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How to Stop the Constant Arguing

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Every couple fights. You know what’s crazy though?

On average, couples remain unhappy for a few years before they seek a therapist. YEARS.

It gets to the point where every conversation is an argument.

After the constant arguing phase is the quiet phase. Tired of arguing, both people give up on communication altogether.

Eventually, things get so bad that people *gasp* call a counsellor.

I’ve always found that funny. The average person thinks couples counselling is going to be so awful that they’d rather endure years of frustration and emotional pain.

We need to change the perception of counselling somehow, maybe if a bunch of us started doing sessions at the local bar instead of an office.

“If therapy doesn’t work, just get wasted!”

 

Problem Solve Like a Therapist

 

Sometimes relationships die a long, slow death.

It seems like nothing happened, but stuff went wrong… a whole lotta small stuff that went under the radar.

Chemistry seems to fade, intimacy isn’t there, arguing is almost constant, and you can’t figure out why.

Start by asking yourself some questions, and look for any common factors.

When do you argue? What do you argue about? Are there any people that seem to trigger arguing?

Where do you argue? This is a big one most people neglect.

When is the last time you had sex? What about a fun date? Uninterrupted time to just hang out?

Sometimes you can throw the psychology out and go back to basics. If you’re doing the basics but still have trouble getting through a conversation, it’s time to dig a bit deeper.

 

Put On Your Psychology Hat

 

Now the fun part. Do your best Sigmund Freud impression, but probably leave out the cocaine. Yes, the father of psychology was an addict (he found cocaine useful for talk therapy).

Chances are you’re already decent at understanding people and communicating. If you’re arguing lots, the problem you’re probably having is caused by your partner’s psychological defence system.

With awareness and a bit of skill, you can neutralize their defence and move the conversation forward.

 

How Does the Mind’s Defence Work?

 

You know the feeling when someone disproves your point but you still want to argue?

That’s the ego protecting your ass from the feeling of being wrong.

Sometimes, an issue triggers ego defenses and prevents conversation altogether. If you’re constantly arguing, this is exactly what’s happening.

 

Avoid the Triggers, Avoid the Argument

 

You don’t need to change your message to avoid triggers, it just has to be “packaged” so they aren’t scared, threatened, or hurt by what you’re saying.

This comes down to one thing.

Don’t Talk About Your Partner.

Don’t tell them what they did, what they need, what they need to change, or anything. Talk about you.

Most people fall into the trap of needing their perspective to be accepted before moving forward.

The truth is, both of your perspectives are “right”.

Stop obsessing over what they did. Start focusing on your experience.

BAD: You lied because you aren’t big enough to tell the truth. If you can’t admit that we have nothing to talk about.

GOOD: I felt hurt because XYZ happened again and you said it wouldn’t. When I feel hurt it makes me scared to open up to you. What makes you want to be dishonest with me?

You explain your experience without judging or insulting, you clearly communicate the problem, and you create a safe scenario for them to move the conversation forward.

Basically, it’s a simple formula for taking all the prickly bits out of the conversation. Once you do that, you’ve removed the biggest roadblock to resolving the root issues.

If you’re still having trouble and want free advice, subscribe here.

Update: Couples Counselling Practice Relocated to Hamilton

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No, I haven’t died. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking so after looking at the date on recent posts.

I have relocated my relationship and couples counselling practice from Edmonton, Alberta to Hamilton, Ontario. It was a thankfully uneventful 3,500 kilometre drive from one side of Canada to the other, aside from a speeding ticket and a few animal sightings.

Counselling is still available to Edmonton and area clients via phone and Skype, and occasional visits in person.

As of now, I’m available for housecalls in the Burlington, Hamilton, and Grimsby areas.

Posting schedule is also back to normal – articles on Tuesdays, podcasts on Wednesdays, and videos on Thursdays.

What Attracts Women to Men 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. 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.

