Relationships and Contract Negotiations

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Dear David,

I am a young professional living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. I am dating a wonderful guy who happens to be 15 years my senior (he’s 40), for a little over a year and a half now. We started dating casually but eventually fell pretty hard for each other.  After a few ups-and-downs, we moved in together last September.

Things have been going wonderfully, and we have spoken about marriage and having kids and he was on board, especially because he is older than me. Because our building is going condo and offering buyouts, the idea of buying a place of our own together seemed great. We were looking at properties and discussing options; and yes marriage was only a step after that.  Then things cooled down after we decided to take our time and not rush anything because of a buyout. Then one day I was joking about just getting married at city hall and it got very serious and he said he was scared to get married again (he dated a woman for 4 years, got married to her to keep her in the country and she left him for another man 6 months after). He’s afraid of me leaving him. After all the talks we had about getting married and how he was so excited to have kids, I was shocked.  After 3 days of flipping out in my own head, I told him straight out: I expected us to be engaged by the end of this year. He said he was being silly and I caught him at a bad time and he promised me we would be engaged by the end of the year.

Only now, he discusses things like kids and our wedding whenever he wants, but when I ask legitimate questions about our future like when he is thinking of really making an effort to get a new job (because without a new job, he won’t be able to afford an engagement ring), or if we can move into a new apartment together (I love our place but it’s small) or anything concrete, he freezes. He starts getting annoyed and blames my need to over-plan things and just says we’ll see. He is very independent and doesn’t like me “checking in” on him but I feel like these are normal questions to ask for a woman who is going to spend her life with another person. I want to know what his plan is, and it seems he has no plan.  Although this doesn’t stop him from seeing a beautiful cake and saying how nice a cake like that would be at our wedding, or randomly saying on a walk “lets have babies”.

I’m not quite sure what to do at this point.  I cant really get a straight answer out of him when I talk to him (one minute its babies, the next he is scared to get married again, and a minute after that he is sure I’m the one). Any advice?

K

Dear K,

It appears as though your guy wants to marry you and have kids, but I think he’s scared that he’s not good enough—for you, for the woman who left him, etc.  That’s why he spazzed out after the City Hall suggestion.  This fear of not being good enough makes him reticent to commit to you.

The first suggestion I have is assuage some of his fear.  Let him know that he is good enough (if you mean it, of course).  Tell him that you love him no matter what type of ring he gets you, no matter what type of dwelling you reside in.

By you writing about those details in your email to me, I suspect some of your love might be conditional on those things (however small an amount) and he might be buckling under the weight of that conditionality.  People fall in love with people, not their circumstances.  Let him know you love him for who he is.  When the love is established, you can get into the nuts-and-bolts.

First off, it’s not ridiculous to discuss conditions of a marriage and family.  Marriage isn’t merely a matter of loving someone.  It’s a contract.  And like all contracts, the terms must be laid out from the outset.  I do freelance writing which requires contracts.  My client and I first discuss the project, its terms and expectations, and then a contract is drafted, which is either signed or not.  Only when the contract is signed is the project is carried out.

So once the love is established (basically saying that you want to work with him), you can discuss what you both want out of a marriage specifically.  This is the negotiation stage of contract making.  When I proposed to my girlfriend, it was after we had established our love for each other and discussed what we both wanted for our futures—values, family, lifestyle, etc.  If there was a huge rift with these things, I might not have asked.  As it was, we were in alignment and we agreed on the contract (or agreed to formalize the contract in the near future).

Keep in mind that discussing the terms and entering a contract is not the same as fulfilling on them immediately.  Like any contract, many of the items discussed won’t be fulfilled on for some time.  It’s just an agreement about what you both want out of your contract.

I think if you’re willing to accept him as he is, understanding that he might not immediately fulfill on all the terms, he will probably be more inclined to propose a contract.  He might even be more motivated to get into action when he knows you’re okay to be where he’s at.  That’s what happened for me:  my fiancée allowed me to be where I was at, with my not-so-enviable circumstances.  Her love and acceptance gave me space to start moving toward what I wanted, rather than feeling inadequate for not being where I “should” be.  It was only after I proposed that I got the ring she wanted and the job that would make our contract work.

If he’s not willing to talk about the terms of a marriage specifically, if he’s dismissive, lackadaisical or unwilling to make plans, then you might want to ditch him.  Give him an opportunity to step up, but if he doesn’t take it, it’s probably an ominous sign of things to come.  I haven’t been married before, but I imagine it requires a lot of stepping up and uncomfortable discussions.

