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

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 114 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.

Man in white collared shirt surprised woman in denim jumpsuit with daisies

How To Move From Casual Dating to Serious Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 173 Comments

How exactly do you go from dating someone casually to having a serious relationship with them?

Is it some secret, LSD fuelled desert ritual?

Do you just… ask them?

Or maybe even *shudder* express your feelings?

Casual to Serious: Why Do You Commit?

Most of us have experienced a serious relationship by accident, usually when we really like the person we’re dating and it just naturally develops into something more. Other times you really like someone and it doesn’t work out, and you’ve probably wondered if there was anything you could’ve done differently.

To make yourself a better partner, think about your past relationships. What qualities made you want to get serious with your date? What things turned you off?

Being self-aware of how others perceive you is a huge advantage in dating and relationships. If you’re struggling with this, here’s a short list to help you go from a casual date to a serious mate (so lame, I know)

My Top 3 Casual Dating Tips

1) Be Independent

Some “experts” say you should act unavailable. It’s true that being overly available can seem desperate or unattractive, but the last thing you want to do is play dating games.

If you’re suffering from no-life syndrome, step back and ask yourself why you aren’t having fun on your own. Sure, acting unavailable might work at the casual dating stage, but what happens after that? How long before insecurities, neediness, and jealousy creep in?

Instead of acting unavailable, be independent. Hang out with your friends a couple times a week. Go to the gym. Play the sport you like or pursue one of your interests. Learn an instrument, a language, or take dancing lessons. Value yourself and your own time.

The main thing here is neediness is a killer. Insecure people push for serious relationships for the security it brings, and people can sense that.

2) Set Boundaries

Why would someone commit to you if they’re getting everything they want without the commitment?

If you’re struggling to find people willing to move beyond casual dating, there’s a good chance you’re giving too much. Why bend over backwards to make someone you barely know happy?

Let them earn it.

Before you open up completely, open a little bit and see if the person shows up for you. Are they receptive and warm? Or judgmental?

Before you start buying gifts for them and imagining your wedding, give the person an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment. Why dive head over heels without some experiences that show you this person is a caring, compassionate partner worth fantasizing about?

Some women might be wondering if having sex too soon is scaring guys away. Holding off to avoid judgement hints at a double standard – how can two people have sex at the same time but only one of them does it too soon?

Any guy who loses interest in you for having casual sex “too soon” is not worth having around.

3) This Secret Psychology Brain Hack

Here’s a way to discover how you might be sabotaging yourself without knowing it.

When you go on a date, what do you think the purpose is?

Whatever your answer is, that’s the main cause of your behaviour. If your answer is something like “to find the one”, you’re gonna come across as needy. If it’s “to get to know someone”, you’ll probably seem interview-ish.

The best way to look at a date is a chance to have fun. This keeps things… well, fun. People like being around fun, low-pressure people with no expectations.

As things progress, that’s when you get to know each other. If you emotionally vomit on someone and spill your whole life story during the first three dates, where’s the fun in that?

It’s like telling someone what’s in the present they’re about to unwrap. Isn’t the funnest part the unwrapping? Focus on having fun, enjoy the mystery, and going from casual to serious will happen naturally.

Signs You’re Graduating From Dating to a Serious Relationship

If all goes well, you won’t have to do “the talk” of whether or not you’re a serious couple. Watch for these milestones, and you’ll know if the casual dating phase is almost over.

The final milestone is when you know it’s official – whether you say it’s a serious relationship or not.

Unscheduled Time Together

When you start hanging out together without making plans in advance, you know things are getting serious.

Meeting Friends

Meeting each other’s social group is a big step. If you make it past the gauntlet of scrutiny from their friends, things are well on their way.

Sleepovers Without Sex

As long as you aren’t fighting, this is actually a good sign.

You Leave Some Stuff at Their House

If he’s leaving a pair of boxers at your place, it’s a sign. Likewise, if she’s got some clothes or 8,412 bottles of hair product in your shower, you’re in.

The Big One: Your First Fight

If you have a fight and you don’t break up, you’re basically saying this is something worth working on.

Troubleshooting: Dating for Months, but Not Serious?

Dating Tips and Q&A with Yours Truly

I wrote the first version of this article in 2012, and since then I’ve gotten hundreds of emails and comments asking about what to do in certain situations. Here are the most common questions and my answers to each.

If you have a question about moving from casual dating to a serious relationship that I didn’t answer, leave a comment below the article and I’ll get back to you within a couple days.

Q: I’ve been dating this person for months, and when I ask if we’re a serious couple or not, the subject gets changed or I get ignored altogether.

A: There are two explanations for this. One, they’re interested but not good at communicating or are feeling pressured and don’t like it. Two, they don’t want to get serious but want the other benefits of dating.

Let them know what you’re looking for and pull back a bit. If you drift apart, you know they were never going to commit and you saved yourself time, trouble, and heart ache.