Mailbag #3: How Do I Be Authentic With New People?

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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.

How Do I Be Authentic With New People?

Hi Ryan, okay so I’ve been thinking about the question you posed and I’ve come up with this.

Since my last dating relationship ended, I must say that my biggest challenge I find myself dealing with is being my true authentic self when I meet new people. I guess you could say I have trouble being vulnerable and 100% honest about my thoughts and feelings.

And trust me over the past couple of months I have been telling myself that I want to challenge myself and open space for vulnerability because I do believe that although scary it is essential in any given relationship yet I am not sure how to get there.

I am currently not dating anybody but I am wondering how to face this challenge the next time someone new comes around? I think this is a scary thought because at the end of the day being vulnerable also brings the fear of “will I be good enough?” (I know I know what is good enough anyway, yet it’s a fear that creeps in).

My Answer:

You’re not the first person to tell me they have trouble being 100% authentic with new people. That you’re experiencing this doesn’t worry me at all.

What worries me is the authenticity mantra that’s preached nowadays is getting out of hand. It’s totally and completely acceptable to be guarded when you first meet people. In fact, I would say it’s a good thing.

I would say you have healthy boundaries. As you get to know someone, you can choose to let them become closer to you or decide that they aren’t someone you want to know more intimately. Not everyone you meet deserves your total honesty.

People who are emotionally vomit on new friends are usually the ones who have issues with “always meeting the wrong people”. They let everyone in and get burned often. On top of that, perceptive people recognize this person’s lack of boundaries, and this naturally filters out the “right people”.

People who are emotionally closed off to new friends are usually the ones who don’t meet anyone. Their filter is too tight and no one gets in.

You sound like you’re one of the people in the middle. You can filter out the people who are untrustworthy. The people who make it through your filter are worth opening up to, so take a chance with them.

As for being good enough, the only person you need to satisfy is yourself. If you’ve never thought about it, ask yourself what you admire in others. What standards do people have to meet before you consider them good enough?

If you meet those, you’re doing great.

How “The Dress” Exposes the Psychology of Conflict

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Mark Thursday, February 26 2015 in your calendar – it will forever be remembered as the weirdest moment in internet history. In case you missed it, the internet basically exploded in debate over “the dress”.

What’s there to debate?

When you look at this dress, do you see a white and gold dress, or a black and blue dress?

Well, internet split down the middle, and “the dress” became the focus of debate and analysis in every household with an internet connection. Scientists have explained why we see it differently, but the psychology of why it was even an argument hasn’t been covered.

 

How “The Dress” Exposes Our Psychological Shortcomings

 

A friend of mine first showed me the picture, and I thought he was fucking with me. It’s clearly, CLEARLY white, with stripes of gold. So I showed my wife.

She looks at it and scrunches her nose a bit, trying to figure out what I’m up to.

“It’s blue and green.”

What!??!?!

I was immediately sucked in. How could she possibly see anything other than white and gold? It’s not like this is a matter of opinion, I mean… it’s obvious, right?

This is where things get really interesting.

There are two types of disagreements: objective and subjective. Objective is fact based, like the distance between two places. Subjective is opinion based, like whether a dress is white and gold or black and blue.

Problems start happening when people mistake subjective disagreements for objective ones, which is basically all the time. But why does it happen?

If you’ve never left your own culture, you have culture blindness. You don’t know how your culture influences your world because you’ve never been anywhere else. This is why world travel is so good for growth – it exposes how much of your worldview is blind acceptance of cultural beliefs and traditions.

Since you can’t travel away from your body, you have psychological blindness. It becomes impossible to see how your perception changes the way you see things, so your brain just says fuck it and assumes everything you believe is legit.

A great example of this is language. We all use the same words, but they carry a slightly different meaning to each of us. If you ask one hundred people to define “near by” in terms of distance, you’ll get one hundred different answers.

