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December 2014

Mailbag: She Says It’s Casual, but She Acts Like We’re Serious

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | No Comments

The mailbag is a Q&A column based on the emails you guys send me. If you have a question related to dating, relationships, or psychology, click here to send me your question and your email might be the next one chosen.

This week I got a monster of an email from 18 year old college student “Sam”, who wrote in asking why his girlfriend acts serious if she doesn’t want a serious relationship. You can read it all, or skip to the bottom where I give you the TL;DR version. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Ryan,

I just finished reading your article about casual relationships and taking them further. My situation is a little different, and I was hoping to get some information or at least confirmation from you.

I’m 18, and my casual “girlfriend” is 18 as well. I met her in one of my college classes, I liked her, but I saw her with her boyfriend the next day and thought no more about it until the end of the semester. Last day of class, class ends and everyone starts walking to their cars to go home.

[Name censored] and I talk for half an hour straight and exchange numbers before leaving. In fact, she mentions that her boyfriend is leaving and she doesn’t do long distance relationships, and she asks for my number at the end! We talk more and more and eventually get into a “casual relationship.” It seems like her ex was a crappy guy, and she seems pretty drained emotionally from that relationship.

When she talks to me about our relationship she says that she just wants to keep it casual and have fun. ( we have had sex once already, and she is eager to do it again.) Her actions however, speak far differently.

She texts me 24/7, asks me how I am, what I’m doing, is sad when I tell her I’m going to bed (after staying up and talking with her until the wee hours of the morning) and many other things that would seem to indicate a desire for a serious relationship.

I got her a present for Christmas after my friends told me I should, even though I had doubts, and she was very happy with it. However, just this last week, after getting into a fight with her ex after he’s moved away (why does she bother to still talk to him?) she tells me that she feels like we’re moving too fast and maybe we should end things so neither of us get hurt.

She also says she loves the present but can’t keep it. (Which I believe is bs. I’m pretty sure we’re both already too invested in this relationship to end things without being hurt.) I managed to talk her out of it, telling her I’ll move only as fast as she wants, and I seemed to have made her feel a lot better. She even apologized for saying that stuff to me, and I told her not to be sorry, and that I was glad she got it into the open so we could discuss it.

Now things are back to the way they were: labelling the relationship as casual and acting committed. (She also mentioned that she would not sleep with another guy while she was with me.) Now, a week from now, one of her friend’s has his house open for over a week, and plans to host parties every night. [Name censored] and I are planning to stay there together the whole time (sleeping together of course.)

Now, why does she act like this? Is she still so emotionally distraught over her previous relationship and needs more time? (She also broke up with him early just as we got into a relationship) Am I going about it the right way? Sorry for the really long e-mail, I felt like I needed to give you as many relative details as I could, and Thank You for your time.

-S.

Whew!

Alright, so here’s what I got so far:

1) You met your girlfriend in class, but at the time she was still in a relationship
2) She dropped a hint at the end of the semester that her boyfriend is moving away, and you went for it
3) She says it’s casual, but acts like.. well, like an 18 year old girl
4) After a fight with her ex, she wanted to end things with you
5) Now you want to know what the hell is going on

Well my friend, first off I’d like to welcome you to the world of post-high school dating. Be prepared for things to be exactly like high school, despite what people have been telling you for the last couple years.

The vast majority of my readers are in their mid 20s – early 40s, so I imagine there will be many nostalgic smiles as people remember their 18 year old escapades. My totally honest opinion is that she’s young and doesn’t know what she wants yet, but I doubt you’ll find that answer very satisfying.

Her behaviour seems to be on the needy side, and that she went directly from previous guy to you also supports that. But that’s pretty much every girl under 25 – and many well beyond that – so no surprise there. The interesting thing is she’s still fighting with her ex after they’ve broken up and he’s moved away.

Does this mean she isn’t over him? Well, this is a perfect time to get better at relationship communication. This is something I just can’t answer – maybe she’ll be willing to tell you if you bring it up.

I’d say you’re doing fine. If your goal is to keep it casual, keep doing what you’re doing.