Q: My date says it’s just casual, but acts like it’s serious? Texting a lot, we hook up often, they want to meet my friends. What’s the deal?

A: This scenario usually happens when someone wants to get serious but has a fear of commitment. They get around it by tricking themselves into thinking it’s not actually serious unless it’s labelled that way.

You have a choice to make – can you handle someone whose actions and words don’t align? Is it more important to you to have this person, or a person who’s ready and willing to commit?

Q: No one I date wants to get serious!! There’s always an excuse, why can’t I meet the right people?

A: You aren’t a helpless victim of the dating universe, so this isn’t really a question – you keep meeting the wrong people because you keep choosing to date similar people.

What feels right to you isn’t working. You need to try some wrong. Stop meeting people wherever you’re meeting them now. Date people who you don’t usually go for, and stop dating “your type”.

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.”

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.”

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? Get in touch and learn how I can help!

Does Cheating Mean They Don’t Love You?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 7 Comments

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people say stuff like “If you really love someone, you won’t cheat on them.”

The problem with this perspective is you’re basically saying that actions reflect what a person truly believes. If you care about someone, you don’t hurt them, and since cheating is hurtful, you can’t cheat on someone if you truly care about them.

Any time you try to explain someone’s behaviour without taking environmental factors into account, you commit what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error (FAE). Contrary to popular belief, environmental pressures play as large a role in determining behaviour as a person’s character. What does this mean, exactly?

Let’s try an experiment

Consider the amount of people who would kill another person just because they’ve been asked to as part of a psychological experiment. Prior to studying psychology, I would’ve said zero or close to zero. Maybe a few psychopaths or murderers if one just so happened to be asked. Would it shock you to hear the number is above 60%?

Obviously no one was actually killed in the experiment, but the people who were part of the experiment didn’t know that. They were asked by a scientist to apply shocks to a student for every wrong answer the student provided, with each wrong answer providing a larger shock. Eventually the student stopped responding, at which point people expressed concern. The scientist simply said they had to continue, and 65% of people did.

This experiment has been repeated around the world, and across several decades. The results are consistently between 60-65%. Does this mean 60-65% of the human population are horrible, murderous savages?

Of course not!

The experiment I described is just one of many, many examples of how people can behave in radically different ways when exposed to environmental pressures.

Environmental factors that affect cheating

In the case of cheating, environmental factors could be drinking or drugs, locations like bars, night clubs, or strip clubs, certain types of people, different forms of stress, and so on. There are dozens of factors at work.

Take a guy who’s in love with his wife but is under a ton of stress from work, goes out with some office guys he’s not really close with, has a few too many drinks, gets caught up in the moment and does some coke. Starts dancing with a girl and makes out with her. They go to the bathroom to do another line and stuff happens.

This is a real life scenario I encountered during a couples session. Were these bad decisions? Yup. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Were there multiple points at which this could’ve been avoided? You bet.

But none of this means he doesn’t love his wife.

Despite the evidence, his wife initially disagreed that environmental pressures are a valid reason for doing stupid things. There’s a very good reason for this denial – it can be terrifying to accept that people you trust can act in horrible ways.

This extends beyond cheating and infidelity, and into all areas of life. Accepting that good people can do bad things is scary. Accepting that you can do bad things is really uncomfortable as well. Try to imagine yourself cheating. Tough right?

Every person I’ve met who has cheated is ashamed to some degree, and I often hear things like “I can’t believe I did that.” So are we all screwed then? Is environmental pressure like a black hole for morals?

No, definitely not.

Although 65% of people “killed” the student in the experiment, 35% of people didn’t. That being said, it’s a lot better if you don’t have to fight an uphill battle. The strategy I recommend is avoiding the pressure in the first place. If you’re married, maybe getting bombed with the boys at Club BJ isn’t the best idea. Get what I’m sayin’?

We can help

I know it’s tough to accept, but you can cheat on someone and still love them very much. The couple I worked with did end up working things out.

If you’re going through infidelity, it IS a real possibility that your partner doesn’t love you. But don’t be too afraid to accept that just maybe, they do.

If you’re ready to seek help, contact us today!

Man and woman ending argument as woman walks away

Stop Arguing in a Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | No Comments

If there’s too much arguing in a relationship, eventually it breaks things down and you don’t even want to try anymore. I always have hope for the couples I see who are still fighting; it’s the ones who are apathetic that worry me.

To stop the arguing in your relationship before you cross the point of no return, here’s a list of the top ten best pieces of advice I’ve come across during my time as a couples counsellor.

1) Argue with the Right Frame of Mind

For most people, the purpose of arguing in a relationship is to expose your partner’s mistakes, criticize, or to prove that you’re right. Stop for a minute and think about how your purpose affects your actions. When you initiate a conversation feeling like you’re right, how do you act?