Lastly, you mentioning his age reminds me of the fiction-writing adage:  “if you’re going to write about a gun, it better go off.”  I don’t want to overstate this as an issue.  It sounds like you guys are into each other.  But if you are going to marry this guy, be super clear that this is your guy.  It’s not so much that he’s older and all the issues that entails—different peer groups, different physiological issues, etc.  What’s more disconcerting is that he’s exhibiting behavior appropriate for someone in his mid-twenties.  If he’s not cool with committing by this age, if he is not willing to have tough conversations and make plans with you for the future at the age of 40, when will he be ready for those things?  60?

Coming from this 35 year-old, 25 is not that old.  Don’t feel the need to rush yourself because he’s getting older.  This is an important contact.  You want to be sure both parties are committed to fulfilling on their agreements.

Hope this helps and many blessings to you both.

 

Stop Waiting for Things to Get Better

My total income last year could purchase a late-90’s Chrysler Sebring convertible.  I tempered this lamentable situation with the certainty that financial providence was right around the corner.  My well-thought-out plan was that Oprah would read my blog and say, “holy shit, how did the world ever exist without David’s prophetic prose?  Get him a book deal and TV show stat.”  Money problem solved.

Perhaps Ms. Winfrey has read my blog and is conferring with her people about how to present her generous support.  Or perhaps I am completely deluded.

Most of us have difficulty owning the results in our lives.  We see the unhealthy relationships, crappy jobs and flabby bodies, and recognize they’re problematic.  But we are certain that something is going to change real soon (read:  Oprah’s intervention).  That dude/chick from OK Cupid with the picture of him/her with his/her dog is going to be our soulmate.  We’re going to leave our job and start an organic cupcake shop.  We are going to get a PX90 Workout System, cut out carbs and be totally lean and ripped by summer.

But what happens?  The date was annoying and couldn’t stop talking about his/her dog.  We made elaborate business plans that collect dust because things got so busy at our jobs.  PX90 and no-carbs are trumped by “Breaking Bad” episodes and organic cupcakes.

The reasons we don’t change are:

  1. We are deluded about who we are and where we are at.  We have distorted views of ourselves and the facts of our lives.  It’s impossible to map a journey before setting one’s bearings.
  2. We believe the problem is out there—that it’s about finding the right person, the right business opportunity, the right workout system and diet, the right whatever. But the problem is never out there, later.  It’s right here, now, and it’s us.  And unless we change now, nothing else will.

My girlfriend and I have been talking about our future—cohabitation, procreation, other -tions.  These are real world plans; ones that require more than dreams for realizing.  You can’t buy diapers with delusion.

Our future will not happen if I wait for Oprah to call.  Our future, if we get this far, will feature two babies, one baby-sized and another 6’3”/170 pounds.

If I want a future where I might be able to take care of someone other than myself, I had to get real.

The first thing I recognized is that I need paid work.  I’ve recognized this for a while , but recognizing and doing are vastly different things.  Until I have a job, my realization is an abstraction—devoid of meaning or reality.

Based on some coaching I received, I was asked, “What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation?”

What was missing for me was humility.  I wasn’t humble enough to say that I needed and wanted work; I wasn’t humble enough to say I didn’t know what kind of work I wanted; I wasn’t humble enough to say that my resume is pretty shitty for most jobs.

I also saw boldness was missing.  Boldness meant being willing to do whatever was necessary to get a job. It’s a tough market.  I suspect few would say, “Let’s hire that timid guy.  He’s really going to be an asset.”

Out of the “what’s missing,” I generated actions that corresponded with them.  What I came up with was a letter sent to around 100 contacts.  Here it is:

Subject:  Request for Help

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, I had an unexpected, middle-of-the-night move (aka breakup).  At that moment, I needed my friends’ help more than ever, so I spammed you, requesting shelter.  You answered that request with love and generosity, landing me a great place within 12 hours of making it.  Few things are as sublime as genuine dependence.  Having no shame in asking for what you need.

Today, I find myself at a similar crossroads.

I need and want work.  I’ve been plugging along with Lucid [an event I produce] and my blog for a while now, and will continue to do so.  But frankly, I don’t make enough money to support myself, much less the family that’s in my future.  I’m also eager to show up someplace where it’s more than me making the breaks–where I can contribute to a large team.

So I’m making a request:  If any of you have ideas or leads for jobs, I want to hear them.

What I’m looking for:  I’m open.  I see my chief competencies as communication (written and spoken) and relationship forging and maintaining.  I do event stuff obviously, but my main joy is working with people.  I believe these qualities would lend themselves to writing, sales, marketing, HR, PR or advertising positions.