 

The 2 Reasons Why “The Dress” Became An Internet Sensation

 

The dress was such a hit because it exposed a short circuit in your brain. Two things came together to make this happen:

1) The subtle differences in the way we define words, or in this case, colours.

2) The mental blindness I mentioned earlier.

One and two together creates a seemingly impossible scenario. If you define colours the way other people do, and you see the world accurately, how can there be a disagreement?? Your brain scrambles to try and reconcile the apparent paradox.

Essentially, “the dress” was a form of mental travel. Like stepping out of your house for the first time and realizing how much your windows distort the view. It stripped away the illusion of objectivity, and gave the whole internet a brief glimpse at how plugged in we are to our own personal Matrix.

It’s interesting to note the lack of disagreement when you break down the dress into individual colours. Suddenly, the disagreement vanishes:

When you break it down…

With the colours isolated from the picture, it becomes easy to look at each colour and ask “What colour is this to you?”

I might call one of those coloured squares gold, while you might call it green-gold or brown. Everyone I know who saw this picture only disagreed slightly on how they’d label the colours, but no where near a difference worth arguing about.

It’s when everything is mixed together that perceived differences arise. The ability to spot these similarities in seemingly opposing perspectives is called integrative complexity and it’s hands down the most important skill for resolving conflicts.

I know to some (most) people this is just a weird viral thing, but to me it’s an opportunity to show people why conflict is so insane. The dress is a stunning metaphor for conflict in general.

Whether it’s a disagreement between friends, husband and wife, or world leaders, we’re all looking at the same dress and arguing about the colours.

When There’s a Lack of Sex in Your Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | One Comment

I doubt you’d be surprised that one of the most common reasons people see me for couples counselling is a lack of sex in the relationship.

In general, sex is a pretty good indicator of how things are going. The F&F rule, for example: if you fuck more than you fight, you’re doing OK.

If you need to bust a sex rut, use these tips. They’ve helped hundreds of my clients banish their bedroom boredom. A+ for accidental alliteration!

Alright, alright… I’m done.

 

The Chicken And The Egg: Sex and Intimacy

 

You know, my job would be a lot easier if couples called me sooner. The average couple puts up with arguments and sex droughts for years before they seek counselling.

I get it – most counsellors are really lame. They’re awkward as hell, boring, and with rare exception, useless.

But how long can you endure a shitty relationship?

Is there a point of no return?

When he’s out of Kleenex and single-handedly (ohhh man, on a roll today) keeps Jergen’s in business. When you’re unhappy. When you’re looking at other people. It’s different for everyone.

No one ever thinks this will happen to them. But somehow, the problem creeps in…

One person wants sex before they give affection, the other wants affection before they get sexual. This sounds simple doesn’t it? One person satisfies the other and the problem goes away.

It isn’t though. Somewhere along the way, little resentments build up. They’re so subtle that they go almost unnoticed, like a leaky tap slowly filling the sink drop by drop.

Because of this hidden resentment, the gestures of affection feel loaded with the expectation of sex. There’s an awkward pressure.

Sex is… difficult. Even if your parts work, you just can’t find a rhythm. It feels disconnected. And this is all assuming that the initial sexual advances aren’t rejected.

 

3 Ways To Break the Cycle and Save Your Sex Life

1) Answer This Question

When’s the last time you went on a date?

I dunno why people assume dating and relationships are two different things. They aren’t.

A relationship is just dating for a really long time. When you date for a long time, you develop a friendship. Take away the dating part, and what are you left with?

Crash course in some basic psychology. In every interaction you’ve ever been in, there’s been “roles”. Doctor and patient. Teacher and student. Boss and employee. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Friends.

Everyone has many roles, and how you act depends on which role you’re in. When you’re dating, you’re in an exclusively romantic role. You’re lovers.

As you get to know each other, you develop a friendship. Passion fizzles when you stop relating to your partner in a romantic role and slip entirely into a friendship.