Probably like a self-righteous dickwad. I dunno about you, but I’m not very receptive to people who come across that way. It’s a good idea to have positive goals for your argument, ones that produce mutually beneficial outcomes.

A few examples include arguing to explore a topic, to compromise and agree on an outcome, or to understand the other person’s point of view. Those goals put you in a positive frame of mind, you’ll be more receptive, understanding, and less focused on being right.

2) Remember These Two Factors

We form our perspective based on two things:

1) The need to be accurate
2) The need to protect our self-esteem

Generally, the second one trumps the first one.

Your resistance to an idea is directly related to how much that idea threatens your self-esteem. For many people, living a lie is easier than accepting an accurate truth that would force them to acknowledge their flaws. Be aware of how you present your views, and do your best to avoid threatening your partner’s self-esteem.

3) Arguing Isn’t About Playing Games

In a game, you’re pitted against an opponent with the goal of winning. It’s extremely difficult to be vulnerable with someone you consider an opponent, and without vulnerability there is no trust, and… you get the idea.

Every disagreement in your relationship involves both of you. If you think your partner isn’t owning up to their share of the blame, it creates a stand-off. Neither person wants to be the sole bearer of blame, so you end up focusing on what your partner did wrong instead of focusing on how to resolve the issue.

How do you stop it?

When your partner says “Hey, I fucked up, I’m sorry,” you don’t rub it in, gloat, or lecture them. You say “Yeah, me too”, and then have really good make up sex. When you trust each other enough to know that admitting fault results in positives instead of negatives, you eliminate the cause of game playing.

4) Actually Listen

You know you’re listening when you’re carefully considering what’s being said. The big red flag to watch for is the urge to interrupt – if you feel the urge to interrupt you’ve stopped listening and are only waiting for your chance to speak.

If you’re not actively listening and thinking, you’re missing out on chances to find common ground and understand your partner’s perspective.

5) Everybody Has Unique Communication Styles

Most therapist advice seems very therapist-y. When I read relationship communication advice it usually clashes with what I actually see happening in relationship counselling sessions.

A book or advice column might tell you to say something like:

“Honey, I love how hard you work. I know you’re tired when you come home, but you know I’m tired too and it would mean a lot to me if you would help around the house.”

No one talks like that, especially when they’re mad. If they try to it slips into game playing and they do it in a restrained, passive-aggressive way. What they’re really saying is “I’m doing this bullshit our therapist suggested, so get the fuck up and help me clean.”

In my opinion, the most effective communication is honest communication. The honest truth is you’re mad, but also in love – so communicate that. What that looks like will be different for everyone.

I personally prefer something in between, like “Hey, you want dinner tonight? Then get your ass off the couch and come help me with the dishes… you sexy thing.”

6) Arguing Isn’t About the Other Person

Nothing is more frustrating than someone else telling you what you feel, what you think, or what you did. This is the emotional equivalent of someone taking your arm and smacking you with it, then telling you to stop hitting yourself.

Stick to what you know, and phrase things in the first person. Talk about how you felt and what you did or didn’t like, but stick to your own thoughts and feelings.

7) Recognize that Reality is Subjective

There are usually multiple legitimate perspectives on any given situation, and all can be “right”. Don’t focus on explaining why your perspective makes sense – look for common ground between your two perspectives and go from there.

I like to tell couples there’s more than one way to read a text.

8) Forget About Convincing, Start Solving

Instead of trying to decide who’s right, figure out a way you can both agree. This basically means complaining instead of criticizing (yes, complaining can be good).

Most people have a tendency to take what they didn’t like about an action or event, and phrase it as a personal attack against their partner. Instead of saying “You’re so cold lately” (insult, criticism) say “I didn’t get a kiss when I came home” (feedback, complaint).

9) Don’t Forget the Love Beneath the Anger

Sometimes arguing can be draining on your relationship. You yell, say stuff you don’t mean, call each other names. One of the most important skills of successful couples is the ability to kiss through the anger.

It’s being able to let loose on each other, and understand it was just venting frustration and it got out of control. You say sorry for getting out of control, and acknowledge that this is something that needs to be resolved. Either let it go (and only say it if you really can let it go) or agree to deal with it another time.

This is basically the process behind never going to bed angry, which is another really good idea.

10) Avoid Blanket Statements to Stop Arguing in a Relationship

Avoid saying “never”, “always”, and so on. Instead of “You’re never there for me!”, try saying “I know it might not be this way, but it feels like you aren’t ever there when I need you to be.”

Do you have tips for putting an end to relationship arguments? Leave them in the comments below!

And remember, if you’re arguing with your partner and the relationship is in trouble, you can work with me to make things better again.

Man sits on brown leather sofa with hand rested on forehead

Is Guilt Stopping You From Leaving Your Relationship?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 4 Comments

Have you ever been fed up with someone, but felt like you couldn’t leave them?