Just as important as what I will do is where.  I want to be in a dynamic, progressive, conscious/non-evil environment (i.e. no big pharma).  I’m open to big and small organizations alike–from Google to start-ups. Regular work is preferred to freelance, though I’m open to the latter.  Some areas I’ve been considering are tech, marketing/branding firms/shops, food (e.g. Whole Foods), conferences/events and media; but again, I’m open to suggestions.

My corporate resume is thin, but I’m not afraid to start at the beginning.  I’m happy to prove myself (a well-placed character reference is always appreciated if you’re inclined to do so).

I will reach out to you personally, but I want to first cast a wide net.  If you have any suggestions or are willing to lend your insights, please let me know.  I look forward to spam-free communication meeting.

Until then, with great appreciation,

David

The response was amazing.  Within five days, I am contemplating two very attractive job possibilities, not to mention several others.  But none of this would have happened if I had continued to wait for something outside myself to remedy the situation or delude myself to think that things were going to get better.  Who I was being—unrealistic, complacent, timid—would not propel me to the next level.  I had to be something else if I wanted something else.

With this in mind, here are some things to try out:

  1. Name one area of your life you are hoping will get better.
  2. Get honest about what will most likely happen in that area. For example, if you’ve been underemployed your whole adult life, you will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  It’s not guaranteed, but it’s likely.
  3. What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation? For me, it was humility and boldness.  Other examples include trusting, open, honest, generous, playful, etc.
  4. Name an action that corresponds with the “what’s missing.” For example, my email represented both humility and boldness.
  5. Take that action now. Like, really.

[I’m still looking for dating and relationship questions.  Please email them to me df at davidfriedlander dot com.  All correspondences are confidential.  Thanks.]

Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small

[This question is a bit on the long side, but a perfect example of hastily embarked upon relationships, dating when you want kids, and a bunch of other nuggets.  Many thanks to the sender.]

Dear David,

I started dating someone about a month ago that I met online. We have a ton in common (he’s presently getting a degree that I also have) and when I met him I found him cuter in person than in his pictures. The first few dates were some serious “Whoa, You!” stuff and we kind of jumped in fast—he asked me to be exclusive very early, which made me uncomfortable but which I agreed to because I liked him so much, and we slept together soon afterward.

We’ve talked generally about some of the important “wants” and he mentioned in passing that he wants to have kids eventually, which made me feel like we were on the same page. For the record: I’m 35, freelance/self employed and still look and live like a younger person, but am getting tired of it. My last serious relationship lasted three years but ended two years ago—the ex and I were definitely on the track to marriage, etc. but got derailed and after a year of couples therapy, I left. This dude is 40 and was in a long relationship/marriage for most of his 20s and 30s. She wanted kids but he didn’t—with her, he says, because he knew the marriage couldn’t sustain it. He’s been divorced/out of the relationship for two years, during which time he sold his house, left his lucrative professional job and basically changed his whole life to enroll in a masters program that he’s serious about. He’s in his first year and making a stipend.

One night we had a date where I hear some things that make my ears perk up. I bring up the topic of whether we’re in the same place given that he was in a longterm committed relationship for so long and may want to sew his oats for a while, whereas I’ve been moving around the country more or less single for a long time and may be ready to settle down a bit more. I mention that I want to have a family and ideally would start within two or three years (again, I’m 35). He basically freaks out and says he “doesn’t know” whether he will be ready to have a family within my time frame, and that he doesn’t want to start down a road that will lead to my disappointment, my leaving him when I’m 38 to find someone who’s ready or staying with him and resenting him. He’s particularly worried about all of this because of guilt from his last relationship where he “ruined someone’s life” by not having kids with her. Continue reading “Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small”

Send Me Your Dating and Relationship Questions

In an effort to find out what people are reading and writing, I have feeds on several personal development blogs:  Zen Habits, The Minimaliststs, EV Bogue, Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind and even Tim Ferriss.

These guys (yes, they’re all guys) speak on a variety of topics like goal setting, overcoming obstacles, being happier, health, fitness.  Some, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits espouse simplicity.  Others, like Ferriss, espouse over-the-top living.

I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit in the personal development blogosphere.  Here are some places where I don’t fit:

  • Money.  I’m running low on the shit and can’t seem to generate more.
  • Career.  I’m asking my readers for jobs, which kind of blows my credibility there (got one?).
  • Diet.  A couple months ago I was vegan, now I’m eating meat three times a day—I wouldn’t dare take my readers through my dietary vicissitudes.
  • Fitness.  I work out regularly, but I’m hardly organized enough about it to share it in a systematized way.
  • Happiness.  Though quite happy, I don’t want the burden of being an expert on the matter.
  • Time management. Do you know how long it took me to write this post?

