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I Smell A Rut

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I just got dumped by a guy who swore he was ready to settle down (after years of serial monogamy). His relationship history reminded me of the man you wrote about recently who had been married and divorced five times and was on relationship number six. Woman number six wrote you, "He's in his 50s; his marriage-hopping has to stop." Obviously, she's fooling herself, but what's his deal? What's anyone's who gets married over and over? — Morbidly Curious

Some model their marriage on their parents' and some on their parents' car lease. (Sadly, hanging a new-car smell pine tree around the wife's neck doesn't seem to stem the flow of trade-ins.)

Everybody wants to believe their love will last, but when a guy's marrying Wife Number Five, some honesty in vow-making seems called for — for example, "Till mild boredom do us part." And in keeping with the trend of using movie lines in the ceremony, the groom can turn to the minister at the end and state the Schwarzenegger-accented obvious: "I'll be back."

The notion that the only valid relationship is one that ends with the partners in twin chairs on the veranda of Senior Acres, rocking off into the sunset together, keeps some of the wrong people chasing it. The truth is, some people just aren't wired for forever. That's okay — providing they're honest with themselves and their partners that for them, lasting relationships last only so long ("when two become as one" and then one starts getting all fidgety for the next one).

Even for those who are determined to make forever work, there's a problem, and it's called "hedonic adaptation" — getting acclimated to positive additions to our lives and no longer getting the lift out of them that we did at first. This happens with boob jobs, lottery wins — and marriage, explained happiness researcher Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky on my weekly radio show. Lyubomirsky writes in her terrific book, "The How of Happiness," of a 15-year study in Germany showing that couples got a big boost in happiness when they got married — a boost that, on average, lasted two years.

According to Lyubomirsky, research shows that the most powerful ways to combat hedonic adaptation are adding variety and expressing gratitude. You add variety by shaking up your date night routine, going on vacation (even a quick one), and varying your daily life in small, fun ways. You can express gratitude by buying or making some little thing to say how much you appreciate your partner or by verbally admiring his or her hotitude and wonderful qualities.

Lyubomirsky explained, "Gratitude is almost by definition an inhibitor of adaptation," because adaptation means we're taking something for granted. "Being grateful for something is appreciating it, savoring it — i.e., NOT taking it for granted."

Predicting whether a particular guy is a romance junkie can be tough. (It's not like a meth habit. There are no scabs.) A girlfriend-hopper might swear he's ready to settle down and believe it — until the moment he realizes he's not. You'll want to believe him; we all tend to lead with our ego: "I'll be the one he's different for." This is risky if your ovaries are on the clock. If, however, you can just live in the moment and hope for lots more moments...well, there's always that chance you'll end up being his eighth and only.

On Crowd Nine

The man I've been in a long-term on-and-off relationship with has started seeing someone else. He's cagey about the details, but what's really bothering me is that she has no clue that I exist. I'm tempted to write her an anonymous note, telling her that I was here first, have been here a long time, and am continuing to have sex with her Lothario. — Pen Poised

Like many people around the holidays, your thoughts turn to the have-nots: "Hi, I believe you have not heard that I'm having sex with your new boyfriend." The reality is, you're looking to escape feeling vulnerable by lashing out. (When life gives you lemons...break some other woman's windows with them.) The "anonymous" note is really about telling this woman, "Hey! I'm here! I'm lovable! I'm important!" Well, there's a better way to say those things, and it won't even take a stamp. Just call this man and say goodbye. This means finally admitting that the parameters of this relationship aren't working for you. Come on...you're well-aware you aren't his one and only, yet there you are complaining, "Waiter, waiter! There's a harem in my soup!" What is there to say to you but "Yes, madam, of course there is. It's the Lothario special. It comes with other women on the side."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of "I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society."

COPYRIGHT 2012 AMY ALKON

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

It's Advice Goddess Radio! Amy Alkon answers your questions on love, dating, sex, relationships, and manners. Listen live every Sunday from 7-8 p.m. Pacific time, or download the podcast at the link. The call-in number during the show is 347-326-9761. This week, Amy Alkon talks with insightful and inspiring forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Smith on men, men’s rights, and men’s relationships.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/2012/01/01/advice-goddess-radio-amy-alkon



Comments

14 Comments | Post Comment
LW2 -- What upsets you isn't that this other woman has no clue that you exist. What upsets you is that there is another woman, period. Writing some letter telling her that you have dibs because you were there first, so there, is the adult version of "nah, nah, nah, nah boo boo." And more to the point, your issue isn't with HER. You issue is with Mr. Lothario. Apparently you are under the delusion that the fact that you were there first and have been around longer means that you are not nearly as much of an idiot as this other woman. Bad news, sweet pea, if anything, YOU are the idiot, because YOU are the one who continues to sleep with a guy who clearly has no interest in being faithful to you. At least the other woman can claim ignorance!