If you want to get serious with her, ask her what serious means. Since she’s already sexually exclusive with you, texts you non-stop, and plans on spending an entire week with you, where could it go from here?

Personally I wouldn’t do a serious relationship yet. Most people don’t level out until they’re nearing their late 20s (I generally don’t work with couples under 25) so it’s a really unstable time in terms of identity and development.

On top of that, you don’t know what kind of crazy opportunities are gonna come up in your life. Travelling, exchange studies in foreign countries, hot girls you meet while you’re drinking with buds, it’s primetime for discovering who you are and what you like.

Good luck man, hope things work out for you.

-Ryan

Does Having Sex Too Soon Ruin the Chances of a Relationship?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 112 Comments

Before I wrote this, I searched up on the topic and read every result in the first couple pages of Google. NO ONE agrees… talk about frustrating! I was pulling my hair out halfway through, and I don’t want you to do that. You have really nice hair.

How could this be? Why are half the dating columnists saying one thing, and half saying the opposite?

Unfortunately the majority of people giving dating advice are basing their opinion entirely on personal experience. That’s like going fishing and not catching anything, then coming back and telling people there aren’t any fish. It just doesn’t make any sense.

 

Having Sex Too Soon Doesn’t Ruin the Chance of a Relationship… with One Exception

 

Ever had sex with someone, only to regret it and feel it was too soon? Maybe you even blamed the timing of your first romp in the sheets (or elsewhere) for the lack of romantic development. You wonder if you should hold out longer next time – maybe then the next guy will stick around and actually get to know you.

The thing that really pisses me off about this is that it takes two people to have sex. If you have sex with someone on the first date, THEY also have sex with YOU on the first date. If you’re easy, they’re just as easy. The facepalm required for this level of double standard would be fatal.

And yet, this perspective continues. Women are told to repress their sexual urges so they don’t scare men away. Great strategy right? “What you want is unattractive to men… just suppress yourself and wait for his approval.”

Shame is something that should NEVER be associated with sex. Whatever you think is best, that’s the best for you. Whatever your sexual kinks and fantasies, awesome. However long you think is the right time to wait before having sex, that’s the right amount of time.

Any guy who thinks less of a woman for having sex with him shouldn’t be dating. If you feel like you have to play games to keep someone in your life, they aren’t someone worth keeping. Cut your losses, be thankful you figured this out sooner rather than later, and move on.

 

So What’s the One Exception?

 

The only rule about when you should have sex is waiting until you’re ready. Assuming you’re ready, it doesn’t matter if you hook up on the first date or the fifth. If you aren’t ready and do it anyway, having sex too soon can definitely ruin the chances of having a relationship.

Having sex before you’re ready means you disrespected yourself. Usually you feel shitty, uncertain, you wonder if they’re judging you, and this can lead to needy behaviour. Neediness happens because you lost your own validation, and now you’re trying to regain your self-esteem by getting validation from someone else.

This is toxic. One of the keys to healthy relationships is being internally validated, rather than relying on other things or people to help you feel good. If this describes you or your situation, here’s what you should do.

First, figure out why this happened. There are three basic scenarios, and my advice to you depends on which scenario you’re in. Were you pressured? Did you have sex because you think it’s expected? Was it just because you were drunk or on something?

If you were pressured, don’t spend anymore energy on the relationship. No one worth keeping will pressure you into choices that make you feel bad about yourself.

If you think it’s expected of you, stop and ask yourself why these expectations influence your decisions. What are your expectations? What are you looking for? Focus on your own wants and needs.

If you were drunk or stoned, well… hopefully you had a good time. We’ve all had drunk hook ups and there’s no reason to feel bad about them.

Did you end up in a relationship following a hook up? Are you wondering about your relationship? I’d love to hear your story – tell me what’s going on in the comments below.

Cognitive Reframing

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 14 Comments

Cognitive reframing is extremely effective, if you know how and when to use it.

Used properly – and consistently – it will help you eliminate negative thoughts, challenge limiting beliefs, and become a happier person.

Thoughts shape beliefs, beliefs shape emotions, and emotions shape behaviour. If you want to change something you think, feel, or do, start by using reframing to shape your thoughts.