A couple weeks ago I wrote a series about dating and relationships.  They were my most popular posts to date.  So many of us struggle with these topics, and while I won’t claim mastery, I know a thing or two.  When I was single, I was able to meet women fairly easily.  Through past relationships, I acquired vast knowledge that prepped me for the great relationship I’m in now.

So I’m offering up my dating and relationship, um, expertise.  I would like to know what you’re dealing with—your situations, your questions, topics you’d like to see addressed.  More specifically, here are some things I can offer:

  • For women. I can offer a man’s-eye-view of your situation—whether you are seeking or are in a relationship.  Many women are pretty blind to some of the things they do when meeting men.  Same goes for relationships—you do things that set up lose-lose situations with your partners.  I believe I can cure your blindness…or at least get you some glasses.
  • For men.  For years, I unconsciously did things that destroyed my chances with women before I even met them.  I attracted either no one or the wrong one.  I also did things that consistently ruined my chances for being in or maintaining happy, healthy relationships.  I’ve come a long way and I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Whether single, in a relationship, man or woman, gay or straight, please shoot me your questions or topic suggestions at df [at] davidfriedlander [dot] com.  All correspondences will be strictly anonymous.

Remember that your question might not only help you, but someone who is going through the same situation (the issues don’t vary that much).   I look forward to hearing from you.

Seeing What is Possible, Dealing with Reality

Emily Dickinson: Possibility/Bedroom Dweller.

Emily Dickinson wrote the famous verse, “I dwell in possibility.”  Unlike the famous poetess, many of us dwell in limitation, using the past as our main referent for the future—i.e. because we’ve have never done it in the past, it will not happen in the future.

Possibility on the other hand allows for unprecedented realities.  Something that has never happened can happen simply because it’s possible.  We might not know how it will happen, but when we acknowledge the possibility, we are more likely to take the action corresponding to realizing that possibility.

For example, if we think being physically fit is impossible, based on the fact we’ve been unhealthy our whole lives, we won’t do the things necessary to be fit.  Conversely, if we believe being fit is possible, even if we don’t know how, we can figure out ways to realize that objective.

There is a dark-side of possibility however.  It’s what I call “the narcosis of possibility.” The easiest place to see this is at 12:15AM after a few vodka-sodas.  You invent a possibility, like starting a business.  You can’t wait to start making it happen.  The dude on the next bar-stool is going to design your logo.  Any-fucking-thing is possible!

You wake up the next day with a vague recollection of what was so great about your idea.  You try to muster the enthusiasm of the night before but are preoccupied by thoughts of coffee, eggs and Law and Order reruns.  You think of your lack of business skill, money, etc.  Fuck it.  It wasn’t that good an idea anyway.  Reality trumps drunken possibility once again.

This phenomenon is not limited to buzzed brainstorming.  Many sober minds have conjured great ideas that do not withstand reality.  We get psyched about a project, relationship, fitness plan, etc., but we fail to deal with things as they are in reality.  We don’t acknowledge our level of business training, our emotional maturity (or lack thereof), our state of health, etc.  Instead of developing these things, we become overwhelmed by the gap between possibility and reality, often doing nothing.  There are others who use willpower and force to bridge that gap—these people can make things happen, but generally at the expense of their health and happiness.

Sometimes we can’t admit that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean we should do it.

Other times we create a possibility aware of the realities we’re dealing with.  It’s something we’ve considered well.  We have an idea and plan to carry it out.  But once the plan is in motion, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, “Is this working?”

Lest I be too abstract, I’m writing about myself.  I started this blog 6 months ago based on the possibility of writing for a living.  This idea was pure, uncut possibility.  According to the past, I had no reason to believe I would make it happen.

I love the writing part and the feedback I’m recieving.  I love processing my life and helping others process theirs.  But I haven’t been dealing with a couple nagging realities:  I don’t love not making money or working in isolation.  I’ve been trying to will these things out of my reality, but I can’t seem to do it.

Sure, it’s entirely possible I can make money if I refine my plan. I could find more ways to engage people.  I actively do both these things.

But the truth is I’m not dealing with reality.  I want to be better at working alone.  I want to be more of a self-starter.  I want to be one of these people—who seem so numerous on the internet—who through pluck and Twitter, amass great followers and fortunes.  But in reality I am not these things—at least not right now.

I have to assess where I’m at, based not on the narcotic effect of possibility, but on the sober truth of reality.  From there, I can create a new possibility.

The new possibility I’ve created is to continue to develop my writing, but with more human contact and steadier income.  There’s an ancient tradition I am going to employ to remedy this situation.  It’s called a job.

