“You like going surfing more than you like me!”

"L'Amour dans l'eau" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“L’Amour dans l’eau” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If your partner uses guilt to try to get you to stop doing something you want to do — something that’s reasonable like going surfing or visiting your brother — you don’t have to get angry, defensive, or become compliant. You can be compassionate without being controlled.

You might just say, “I love surfing. I hope you want me to do something that makes me happy. I want the same for you.”

When someone tries to control you because of his or her own insecurities, it’s best not to become emotionally reactive. You shouldn’t become hostile, churlish, or apologetic. Instead, keep your cool, and perhaps say, “I love you, but surfing is great exercise, feeds my soul, keeps me balanced and connects me with nature. Loving someone means supporting their passions not restricting them.”

Not buying into his or her emotional heat is key. Keep calm and reasonable yet do not allow yourself to be controlled by his or her fears. If you do, you are walking down the path of emotional fusion toward resentment. Consideration in a relationship is necessary but you shouldn’t start giving up reasonable things that you love to do and you shouldn’t want your partner to do the same.

When people lack emotional separation, they either argue or simply accommodate the other person at the cost of their own desires going underground. Both are unhealthy for the long-term health of a relationship. By not simply going along with the other person’s every feeling (becoming a doormat), but respecting your own desires, you engender respect from the other person, which also fosters growth and passion.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

Watch “How to avoid becoming a Doormat.”

Read “I’m always walking on eggshells. I don’t want to upset my partner.”

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

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“You never touch me! You’re not attracted to me anymore, are you?”

"The Kiss" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“The Kiss” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So… what I really meant was…

“I loved it when we hugged and you kissed me the other day. I love your touch. Let’s do that more often.”

Complaining is very unattractive and ineffective. If you want someone to desire you, it’s better to be appreciative of that person and show your desire for him or her. Make sure your tone of voice and demeanor are full of love and self-confidence, not neediness and insecurity.

There is an enormous difference between expressing your desires in a self-empowered way and being needy. Being needy is a turn-off. Delight and joie de vivre are alluring. If you want more affection, have a sparkle in your eye when you invite your partner to be more affectionate.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “You never kiss me anymore.”

Read “Desire: ‘I’ve got needs, but she pretends she’s asleep.’”

Read “We broke up because of sexual incompatibility.”

Read “Sensuality: ‘I’m just not a sensual person.’”

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“Oh you’re just going to walk away like you always do!”

"Genius Unleashed" -- Robin Williams by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Genius Unleashed” — Robin Williams by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So… what I really meant was…

“I see your point. Please don’t withdraw. Should we take a break?”


“I don’t want you to feel attacked. When I feel passionate about something, I might sound angry. But I’m not angry at you.”


“My reaction was too extreme. Sorry. Let me start again and stay cool and collected.”


As Robin Williams said, “I’m sorry. If you were right, I’d agree with you.”

People who withdraw suddenly often do so because they feel attacked and overwhelmed. They leave because they can’t handle any more what they feel as an assault. If you persist in passionately clarifying your position, that will probably be perceived by them as too much.

In order to have an effective discussion, it’s important to back off until both people can calm down. Nothing can be achieved when someone is on the defensive. There must be some compassion and openness to have a fruitful conversation.

One of the best ways to keep the spirit of humanity and compassion in a discussion is to keep a sense of perspective about your frustrations and your life. Keeping things in perspective allows us to laugh at ourselves while also having compassion for ourselves and others.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I become emotionally volatile when I get close to someone. How can I develop a stronger sense of self?”

Read “My parent was controlling.” How we develop Defense Mechanisms (Part I)

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“I got dragged into the argument to defend myself, and it became so ugly.”

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

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

While it’s fine to defend yourself, it’s important not to act defensively. That merely triggers more attacks. If someone is unreasonable or aggressive, it’s best not to engage him or her at all.

To have an effective conversation there needs to be mutual respect. Self-empowered people don’t explain why they want respect. They simply don’t engage someone who doesn’t give it to them. It is best to disengage someone who is being unreasonable without provoking him or her.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Defensiveness: ‘What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!’”

Read “Swearing and Yelling: ‘STOP SWEARING and YELLING AT ME for #%&%’s SAKE!’”

Watch “Dealing with Angry People.”

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“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.”

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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.’”

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