“He left me after six months of being together. I keep hoping he’ll come back. Should I call him?”

"Impact—Out of the Sandtrap" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Impact—Out of the Sandtrap”
by Mimi Stuart©

Given that he left you, your calling him is unlikely to bring him back. He is more likely to come back if you resist the temptation to pursue him.

People lose their passion for another person for a variety of reasons. They can meet someone else, they might fear intimacy, or they might lose attraction. If I were you, I would let him go. Even if you persuaded him to come back, the relationship would likely be too one-sided to be fulfilling. Do you want to live in fear of his leaving again? Do you want to be with someone who is fickle and unsure about wanting a relationship with you?

Although six months may seem like a long time, it often takes a year or more beyond the initial honeymoon stage after falling in love, to get to know a person well enough to be able to judge whether the relationship might work for the long term. The fact that he left after six months indicates that the relationship is not right for him. So even if he does come back, the relationship is not likely to be a mutual one. Good relationships are mutual.

So instead of waiting, yearning, and hoping, find other interests, people, and activities that will interest you and make you more interesting as well. Maybe he or somebody else will take notice. At least you will be living your life instead of passing time in limbo.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I think I am a pursuer. My girlfriend initiated a breakup. I want to salvage this relationship. What can I do?”

Read “Sadness: ‘I’m overcome with sadness about this divorce.’”

Read Guest Author Michael A. Singer’s “I want to be happy, but my wife left me.”

Posted in Conflict | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Author Sam Vaknin:
One partner loves to love, the other loves to be loved.

"Touch the Bird"—The Collier Trophy by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Touch the Bird”—The Collier Trophy
by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire


One partner loves to love, the other loves to be loved. Both partners are takers, both objectify each other.

There are many ways to abuse. To love too much is to abuse. It is tantamount to treating someone as an extension, an object, or an instrument of gratification: one partner is in love with the idea of being in love, of loving someone, anyone (codependent) – and the other partner is emotionally invested in the idea of being loved by someone, anyone (narcissist). Both partners are takers, both objectify each other, and both treat each other as mere tools or functions in the fulfilment of their own dreams, expectations, and emotional needs.

On the face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who typically “binds” with a narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes. The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love are pretty normal. The narcissist puts on his best face – the other party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only much later, as the relationship develops and is put to the test.

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist indicates, therefore, the parameters of the personality of the survivor. She (or, more rarely, he) is moulded by the relationship into The Typical Narcissistic Mate/Partner/Spouse.

First and foremost, the narcissist’s partner must have a deficient or a distorted grasp of her self and of reality. Otherwise, she (or he) is bound to abandon the narcissist’s ship early on. The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself – while aggrandising and adoring the narcissist.

The partner is, thus, placing herself in the position of the eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat. Sometimes, it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial and victimised. At other times, she is not even aware of this predicament. The narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from her because he is superior in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, professionally, or financially).

The status of professional victim sits well with the partner’s tendency to punish herself, namely: with her masochistic streak. The tormented life with the narcissist is just what she deserves.

In this respect, the partner is the mirror image of the narcissist. By maintaining a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon her source of masochistic supply (which the narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides) the partner enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviours, which are at the very core of narcissism.

The narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False Self, depends on it. His sadistic Superego switches its attentions from the narcissist (in whom it often provokes suicidal ideation) to the partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.

It is through self-denial that the partner survives. She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, choices, preferences, values, and much else besides. She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the narcissist’s God-like supreme figure.

The narcissist is rendered in her eyes even more superior through and because of this self-denial. Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a “great man” is more palatable. The “greater” the man (=the narcissist), the easier it is for the partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of the narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge with the narcissist to the point of oblivion and of merely dim memories of herself.

The two

collaborate in this macabre dance. The narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her. Submission breeds superiority and masochism breeds sadism. The relationships are characterised by emergentism: roles are allocated almost from the start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent reaction.

The predominant state of the partner’s mind is utter confusion. Even the most basic relationships – with husband, children, or parents – remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadow cast by the intensive interaction with the narcissist. A suspension of judgement is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and the result of living with a narcissist. The partner no longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden.

The narcissist recreates for the partner the sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in the first place: capriciousness, fickleness, arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world becomes hostile, and ominous and the partner has only one thing left to cling to: the narcissist.

And cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with narcissists, it is that they are overtly and overly dependent.

The partner doesn’t know what to do – and this is only too natural in the mayhem that is the relationship with the narcissist. But the typical partner also does not know what she wants and, to a large extent, who she is and what she wishes to become.

These unanswered questions hamper the partner’s ability to gauge reality. Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is the voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationship ends.

The break-up of a relationship with a narcissist is, therefore, very emotionally charged. It is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and of subjugation. It is the rebellion of the functioning and healthy parts of the partner’s personality against the tyranny of the narcissist.

The partner is likely to have totally misread and misinterpreted the whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship). This lack of proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labelled “pathological”.

Why is it that the partner seekshttp://samvak.tripod.com/abusefamily.html to prolong her pain? What is the source and purpose of this masochistic streak? Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner (but not the narcissist, who usually refuses to provide closure) engages in a tortuous and drawn out post mortem.

Sometimes, the breakup is initiated by the long-suffering spouse or intimate partner. As she develops and matures, gaining in self-confidence and a modicum of self-esteem (ironically, at the narcissist’s behest in his capacity as her “guru” and “father figure”), she acquires more personal autonomy and refuses to cater to the energy-draining neediness of her narcissist: she no longer provides him with all-important secondary narcissistic supply (ostentatious respect, owe, adulation, undivided attention admiration, and the rehashed memories of past successes and triumphs.)

Typically, the roles are then reversed and the narcissist displays codependent behaviors, such as clinging, in a desperate attempt to hang-on to his “creation”, his hitherto veteran and reliable source of quality supply. These are further exacerbated by the ageing narcissist’s increasing social isolation, psychological disintegration (decompensation), and recurrent failures and defeats.

Paradoxically, as Lidija Rangelovska notes, the narcissist craves and may be initially attracted to an intimate partner with clear boundaries, who insists on her rights even at the price of a confrontation. This is because such a partner is perceived by him as a strong, stable, and predictable presence – the very opposite of his parents and of the abusive, capricious, and objectifying environment which fostered his pathology in the first place. But, then he tries to denude her of these “assets” by rendering her submissive and codependent.

But the question who did what to whom (and even why) is irrelevant. What is relevant is to stop mourning oneself, start smiling again and love in a less subservient, hopeless, and pain-inflicting manner.

by Sam Vaknin, Author of the comprehensive book on narcissism “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “People-pleasers and Pathological Charmers.”

Read “Pleaser and Receiver.”

Posted in Intimacy, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“I hate it when you’re jealous!”

"Roar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Roar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It may be inappropriate to leer at others, especially when you are in a relationship. Yet it is healthy and normal to appreciate other attractive or vibrant people with a glance in their direction.

Overt jealousy, however, harms a relationship, and angry defensiveness will do the same.

“I saw you looking at him/her!”

How do you respond when a partner who is easily jealous reprimands you for an innocent glance or conversation with another person? Imagine that he or she scolds you with, “I saw you looking at her/him!”

Avoid getting angry, defensive, or apologetic. Instead keep your cool, and perhaps say, “You’re the one I care about. Please don’t suggest anything else.” The key is not to buy into our partner’s emotional heat.

If your partner persists in attacking you, remain calm and say something like, “Don’t you enjoy occasionally looking or talking to other people? I do. Yet I’ve never been inappropriate with someone else and don’t intend to be. Please don’t get angry at me for something I enjoy doing.”

Insecurities vs Enjoyment of life

Everyone has insecurities and vulnerabilities. While you need to pay attention to them, you do not want to let them dominate your personality. It’s also compassionate to give the jealous person a chance to regroup without being too reactive. No one is flawless.

It’s much more attractive for both people to demonstrate self-confidence, even if they have to work hard to resist letting their insecurities take over. In fact, when both partners can be harmlessly< flirtatious with others, it actually enhances the eros and vitality of both partners and the relationship. Harmless is key.

Considerate without being controlled

Keep calm and be reasonable; yet do not allow yourself to be controlled by your partner’s fears. If you do, you are walking down the path toward resenting your partner. Some consideration is necessary in any relationship, but don’t start walking on eggshells to avoid his or her unreasonable reactivity. You will never be able to please someone who tries to control others in order to manage his or her own insecurities.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can care more deeply for someone if you react less emotionally to their anger, jealousy, and insecurities. When you realize that someone else’s emotions and desires are not yours, it’s easier to respond with kindness, but without apologizing for your reasonable behavior.