Friendship isn’t sexy. It’s comforting, but not sexy. Date once a week, flirt, have fun, and turn those sparks back into flames.

2) Break Bad Bedroom Habits

You ever hear of Pavlov’s dog? Guy rings a bell, then feeds his dog. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone made the dog drool.

When you take your phone to bed, watch TV, eat, or whatever, you associate your bedroom with everything but sex. Cut it out.

Seriously – this is one of the biggest difference makers in couples counselling. If you take electronics to bed, you eliminate one of the only opportunities for sex to happen. How often are you alone, comfy, and undistracted?

Make your bedroom sex friendly. Make sure your room is clean. Get silky bedsheets and comfy pillows. Put some scented tealight candles around, and keep lube and a vibrator nearby.

And damn it, go to bed together.

3) Make It Happen

If sex hasn’t happened in a while, it’s gonna be an ordeal. You’ll feel the pressure.

You might have to schedule a time. If it was going to happen naturally, it probably would’ve happened by now.

Don’t make it about coming. That’s awesome and everything, but messing around is a great start.

Instead of worrying about it, appreciate the thrill. If you haven’t hooked up in a long time, it’s almost like you’re doing it for the first time again.

You forget how good it feels, and not just the physical part. Sex brings you closer to your partner in a way that nothing else can.

 

Quick Tips

 

Check medications. Anti-depressants and other meds can make sex virtually impossible. Get alternatives if you can.

Don’t underestimate sex. Sometimes all those fights aren’t actually because of an underlying problem. Sometimes you just need a good hard… you know.

Talk about it. If it’s a concern, bring it up. Don’t let sex become the elephant in the room.

Jump on opportunity. When you feel a little something, look for reasons to do it instead of reasons why you shouldn’t.

Show affection often. Kiss as you pass in the house. Grope each other. Cuddle in bed. Play with their hair.

Try when you’re too tired. When it’s been a long time, it can take a lot of guts to initiate. It hurts even more to get shut down. If you’re a bit tired or not in the mood, try anyway.

Leave a Comment

You don’t have to use your real name. If you’re worried about the lack of sex in your relationship and want advice, leave a comment below.

How To Move From Casual Dating to Serious Relationship

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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”.

How You Can Be Pretty Sure Love at First Sight is Real

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If you bring up love at first sight, inevitably everyone and their dog is gonna have a different opinion.

Some swear they’ve felt it, and the skeptics have some really good questions for them. Is it real? How would it even work? If it is real, how could it be the same as “true” love?

Well, after you read my story and do the 10 second thought experiment, hopefully you’ll have the answers.

 

Love at First Sight is Possible Because of Subjective Reality

 

Like most of you, my family moved a few times when I was growing up. This meant switching schools, and in grade 5 I experienced my first move that took me away from a love interest. Before I left, her and I made a pact that if I came back when we were older we would date.

I thought about it when I saw things that reminded me of my old school, or when I visited my old town and ran into friends from back in the day. I lived about 2,000 miles away, so I didn’t visit much. One summer I was in the old ‘hood and I ran into the girl in question.

I was pretty conflicted about approaching her. It’d been like 10 years. Was 10 years too long for a pact? Was it just something dumb we said as kids? Nah… 10 years is perfect timing for a pact. If it was a year or two that would just be a regular plan and defeat the whole point of making pacts in the first place.

Being 18 or 19 at this point, I had changed a lot but I was sure she’d remember. In my mind, it played out with her being thrilled to see me and us going somewhere and catching up. The reality was a bit different.

Love at First Sight

A George Costanza Moment

When I approached her, she gave me that confused, I-don’t-remember-you look.

Not yet ready to throw in the towel, I attributed this to me being older and extremely good looking. I did the classic it’s-me-don’t-you-remember pose that everyone does for some reason.

You know the one – sort of smiling with your eyebrows raised and arms out with a look of expectation, as if this will somehow jog their memory.