When you finally get fed up, a voice pops in your head: What if me leaving is the motivation they need to change? What if they’re different for the next person?

You tell yourself things will change. But they don’t, and you get angry – angry at yourself for falling into the same pattern, angry at them for disappointing you, angry because you’re alone.

Maybe you can’t tell anyone, or maybe you’ve told people so many times they’re sick of listening. Either way, you’re alone in the desert with your ball and chain, and you don’t know what the hell to do.

The Bullshit-Free Oasis Beckons

If the above resonates with you, you might be in a relationship that doesn’t serve you. Contrary to what you’ve been told for your entire life, breaking up doesn’t mean your relationship failed.

Too often I see clients staying in relationships because of guilt, shame, and fear. You tell yourself things will improve, you just need to be a better partner. Be more patient. Be more understanding. Be more supportive.

What you’re really doing is taking more than half the responsibility for the relationship. As they contribute less, you contribute more. Emotionally, mentally, physically, you’re exhausted. But you won’t leave.

You won’t leave because the world has told you two really nasty things: leaving is failure, and failure is bad.

I Have Some Questions For You…

Would you stay in a job that wasn’t paying you because your parents would call you a bum if you quit?

Would you eat food that makes you sick for the sake of finishing your plate?

Would you keep seeing a personal trainer who overworks you and causes you injury?

No – because the purpose of a job is to pay you. The purpose of food is to nourish you. The purpose of a trainer is to help you become strong. You can make these decisions quickly, easily, and without guilt or shame because they’re so clear.

If you’re struggling with guilt, shame, and a sense of obligation, it’s because you don’t know the purpose of your relationship.

Here’s a broad definition to get you started:

The purpose of a relationship is to enrich your life and the life of your partner.

Let’s dive a little deeper and look at what that means to you.

Free Relationship Counselling, Right Here

I’ve never really tried to translate what I do in session into an article, but if you’re down, so am I.

There are so many ways a relationship can benefit you. Since this is a huge question, it’s helpful to break things down into categories. Here’s something to help you get started:

Maybe your relationship meets basic needs like food, shelter, and a place to live. Maybe you aren’t social or outgoing, and your partner involves you in a lifestyle you have trouble creating on your own. They might provide you with acceptance, and that’s something you’ve never had before. It could be they push you to achieve your dreams.

Figure out what your relationship used to give you, and what it gives you now. Think about what you want from your relationship, and compare the two.

If your two lists are really similar, your relationship is successful. If they aren’t, it’s time to take action.

If Your Relationship Isn’t Meeting Your Needs

Needs change. What you wanted at 25 and what you want at 40 are wildly different. We change radically throughout our lives, but no one ever teaches us how to stay in sync with another person going through the same process.

The first thing to do if your relationship isn’t meeting your needs is to talk about it.

But what if your partner isn’t receptive? What if they won’t talk to you? What if you try again and again, but they just shut you out?

Well…

If two people make a commitment and one person doesn’t honour it, should the other person continue to do so?

When you say it out loud, it’s hard to answer with a yes. But actions speak louder than words, and there are a LOT of people in one way relationships.

Your relationship is defined by the roles you play in it. How many hours per day are you a woman, a man, a husband, a wife? How many hours are you a mother or a father? A room mate? A caretaker? A therapist?

If your relationship isn’t meeting your needs, if you’re spending more time being room mates or care takers than lovers, if your partner isn’t willing to change, why would you be willing to stay?

Lining Up Your Ducks

OK, so you understand your relationship sucks and there’s little to no hope of change. It’s been months or even years, and your partner is unwilling to take action. You know the guilt and obligation you feel is a load of crap, but you still feel stuck.

Here’s why:

Remember that triangle picture above that listed all sorts of needs? Well, those needs form your stability as a person. Your brain will fight tooth and nail any decision that leads to instability, so revisit that list you made earlier.

To make leaving easier, you need to find new ways to meet your needs. Look at all the things you’re getting from your relationship, and figure out how you can meet those needs in a different way.

It’s also a great idea to have a counsellor in mind to help you through the break up, or even beforehand to talk through your problems.

Are You Tired Of Your Relationship? Struggling With Guilt Or Obligation?

Contact me today and learn how I can help with these types of issues.

Man in white t-shirt carrying woman in white dress on his back

What Attracts Women to Men: The Psychology

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 49 Comments

It’s a question often asked: What attracts women to men? Are some guys just born naturally attractive to women, or is it how a man lives his life that makes him attractive?

Today I’m going to bust THE big myth about what attracts women to men, and give you the straight up honest truth.

You’ll learn the underlying psychology of why women are attracted to certain things men do, and I’ll be showing you how you can use this knowledge to understand why there are so many popular misconceptions about attraction.

Why Is Attraction Such a Complex Issue These Days?

