You can forgive someone without trusting them. You can trust someone without forgiving them.

A forgiving person is someone who calms down quickly. It is always a shock when someone you trust and care for does something mean or hurtful to you. Your first tendency is either to run away or hurt them back. Somehow or other, you have to absorb the shock and resist the temptation to just react. You need time to think and calm down.

One time, almost 25 years ago, I started to rage at my youngest son. He was ten. His older sister stepped between us and slapped me in the face. She was protecting him.

Time stopped. I don’t know which of us was more shocked. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I didn’t know what to do. The temptation to slap her back wasn’t all that great, thank goodness. But at the same time, I knew that I had to do something. I said to her, “This is important. I need time to think. I want you to be grounded until you and I talk about this. Not today, though, and maybe not tomorrow.” I think that was the first time I understood forgiveness.

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May 20 2010

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, And Learn to Trust Again

Dating at Midlife: How Can You Trust Again?
By Philip Belove, Ed.D.

If you are dating someone, you are probably considering letting him or her get pretty close to you. Yet at this midlife stage, you have probably also been involved in one or more major relationships that failed or ended poorly. That is why one of the most common questions asked by ThirdAgers is, “Can I trust this new person?”

It takes a while to get to know someone, and good judgment doesn’t descend upon you overnight. It is something you have to work at. Here are a few ways to start practicing:

  • Learn to trust yourself: Trusting another person more than you trust yourself is the definition of naiveté. In midlife, you have to develop your own judgment and honor it above the wishes of others.
  • Pay attention to your inklings: You know the tiny voices that tell you about things thatmight be true, but you just can’t be sure? These are the seeds of your intuition. Don’t dismiss them. They help you develop caution and they also help you discover opportunities. When you are dating, you usually have little feelings — good or bad — about something or someone. Never, ever brush those feelings aside.
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May 20 2010

Have You Been Dating a Werewolf?

Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that may seem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.

Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse.

OK, so maybe your current flame isn’t sporting the wild hair and teeth, but something about the werewolf does remind me of certain stories I hear about people on the dating scene. Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of psychological “werewolves”:

  1. They seem to have two personalities; one is glamorous, charming, vulnerable and winning, while and the other may be spoiled, envious, vindictive, petty or mean.
  2. They want to believe — and want you to believe — that only the nice personality is who they really are. That other part? That is just a curse, a condition or a product of a disturbed childhood.
  3. Behind their words, you will hear and be moved by this emotional howl: “Love me. I am lonely! Save me. I am suffering! Be careful. I am dangerous!” The bottom-line message? “Be with me but be willing to make some sacrifices for love.”
  4. They like you. They do. They appreciate your company. Yet they have an addiction — whether it’s gambling, drinking, flirting, shopping — and they want you to ignore it.
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May 20 2010

Physical Attraction True False Quiz

Physical attraction?

Very important.

It’s not the only factor in choosing a mate. Probably you could sort all the reasons why you would want a relationship with someone into three categories.

First, there is just the animal connection. Every creature on earth bugs, fish, birds, marsupials and mammals comes in two sexes. The animal connection is important and it is deep. But it’s not all.

We are also social animals and we live in tribes and families and communities and cultures, all with intricate demands which we honor. Any mating of two people has to answer to social realities.

And finally, we are spiritual animals. We each believe that our individual lives do matter and we care about how we use this gift of our life.

So in the great scheme of things, as important as physical chemistry is, it is not the whole taco. Even so, it is not to be ignored. Here is a quiz to help you think about some of the aspect of physical chemistry. All the answers are based on psychological research. Answer each question, true or false.

1. Physical Chemistry develops over time.
False. Relationships can develop over time. Social and spiritual considerations can outweigh matters of physical chemistry. But physical chemistry is immediate. It is an animal response. It is connected to immediate sense perception, and it is based on mechanisms which evolved over the million years when humans were just another kind of wild animal.

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May 20 2010

How to not get ahead of yourself when you are creating a new relationship.

Evaluating Relationship Readiness in Yourself and in a Potential Partner.

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.

Being single at midlife is a form of midlife crisis.

“Oh, no, not me,” you say. “I’m the good one. The crisis is what the other person is having.” But the truth is, when a couple breaks up, they are both in a crisis.

A crisis is a situation in which, no matter what you do, something new is going to happen.

There are doors in life that only go one way. Once you’ve walked through them, you can’t walk back. Being suddenly single at midlife is one of those doors. And someone who’s walked through it is in a crisis.

Is a person in midlife crisis really ready for a long term relationship?

Usually not. But there are lots of people out there like that, not yet ready for re-marriage or its equivalent and none the less acting like they are. There are others who don’t know what they are looking for. As you no doubt know, not everyone out there is honest, even with themselves.

What determines the kind of a relationship a person in a midlife crisis is ready for?

Relationship readiness. There are four stages to a midlife crisis. In each stage there is a change in both the kind of relationship a person wants and what the person is capable of. Each stage has a different kind of relationship readiness.

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May 20 2010

“Okay. What’s this guy really like?”

Will Your Partner Treat You Well?
By Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Director, Dating At Midlife Research Project

When people first enter into relationships, they are generally on their best behavior. However, even in the early stages, new couples reveal how they will treat each other in the future. The problem is that this critical information is often obscured by the swarm of other new information that comes when you first meet someone.

So how do you know how someone is going to treat you over the long haul when you are just starting a relationship? There are loads of clues. Here are some of them. (I’m going to talk about how women can read men. The same principles apply in the other direction.)

How Does He Treat His Male Friends?
I have a friend who has loads of people he’s angry at, who did him wrong, who he doesn’t speak to anymore. I thought I was the exception to all those other people. This was my vanity. The inevitable happened, and one day I found myself on the other end of the same kind of fight he’d been describing.

What If He Says That He Treats Women Differently?
This is courtship behavior. However, when it’s time to deal with differences in situations of conflict, people actually treat men and women much the same. If they have a tendency to bully, intimidate and be aggressive, that comes out. If they have a tendency to manipulate and be dishonest, that comes out. And if they are fair, forgiving and direct, that comes out as well.

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