I’ll never forget her response. “Ohhh yeah, right… weren’t you that kid that sort of liked wrestling?”

I seriously doubt she could’ve said a more deflating sentence. That’s about as opposite of our pact as you can get. I mean, yeah my mom took me to Toronto to see WWF Raw in ’97, but to be vaguely remembered for that?

The point of this story is that our feelings of attraction and intimacy are based on perception, not reality. This defeats the common objection that feelings of connection, or even love, upon meeting someone “aren’t real”.

Whether you develop an understanding of someone over time, or (falsely) believe you possess that understanding instantly, the experience is the same. You could just as easily argue that loving someone who constantly lies about who they are means your love for them isn’t “real”.

This point of contention aside, how could you possibly believe you know enough about someone to love them on sight?

 

The Psychology of Love at First Sight

 

Alright, so people who experience love at first sight have a couple psychological traits in common. One, they’re raised on boy-meets-girl fairytale stories, or at least believe in the concept of love involving some element of destiny or fate. We all rely on our beliefs to explain the world around us, and the way we filter the world and interpret things is shaped by our beliefs.

Whether or not your beliefs are accurate is irrelevant – your beliefs are accurate to you so your brain will serve up emotions corresponding to those beliefs. Your emotions shape the way you act, and the end result is your brain basically manipulates you into acting in accordance with your beliefs without stopping to question whether or not they make sense.

The second thing you need to know in order to understand love at first sight is heuristics. I’ll spare you the boring explanation. Instead, let’s do that experiment I talked about:

I’m going to describe someone, and I want you to imagine what they look like. Imagine someone really smart, they’re the top performer in the chess club, the captain of the debate team, and they get straight A’s. Hold the image in your head and scroll down.

I asked 10 people these same questions.

There were only two types of people described.

Does the person you imagined look like either of these two?

Scroll down.

First off, I’ll acknowledge that the results you get from your friends might be totally different. That’s not the point of this thought experiment.

The point is you are able to imagine very detailed physical descriptions of people without being given any physical traits.

I didn’t mention gender, height, weight, appearance, ethnicity, hair colour, eye colour, clothing, yet people are able to answer these questions. And not only answer them, but answer them with confidence.

Not a single person said “I can’t tell you what they look like, you didn’t describe them physically.”

This is called the availability heuristic. It’s the tendency for us to accept whatever comes to mind first without stopping to consider whether or not it’s true. If one of the people surveyed came across a guy similar to the photo, they would assume a shitload of information about him, even though it might be totally inaccurate.

It’s not just these people either. We all do this, all the time. Every time you look at someone you have a general idea of what they’re like, if you’d get along, and so on.

This is the basic process behind love at first sight. Take someone who has ingrained ideas about what their ideal romantic partner would be like, who whole-heartedly believes their first impressions of people are totally accurate, and put a person representing their ideal in front of them.

Another factor is the simple belief in love at first sight, caused by a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. You see what you want to see, and selectively ignore things that might challenge your beliefs. The less someone relies on an evidence based interpretation of the world, the more likely they are to believe in hokey shit like astrology, the law of attraction, or that they know and intimately love someone on first sight.

Unlike the former two, however, emotions like love are based entirely upon belief. Think about it – if I show you a picture of a guy and tell you he cheated on his wife and abandoned his kids, how would you feel? What about if I told you he’s a swell dude and an awesome father to his loving family? Obviously, who he actually is doesn’t change, but your emotions do.

In that sense, love at first sight is absolutely real, and the feeling is identical to the love you feel from getting to know someone over a long period of time. Whether or not you actually know someone doesn’t change the emotion you experience.

What do you think? Are you convinced, or do you think this is all psychobabble bullshit? Let me know what you think, especially if you’ve experienced love at first sight yourself!

Keys to a Successful Marriage

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So you want to get married, but you don’t want to end up as a divorce statistic. Makes sense.

