I’m so happy that the video introducing my book has finally been released. Take a look at it showing a couple flirting and another couple resolving a conflict.
“Oh, I was just flirting” he said, she said. It didn’t feel like “just flirting”, though. It felt like harassment.
Two missteps change the flirting dance into one of harassment.
When two people are working on a project they often send each other signals that they are paying attention and are interested in what the other person is saying. But when are these signals interpreted as flirting and when do they cross the line into harassment?
Some Nonverbal Signals Indicate Interest
Several nonverbal signals help two people form a cooperative connection, that is important in any relationship. Mutual eye contact, an open posture, and mirroring each other’s movements indicate an interest in the other person.
Psychotherapists use these signals to encourage a friendly connection. Sales people use these signals to assure the other person that they are being listened to. But these nonverbal signals are also the first steps in the flirting dance, which sometimes causes them to be misinterpreted.
Signals of Interest Might Be Misinterpreted as Flirting
Flirting goes beyond showing interest into demonstrating that you are a sexually attractive and available person. After the initial interest signals, the flirting dance moves into preening. Men and women both will stroke their hair. They will highlight parts of their body that can be seen as sexually attractive. A woman might slightly stroke her thigh or she might push her shoulders back to accentuate her breasts. Or she might turn the palm of her hand outward or toss her head back to show more of her neck, which indicates harmlessness and submissiveness. A man might extend his strong chin or show off his pectoral muscles, signaling his ability to protect the woman.
A fleeting touch changes the flirting dance from entertainment to overtly sexual. Until this point, the couple may have been having fun and each may feel a boost in self-esteem at having been seen as attractive and interesting by the opposite sex.
Your Boundaries Are Violated
Oops, the dance has now gone a little bit further than you intended. You did not want to move into touching and being touched.
So much of flirting behavior is beneath one’s consciousness and is a reciprocal dance. You send out one signal that then suggests moving to the next part of the dance. Your partner picks up on this signal and does, indeed, move to the next part of the dance.
If you know the sequence, though, you can say “stop” or just not show the reciprocal signal at any point. If you aren’t aware of the sequence, you may just continue the dance until an uncomfortable touch occurs. If a private area of the body is touched or grabbed, that is even more sexual. Or a sexual comment might be uttered, again crossing the boundary of what is verbally appropriate in a non-sexual relationship. Sexting is also a violation of the usual boundaries.
Sometimes, even indicating you are not interested in a sexual relationship does not stop the other person. A 2010 study at Northwestern University found that, if a man or woman is in a power position over the other and interested in pursuing causal sex, that person is more likely to believe that the subordinate is sexually interested in them. This belief then can lead to violating boundaries and it is especially problematic in the workplace.
Flirting Versus Sexual Harassment
If the person whose boundaries are violated wanted a sexual relationship, then it is not harassment. In fact, a 2012 survey by CareerBuilder of more than 4,000 workers found that 39% said they had dated someone at work.
Sexual harassment occurs when a person skips over the flirting dance and goes directly to the final step of touch. It is grabbing a sexual encounter instead of earning it and before making sure the recipient is giving consent. Contacting a person through email or social media with sexual messages when that person does not want them is harassment. Even using sexual or demeaning talk about a gender or about another person is harassment. And certainly, pursuing a sexual relationship when the other person has indicated “stop,” is harassment.
A person in a subordinate position may feel their job is in jeopardy if they do not submit to a sexual overture. Yet, being strong enough to say “stop” is now becoming sanctioned. Sexual harassment has no place in the workplace.
(The complete flirting script can be found in my book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.)
Note: If you find this post helpful, you are welcome to re-post it in your social media.
Author and her new book (with an old backstory)
California State University, Dominguez Hills Professor Beverly Palmer and her book, “Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.”
Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:14 am http://bit.ly/2oiEHg5
By Mary Jo Hazard Special to The News (Palos Verdes Peninsula News)
In the late 60’s, Beverly Palmer was a doctoral student in the counseling psychology department at Ohio State; she was fascinated by the mystery of love, and she wasn’t alone. Centuries before, Aristotle, Plato, and Shakespeare wrote about the subject, and Oscar Wilde even said, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.”
Searching for answers to the age-old puzzle, Palmer researched the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology — even philosophy.
Several years later, Palmer and her husband moved to Rancho Palos Verdes, at the time an unincorporated rural area of Los Angeles. She was a full-time professor, teaching graduate and undergraduate classes at California State University, Dominguez Hills and, based on her scientific research, Palmer created and taught a class on love. Eager to share her findings with the general public, she wrote the first draft, “Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.”
In spite of her enthusiasm for her new project, Palmer was forced to stop working on the manuscript. “Private practice, childcare and teaching, took precedence,” she said.