Moreover, you seem to think your problem will be solved if you scare off this other woman. And I suppose it will...until Lothario finds some OTHER woman. Tell Lothario what you want and then mean what you say -- which means, if he doesn't stop his wandering ways, end the relationship. Your problem is not solved by scaring off the other woman, because then Lothario is choosing you because the other woman is gone, as opposed to choosing you because you are who he wants.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:17 PM
LW1--Some people are serial brides or grooms. Personally I would question from day one the sincerity of anyone who has had more than two marriages. Albert Einstein once famously said "“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” This holds true for personal relationships too. Often serial spouses (is that a new term?) use the same formula for each successive relationship with disastrous results. These are people who have failed to recognize where they've gone wrong with each of their relationships and continue trying in vain. When meeting new people who have been through one failed marriage (or relationship for that matter) after the next, assuming he or she is being honest in disclosing their past relationships. one should be very, very skeptical.

LW2--"The man I've been in a long-term on-and-off relationship with has started seeing someone else. He's cagey about the details, but what's really bothering me is that she has no clue that I exist." Duh! You're a liability. You might blow the cover off the ruse your (ex)boyfriend is employing to win his new lady love's love and adoration. Forget about writing a bitchy note to the new girlfriend warning her off your "territory." Face the fact that you're 'Plan B', you always were and you always will be then run, don't walk, to the nearest exit. With a little self-respect you might come to realize that you deserve an honest to goodness boyfriend and all that entails.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris
Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:13 PM
Chris, it happens. People change/outgrow each other and yes, it can be sad. My marriage number 3 has lasted 20 years and is here to stay. I don't regret marrying one and two, and I don't regret that we divorced. I'm just eternally grateful that I don't live in a time when marriage was a life and death sentence, because I'd rather be dead than married to either one of them now. And honestly, if number three had happened forty years ago, we'd probably have broken up. Timing is everything. I'm a very lucky girl.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:56 AM
Re: Chris
I'm about to marry #3. One divorced, one died. Glad my SO doesn't question my sincerity, nor do I question his, since this is marriage #3 for him as well.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Kelle
Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:52 AM
@Chris, Maggie L & Kelle -- I don't know that I'd question the sincerity of someone who has had more than two marriages, but I might question whether they've been truly honest with THEMSELVES about what they want and need. In other words, I wouldn't question that they're being honest with me and that they are sincere in their desire to be with me in a (hopefully) lifelong relationship -- but I might question if they really know and understand themselves and know and understand what it takes to be in a lifelong relationship. I don't know that that would be fair of me, but as I've only been married once so far (17 years in May -- woohoo!), and it's my husband's first marriage, as well, and both of us are the progeny of couples that now have been happily married for 50 (or more) years, I definitely don't claim to know what the heck I'm talking about on this topic.

My guess (and again, no expertise or experience to back this up) is that the real question is what has (and hasn't) been learned from the past relationships. If you're not learning, or you're learning the wrong lesson, then it seems the odds of you eventually "getting it right" seem to me to be much lower.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:07 AM
I think the concept of gratitude is not often discussed, but hugely important and I thank Amy for bringing it up. I have been married for a long time to a man I met when I was ten years old. Instant attraction, and luckily for us, lasting love. But it wasn't always easy. I learned to appreciate little things he did for me...had a C-section when my son was born, and he took care of me in ways that not even the nurses did. Took care of both the baby and me for the first week after we got home from the hospital. I saw a new side of this person who was not always nice, and it taught me to appreciate him and find ways to express that back. Years later, we both do little and not so little things to please each other. Stupid stuff like getting his car washed, or buying his favorite wine, or cooking his favorite thing. He took my undergrad and grad diplomas and got them beautifully framed for Christmas a couple of years ago. Cried like a baby over that. Anyway, my point is that expressing gratitude is major, as well as doing things that might inspire gratitude in your partner. OK...enough....getting a tissue....
Comment: #6
Posted by: Carly O
Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:07 AM
Two of my cousins have each been married 5 times, their sister 3 times, and their brother twice. The problem in their family, and probably many others, was the unrealistic expectations they all shared of what a marriage is. My aunt and uncle NEVER fought. They never argued. They had very minor disagreements, but one or the other always conceded right away. Their kids saw this and thought that this is the way a good marriage is. They did have a good marriage, but you would have to be extremely mild-mannered in the first place, and then find someone equally mild, who had the same life vision as you, in order to duplicate what they had. My cousins did not always show the best judgement in choosing mates in the first place, and it took them a long time to realize that disagreeing doesn't mean you shouldn't be together.
I've also know people (dated a couple) who are just hooked on that euphoric honeymoon phase of love. If their heart stops racing at the sound of their beloved's name, and they actually can wait until the door is closed before ripping each other's clothes off, then the romance is over and it's time to move on.
Another good reason to actually TALK to the person you love before making any big commitments - find out what their expectations are and share yours. It doesn't guarantee that you will stay together, but it's a good place to start.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Shirley
Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:32 PM
LW2-
Writing to her to inform that you have "priority" is beyond silly, it's demeaning - acting like a dog marking its territory... ironically, it's the male who does that. Depending on how she reacts to your little love note, what are you two gonna do, cattily scratch each other's eyes out, fighting over him as if he were property? He has something to say about this, I think, and if he had wanted this woman to know about your "senior position", then she'd know all about you. Ah-ha - now we're getting to it.