Remember, The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.

~William Penn

by Alison Poulsen

Read “Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant.”

Read “Jealous Partner: ‘How can you be so jealous! You’re being ridiculous.’”

Read “Attractions outside the Marriage.”

Posted in Communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“I don’t have time for this huge project.”
Ten minutes: One box, one call, one block.

"Lady Liberty" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Lady Liberty” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

In ten minutes, you can organize one drawer, go through one box of stuff you’ve been storing, make one difficult phone call or walk around the block.

Disarray muddles the mind. Your untidiness may be

physical — in a jumble of boxes in the garage,
mental — in pressures that need to be dealt with, or
emotional — dreaded obligations that need to be addressed.

Physical clutter, even if hidden in boxes, leave a sense of discomfort and dread in the mind. When mental and emotional clutter are not faced head on, relationship and personal problems fester and grow. Continuing progress, on the other hand, results in a feeling of freedom, lightness, and hope.


Pick a box, a drawer, or a room in the house. By limiting your task to something small and achievable, you will not be overwhelmed. If you focus on a single task, you can accomplish a lot in ten minutes. The feeling of accomplishment as well as the pleasure of having a clutter free drawer or a corner of the garage will create motivation for the next day. Within a short time, the remarkable change in your physical environment will spread to your psychological state of mind.


If you put off a dreaded conversation—to apologize, to ask for help, to explain that you have to back out of a commitment, to discuss poor behavior—the situation or relationship will deteriorate. These dreaded conversations are easier to have early on before the negative pattern is ingrained. The weight of unfinished business hinders every aspect of your life. Feelings of guilt, resentment, or being overwhelmed burden work, relationships, and sleep with an uncomfortable sense of anxiety and foreboding.

Once you make the difficult phone call or talk to your boss, spouse, child, friend or creditor in a straightforward, respectful way, you will feel better. Rather than feeling stuck and constrained, you will be able to move forward with your life.


Your health and wellbeing are integrally connected to your physical and mental vitality. Injuries and conditions of ill health compound with age and directly affect your happiness, productivity, and the quality of relationships. For those who dread exercise, start by walking ten minutes at a time—around one block. No preparation is necessary, just go around the block. By setting an easy minimum, you are less likely to procrastinate. When you see how good you feel and how well your joints respond, you may find it easy to repeat this two, three or four times a day.

1. Determine what’s most important.

2. Pick one single task.

The most effective way to accomplish something is by focusing on one thing alone. If it’s a large project, break it down into smaller components—it is less daunting when you focus on a small task:

• clear one single drawer, not the entire house;
• have one conversation about one issue, not the entire relationship;
• walk around one block, don’t run a marathon.

3. Commit to focusing on that task exclusively for at least ten minutes.

4. Repeat every day.

Ten minutes: one box, one call, one block.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Clutter in your surroundings causes clutter in the mind:
‘I don’t have time to deal with this mess. I’ve got so many things going on—it’s chaos.’”

Read “My life feels out of control.”

Read “I dread facing this problem.”

Read “Avoidance Behavior: ‘I’ve been dreading telling her about our financial problems.’”

Posted in Personality Traits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What a jerk you are! You treat me like a slave!”

"Muwan" Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Muwan” Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So what I really meant was…

“I’d be happy to consider doing that for you if you would speak to me respectfully.”

Unfortunately people close to you may need to be reminded to be polite if they begin to take you for granted.

Why would anyone be motivated to help someone who is being rude? While it’s appropriate to be upset and important to stop the disrespectful behavior, there is no need to overreact. Calling someone a name and being demeaning yourself will only aggravate the situation.

You are more likely to change the relationship dynamic if you keep your cool while giving the other person an opportunity to show his or her better side.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Good Relationships: ‘What happened to our relationship? It used to be so great.’”

Watch “How to avoid becoming a Doormat.”

Read “Communicating Effectively under Stress: ‘This is horrible!’”

Posted in Communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Grit: “You’re absolutely amazing Honey!”