Maybe if Emily Dickinson took a similar approach, she would have left her bedroom.

It’s important to note that deviating from an original possibility is not killing it.  In fact, sticking to the original plan would kill it.  My new possibility affords me self-expression through writing, supported by the stability and relationship building of a job.

Here are some things to consider for yourself:

  1. What possibility in your life is being thwarted by reality? In other words, name a dream—one you may or may not be taking action on.  Within that dream, what realities are compromising your ability to take action or enjoy acting?  For example, you want to date, but don’t do so because you have trouble being open with potential partners.
  2. What new possibility could you create if you dealt with reality as it presently exists? Using the above example, based on your lack of skill, you could create the new possibility of being supported, getting a dating coach or asking someone who is romantically fulfilled to find out what he or she does.
  3. Take one action that based on this new possibility right now.

The Case of Mistaken Significance

Oh man, I’ve got problems

First off, I’m trying to realize my dream of writing for a living.  I’ve been at it for 6 months and I’m not making money.  I’m not broke as I earn money from other sources and have savings to draw off for living expenses.  I also have a supportive girlfriend, family and friends.  But I am afraid I won’t be able to realize my dream.  If I don’t, it’ll mean I’m a loser.  It’s a big, horrible problem.

Another problem is my diet.  A couple months ago I started practicing the Paleolithic diet, which suggests that humans are not genetically set up to consume domesticated foodstuffs like grains and sugar.  The diet mostly consists of eating vegetables and meat—no grains, no legumes, no processed foods.  I was doing good for a while, but my girlfriend and I started holding community brunches every Sunday.  Between 10 and 30 people show up each week, each contributing dishes.  The brunches have been great, but I’ve had trouble not consuming grain products.  It’s been tough to get back on track the next day.  My blood sugar fluctuates quite a bit and sometimes (like now) I feel a little lightheaded detoxing from the sugar.  If I don’t stick to this diet, I’ll be a flabby, energy-deprived loser, which is an awful problem.

I have communication problems.  My phone was broke last week, which was a huge clusterfuck.  I relented and got an iPhone the other day.  It works great, but I can’t seem to figure out how to sync my Google calendar with with my iCal for realtime updates.  I’m afraid I’ll put an appointment in Google and it won’t sync with iCal (or vice-versa), which might cause me to double book or something.  People will think I’m a flake.  My life will unravel around me.

I have housing problems.  My girlfriend and I are discussing moving in together.  We want a nice place in Brooklyn, preferably around Park Slope or Cobble Hill—two beautiful, tree and brownstone-lined neighborhoods.  But we also want someplace to duck out on weekends in the country—maybe something in the Catskills or in Pennsylvania.  We’re not sure where we’ll live or how we’ll make the country thing happen.  Without quiet, spacious homes, we might not achieve inner peace and enlightenment, which is a pretty significant problem.

I can’t think of any other problems at the moment, but I’ll post them in the comment section when I do.

If a problem is a flame, significance is its oxygen. No significance, no problem.

This is easy to see with problems as as shamefully bourgeois as mine—the kind of problems most of us deal with.  We have no “real” problems.  Most (if not all) of us have computers, which puts us ahead of at least 85% of the world’s population in wealth.  We are reading a blog, which suggests we’re on the younger side and are probably relatively healthy.  We probably live in America or some other first world nation and enjoy a stable, non-violent society.  The majority of problems that occupy our consciousness are probably pretty trivial, centering around ourselves and our unmet desires.

A fraction of us have problems that seem inherently significant.  Terminal illness, major health problems, death of a close friend or family member, eviction, impending or realized poverty, etc.  We believe there is no spin on them that would make them insignificant.

But what if nothing had any significance outside of the meaning we give it?  Let’s take terminal illness as an example.  It seems inherently significant, but, as Chuck Palahniuk writes in “Fight Club,” “On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”  We’re all going to die.  Every important figure throughout history has lost against some form of terminal illness.  Why are we or our loved ones so special?  What if death had no significance?

I’m not suggesting we deny that things have meaning to us.  For example, we might decide  ending war has meaning (surely a higher caliber issue than syncing calendars on an iPhone).  But what if we recognized that the meaning and significance we give something is ours, not the thing’s?  Believing this, we could act and whether we achieved the results we wanted or not, it would not mean anything about ourselves or the world.

The worst part of giving significance is that it often compels us to not act at all.  The results have such grave implications, so we just avoid the issue altogether.  For example, we won’t submit that manuscript or ask that girl out because if we don’t receive the result we seek, it’s significant.  It might confirm that we are the losers we think we are.  Better to do nothing instead and not receive confirmation.