Palmer was also fighting to save the rural nature of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
“The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors had jurisdiction over our unincorporated area,” she said. “They wanted to give approval for many high rise apartments and condos to be built along the coast at the bottom of Hawthorne Boulevard and Palos Verdes Drive South. I became part of Save Our Coastline, which circulated petitions and created the city of Rancho Palos Verdes so we could stop the coastal development.”
As a result of her activism for the coastline and her research articles in the field of public health, James Hayes, Los Angeles Board Supervisor for the Fourth District, appointed her to the Los Angeles County Public Health Commission where she served for three years.
During the 40 plus years that Palmer taught college courses at Dominquez Hills, love was always on her mind. “Each class I taught,” she said, “made me realize that all of the diverse subfields in psychology said something about loving relationships.”
Three years ago, Palmer’s husband insisted they clear out their cluttered garage, and up popped the old draft of Love Demystified. If it hadn’t been for the messy garage, her book might not have resurfaced.
Palmer dusted off her first draft and spent more time researching current scientific material and revising. “The book,” she said, “is based on the latest scientific research. It’s a guide highlighting how people meet, fall in love, create love, fall out of love, and love again. It offers strategies for dealing with roadblocks in love relationships and details how to create love and make it last.”
Who would benefit from her book? According to Palmer, “anyone longing for love, starting to date, getting married, or wanting to fix a current relationship.”
The “love doctor” knows her stuff. The Palmers celebrated their 50th anniversary last June, and the psychologist credits their happy marriage to living the strategies from her book. And that’s not all; they work together, too. Richard Palmer, a psychiatrist, and Beverly, a psychologist, have shared a private practice in Torrance for the last thirty years.
The book is available in neighborhood stores, at Booklocker.com, and on other online sites.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, here is the perfect gift for yourself or your loved one:
Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.
This guide uses cutting-edge psychological research to tell you how to find a new love, fix a current relationship, love again after a loss. It gives you the tips and techniques you need to get through many difficult times in loving.
Available through the publisher (BookLocker.com/9605) or at all online and neighborhood booksellers.
Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life will be released this week and the links for where it can be purchased will be posted on this blog. Meanwhile, you might want to check out Love Demystified Workbook: Questionnaires to Assess Your Love Life. This workbook contains 11 of the questionnaires that are in the regular Love Demystified book. You can find out which areas in your love life that you might want to strengthen. Then you can purchase the regular Love Demystified book to learn how to strengthen these areas. The Love Demystified Workbook can be purchased from Amazon as a print book: http://amzn.to/2lPqJRK.
Or you can get the workbook free as an eBook if you are an Amazon Prime member or $2.99 for non prime members http://amzn.to/2COL82Q.
Each new year gives us a chance to be renewed. How about renewing your relationship?
One of the best ways to renew your relationship is to discover something new about your partner. Even if you have been with each other for decades you may not know your partner as well as you think you do.
Here’s how you start the discovery:
- Set the stage for an intimate conversation. You could take a walk together. Walking can create an opportunity to talk more easily (yes, even for that person who often does not disclose feelings). Or you could have a candlelit dinner either at home or at a quiet restaurant. Or how about a picnic on a sunny warm day.
- Ask your partner’s permission to share some thoughts and feelings. Sometimes your partner just may not be in the mood to share. Or your partner might anticipate that the sharing will not be met with a positive response.
- Start off with a fun, not so revealing question such as, “If you were to go to your favorite place in your mind, where would that be? Describe everything you see, hear, smell, and feel when you are in that favorite place.” Not only will this query give you information you may not have previously known about your partner, but it also can be something your partner can use to relax or distract when there is tension or pain.
- More revealing questions ask about struggles, hopes, disappointments, and accomplishments. Again, you might discover something you didn’t know about your partner’s innermost thoughts and your partner might even access something that they didn’t know about their self.
- Give an empathic response to each sentence your partner shares. An empathic response is a summary of the main points of your partner’s answer. This response reassures your partner that you really listened and that you are viewing the world through their eyes, without judgment. It also encourages your partner to say even more. And your partner is met with a positive response.
- Now it can be your partner’s time to use these steps to discover more about you.
Basically, a soulmate is supportive and makes you feel comfortable.
- A soulmate listens to you deeply and you feel instantly understood. Being deeply listened to without the other person listening only for how they need to respond is a rarity in relationships. Yet the other person acknowledging an understanding of the message you are sending makes you feel intimately connected to that person.
- A soulmate brings out the best in you and accepts you just the way you are. You feel like you can be totally open and honest with your soulmate because, no matter what you say, you will still be accepted as a person.