The problem is this:

1) Attraction is a genetic thing – women are programmed to respond to certain qualities like height, dominance, confidence, and so on

Historically (we’re talking hundreds of thousands of years) the men who possessed these qualities produced offspring with a higher chance of survival than men who didn’t, and as a result these men were responsible for a greater percentage of surviving children. The increased success rate was probably something marginal, but over hundreds of thousands of years, even a marginal advantage becomes extremely noticeable and widespread throughout a species.

2) This genetic programming is based on what works in an environment that is VERY different from the environment we live in now

We no longer have to run from predators, hunt and forage for food, and engage in conflict with neighbouring tribes. Things that were typically a disadvantage aren’t such a big deal anymore – people who would’ve been left for dead can now be productive, successful members of society who can provide for a family.

Although you don’t really need to be your classic alpha male type to survive and do well these days, the ancient attraction programming remains intact and pushes women towards guys who behave this way. Don’t go try to be an alpha male though – what you think it means and what it actually is are likely two very different things.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but being attractive is something you can learn to do by paying attention to your beliefs, behaviours, body language, and putting at least a bit of effort into being decent looking.

The modern attractive man isn’t some super aggressive juice head whose life motto is “never back down”. He’s just a normal guy who’s comfortable with who he is: confident, well put together, and willing to put the work in to actually go out and meet people.

The Big Attraction Myth: You Need Things Like Height, Money, and Social Status to Be Attractive to Women

I know I just said women are genetically predisposed to want these things, and it might seem like I’m contradicting myself here. Especially since in our own personal experience we often see the most attractive women with tall, rich, successful men. Actors, business owners, executives, guys with nice houses and fast cars.

The reason why it SEEMS like height, looks, social status, and money attract women is a common cognitive error: a misunderstanding of correlation and causality. Causality means one thing causes another, like being rich causing women to like you. Correlation means one thing is linked to another thing, like rich men being more likely to have attractive women with them, but not necessarily because of their wealth.

Now, there are of course some women who will only date men above a certain height, income level, and so on, but the majority of women aren’t like this.

So why would we believe things like money, social status, and so on are correlates rather than causes?

The reason is rooted in the way women identify these traits in men. If women are attracted to men with status and wealth, an effective evolutionary strategy for men would be to fake these traits. Producing offspring with a faker could be disastrous for the woman; a faker likely does not have adequate resources and social influence to provide for her offspring.

To counter this, women must be able to differentiate between the men who genuinely have wealth and social status, and those who are faking. One way to do this is by developing a heightened sense of social perception and recognizing what successful man behaviour looks like compared to the behaviour of an imitator. The behaviours become the primary source of attraction.

Women are not attracted directly to wealth and status, but to the behaviours indicating a man genuinely has wealth and status.

This provides the explanation for why it seems like wealth, status, and height matter so much. If you were suddenly made better looking, a few inches taller, and inherited a billion dollars, would you behave the same way you do now? Of course not! You’d instantly be more confident, more relaxed, happier, less stressed out, and so on.

Women pick up on these behaviours, and it’s these behaviour patterns that are at the core of attraction, not the wealth and status itself.

Can a Lot of Confidence Overcome Deficiencies in Height/Wealth/Looks/etc.?

It can definitely increase your chances, but you still need to do what you can to make yourself more attractive. Eating right and getting in shape will not only help you look better, it will make you a hundred times more confident. Just because women will still date you if you drive a beater, doesn’t mean they don’t prefer a BMW.

In short, confidence helps, but no woman is going to stick around for very long if you have no ambition, passion, or direction in life. You might get laid, but why would a smart, attractive, fun woman stay with a confident but lazy man when there’s tons of confident ambitious guys out there?

There’s just no excuse to not have your shit together. It’s not so much about being super rich and having washboard abs as it is not having any glaring deficiencies. As long as you’re reasonably in shape, well groomed, drive something not about to break down, and have a clean place of your own, you’re doing fine.

Why is Confidence Such a Big Part of Being an Attractive Man?

Essentially, confidence is about being yourself. It’s about being congruent and able to authentically express who you are without worrying about what people think. People who lack confidence, who are socially awkward, who are afraid to speak their mind, what they’re doing is broadcasting to the world that they’re willing to stifle their own impulses and desires for the sake of social acceptance.

This indicates they’re not used to being socially dominant and enforcing their worldview, that they may have been subject to social rejection in the past, or maybe they’re not typically successful and their fear of failure causes doubt and hesitation.

Men who are naturally attractive to women aren’t all super smooth James Bond types, in fact I don’t know many people like that at all. The guys I do know who are quiet and serious but still get laid are very good looking, and they succeed in spite of their personality, not because of it.

Most guys who are really good with women are the guys who are fun to be around. They’re not afraid to show their goofy, quirky side. They’re adventurous and outgoing. For a real life example of a guy who isn’t good looking but has an attractive personality, look at someone like Seth Rogan. He’s the type of guy women say they have a “weird crush” on, the type who isn’t good looking, but is still attractive.