What if we could just act without making the problem or the results significant?

With these these thoughts in mind, consider the following:

  1. List the big problems in your life?
  2. What meaning do you give them? For example, not getting a raise means you aren’t valued or important, or not getting a return call from a girl you like means you’re unattractive.
  3. What if these problems had no intrinsic significance? What if not getting a raise or not getting a return call meant nothing?  They lacked significance.
  4. In what ways would you act if the results of your actions lost their significance? What if getting rejected was not significant?  What if dying was not significant?  How might you act if these were the case?
  5. Choose one action you’ve been avoiding because of its significance and take it now.

Alpha Males and the Women Who Love Them

Want to go out on a date?

Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my folks divorced before I was old enough to realize they were married.  When I was two years-old, mom got primary custody and dad got every-other-weekend.  Aside from 4 days per month, mom was both mother and father.

I love my mom.  She did a great job raising me.  But she’s a woman.  And there’s only so much a boy can learn about being a man from a woman.  I was like one of those boys who are raised by a pack of wolves, and think they are a wolf too.  Except I was raised by a woman, and…you know.

Being raised by a woman, I inferred a lot of things about how to behave toward women.  I inferred that men and women are the same thing with different bodies; that I must be polite and respectful; that I mustn’t make women sex objects; that I mustn’t be too assertive or aggressive; that I must listen to what women say.

I abided by these lessons for a long time.  I grew up to be a polite, benign, sexless, ineffectual wuss.  I had almost no relationships throughout my teens—living in a state of frustrated and unrequited sexuality.  I was 20 before I lost my virginity—not by any virtue, but because I was so sexually retarded.

Like many, the cure for my frustrated sexuality was alcohol.  Being drunk afforded me an opportunity to inhabit my masculinity—a state where I didn’t have to be polite or respectful; when it was okay to make women sex objects; when I could be assertive; when I didn’t have to listen to what women said because I could see what they wanted (2 very different things in my experience).

As it would happen, women responded far better to my drunken inappropriateness than my sober wussiness.  As a drunken lout, I had a chance.  As a polite and sober wuss, I had none.

Unfortunately, the more I drank, the more inappropriate and distorted my masculinity became.  I slurred catcalls to women on the street.  I hit on girls who were clearly not interested in me, once earning a black eye from a justifiably angry boyfriend.  I tried to sleep with any woman who’d have me—a population that decreased inversely proportional to my rate of alcohol consumption.

These drunken years gave me a taste of what it meant to inhabit my masculinity, but the consequences of drinking made it an unsustainable formula.

Many years after getting sober, I recognized that my effectiveness with women—and life in general—was still lacking.  I still had trouble attracting women and, I later realized, attracting all sorts of things in my life.

This realization led me to the world of “Pick-Up Arts”—a subculture made popular by Neil Strauss’s book, “The Game.”  I can’t tell you all the things I learned while reading it in this post (it would get too long).  But one of the main points is that women are attracted to alpha males.

What is an alpha male?  An alpha male is a man who leads; he knows where he’s going and what he’s about; he doesn’t apologize for being who he is (including his sexuality); and he doesn’t seek other’s approval (probably the most important attribute).  Alpha status can be established by brute force (hence why a lot of assholes get so much action) or cooperative power (nice guys can and do succeed with women and in life).  Also, alpha status isn’t a hierarchal system; there can be multiple alpha males in a room.

I saw that I failed with woman because I believed what women said they wanted in a man—an open, respectful, caring guy.  It’s not true.  Women want alpha males—men who don’t apologize for who they are; who might want a women, but don’t need them or their approval.  Many of my drunken forays showed me that first hand.

This is not to say an alpha male cannot be open, respectful or caring.  My opinion is that real alpha males are inherently those things.  But an alpha male doesn’t do those things to please others.  He does them because that’s who he is.

With all this in mind, here are some things to think about today:

Men, stop being wusses! Stop being inoffensive.  It’s offensive.  It’s better to elicit a strong feeling, even if it’s a negative one, than no feeling (important note:  I’m assuming that I’m addressing responsible men, who know how to respect boundaries and know the difference between right and wrong).  Own your life.  If you don’t, anyone and everyone else will.

Also keep in mind that wussiness with women shows up in other areas of your life.  Where else do you bend yourself in the face of something you want?

Women, stop trying to out-alpha the men in your life! Stop trying to prove you are as strong as they are.  Doing this leaves no space for men to be strong for you, which is what men want to be for you.  And it’s what you secretly want to be done for you.  What many women end up doing is proving their strength, but doing so alone or surrounded by their commiserating women friends.  Neither situation is desirable.