- When you are interacting with a soulmate you notice the similarities you share. You may have similar values, interests, goals. Or you may have a subconscious connection. Your soulmate may be similar to someone else who was important in your life who was also nurturing and accepting. So you feel comfortable when with your soulmate.
- Your soulmate has your back. It is the two of you against the world—well, maybe just against a common foe or issue. You feel supported in your struggles.
- A soulmate feels like that is your missing piece; you feel completed when you are with your soulmate.
Feeling understood and completed with your soulmate does have its downside. You may feel you are incomplete without your soulmate and not able to function as well without that person. You may start yearning for the next time the two of you will be together. Or you may anxiously await the next text message.
You may begin to depend on your soulmate to meet your needs—your need for appreciation, for self-esteem, for comradeship. If either you or your soulmate changes in terms of these needs, you can feel lost, not needed, or not needing.
In relationships, some lovers are quicker to feel anger than others. Yes, not having your expectations fulfilled or not getting your needs met can cause frustration. But some lovers seem to have shorter fuses when these situations occur. And some lovers allow anger to propel them into using strategies that hurt the loved one and the relationship.
Common Anger Triggers
Judgments and sensitivity to rejection are two of the main triggers of anger. Instead of simply seeing the situation as it is, you put your own spin on it. For example, your partner is scrolling through the messages on their phone while you are talking to them. You judge their actions as showing they do not really care about what you have to say. You might even go a step further in your mind to think, “My partner never really listens to me because they don’t think anything I have to say is worthwhile.” Now you have fueled your anger with that interpretation.
Or you may interpret your partner’s request to take out the trash as a demand that you do immediately, which causes you to feel controlled and angry. Your judgments can then lead to an angry outburst or even a turning inward with troublesome ruminations.
Sometimes it is the judgments you make about yourself that are behind your anger. For example, you might judge yourself as inadequate or defective. Then you base your self-esteem on your perception of the way others feel about you. Notice it is your perception of the other person’s words or actions, not what they actually said or did. If your feelings of being inadequate are aroused because you see the other person as being critical, your anger can get triggered. Of course, you might actually be in a relationship where your partner often complains about you. If you are also self-critical, this combination can lead not only to anger but also to depression.1
Sensitivity to Rejection
Some people are extremely sensitive to rejection. They have an anxious expectation of rejection. Even when there is little possibility of it, they still readily perceive social threats. This sensitivity motivates them to react with anger, hostility, or withdrawal.2 It is the mere anticipation of potential hurt that triggers their reactions. They are so vulnerable and insecure, they don’t even have to be actually hurt to feel wounded; the threat is enough.
Research has demonstrated that the brains of these people are different from the brains of people who are not so sensitive to rejection and do not act so defensively.5.33 People low in rejection sensitivity have a more active prefrontal cortex, which allows them to be less emotionally reactive and more self-regulating.3 Yet the good news for people high in rejection sensitivity is that emotional self-regulation can be taught, and a supportive romantic relationship itself can mitigate this sensitivity.
One concern about the defensive reactions used in the face of rejection sensitivity is that these reactions can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the reaction itself causes the feared rejection. One member of a couple in a conflict situation can seek support but not receive it, or be on guard for any cues that might indicate rejection. If that person begins to defensively start losing their temper, insulting their partner, or swearing, it can incite the partner to do the same. Then the negative interaction causes the conflict to become unresolved.
Strategies to Defuse Anger
Why do we say such hurtful things to our loved ones? Often it is because we are too fused with them. When we are fused, what our partner says or does often feels like it has something to do with us. And then we react accordingly. We lash out or raise defensive walls. Or even worse, we blame ourselves.
Your partner leaves the dirty dishes in the sink all day and night—again. You think, “If they really cared about my feelings, they would put the dishes in the dishwasher.” Or “I am probably expecting too much.”
With these thoughts, you end up saying, “Must take too much of your energy to put the dishes in the dishwasher. How lazy can you get?”
You know you’re not going to change your partner’s behavior with this criticism, but it slips out anyway.
Your partner’s behavior annoyed you, but it is the judgment you put on that behavior that caused you to lash out. More than likely your partner did not leave the dishes in the sink to purposely annoy you or as a lapse in caring for your feelings.
If you see your partner’s behavior as independent of your connection with them, you won’t be pressured to say something hurtful. Instead, you will find a way to let them know that you noticed without the negative reaction. You might even joke. “Maybe we could make the kitchen sink into a dishwasher.” Indeed, those partners who each have a sense of their own autonomy will be less defensive during a conflict and will be more satisfied with their relationship.4
The time between a trigger and your angry reaction is generally only two to three seconds. So try to cut the link between the trigger and your anger by taking a slow, deep breath the moment you notice a trigger. This will help you to cool off the hothead feeling, not bite the bait, and take a moment to think about a way to express your needs in a helpful way.