Indomitable Spirit, Apa SherpaIt turns out the greatest indicator of success is not IQ, family wealth, good looks, or artificially-induced “self-esteem,” but something Angela Lee Duckworth calls “grit,” which is the ability to persevere at working hard despite the failures and challenges that confront us on a daily basis.

Imagine being a child whose parents’ ongoing commentary is, “You’re so smart. Look what you’ve done! You are amazing!” At first, such adulation might make you feel good, particularly when you’re two years old. Pretty soon, however, you realize that others are as smart or smarter than you and you begin doubting your parents. You fear being found out, which often leads to a lack of motivation. You unconsciously fear that any aspiration might lead to disappointment and embarrassment when you are found to be lacking your parents’ high assessment and expectations.

“I better not try this new sport. I don’t want to look like a beginner.”

“I’m not going to study for this test. It’s too embarrassing If I study and do poorly. Instead I’ll point out how stupid the teacher is.”

“I’ll make it look like it’s my decision not to try. I would hate to appear average after trying.”

Now imagine being a child whose parents never give their approval and in fact spend most of their time criticizing you. It would make you feel angry, depressed and horrible about yourself. It might, however, lead you to try harder to win their approval. Yet if you do succeed in the outside world and even if you do eventually get their approval, you will still have that inner voice that never thinks you’re good enough. Again you live with a fear of being found to be inadequate because no matter what external success you achieve, you can’t get rid of the feeling that you are inferior. Living with an inner critic that says you’re worthless is a painful way to go through life.

What kind of parenting then is likely to foster your children’s grit and not leave them with a tyrannical inner critic? Inborn personality traits and genetics do influence how a particular child grows and develops in a particular environment. In general, however, a child is likely to develop self-motivation, healthy self-esteem, and an ability to persevere through frustration and failure under the following conditions:

1. The parent does not excessively judge the child in a negative manner, particularly in a general way, “That’s terrible. You’re lazy. You’ll never get it right.”

2. The parent does not lavish implausible praise upon the child, particularly in a general way, “That’s amazing. You’re fantastic. You’re the best, the smartest, the best-looking.”

3. The parent does give occasional specific constructive guidance. “Try moving your arm like this when you throw the ball.” “Maybe you want to try this,” or “Approach it this way.”

4. The parent does give specific statements of approval on occasion, such as “It looks like you worked hard for those good grades.” “That color blue gives the painting a feeling of peace.” “I enjoyed listening to your speech.” Note that if approval occurs twenty times a day, it will feel as though the parent is trying to boost the child’s self-esteem. The child will infer from this that the parent thinks the child needs such boosting because the parent thinks he or she is inadequate. In other words, constant efforts to give approval backfire.

5. The family appreciates hard work more than natural talent. “I appreciate the time you spent helping me.” “I admire your persistence.”

6. When there’s a setback or failure, the parent does not over-react either negatively or positively. For example, the parent does not say, “Oh no. I knew this would happen! You should have studied harder!” Or “Don’t worry honey, you really are the best. I’ll help you next time.” Instead the parent remains neutral and caring, but not over-involved. “I’m sure you will figure out what you need to do to make it work.”

7. Most importantly, the child grows up with a belief that effort and practice lead to improvement, rather than with a belief that the IQ and talents you’re born with are fixed. Simply learning about current research on the neuro-plasticity of our brain encourages a growth mind-set, which, in turn, is proven to promote hard work and self-motivation.

Self-motivation, self-control and self-possession are key to developing courage and grit. A person loses motivation when others push too much, get too involved or overreact. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand, as Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, has put it. Ultimately, failure and being undeterred by failure are prerequisites to success in life, for Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Seeking approval: ‘Why doesn’t my father appreciate me and all that I have accomplished?’”

Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting.”

Read Guest Author SAM VAKNIN, PhD: “Can’t Get My Mother’s Voice Out of My Head!”

Posted in Parenting, Relationship Skills | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“If I get the promotion and my new relationship works out, then I’ll be happy.”

"Scott Joplin's Great Crush Collision"  by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

“Scott Joplin’s Great Crush Collision”
by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

It turns out that this kind of thinking is reversed. It actually works the other way around. If you decide to be happy, then your job and your relationships are likely to be successful and fulfilling.

People who are happy feel better, focus better, think more clearly, have better access to all regions of their brains, have quicker more agile responses to changing circumstances and solve problems better. Happy people are more empathetic and creative, which means they will be more diplomatic, interesting and enjoyable to be around.