5 Tips for Being More Physically Attractive to Women

Remember, you don’t need to be some fit, super suave looking playboy (trying too hard usually backfires), you just need to look like you put at least a bit of effort in.

1) Develop a style that reflects who you are

Don’t just wear random clothes, think about what sort of image you want to project. When women look at you, what do they see? Try to imagine yourself from your ideal woman’s perspective: if you were your ideal woman, would you date you? Does your style reflect the unique person you are, or are you just another average guy?

2) Go to the gym at least once per week

Even if you’re in decent shape, go to the gym! You’ll look better, but more importantly you’ll feel better. If you aren’t in shape, this is even more important.

3) Get a good haircut

Find a proper salon in your area. You might not notice the difference between a cheap and an expensive haircut, but I guarantee you women do. A well trained stylist who’s good at his/her job will know what kind of haircut suits your face, and they’ll do a much better job. You can get great haircuts in most major cities for around $45.

4) Work on your body language

It’s so important but so hard to notice yourself. I recommend filming yourself talking to see how much you fidget, what your expression and eye contact is like, if you sway back and forth, and so on. Read up on body language and try to become more aware of how you move. It’ll be awkward at first, but you’ll adjust.

5) Make sure you’re groomed

No nose/ear hair, keep your beard trimmed. Nothing wrong with a beard, but don’t just let it grow wildly. If you have bad skin, see a doctor or try a few different skin care products. Get rid of the unibrow, even if it’s just a few stubbly hairs between your eyes. Coordinate your facial hair with your haircut.

5 Tips for Developing an Attractive Personality

This is a much tougher process than being physically attractive. Reason being: the key to being emotionally attractive is being yourself, but hardly anyone understands how exactly to do this. It doesn’t help that so many sources tell you NOT to be yourself, and give you advice about acting smooth that just makes you look like a dickwad.

1) Define yourself

An interesting fact: demographics (location, income level, etc.) are the best predictor of what a person will believe. When you ask most people what they believe, what they value, what they want out of life and why, they can’t tell you. Knowing what you want and having a direction in life that’s congruent with who you are is wildly attractive. Women love a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.

2) Be comfortable alone

Neediness is one of the worst, most unattractive qualities a guy can have. Make sure you spend time being alone and not passively consuming media. Sitting around watching TV or creeping facebook isn’t what I mean. I’m talking about reading, thinking, meditating, being in touch with who you are. We’re exposed to so much social pressure and influence that it takes a conscious effort to shed all off and discover who we are and what we want.

3) Eliminate negative or limiting beliefs

Do you believe you’re incapable, unworthy, not cool? Do you feel, deep down, like you deserve the lifestyle you want? The woman you want? Or do you secretly feel like the women you want are out of your league? Like the job, house, car, type of life you want are out of reach? Trace these beliefs to their roots. Why do you believe those things? Are they valid reasons? Could you be giving certain people or events too much weight when it comes to determining your value as a person? Ultimately, it’s about living up to your own expectations, not anyone else’s.

4) Practice self-awareness and authentic expression

Become aware of how you behave, what you say and do. Are these things in line with your beliefs and desired life direction? Imagine who you’d like to be, and make a conscious effort to be that person on a daily basis. Speak your mind and act on your desires – don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about what you believe or what you want. Attractive men are willing to risk rejection or criticism to get the things they want in life.

5) Practice lifestyle design

If there are particular things about your life you want to improve, like making more money, being more fit, meeting new people, learning a new skill, and so on, write those things down and make a plan for reaching them. Having goals you’re working towards brings about a lot of different benefits: confidence when you reach them, a sense of purpose while you’re working on them, and a sense of achievement and self-worth that comes with having a plan for your life.

Woman in leather jacket hugs man from behind

Adult Attachment Styles in Relationships

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 2 Comments

She goes through my phone all the time, but when I go through hers suddenly I’m invading her privacy, being controlling, and acting paranoid.”

“It’s not my fault you do suspicious things. I don’t. If you didn’t flirt with other girls maybe I wouldn’t have to go through your phone all the time.”

Sound familiar?

This kind of exchange is something I hear all the time. It’s a perfect example of how adult attachment styles can cause conflict in relationships.

About 40% of adults have an attachment style that causes relationship problems. Why are some partners OK with you taking a vacation solo, while others are constantly suspicious? Why do some people want to argue, while others wall up? It has a lot to do with… you guessed it, attachment styles.

Your adult attachment style determines your relationship patterns. They shape how you act when you’re close, how you deal with conflict, and in a lot of ways, are the deciding factor in whether or not your relationship lasts.