But what are the keys to a successful marriage? What determines if your marriage will be successful, or come to an end in the stale smelling office of your local attorney?

While there’s no exact formula for success, there are definitely things you can do to improve your odds.

 

What Do Successful Married Couples Do Differently?

 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many, many couples over the years. There are definitely clear keys to success, and certain types of people seem to do better at marriage in general than others.

Basically, successful married couples are in sync on key issues. These are very specific issues though – if you like Tim Horton’s and your spouse likes Starbucks you’ll probably be OK.

There are also certain qualities that are helpful, like easy goingness (is that a word?), open mindedness, and self-awareness. Since traits tend to take a long time to change, you’re better off focusing on things you can start doing right away.

 

3 Key Takeaways You Can Use Today

 

1) Never Stop Dating

The most common problem with marriage compared to dating is quality time.

When you’re dating, you can’t make enough time for your new romance. When you’re married, there’s a tendency to make time for you and yours when everything else is done. The problem, obviously, is there’s always more to do.

There’s a kind of false security that comes with marriage, isn’t there? You feel like you can slack because, well, you’re married. They’re not going anywhere.

You can’t use the commitment of marriage as an excuse to slack on your partner.

2) Get Your Priorities Straight

One of the biggest complaints from couples is they’re both trying hard and neither is happy. This happens when you’re doing stuff for your partner, but not the stuff that’s important to them.

A common example is the husband who works 80 hours a week and the wife who says he doesn’t care about her. The husband loses his shit, and screams “What!!! Do you know how fucking hard I work for this family!?” and on and on.

An interesting exercise: Write out the top three things most important to your partner’s relationship satisfaction, and have them do the same. Compare your answers.

When I explain the exercise, people smile and I can see them thinking “Too easy”. Immediately after, jaws drop and I get to enjoy a truly magical moment when they look at each other, and everything clicks into place. There’s so much carried in this look: Amazement, apology, curiousity, understanding, connection. Moments like this fuel my passion for reconnecting couples.

3) Know Your Role

Although you may feel like you’re always the same person, you have many roles that allow you to adapt to different situations.

A doctor, for example, is interacting with people in a different way than he would at home. He’s in a professional role. While in this role, certain traits like empathy are stronger, while others like judgement are minimized.

Your priorities change depending on what role you’re in. As a mother or father, caring for your children and ensuring stability and financial security are important. If you’re too busy being mom or dad, you can forget to be husband and wife.

Be aware of how you define yourself, and how that affects your marriage.

What My Father’s Death Taught Me About Forgiveness

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Like it or not, the success of your relationships – romantic, professional, and otherwise – depends on your ability to forgive.

If you don’t know how to forgive, your relationships only last until some shit goes down. I don’t care how much of a saint you are, eventually something will happen in your marriage, friendships, or otherwise that needs forgiving.

The big problem I see with forgiveness is people wanted to do it but being afraid. Afraid of what will happen, afraid of being shut out, afraid of what others may think.

 

What Forgiveness Is, and What Forgiveness Isn’t

 

Think about your past. Something you wish could be undone. This might be something that happened to you, or it might be something you did to someone else.

I define forgiveness as the ability to cut loose the negative emotions associated with these events. In other words, to let go, stop wallowing, and get a fucking move on with your life. To me, waiting to forgive someone is a tragedy.

You know pretty much immediately if you’re going to forgive someone for something (or yourself) before you die. If you’re never going to forgive someone, that’s OK. You have every right to do so. If you are, you might as well get on it.

What reasons are there for not forgiving someone right away? Anger. Waiting on an apology. Waiting to see if they’ll make amends for whatever they’ve done. Waiting to see positive progress. Generally, things that are reactive.

Any time you make decisions based on what another person does, you’re being reactive. In other words, their actions are shaping your life. Not a great position to be in.

