And we’re back. Still working my way through the pile of reader questions from JEZEBEL. Hoping to have it completed before October, when I will be the Guest Expert of the Month at www.AddictionLand.com (“Easy to get in, but can you get out?”) and the floodgates will open once again.
So far, the top contenders for my Dear Abby/Ann Landers’ Evil Other Twin name are: MISSED MANNERS, ANN BLUNDERS, DEAR ABBY-NORMAL and the one up there in the header, DOWNTOWN ABBY. Feel free to add your own.
Minnesota 2012 asks: Why do I continue to have sex with someone who doesn’t care about me? I know it’s a waste of time, I know I deserve so much better, blah, blah, blah - This doesn’t change that I still do it. Willingly. What is it about the sex act that makes a woman forego all logical self-respect?
It’s not the sex act; it’s the neurochemicals produced by the anticipation of sex (dopamine) and the cuddling afterwards (oxytocin) — not to mention the barrage of endorphins during the delightful bits in between. And it’s not all women; it’s you. Also me, and a bunch of us who are addicted to said feelgood brain chemicals.
So while the logical and rational front brain is saying “This guy doesn’t care about me, it’s a waste of time, I know I deserve better,” the lizard brain tucked way in the back is saying “Oh baby, oh baby. harder faster more.” It’s a contest the lizard brain will always win… unless you stack the deck. The process of recovery is learning how to stack the deck: a supportive group, a counselor, contrary action, bottom lines/abstinence, blah blah blah.
You gain self-respect when you behave in a way that respects yourself. I have to act myself into right thinking, because I can never think myself into right acting. Stupid lizard brain always gets in the way.
Woman 23 asks: I would love to hear your thoughts on jealousy, open relationships, etc..
When I was in the throes of love addiction, I was pathologically jealous. I was the kind of girl who would read his journals and freak out over women he was with before he ever met me. When I was getting clean from cocaine, I gave up four months of sobriety because I saw the guy I liked dancing with another girl. (I say “girl,” but I was 35 at the time and assume she was about the same. This isn’t the junior prom we’re talking about, here.) I never actually cut up anyone’s clothes or burned his car — I know women who have done both — but I have fantasized about it.
I’m not like that any more, thank God. I wouldn’t be with a guy I didn’t trust, for one, and I also know that having a man’s attention 100% of the time is not the stairway to heaven. That being said, open relationships are not for me. I don’t poke sleeping dogs with sharp sticks, and love addiction is a very large, very dangerous dog. I could pretend I had no problem with polyamory, either out of sheer denial or in vain hopes of converting the guy to monogamy, but for me that’s just a heartache looking for a place to happen.
And Precious Little of That asks: How do you convince a stubborn Baby Boomer to get into therapy when they don’t want to see a “head-shrinker?” I’m asking for…um…the child of a friend.
You’re singing my song, sister! I tried to get my hypercontrolling, manic-depressive, gambling addict mother into therapy, into Gamblers Anonymous, into Alanon, into anything that might help her heal. For probably 20 years. Not only didn’t she go, but she resented that I judged and criticized her all the time and kept wanting her to change.
Kind of like I resented her all my life for judging and criticizing me, and forever wanting me to change. Go figure.
In the end, we can never change anything but our own actions and our own attitude. The weird thing is, that changes everyone around us.
In your… um, friend’s case, I recommend being as happy as possible and, if asked, credit your tiny, shrunken head.
Erin Gloria asks:I once read that your romantic sophistication/development as a person ends when a long period of never being single begins — say, if a woman spent ages 20-3o hopping from boyfriend to boyfriend and suddenly finds herself single, when she tries to go out and date, she’ll approach it like a 20-year-old would.
What would your experience say to that? Do you believe that constant relationships impede personal development? Did it impede yours?
For most people, I credit this more to acculturation than personality development. Dating habits are formed when you were last dating, so you’ll revert to that until you learn new habits. Other than creating some awkwardness that will make cute dinnertable chit-chat on your next internet date, I don’t see it as a big issue.
In the world of addicts (AdditionLand! Easy to get in, but can you get out?), however, it’s a different story. An addict’s personality development and life coping skills stop when they start using. For most of us, this is smack dab in mid-adolescence because, after all, there’s nothing to make you need a drink like puberty. So we begin our “sober dating” life at 30 or 40 or 50… with all the romantic sophistication of a 15-year-old.
This is past awkward to the point of potentially lethal, like underage driving. We should all get learner’s permits.