The Basic Adult Attachment Styles in Relationships

Secure Attachment

If you have a secure adult attachment style, you have a positive view of yourself and other people. You don’t panic or freak out when your partner goes out. You feel a normal amount of worry if your partner is running late or doesn’t call, but you’re able to cope with those feelings. Dealing with anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, and other negative emotions aren’t overly difficult for you.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

Out of all the adult attachment styles I see in couples counselling, this one is the most prevalent. If you have an anxious attachment style, you feel insecure about your relationship, question your partner, and struggle to trust your partner. Even if your partner tries to provide reassurance, the feelings of insecurity and anxiety persist.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

If you claim you don’t need relationships, this might be you. You focus on your career, your hobbies, and love your independence. When someone gets too close to you, you feel like they’re interfering with your own interests and pull away. You like to wall up or walk away when conversations get too emotional. When things aren’t going well, you convince yourself you don’t care and create distance between you and your partner.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Imagine the source of your pleasure and your fear are the same person. You want to get closer, but if you get too close you might get burned. You’re really happy at times, but then you snap out of it for a second and remember that you have to be on guard. When your partner wants you, you feel suffocated. When your partner isn’t being affectionate, you panic and scramble to get reassurance.

How Do Adult Attachment Styles Develop?

Maybe a few of the points above seem familiar… but how did you become this way? And can you change? If so, how?

Anyone can change anything about themselves with enough knowledge and the right skills. It starts with understanding how your adult attachment style developed, and how it’s affecting your relationship.

Secure Attachment

Develops from healthy affection. You grew up with a relatively stable family and home environment. When you took time to do your own thing, your parents were there when you were done. For the most part, they encouraged and supported you.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

Develops from inconsistent affection. It’s likely that you grew up with addicted parents. This style develops when parents are sometimes affectionate, caring and supportive, but other times absent or abusive. Because you don’t know which you’re going to get, you constantly need to test the waters. Once you know things are OK, you feel relief… but it’s only temporary.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Develops from a lack of affection. Your parents probably encouraged you to be independent, or didn’t pay attention to your needs. Maybe they were unable to care for your needs, and you became a little parent yourself. Because you developed an independent, self-sufficient role so early on in life, you became your own critic, your own guardian, your own care taker, and you don’t feel like you need anyone else.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Develops from abuse. You needed your parent to feed you, clothe you, and provide you with shelter, and they did. But they were also cruel, and abused you mentally, physically, emotionally, or all of the above. You walked the line – close enough to get the essentials, far enough away to avoid the abuse. You may tell yourself your parent(s) were good people, just bad parents. Many people I see with this style have a split view of their parents, loving the good side and hating the bad, and mimic that with their partner.

Special Note

Sometimes, I have clients with great childhoods who have negative adult attachment styles. As you’ll see in the next section, your style can change due to really good/really bad relationships. A secure person can become anxious or avoidant after an abusive relationship, for example. If you connect with unhealthy attachment styles in the first section, but not the explanations in the second section, chances are that’s why.

 

Change Your Attachment Style, Have Better Relationships

If you’ve ever heard that “people don’t change”, forget it – it’s bullshit. I wouldn’t have a job if that saying was true. I’ll talk you through the basic process in this section, but it’s no replacement for quality counselling and couples therapy.

The most important tool in your arsenal is a technique called cognitive reframing. If you don’t know what that is, make sure you read this.

Secure Attachment

Do your best to understand your partner. Openly discuss the patterns that are happening and work together to create new, healthy patterns. Follow the advice I give for each of the unhealthy styles and provide as much support, love, and patience as you can.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

Being suspicious and accusing your partner don’t help. In fact, the more often you accuse and frustrate an innocent person, the less reason they have to maintain innocence. Your brain has created a pattern to help you, but it’s doing the opposite. To break this pattern, you have to take a giant leap. As long as you keep snooping phone messages, flinging accusations, and interrogating them, the pattern will continue. Your brain will tell you that the things you’re doing are preventing cheating and other forms of emotional pain. The only way to break the cycle is to prove yourself wrong, so challenge yourself – the next time you want to accuse or interrogate, try not doing it and see what happens.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Don’t take too much pride in being able to wall up or walk away. Walking away or shelling up when you’re angry isn’t a good thing (most of the time). Until you learn to continue talking to your partner even when you’re feeling strong emotions, issues will continue to come up again and again. As your casual relationship turns more serious it’s perfectly normal for you to spend less time doing the things you enjoy independently. Take a giant leap and rely on your partner for something once in a while. It feels really nice to have someone you can depend on, but you’ll never have that unless you give your partner a chance.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment

You have a lot of really deep work to do. Your parents are (supposed to be) the safest, most loving people in your life. When they abuse you, it sends a really nasty message about the world and people in general. You’ll have to make good use of the cognitive reframing technique I mentioned earlier, and question the conclusions you’ve made about the world. Ask yourself where your negative beliefs about relationships come from, and if those beliefs make sense.