Let’s get to it…

First Off… What IS Cognitive Reframing?

Cognitive reframing – also known as cognitive restructuring – is a psychological technique that allows you to actively reprogram your brain. In short, if you change your beliefs, you create a real, physical change in your brain.

Your brain is like a muscle with many different parts, and just like a muscle, the parts you use often get bigger and stronger. There was a study done on cab drivers in London, comparing their brain scans with brain scans of average people.

They found the brain area responsible for mapping and memorizing routes (the hippocampus) is more developed in cab drivers. And not just more developed, but physically bigger.

When you think negative thoughts, you strengthen negative parts of your mind. A negative thought becomes a negative belief, a negative belief becomes a negative emotion, a negative emotion becomes negative behaviour.

No matter what you want to change – something you do, something you feel, or something you believe, the change begins with your thoughts.

Let’s run through a mental exercise to see exactly how cognitive reframing works in real life. After the example, I’ll break the process down into steps so you’ll be able to apply them right away.

Say you’re telling your friend a story. You notice him looking around, and attribute it to disinterest. Seconds later, he checks his phone. Now you KNOW you’re boring, and feel embarrassed. You question yourself, and for the rest of the day you feel shitty and insecure.

In this situation, the conclusion seems bullet proof. But it isn’t so – the idea that your perception matches reality is called “naive realism”. The truth is, it’s all a matter of perception.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you perceive what happens to you.”-Click to Tweet</>

 

Cognitive Reframing in 5 Easy Steps

1) Learn About Basic Cognitive Errors
You don’t perceive reality accurately. Between what happens, you perceiving it, and you drawing conclusions about it, there’s a lot of room for mistakes. Here’s a list of common mental errors.

2) Develop Mental Awareness
Once you know what to be aware of, it’s time to start practising. A trained mind is like an exclusive club – before anyone gets in, they go through security.

That’s exactly what I’m asking you to do now. If you’re harbouring negative thoughts, it’s because your security is weak. You let in some lame ass people and they’re ruining your club.

3) Challenge Your Conclusions
This is the most important step of cognitive reframing. Once you understand the types of mental errors and develop an awareness of them, it’s time to start challenging your ideas.

In our example, challenging the ideas means looking at alternatives. Does your friend usually look around while you talk? Is it just you, or does he do it to other people? Is he usually attentive? Could he be expecting an important phone call or text? Could there be something going on he might not want to talk about?

Usually, this process happens at the subconscious level. Your brain would’ve quickly ran through these options, and based on your past experiences, brought the most likely scenario to your conscious awareness.

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”-Click to Tweet</>

4) Replace Faulty Beliefs
Faulty beliefs are the fuel of negative patterns. Find and replace the faulty beliefs, and you’ll free yourself from negative patterns in your life. The most extreme attempt at this was in the 1600’s, when some French guy named Descartes ran off into solitude in an attempt to examine and replace every single faulty belief he held.

A much less lonely option is to deal with negative beliefs as they come up. Each time you reframe a negative thought, you prevent one more brick being added to the wall.

If you really want to go next level and dive into your mind, think about WHY those negative beliefs came to mind in the first place.

5) Practical Tips
All of this is useless if you don’t use it. Here are some ways you can actively practice cognitive reframing right away, in your day to day life.

The Elastic Band Technique: Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and whenever you have a negative thought, snap it lightly. It’s not to hurt yourself, just a gentle physical sensation to raise awareness.

Watch Your Words: The language you use creates your reality. Do you really HATE your job? Is the food really disgusting, or just not that good? Are you really a useless idiot, or did you just make a mistake?

Look For Positives: On a day to day basis, whether you feel positive or negative is mostly a matter of perception. For every negative thought, there’s a positive counter, and vice versa. The state of your mind will reflect where you place your focus, so be mindful of your choices.

Dirty dishes – an annoying chore, or a sign that you’re eating well? Stuck in traffic – an infuriating combination of bad driving and bureaucratic incompetence, or time to relax and listen to a new podcast?

Have a negative pattern you’re trying to break? Struggling with an insecurity? Feeling anxious because of troubling thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know!