I was honored to contribute to this article which appeared on Page 5 of the Wellness Section in the Sunday New York Times on October 30th.
You meet someone on line. Then you text. Then you meet for coffee. But why do so many of these possible lovers turn into duds?
Maybe it is because what is presented online is not who the person really is. Or maybe it is because spending so much time with people online leaves no time to build relationship skills.
So, what should you look for offline in a possible partner? And how do you best present yourself offline?
To find the partner you really want, make a list of the qualities of that person that you feel are important for a good relationship. Then prioritize these qualities. The first three priorities will then become what you will look for in online descriptions and what you will try to ascertain during your first offline visit. If one or more of your first three priorities are not listed in that person’s online description, move on. A person who really has those qualities will list them rather than just presenting superficial desirable qualities.
Or, if it seems that none of the online descriptions contains your priorities, you need to move offline. Offline places to meet possible partners are: meetup groups (meetup.com), volunteering sites, universities.
Now you are having that first meeting with a potential partner. How do you present yourself? Do you have the relationship skills to succeed?
Everyone wants someone who is a good listener. Instead of focusing on the anxiety you feel about this first meeting, focus on the other person. Listen to what that person is saying and show you listened by repeating back a snippet of what was said. All you really need to do during the first meeting is listen because listening is the number one relationship skill.
You might also want to assess how good of a listener the other person is. Since two people showing they are really listening to each other could be the start of a loving relationship.
(To find out more ways to meet a potential partner read Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life by Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D.)
Does the upcoming Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)? Do you miss a loved one? Or do you just feel lonely?
Don’t despair—there are ways to feel less lonely during all the Valentine’s Day hype.
Perhaps you have tried interacting with others on your smartphone or even with an online group. But recent studies have shown that we become even lonelier during screen time because it does not provide the meaningful, deep connection with others that we long for.
To dispel loneliness get out of your house and get involved with an activity you like. Besides having an enjoyable time, you might even find a new acquaintance, friend, lover. Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone nearby while engaged in the following activities.
Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping. Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens? Then do an online search for where you might be most needed. The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”. Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. homeless, migrants, special needs, hospitalized). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community. Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting people who are also volunteering.
Foster or Adopt a Pet
You may find a loving pet to be a loving companion. A cat can give you warm, soft comfort as it curls up on your lap. A dog might even get you out of your house on a daily basis, where you might meet some of your neighbors. Or you and your dog might meet other doggie lovers at a doggie park. Contact your local pet adoption group to foster or adopt a pet.
Join a Special Interest Group
If you have a hobby or special area of interest, you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups. Find one at meetup.com. Some of the meetups in your city involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, and participating in a sport.
Sign up for a Course or a Fitness Center’s Program
If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day. Find classes at your local adult schools or universities that might interest you. Join a fitness center. And don’t forget to reach out to others by maybe asking for help with something.
Read a Good Book
Visit your local library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves will give you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read that book. Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction book. Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book. One nonfiction book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, will give you even more suggestions on how to dispel the Valentine’s Day blues.
“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says. “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”
Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy. Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy. Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness. Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy. And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.
What, then, is intimacy?
Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors. Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy.
Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth. Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.
What interferes with creating intimacy?
Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support. Some people tend to receive but not give. What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt. Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.
How does a couple create emotional intimacy?
In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness. You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear. And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person. When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy.
Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.
Presenting the Scientific Basis of Love
By Beverly B. Palmer, PhD
The article below was just published today (July 30) in the Association for Women in Science Magazine, Summer 2018
Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life began in 1985, on my one-semester sabbatical, because I wanted to present the scientific basis of loving relationships.
There had been an explosion of research articles on loving relationships in journals until 1975, when U.S. Senator William Proxmire gave a Golden Fleece Award to the National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 on a study about love, He reasoned:
I object to this not only because no one—not even the National Science Foundation—can argue that falling in love is a science; not only because I’m sure that even if they spend $84 million or $84 billion they wouldn’t get an answer that anyone would believe. I’m also against it because I don’t want the answer,
I believe that 200 million other Americans want to leave some things in life a mystery, and right on top of the things we don’t want to know is why a man falls in love with a woman and vice versa.
This just spurred me on to bring the latest scientific research to the public. Furthermore, I wanted to present this research in a user-friendly format.
After I finished the book, which I initially titled, Love Life, an agent began working to find a publisher for it. However, he died suddenly, and then let life (work, child-care, aging parent care) interfere. I stuffed the manuscript into a box, which eventually landed in my garage.