The tough thing with this style is your beliefs are often so suppressed you won’t be able to access them. You might have to hack your brain a little bit and watch for emotional outbursts. Whenever you feel stronger emotions than make sense for a situation, something deep has been uncovered and is escaping through the situation you’re experiencing. Pay attention to those situations, and watch for common factors in your outbursts.

Here’s What To Do Next

Post a comment below and ask me a question, or share your experiences.  Nothing is more valuable than people who have personal experience sharing how they cope, progress, and succeed. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to book a session and work on your attachment styles with some support!

Episode 5: Dr. Chris Friesen on Biohacking, Focus, and Mental Performance

By | Podcasts | No Comments

We’re back! For those who don’t know, I took a 6 month break to relocate across the country. I’ve interviewed some incredible guests since moving to the Toronto area, and one person I was fortunate enough to meet is Dr. Chris Friesen.

He works with Olympic athletes, pro athletes, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other high achievers to maximize their performance. Today, he shares the keys to success, and answers the questions you sent in last week.

In This Episode You’ll Learn About:

2:45 – Listener question: How does the brain’s dark energy effect sports performance?
3:20 – The secret to getting into “the zone”
5:00 – The keys to mental focus
7:10 – Learn which types of brain waves result in the best performance, and how you can measure them
9:45 – Listener question: How do you deal with adrenaline dumps and high pressure situations?
11:45 – Why being too calm is actually bad for performance (this one surprised me)
15:00 – How fighting your thoughts only makes them worse
17:25 – Biohacking your anxiety to de-stress
27:30 – Doctors were stumped… learn the simple biohack than can cure stomach problems
29:00 – Staying focused and being true to your values in the age of constant distraction
33:00 – The one major mental mistake that sabotages your ability to achieve

Listen to Episode 5: Dr. Chris Friesen on Biohacking, Focus, and Mental Performance

Download this episode as an MP3 here

Listen to it on iTunes

3 Easy, Free Ways to Instantly Improve Your Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 2 Comments

It’s been 7 years now. More than 1,000 people. And through it all, there has been a consistent pattern in all the couples I’ve seen.

The pattern is simple – three things that are easy, free, and have an instant impact on your relationship.

No more excuses! Take the advice in this post and I promise you’ll see immediate results.

 

1) Go To Bed Together

 

If you aren’t going to bed together, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to connect. I know sometimes people have different sleep schedules, and it can be frustrating for both of you. If you commit to doing this, your schedules sync up and it becomes second nature.

As a general rule, join your partner within 30 minutes of them going to bed. But what about couples that work opposite, or very different hours?

If you’re the one who stays up late, go to bed with your partner until they fall asleep. Bed is one of the few times you have privacy and the chance to be intimate (both sexually and emotionally) so it’s important not to skip out. On top of that, it can be hard to fall asleep before your partner joins you.

Falling asleep alone has this weird exaggerated mental effect. People who fall asleep alone tend to report feeling more alone and unsupported in the relationship, even if they aren’t. I’m not a neuroscientist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re hard wired on some level to crave closeness at night, and to feel more isolated than usual if we don’t have it.

 

2) No Electronics In Bed!

 

Creeping around on your phone is a bedtime ritual for many people, and it’s absolutely horrible for your relationship. It totally defeats the purpose of going to bed together.

I get that for some people it’s a way to unwind, and that’s cool – just do it *before* bed. Scroll through your feed, catch up on sports, read forums, do whatever you want as long as it’s not in the bedroom. When you’re done, put your phone on silent and leave it under your pillow or on your bedside table (facedown).

This goes for TV as well. And if you aren’t sold on the relationship benefits, consider that your brain forms associations between things very easily. It won’t secrete as much melatonin (sleep chemical) if it doesn’t think you’re going to your sleeping spot.

You have to train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep… and sex! But watching TV and creeping your phone are definitely not associations you want to build.

 

3) Spend At Least 1 Hour a Week Dating

 

The vast, vast majority (I’d say 90%+) of couples I see don’t even spend an hour a week together doing stuff.

You don’t need to be going out for fancy dinners, expensive outings, or extravagant locations, a simple picnic in the park is enough. The key here isn’t so much what you’re doing, but that you’re doing it together with no interruptions.

If you have kids, get a sitter. Turn your phones off. I don’t care if you use your phone for work or if you’re on call. If you can’t be away from your phone for an hour, you’re lying to yourself about how important you are and disrespecting your spouse at the same time. Period.

Ride bikes together. Get some gelato and go for a stroll downtown. See a fortune teller, even if you know it’s a bunch of BS. Halloween is coming up… grab a latte and go pick pumpkins together.

 

Have Your Own Tips?

 

Have your own date ideas? Tips that have helped out your relationship? I’d love to hear about them! Post a comment below the article, and subscribe to my weekly email for free dating and relationship tips!