You’re Not a Late Bloomer, You’re Just Avoiding Shit

Take if from me, nothing gets better.

I visited my grandma when I was 20 in her nursing home in San Pablo, California.  She moved there after my grandfather, whom she had spent 58 bickering years with, died.  She was sliding downhill from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, which put her lucid mind at the mercy of a rapidly disintegrating body.

One night while visiting her, we went to a Chinese takeout restaurant down the block from the home.  The walk was painfully slow and long.  My once solid and tall, German-born grandma inched her walker to the florescent-lit, formica-tabled destination.

After we ordered, my grandma revealed her hidden agenda.  She brought up the memoirs my grandpa self-published shortly before dying, in which he made ample and glowing references to his first love (not my grandma).  It was well-known in the family that he maintained an affair with this woman for many decades.  Meanwhile, he included a few passing and indifferent references to my grandma.  She was destroyed by this and wanted to let her grandson know.  Moreover, she believed there were hidden chapters of the memoir where he expanded on his love for this other woman.

My 84 year-old grandma sobbed and pleaded, petitioning me to get my dad to giver her these chapters.  I knew nothing, nor wanted to.

She had spent nearly 60 years carrying around resentment and hurt toward my grandfather.  Now, at the end of her life, there was no redemption, no healing, no resolution—just an embittered old woman with a crippled body weighed down by a huge chip on her shoulder.

Time heals nothing.  It just gives our problems wrinkles.

Most of us walk around like there’s a good time to get started on something, to address something that bothers us, to communicate something important.  We wait around for the right time.  When this time strikes, our lives will begin.  We’ll grow into the majestic creatures we know we were meant to be.  We think we’re late bloomers.

It’s bullshit.  We’re not late bloomers.  We’re procrastinators.  And most procrastinators die never having done the things they wanted to do, never addressing that which was important, never communicating that thing that had to be communicated.

There is no right time other than now.  Just a reminder.

How To Get Anything You Want

Answer:  Ask for it.

Before we get into how to ask, we should review what we want.  Last week I talked about how challenging that is for many of us.  We are so bogged down by our past experiences that we can’t even admit we want something, much less ask for it.

For example, my past experiences would have limited what I want from a romantic partner to someone I could screw and watch movies with (I wouldn’t even ask that we like similar movies).  I had previously not believed that healthy relationships were possible, so I never said I wanted one nor did I ask how to create one.

I have subsequently explored where my ideas about relationships came from, as well as surrounded myself with positive female role-models.  I started to believe that a healthy relationship was possible for me.  I then took actions and asked questions that corresponded with that belief.  Hence why I’m in a great relationship now.

If you don’t think something is possible, you will not say you want it and you won’t ask for it.  You will not fly to Chicago if you don’t believe Chicago exists, and you certainly won’t ask for a plane ticket.

The best way to ask is by making direct requests.  A request is, “will you please pass the salt?” Most of us say, “I would like the salt,” hoping someone will pick up on our desires.  Or some of us bully people with commands like, “pass the salt.”

A request can be answered one of 3 ways:  yes, no or maybe.  Yes is pretty clear.  No at least let’s us know where we stand.  Maybes can swing to yes, no or a negotiated settlement.  For example, “Will you give me your ice-cream cone?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Will you give me 3 licks of the cone?”

“Yes.”

Most of us avoid making requests because we fear any one of these 3 answers.  A yes might force us into the unknown territories of the next step or phase.  A no might affirm that we are the losers we think we are.  A maybe might leave us in limbo, neither here nor there.

Instead of making direct requests, we mutter plaintive cries into the ether.  We say “I wish I could meet someone,” instead of requesting of someone who is in a relationship, “will you share with me how you met your partner” or asking “will you go out with me” of a possible partner.

What if someone doesn’t give us straight answers?  We keep asking until we they do.  For example:

“Will you help me draw up a business plan?”

“Well I’m not sure if I can do that?”

“What are you not sure about?”

“I’m not sure if I have the time.”

“I would appreciate any time you can give.  What amount of time do you have to offer?”

“I can probably give you an hour a week.”

“Can you talk with me every Sunday afternoon at 2PM for that hour?”

“Yes [or other time].”

“Will you help me draw up a business plan” is a lot different than “I would really appreciate if you helped me with my business plan.”  The former empowers both the asker and asked, creating specific directives for each.  The latter leaves the asker at the mercy of the asked, who may be willing to help, but is not given a framework for how.