Whether or not you forgive someone is independent of your choice to keep them in your life. In both my personal and professional experience, forgiving is essentially an act of understanding, and I think this is something that’s often overlooked.

To see the extent of this, all you’d have to do is sit in on one of my family or couples sessions. You wanna know the most common phrases? “How could you?” “Why would you?” and other variations of “I no longer believe I understand you well enough to trust that you’ll meet my standards for acceptable behaviour.”

Forgiving someone is saying “I understand why you did what you did. I understand how that could happen. I understand this does not reflect on me nor does it imply anything about me. These actions are yours. I choose to accept you as you are, forgive you, and have you in my life (or not). You are the only person responsible for absolving yourself, and whether or not you do so is up to you.”

 

How You Forgive (Or Don’t) Is Based On Your Past

 

I’m not going to hide my bias here. My advice isn’t based on a book. It’s based on my life. I don’t know if you’ll understand my views without a bit of context, so I’ll do my best to be tastefully honest here.

My parents split when I was an infant. When I was 6, my dad fell from a 7th story balcony. He lived, but as would be the case with any athletic young guy, he was permanently changed. Alcoholism and addiction to prescription pain medication would adversely affect his life, as well as mine.

When I was 14, my father called me up and told me I was out of the family. A couple months later I moved 3,500 kilometres (2000 miles) across the country with no idea what the hell was happening, or why.

On my 18th birthday I decided I was a man now (lol), and as such was owed an explanation. I called him up ready to do battle, but to my surprise he burst into tears when he heard my voice. He didn’t even know what he said to me, and had no idea why I stopped talking to him. It was at this point I realized how mentally damaged he was, and suddenly, my whole childhood made a lot more sense. Talk about a mindfuck.

Three years later, his father, one of the best men I have ever known, died of cancer. I only saw him twice before this happened. Two years after that, my father died of a prescription drug overdose. He was 51. I saw him three times between the phone call and his passing.

I knew he loved me, he was just really messed up. I was willing to endure the shitty parts of our relationship because his days of clarity were so cool. He would make jokes, tell me he loved me, and let me do stuff my mom would get mad at me for. It was like I was a regular kid, and on those days I would pretend things were always that way.

 

The 3 Things This Taught Me About Forgiveness

 

1) Only You Know What’s Best For You

Not your family. Not your friends. Not your spouse. Not your counsellor. Not your priest. Just you.

Take their opinions into consideration, but ultimately you have to trust yourself. Almost every couple I see asks me if they should stay together, and I tell them the truth: I don’t know. It’s not my job to tell them if they should split or stay together, it’s my job to help them figure out which scenario will result in a happier life.

It’s scary to be the sole bearer of your fate. I get that. It’s way easier to trust someone else, that way you have someone else to blame if shit hits the fan. Ultimately though, catering to this fear robs you of happiness, fulfilment, and the satisfaction that comes with being the sole architect of your life.

2) Don’t Fuck Around On the Fence

Like I said earlier, you know almost immediately if you will at some point forgive someone. Waiting is reactive, and it wastes time, which (obviously) is something you can’t get back.

Holding on to anger only hurts you. Not forgiving someone because someone else thinks what they did doesn’t deserve forgiveness only hurts you. If you think they’re remorseful and are taking steps (or will) to correct the action, what purpose is furthered by not forgiving someone?

3) Forgiving Someone Doesn’t Mean What They’ve Done Is OK

Forgiveness isn’t about excusing someone’s actions. It’s about understanding and acceptance. You can forgive someone and let them out of your life.

Or, you can forgive someone and keep them in your life, even if they aren’t the nicest. If my old man was still around, I’d forgive him for the frustrating stuff he does because I know it’s caused by mental illness. If it was just him being an asshole, I’d still forgive him – but we probably wouldn’t have a relationship until he agreed to make some changes.

Thoughts? Struggling with a dilemma over whether you should forgive someone or not? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so take a second and leave a comment now.