After the deep breath, you can respond rather than react, and then you will remain in control. You can respond with an “I” statement that lets your partner know what you need at that moment. For example, if your partner forgets to pick up the dry cleaning that has your work uniform in it, you could take a deep breath and then say, “I really needed my uniform for work tomorrow.” You are putting the issue on the table instead of blaming your partner. Then the two of you can work on finding a resolution to the issue.
Even if you are the recipient of your partner’s anger, you can still have some control over the angry reaction. When you see your partner starting to tense up, you can remind them to breathe. Or you can model the necessary action by taking a slow, deep breath yourself. Initiating the first step in calming the hot responses down will give both of you a chance to approach the situation in a more helpful manner. Instead of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, you have used a calming strategy.
- Whiffen, V. E. and J. A. Aube. 1999. “Personality, interpersonal context and depression in couples.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12 (3): 369–383.
- Romero‐Canyas, R., G. Downey, K. Berenson, O. Ayduk, and N. J. Kang. 2010. “Rejection sensitivity and the rejection–hostility link in romantic relationships.” Journal of Personality, 78 (1): 119–148. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00611.
- Kross, E., T. Egner, K. Ochsner, J. Hirsch, and G. Downey. 2007. “Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 (6): 945–956.
- Knee, C. R., C. Lonsbary, A. Canevello, and H. Patrick. 2005. “Self-determination and conflict in romantic relationships.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89 (6): 997.
We all start out being dependent on someone for love, needing to get love to survive. Then, in the process of growing up, new needs emerge—-the foremost of which is to feel lovable, independent of other people’s judgments.
We feel a need to rediscover our separate self, our likeable, huggable, lovable self. But how does someone who has only received conditional love begin to feel lovable? It seems impossible for someone who never got unconditional love to be able to give unconditional love, to one’s self or to others.
From birth, we are all needing love and giving love1. We are not just empty shells waiting to be filled. There is love within us from the moment we enter the world. We do need love from others, but not to fill us. Rather, we need a special kind of love to uncover the love within that was always there.2
Love Yourself Unconditionally
You can’t fully love another person until you fully love yourself.3 So how do you do this? You have to stop judging yourself. And stop seeking other’s approval of you. Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are loveable because you are this unique person, this whole and real person. What is it that you, specifically, don’t accept about yourself? Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.
- I regret …
- I failed to…
- I shouldn’t have…
- I wish I were….
- I need….
- People would say I am….
- I am…
- I am proud of…
- If only….
Do some of your responses indicate you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable? Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others? Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?
For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes? Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present.
Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses but those are what make you a unique person so you don’t have to hide nor become defensive about them? Each of us is a unique individual, with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. That does not make us better than nor less than another person—just different—and we are usually loved for that difference.
Can you accept yourself just as you are now, unconditionally, free of any qualifications, and show that vulnerable self to your loved one? Being vulnerable means willing to be open to yourself and to your partner. If you look back at your responses to the above questions you might see what you are defending against when you respond to your partner. You may assume that you should not let your partner see those weaknesses because then you wouldn’t be loved. Yet, to have a lasting love, you must trust that your partner’s love for you will not be affected negatively when you reveal your vulnerabilities.4 The irony is that, if you tell your partner about your weaknesses directly, you will find that your partner will usually feel much closer to you.
Can you see yourself as having a lot of love inside to give your partner because you no longer judge yourself so harshly? Then you have developed compassion towards yourself that spills out as compassion towards your partner (and, quite possibility, towards everyone).
See Yourself as Separate from Your Partner
Can you see yourself as separate from your partner with your own strengths and weaknesses? This view of yourself is crucial because you may not always have your partner to supply what you don’t supply for yourself. So many of us separate or are forcefully separated from our partner before we have had a chance to develop a separate sense of self. Then the struggle is all the harder, but we can still find the love that helps us grow. This love is within ourselves.
When you see yourself as a lovable and loving person separate from your partner, you have the basis for developing a relationship that is no longer based on dependency nor isolated independency. You are more interested in giving love than in getting love. Each of you give love and receive love but you are not desperately needing to get love from each other. You now have a relationship based on interdependency—two people who see themselves as existing separately and together.
- Cozolino, L. (2014). The neuroscience of human relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company. pp. 97-98.
- Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-Centered therapy. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 137-142.
- Fromm, E. (1956. The art of loving. New York, NY: Harper Colophon.
- Kernberg, O. F. (1984). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson. pp. 185-240.