Fast-forward thirty years: Standing in my garage, looking up at all the boxes piled high on shelves, I realized that when I’m gone, my son will come in and throw everything in the dumpster. So, i began a campaign to clean out the garage.
Among Christmas cards from long ago and lecture notes that were hopelessly outdated, found the lost manuscript. As I skimmed through its 185 pages my thirty-year-older and more experienced brain realized that this manuscript was not the best. Yet, my editorial self could not let it go.
I realized I had been continuing to read journal articles and books that presented research on love and that I had even been using some of this material in my lectures. So, I began rewriting the manuscript, bringing it up-to-date with the latest scientific evidence. And then I rewrote it and rewrote it, finding my voice and the best way to relate to my audience along the way,
I again was spurred on by current events. A book on love hit the nonfiction bestseller list But this book was written by a pastor, and it presented opinions not science. Similarly, most of the websites giving relationship advice contained only opinions. A book on scientific evidence about love was very much needed
Besides presenting advice based on scientific findings, I wanted to include the entire experience of adult love—from how people meet, fall in love. create love, and fat} out of love to how they come to love again. I wanted young adults to read this book before they got into a serious relationship. In that way, they might become aware of the red flags to watch out for. Newlyweds could read this book so, when the excitement of passionate and romantic love started to fade, they would know how to build a love that lasts, Couples in a long-term relationship could discover how to cope with negative feelings of anger and hate, as well as how to resolve conflicts satisfactorily. I also wanted to reach people who have lost a love, so that they could more deeply understand their feelings and even love again.
The challenge was to make reading this book relatable and entertaining for a general audience. To flesh out the scientific findings, I included lively case studies from my private practice. To increase reader involvement, I included many self-assessments that could also be shared with one’s partner, In the preface, I even encouraged readers to leave the book open to a page they want their partner to notice.
Scientific research provides powerful and practical tools that you can use to solve your love life I want to share some of these tools, described in my recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, which you can use to make your love last.
Science says there are three attitudes essential for a love that lasts—empathy, acceptance, and appreciation—ail crucial not only for a maturing and lasting adult partnership but also for parent-child relationships. Empathizing and telling each other that you do understand the partner’s perspective prevents and even resolves many conflicts. John Gottman has shown that it is the proportion of negative to positive statements that predicts an unhappy relationship and even one that leads to dissolution, Similarly, a 1 to 5 proportion of positive to negative statements can preempt or even de-escalate negative interactions during a conflict. Empathetic statements are intensely positive statements, and empathetic statements can even help resolve conflicts in one’s professional life.
Acceptance means valuing a partner’s uniqueness, both their strengths and weaknesses, rather than judging or criticizing them, Your partner’s behavior might irritate you, but you dont have to direct your upset at your partner as a person. You can, instead, let your partner know you are just commenting on the behavior and that you still value your partner as a person.
The third ingredient is letting each other know, every day in many different ways, how much you appreciate each other, There are many ways to show appreciation. Noticing what your partner is saying or doing and commenting favorably on it is one way. Hugs, smiles, and saying, “Thank you,” show that you value having your partner in your life. Take a moment right now to show your partner some appreciation—today and every day.
A personal note I would like to add is that my husband and I recently celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. I guess some of the evidence-based advice I wrote about was tested in our relationship to see if it really worked.
Algoe, S. B., Haidt, L, & Gable, S. L. (2008), Beyond reciprocity:
Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8, 425—429. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC2692821/
Hatfield, E., and Walster, G. W. (1978). A New Look at Love. University Press of America. p. viii. https•flbit.ly/2rWRMgW
Gottman, and Levenson R, W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63, 221-233.
Rogers, C. R. (1961) On becoming a person. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 342-344.
Starting June 29 and continuing through July 3 you can get the Kindle version of this workbook FREE. Just click on this link: Free Love Demystified Workbook
This workbook contains more than a dozen questionnaires to assess your current love life. Respond to these questionnaires to find out where you are now and what you are needing. You can discover how intimate your current relationship is, how resilient you are, how romantic you are, and how empathetic you are.
Ask your partner to also complete these questionnaires to discover new things about your partner. You and your loved one might then want to share your responses, which can create a deeper intimacy.
From your and your partner’s responses you may find that there are some areas in your love life you want to improve. Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life is a companion to the workbook and gives you tips and techniques to enhance your relationship. You can purchase it on Amazon as either a Kindle edition or a paperback: Love Demystified Strategies
Click on this link to see a short video about some surprising scientific findings:
Recently I had a fun conversation with Brian Howie on The Great Love Debate. We debated everything from what to watch out for when dating to how to make love last. Listen to it here: Making Love Last
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.)
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