Some of our requests will not be answered affirmatively.  Let’s say I want a car.  I can request that a car dealership give me one for free, but it’s unlikely they will say yes.  If this be the case, perhaps I start making different requests of different people.  Maybe asking a car expert where’s he thinks the best place to buy is, or a loan officer how to secure a loan to buy one.

With this is mind, here are some practices:

  1. What do you want? Check out my last week’s post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
  2. Are you asking for what you want? Note where you use indirect communication, perhaps stating what you want rather than making specific requests to get it.
  3. Write out 3 specific requests that will lead to what you want. If you want a raise, write “Will you give me a raise,” not “I want a raise.”  If you are not clear on what you want, make a request to find out.  Ask a friend, “Will you tell me what you think I should do?”
  4. List the people you need to make the request to? If you want a raise, it’s probably your boss.  If you want to get married, it’s probably your girlfriend.  If you want the dishes cleaned, it’s probably your roommate.  And so on.
  5. Make one of those requests to one of those people now.

The Best Excuse Ever Told

I heard it once said, “Most people consider a good excuse and no result to be a result.”  Some examples of this adage:

  1. I was late because the subway was down (late + difficulty = I’m reliable)
  2. I didn’t talk to that girl because the bar was loud (no phone # + loud bar = I’m bold)
  3. I didn’t finish that painting because work got in the way (no painting + busy job = I’m an artist)
  4. I’m single because there are no good men/women out there (alone + lack of suitable partners = I’m a good partner)
  5. I didn’t lose that weight because of the holidays (fat body + social eating = I’m healthy).

A well-thought out excuse makes otherwise crappy results acceptable.  It maintains a peace—however uneasy, with whatever impact—between what we do and what we say we want and are committed to.  We say we want to be reliable, bold, creative, in a relationship, healthy, but because of subway delays and Stovetop Stuffing it’s okay that we behave differently.  The impact of the excuses is that friends and colleagues wait (or tire from doing so), we live afraid of talking to women, we feel creatively unexpressed, we live cut off from prospective mates and inhabit unhealthy bodies.  But it’s okay, we have a good excuse.

Excuses obscure a dark truth:  that we might not be committed to the things we say or think we we are.  A person who is committed to being punctual will be on time regardless of train repairs; he’ll get out of the train station and take a cab if he needs to.  A person who is committed to being in a healthy relationship will figure out what’s in her way of achieving that.  She will not blame a sparse dating pool.

Assuming we want to line up our commitments with our actions, we have to stop excusing our behavior.  We have to acknowledge results as they are:  that we were late; that we didn’t talk to the girl; that we didn’t finish the painting; that we are alone; that we are fat.  It’s not that these results are bad.  It’s that they don’t accord with what we want and are committed to.  In fact, the excuses verify that our results are not want we want.  If they were those things, we wouldn’t need to excuse our behavior; it and our commitments would line up.

All of this came into relief for me after a frank talk last night.  My friend bludgeoned me with the contradictions between what I say I want and am committed to and what I’m doing.  I say that I want and am committed to being a personal development author and speaker and that I want to make my living doing it—a living that could support a family.  What I’m doing is writing away without clear direction, much less remuneration.  I’ve been pitching a book idea to literary agents, but even that has been only half-thought out.  I didn’t do market research.  I didn’t run it by the people in my life.  I didn’t do the things necessary to make sure I fulfilled on my commitment.

My excuse has been confusion:  that I don’t know how to do the things I want to do.  I’ve reasoned that I will figure it out soon.  This excuse doesn’t not ameliorate my rapidly emptying pockets.

This leaves me with a pit in my stomach.  The pit is the turd of commitment, wondering whether it’s going to be released or if I’m going to get off the can upon which I sit.  Will I act now (the only time a committed person can act) or salve these contradictions with another, more elaborate excuse?  (I’m leaning toward the former route).

With this in mind, here are some things to contemplate for your life:

  1. What do you say you want or are committed to that you are not doing?
  2. What is the impact of not fulfilling on this commitment? Wasted time, dejected friends, unexpressed desires, poor health, etc.
  3. What excuses make your lack of results surrounding your commitments acceptable? Lack of money, time, a tough childhood, a rough time in your life, an unsupportive environment, etc.
  4. What are your excuses hiding? For example, that you are not in fact committed to the things you say you are, that you are afraid you won’t be able to fulfill on them, etc.
  5. Write out a list of the results in your life that contradict your desires and commitments. Write them undiluted by excuses.
  6. Commit to one thing for next week to fulfill on a desire or commitment.  For example, commit to meditating 10 minutes every morning without fail.  Note your excuses when you don’t want to fulfill.  See how these excuses stop you in every area of your life.