Why are you upset at that woman instead of at Mister Don Juan? He's not just HER Lothario, he's also yours, and you're directing your anger at the wrong person, Miss Back Burner. Namely, even before you're mad at anyone, you're angry at yourself for allowing yourself to be treated so shoddily. I would suggest you start fixing this problem by putting an end to this yurunda. Pick up the phone or set up a rendez-vous and inform Mister Double Trouble that you've grown tired of being on and (mostly) off, that being lobbed like a tennis ball is not your idea of a relationship and that it's time to move on. You deserve better than this.

Comment: #8
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:09 PM
Lisa - perfect! Really. It IS all about knowing yourself and understanding what you really want (as opposed to what you hear yourself saying you want) My first marriage was right for both of us at the time - I was 19 and he was 21 - but Vietnam was on, he was in the service, I had a baby and when things got back to normal, we had both changed. Drastically. We still talk and there are no hard feelings, but it could never have worked. Number 2 I convinced myself wasn't an alcoholic when in fact he was - but it made me feel needed. Now I realize that if you want to feel needed, take it out in a good service profession - don't marry it! Number 3 is all about the gratitude - I've never been treated so well by anyone and he's taught me how to love in return. Looking back, how crazy is it that the promises or desires of a 19 year old should determine who you're with for the rest of your life?
Comment: #9
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:41 AM
@Maggie Lawrence -- I'm glad what I wrote rang true, because I wasn't being facetious when I said I was writing without any real-life experience or expertise. What you said makes a lot of sense to me. I think a big piece of the puzzle, as well, is the difference between growing together and growing apart. By growing together, I don't necessarily mean that you have to get even closer (though that can happen), but that you're both part of that process. In the case of your first husband, you both of you did some very serious growing up, and it was done apart (literally -- he was in Nam, you were at home). Not that physically being there is the only way it works -- obviously there are plenty of couples with one (or both) of the spouses in the military who do make it work, but there's no question that makes it harder (perhaps if today's technology had existed back then, you two would have had a better chance of growing "together," but perhaps not).

And as for 19-year-olds...I agree with what you had to say about that, too, though ironically enough, my mother was 19 when she got married, and she is still happily married to my father 48 years later, so obviously that can and does work for some. But again, my parents had the good fortune to be physically together that whole time, which gave them a better chance of growing together. They are both totally different people today than they were when they got married -- how could they not be? But because they were both a part of one another's growth process, it worked. It's not just being together physically, of course, but I have to think that helps!
Comment: #10
Posted by: Lisa
Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:55 AM
There are lots of reasons for multiple marriages. My mom was married three times. Her first husband beat her up, her second husband (my dad) died at age 57, and she married again when both she and the groom were 70. They had a very happy 7 years until they died within a year of each other.

My best friend has also been married three times. She and her first husband got married at 19, and he decided he hadn't had a chance to "sow his wild oats". Her second husband cheated on her. Her third marriage is a happy one, so far.

The fact that these two women were married three times had nothing to do with their willingness to make a lifetime commitment.
Comment: #11
Posted by: C Meier
Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:49 AM
Truly, I don't understand what drives people to insist on being drama llamas.

LW2, how can you not see that an anonymous note is going to do nothing but create trouble? It will not "save" this woman from a bad relationship; all it's going to do is look like the vengeful creepy, cheating ex girlfriend who is not yet over her man and worse, doesn't know how to keep her nose out of other peoples' relationship business.

If this guy really is so good in bed that it's worth it to keep having sex with him despite his meandering ways, don't try to change him. You can't control his actions, and believe me, he already knows damn well exactly how you feel, but doesn't give a rat's behind because obviously you're continuing to bang him anyway despite your feelings.

Instead of trying to fix what he does or feels, you should be worrying about what YOU can control 100%...your actions, your health, and your own feelings, knowing the consequences of all your choices.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Paul W
Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:48 PM
Re: Paul W

Very aptly put - LOL!

Comment: #13
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:56 AM
Dear Amy: Today's advice was awesome. I laughed out loud. P.S. I'm going to steal your lemon line.

Comment: #14
Posted by: Diana
Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:41 PM
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