In essence, happy people perform better at work and have better relationships.

How do you make yourself happy?

To increase your happiness, try some of the following:

• get more sleep,
• eat healthy foods,
• exercise — particularly sports or activities you enjoy,
• pursue your passions,
• change negative thinking to optimistic thinking or at least to humor,
• do nice things for others,
• laugh more,
• meditate,
• increase your gratitude for the good things in your life,
• and focus on the positive angle of challenging circumstances in your life.

How to be happy when you’re angry at someone

When you are angry at someone, take the time you need to find at least one thing you are grateful for in that person. Try to adopt an attitude of gratitude in order to provide you with the clear thinking and demeanor to be more effective interacting with him or her. You may need to take a walk, get some exercise, do some deep breathing, talk to a friend, or take a couple of days before you are able to see some redeemable quality in the other person. Once you feel centered and can see a bit of humanity in the other person, you will communicate much more effectively, or at least avoid making things worse.

When you see the good in others despite their perceived shortcomings, they will sense it and be more open and amenable to you. Your effort at communication will be more compelling. Moreover, you can feel good about yourself for approaching someone in a positive, constructive, and humane way.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Should we always be positive? ‘Just be happy!’”

Read “Fantasies: ‘All I want is a Lamborghini! Then I’d be happy.’”

Read “Happiness: ‘We must have a terrible marriage because I’m so unhappy.’”

Posted in Happiness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

"First Encounter" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“First Encounter” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Arguing to get a person’s attention

It’s natural to want emotional contact with your partner or friend. If you find it difficult to get his attention, you might start feeling ignored. To break through his indifference, you might say something meant to get his attention. The easiest way to get someone’s attention is provoking him by saying something surprising or antagonistic.

If you say, “Hey, I just wanted to talk,” your partner will probably nonchalantly say, “I’m busy right now.” But if you say, “We haven’t done anything fun together in three years!” or “My old boyfriend invited me to have a drink,” you are more than likely to get your partner’s attention. The problem is this might not be the best way to get his attention.

Arguing does serve a purpose. Conflict is a painful way to balance two human drives—the desires for emotional contact and autonomy. Arguing compels someone to respond emotionally while promoting self assertion. Yet arguing is not the most satisfying or effective form of human discourse.

Balancing autonomy and connection

If you find yourself frequently wanting another person’s attention, here are some things to consider. There should be a balance between quality time spent together and the pursuit of separate activities, whether work, passions, friends or other interests. The ideal balance is different for every couple, and for each individual within a relationship. A balance is something that has to be negotiated between the partners, negotiated in an open, frank, and reasonable way. Sometimes two individuals have such difference needs that there can be no balance that makes both partners happy. In general, however, a loving relationship thrives when the individuals have separate thoughts, emotions, and interests, and there is a consistent effort to enjoy each others’ company on a regular basis.

So ask yourself whether you are being too needy. Make sure that you are not simply wanting an unreasonable amount of attention, in which case you should perhaps find some other activities to fill some of your time.

How to talk to your partner

If the two of you are truly spending very little time together, it may be time to have a reasonable talk with your partner and find a way for the relationship to be nurtured. It’s important that you are calm and emotionally separate when you speak. When you are emotionally separate from another person, you don’t need to become angry to get that person’s attention. You don’t need dramatic expressions of self-assertion to express your desire to spend more time together. You can do so with some gravity but without becoming manipulative, hostile or needy.

First you can tell your partner that it’s important for you to talk about your needs in the relationship and ask when he has 10 minutes to do so. Don’t engage in guilt trips, manipulate or whine. Show no resentment. Confidence and a positive attitude can be irresistible and show that you have the self-respect to engage on a mature level. Be confident, uplifting and matter of fact. Demonstrate that you support his passions, but emphasize that the relationship is important to you and that there is a necessity for balance and for nourishing that relationship. Ask if he is willing to spend more enjoyable time together on a regular basis. Then ask him what he’s willing to do to keep the relationship strong. If he cannot find the time, then you will know where you and the relationship stand.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Mind reading: ‘You just don’t like spending time with me!’”

Read “Spending Time Together as a Couple.”

Read “Pursuing passions or partnership? ‘You should spend time with me instead of going fishing!’”

Posted in Conflict | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment