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January 2011



Recent Posts


What’s the Difference Between Your Boyfriend and Your Friend?

by Jen Kim

I’ve never been “friends first” with a boy, though the concept is quite fascinating.

Imagine you meet someone that you’re not attracted to. Then later, as some times goes by, suddenly, you begin to notice all these fantastic qualities about them that you didn’t know existed, and boom! You’re in love! Is that a 90s sitcom plot or what?!

I love this idea. Many experts advise that couples should be friends first. Then the relationship is based on personal compatibility, not just sexual chemistry.

New York social psychologist, Dr. Grace Cornish avers that romances that begin as friendships are more likely to succeed:

“As friends first, you like each other first. You develop a respect for each other. You’re looking out for each other’s best interests. I urge people–marry your best friend.”

Moreover, friendships keep you rational, stable and logical.

“You’re always kind to your friend. You’re looking for your friend to get ahead by looking out for his best interest. In a friendship you’re equally grounded. You’re not looking for any kind of ownership. There’s no respect if you become possessive and controlling.”

Cornish continues,

“If you have a genuine friendship, you’re not going to pretend to be someone you’re not so a person can marry you. Some people are on their best behavior until they cross the threshold. Then, they let their guards down. But your true nature will surface when you’re a person’s friend first. When you’re true friends from the beginning, you don’t have to pretend.”

I don’t disagree with anything Cornish says, but why does she make it seem like honesty, kindness and respect are only inherent in friendships, not in romance?

Jealousy and possessiveness occur in all relationships- including friendships. I’ve been envious of new friends that supplant old friendships. I also have friends who don’t share their different friend circles, for fear of social miscegenation. Also, everyone has had or been a “bad friend” at some point in their lives, right?

I’ve found that the only real distinction between friend and boyfriend is the attraction factor. A boyfriend is actually a friend that you’d like to get kinky with as soon as possible.

When I meet someone, I can size him up in about 30 seconds and decide whether or not we will ever see each other naked.

If I’m attracted to a guy, then I really can’t befriend him. I’ll be “friendly,” but a real friendship requires some level of honesty and ease. I know some people are capable of masking their true feelings, a la Joey Potter, but that’s just not in my nature. It just sounds like your waiting for the inevitable letdown, you know?

According to Paul Dobransky, PT Blogger and co-author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love,

Successful romantic relationships have three phases:

1. Attraction
2. Bonding in friendship
3. Commitment

This list makes more sense. Attraction must always be present and must always come prior to any romantic connection. It doesn’t have to be physical, but I think there needs to be something about that person that turns you on.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/valley-girl-brain/201004/why-friends-first-doesnt-work

Understanding Male Friendships

Male friendships: Yes, we have them.

I am thrilled to be blogging for Psychology Today on the topic of men and their male friendships.  It has long been established that people with friends live longer, healthier lives.  Men’s lives are shorter than women’s. By helping men to better connect with other men through supportive friendships, I hope to help enrich men’s lives.  My initial postings will be based on my research on more than 400 men and 120 women into how they define friendships, how they make and maintain friendships, and the suggestions they offer for enhancing friendships.  Some of these postings will come from my book on men’s friendships and some will come from other events and research that I come across.

Two initial points to be made from the book and one observation:

1. Men, from an early age, are socialized by society to have difficulty establishing and maintaining friendships.  We have been raised to compete with other men and not co-operate with them.  We have been raised to hide our vulnerabilities and have often lacked friendship role models in our fathers.

Yet we have friendships with other men – do they look like women’s friendships? No.  But we have them and we value them.

2. Aristotle has written that friendships are the purest type of virtuous interaction, a giving of oneself to the other.  He observes that one can only be friends with a peer! If you have something to gain from someone else, or that person has something to gain from you, it is not a true friendship as one must be equals to participate in a friendship. Consider in your own life, whether your closest friends are peers.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/buddy-system/200809/understanding-male-friendships

When a new romance leaves no room for friends

A once-best friend is suddenly made the ‘odd person out’


Dear Irene,

I’ve known Pete since third grade and I’ve always felt close to him, as though I could trust him with my life. But our friendship doesn’t seem to be the same way for him although he used to say it was.

He recently started dating a girl who asked if she could be my friend. Of course I said yes, because I want to support him in any choices he makes. But lately things have gone sour. She thinks we have become too close, and has been making up stories about me “harassing” her when I have been nothing but nice.

Now he says that he doesn’t want to be friends with me, because she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him. I’ve tried to talk to him about it but he completely ignores me. Also, she knows things about me that only he could have told her, and it hurts me that he would share my personal information with somebody, especially when that person doesn’t like me.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-friendship-doctor/200912/when-new-romance-leaves-no-room-friends

Are your friends really there for you?

Are your friends really there for you?
by Carolyn Rubenstein

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. –Henri Nouwen

The happiest and most successful people I know seem to have a secret weapon: they get an incredible amount of support from their friends and family. Their friends and family really are there for them! They champion and stand by them during the best and hardest of times. This observation made me think about my own life and friendships. Are my friends true? Am I a true friend? In evaluating these conditions, I came up with a friendship “test.” Essentially, it’s a list of questions I try to answer when I evaluate whether a relationship is worth continuing.

1. Does the person help me feel good about myself?

2. Is this person there for me during my hardest times?

3. Is that person willing to be around me even when I am not my best self?

4. Does this individual allow me to believe in the impossible?

5. Does he or she offer help and support in a way that does not make me feel guilty or obligated?

6. Does this person allow me to be me, without expecting me to reflect a predetermined label or expectation?

I hope you were able to answer “yes” to all six questions, but what happens if none of your friends are true friends? What if you had to answer “no” to (almost) every question? Does this mean that everyone in your life is somehow toxic?

Well, if that’s the case, then your best choice is simply to start over. I know people who have done this; it really is possible. You can jettison those toxic relationships and replace them with new, supportive friendships. By exploring new interests, hobbies, and pursuits, you’ll meet other people who are more mature, positive, and supportive.

So what questions do you ask yourself when you evaluate whether someone is a true friend? How would you start over and seek a new set of friends? Please leave a comment.

To read the incredible stories of cancer survivors who forged new friendships after realizing their current relationships weren’t working, get a copy of PERSEVERANCE today.

Other Articles You May Like:

Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/now-is-everything/200910/are-your-friends-really-there-you

When to Stop, Yield, or Go in Friendship

Confidence can come from all the different areas of your life, friendship included. That’s why it’s so important to routinely take an inventory of your friendships to make sure that each one is a healthy part of your life. So imagine yourself being at a traffic light. Now you need to ask yourself, “Does this friendship need to stop, do I need to yield and gather more information about our friendship, or am I good to go with it?”

Friendships can be a wonderful resource. They can provide us with emotional, psychological, physical, and even financial support. They can put a smile on our face, provide a place for our tears to fall, or offer an antidote to loneliness. On the other hand, friendships can sometimes be an unhealthy burden, a lure to trouble, or a culprit in your lack of confidence.

Let’s start with the friendship that may be negatively contributing to your confidence and may in fact be adding to your self-doubt. So what should you look for:

Top 5 List For When it may make Sense to Question a Friendship

1. Drama- If there are constant ups and downs in the relationship. Hint: Things are going great or not well rather than smooth and steady.
2. Finger Pointing- If your friend keeps telling you how you could be a better friend and never takes responsibility for her or his end of the relationship. Remember: There are two people who are equally responsible for the relationship. Are all your friends telling you how to be a better friend or do you just fall short according to this friend’s expectations?
3. Exhaustion- Your friend expects and assumes that you will always be the one to go out of your way to make yourself available to her and its not reciprocated. Tip: Friendships are about equal give and take over time and not hoping or wishing or waiting for someone to change.
4. Exclusivity- Your friend bad mouths your other friends and often puts you in a position to have to chose this relationship over another. Hint: Do people warn you about this relationship or does this person seem to go through a lot of friends?
5. Doubt- You find yourself questioning whether you want to call this person or make plans with them. Tip: Ask yourself what you would genuinely like to do not what you think you should do.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? If you’ve answered Yes to some of these, then it makes sense to take some time to examine your relationship.

Think about your relationships that involve no drama, finger pointing, exhaustion, exclusivity, or doubt. Clearly, those are the relationships worth your energy to nurture. When one of the top five issues arises, it’s time to decide if that minus is outweighed by the pluses of the relationship or if that minus overwhelms any pluses. Without pluses to compensate for the short-comings it might be time to put your energy into nurturing healthier relationships.

Friendships worth going towards are worth the effort. Communication will help make them better. Express your feelings and needs and problem solve when necessary. Delay action if more information is needed. Time will provide you the data to choose the wise path. If a relationship is in the yield zone, put the energy into improving it. Let your friend know what they are doing that bothers you and what they can do to make it better. Give them a chance. If change does not come, have the courage to stop and put your efforts where the yield is healthier.

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-confident-be-confident/200908/when-stop-yield-or-go-in-friendship

Awkward is the new normal

Why we’re attracted to awkward people
by Jen Kim


Have you heard this word before? Are you the one saying it or the one it’s being said to? Do you even know what it means? What does it mean? When did it get so popular? Why do girls always seem to say this whenever anything randomly happens?

Like, when you parallel park your car and hit the curb, why is that awkward? Why did Sophia say that to me last week? I have no idea.

I google searched the terms “awkward” and “psychology” to maybe find a connection between the two, but the first result was one of my new favorite Web sites, awkwardfamilyphotos.com, with doozies like these:(See Link)

You must check out the site for yourself to understand and experience the full gamut of awkwardness, whatever it might be. For me, I get a weird uncomfortable feeling that’s suspended somewhere between confusion and disbelief, usually followed by mild-to-severe laughter. A “What the?” look if you may.

I don’t even know if this is a positive or negative feeling.

For the most part, being socially awkward is a stigma. The media stereotype depicts it as someone who lacks self-confidences, reads a lot of manga and probably lives in a basement and/or is obsessed with staplers.

There are countless Web sites that offer guidance on how to deal with awkward behaviors. Recently, a Globe and Mail article cited a study that suggested that reading fiction can cure social awkwardness.

Researchers in Toronto found that readers of narrative fiction were more empathetic and had higher social acumen than those who read non-fiction. Follow-up research also suggested that people who read a New Yorker short story performed better on social reasoning tests than those who read an essay from the magazine.

“Those benefits, researchers say, may be because fiction acts as a type of simulator. Reading about make-believe people having make-believe adventures or whirlwind romances may actually help people navigate those trials in real life.”

I started to wonder, is being awkward necessarily a bad thing? According to today’s media, absolutely not. In fact, awkward (people) comedies are this past decade’s fundamental source of humor. Think of the title characters in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Zoolander”… basically any Ben Stiller movie.

Read in Full: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/valley-girl-brain/201004/awkward-is-the-new-normal

The Power of the Ex-girlfriend

Why you have a relationship with your boyfriend’s ex

Last week was a much needed week of rest. I went home to Los Angeles for spring break and saw old friends, where we did what we always do: gossip and talk shit.

This is a hobby that I would like to have outgrown a decade ago, but even science deems gossip:

“a useful social function in bonding group members together. In the distant past, when humans lived in small bands and meeting strangers was a rare occurrence, gossip helped us survive and thrive.”

That being said, the most flagrant use of gossip in my circle of friends is discussing people we don’t know. Specifically, the exes of our past, present and future boyfriends.

These former love interests of our boyfriends have turned us into obsessive compulsive internet stalkers, hell bent on digging up as much dirt as we can via Twitter or Google. Don’t pretend that you haven’t spent a lone sleepless night Facebook stalking these mysterious girls, hoping that you share at least one friend in common, so you can access their pictures (even if their profiles are private).

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/valley-girl-brain/201003/the-power-the-ex-girlfriend

Darling, Do You Admire Me as Much as I Desire You?

Men just look at pictures, women actually read the ads
by Aaron Ben-Zeév

“The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.” Madame de Stael
“The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring.” Carl Sandburg.

Professor Yehshieo Leibovitz, the great scientist and scholar, who was married to his wife for over 60 years, was once asked for the secret of a long term love. He replied: “The woman should desire the man and the man should admire the woman’s characteristics.” I was surprised at his reply as I felt sure that the opposite is true.
My surprise is based on the following two considerations:

(A) I have claimed that the complex experience of romantic love involves two basic evaluative patterns referring to (a) attractiveness-that is, an attraction to external appearance, and (b) praiseworthiness-that is, positively appraising personal characteristics. Falling and staying in love requires the presence of both patterns.
(B) Many studies have found that attractiveness is more important in determining men’s love for women than women’s love for men.

Read in Full: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201004/darling-do-you-admire-me-much-i-desire-you

The One Dating Trait of a Successful Future Mate

Curiosity: the one trait in a date that leads to a lasting mate.
by Paul Dobransky, M.D.

Many people can never be quite sure whether they have a “good thing” going on in their romantic life, whether they’re single or married. In the thick of the desires of a dating life, the occasional emotional upheaval of an unmarried couple, and in the numerous stresses and duties that need a team approach in a committed partnership, one can find themselves wishing for there to be just one clue as to whether they are with the right person. It just happens that there’s an extremely quick and easy trait of character – a hidden “dealbreaker” for you to screen others with in your romantic life.

For many busy people with heavy workloads, duties, and stress, it might not occur at first that there are good and bad investments we make – even in the very first moments of spending time, energy, or any resources on a potential date, mate, or eventual spouse.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-urban-scientist/201004/the-one-dating-trait-successful-future-mate

Cultures of foreplay:

I’ve just read a fantastic article in the Journal of Sex Research on culture and how we decide what is a sexual disorder or ‘paraphilia’. It has a fascinating section where it talks about cultural variation in common or acceptable sexual practices and it touches on how foreplay differs between societies.

Kissing during foreplay, it seems, is not universal and seems to be a particular fetish of Western lovers.

Finally, in most cultures, sexual intercourse is preceded by some degree of foreplay—that is, sensory and sexual stimulation intended to induce arousal. This stimulation may be visual, tactile, or otherwise. When visual, it may be the sight of the partner or parts of his or her body or clothing, but these may vary across cultures (Bhugra, 2000). Kissing as part of sexual foreplay is common in the West but virtually unknown in other parts of the world (Ford & Beach, 1965). There are some cultures where penetration was the key element to intercourse, and neither foreplay nor afterplay was recorded. Ford and Beach pointed out that physical pain and biting are sometimes permitted as part of sexual foreplay and, therefore, such behaviors are likely to be readily incorporated into the sexual repertoire. Thus, individuals learn about methods of sexual arousal and sexual activity from their cultural habits and, in order to avoid being labelled and treated as deviant, they conform to prevalent and expected mores.

Unfortunately, the article is locked behind a paywall. Undoubtedly for your own good though. Imagine what would happen if you started to deviate from culturally accepted foreplay practices. Anarchy. And then where would we be?

Link to PubMed entry for article.


Source:  http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/04/cultures_of_foreplay.html

Intimacy and Vulnerability: Can You Have One Without the Other?

Couples with truly intimate relationships want to connect deeply.
by Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Intimacy, by its very nature, requires us to be vulnerable. Our partner, lover, or mate can know us to our very core, sometimes better than we know ourselves, and that can make any of us feel totally exposed. Intimacy can be intimidating. However, it is an amazingly freeing experience when you can be completely who you are with someone you totally trust.

Allowing ourselves to be open gives us the opportunity to let another’s heart touch our own; the loneliness in our lives melts away with every tender moment we let in. Despite its benefits, for many people this idea is terribly frightening. Someone may want to connect more than anything else in the world, but the fear of being that vulnerable holds them back. Not the greatest way to get through life. By avoiding intimacy, you never really let yourself be known, and you will never really know yourself.

We create a lot of who we are based on the reactions of others. When it’s someone we’re in love with, those reactions govern a large percentage of how we behave. We also will share parts of ourselves with someone we love because there is a real desire to connect. What we want is for the person we love to know who we really are.

Couples who have truly intimate relationships can’t wait to share their days and dreams with each other. They want to connect, and not just in the bedroom. Couples who choose to engage in an intimate relationship, and it is a choice, do so because they want closeness on all levels. In fact, a case can be made that intimacy itself is a great aphrodisiac. Most people will be more romantic with someone they trust than with a person they don’t really know.

So if the idea of intimacy entices you while at the same time causes you to put your guard up, there are any number of things you can do to help yourself open up. Talking about where you are to the one you love is really the best place to start. By saying the words, you will feel a little more trust and a little less fear.

Another step you can take is to do an intimacy inventory. Think about or write down what you believe you know about the one you love and what you think he or she knows about you. Ask yourself if you really “get” each other and talk about it.

Dedicating some time to going deeper and expressing what your needs, hopes, and fears are will lead you to feeling that there’s at least one person on this planet who cares and who totally understands you. Now that’s intimacy.

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201004/intimacy-and-vulnerability-can-you-have-one-without-the-other

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