Internet Dating-First Date Conversation: Do’s and Don’ts!

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One question that I am asked frequently by clients dating on the internet is,” what should I talk about on a first date?”  Usually, most of us have lots of nerves on a first date- especially a blind date with a virtual stranger from the internet! If we give into that insecurity-  the tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, and sweaty, clammy sense of impending doom or utter annihilation, our true personality does not shine! Everyone wants to be around someone that makes him/her feel good. In fact, I think the most important thing to remember on a first date is to try and focus your attention on making the other person feel relaxed and comfortable. Get out of your own head and use the date as an opportunity to learn something new, or to make a new friend, if there is no spark.

The key is to ask lots of questions, but not make your date feel like they’re being interrogated. A good rule of thumb is to ask a question, really LISTEN to the answer, and show your interest. Everyone has something unique and special to share. If you look for the good in someone, and show your appreciation with laughter, smiles, and warmth, you will begin to build a connection, and that is really the only goal for a first date.

If your date is talking about things that you disagree with, tell them that you feel differently, but try not retaliating or becoming enraged. There will be plenty of time for that later, if it works out! For now, on a first date, just work on establishing a rapport. Find your similarities. Of course, if what they believe in is unacceptable for you, you are completely repulsed by them, or you discover any other deal breakers, just stay cool and remember you can end the night early, gracefully. There is no point in getting yourself worked up or trying to change their mind in this context. The point of a first date is just to see if you want to get to know this person any better on a second date in the future.

If the conversation is a little slow, remember to ask your date about his/her favorite trips, most fun times, favorite food, what they couldn’t live without- things they’re most passionate about. Keep the conversation positive and simple. When people are talking about what they love, they feel good.  Share your personal experiences where you felt the most free, alive, and happy. This builds a basic level of emotional intimacy, and you will be having fun, while showing your date what you’re all about. If you both laugh, have fun, flirt, there is a mutual physical attraction, and you are both ready, then there will be a second date.

Save these topics for the second date, beyond or never:

-Ex’s

-your divorce or last break up

-diseases that you have, or are scared you might have (unless it’s obvious for anyone to see)

-your baby daddy and issues pertaining to your baby daddy

-grilling your date about their finances, political opinions, or religious views

-how you were unfairly arrested for domestic violence charges

-your previous felonies

-how fat, ugly, or stupid you think you are

-all of the guys/girls you have slept with

-how happy you are now that you’re unemployed and finally able to watch “The Price Is Right” on your couch everyday

-childhood incest or molestation (obviously this is a serious matter, and not meant to be shared on a casual first date with a stranger)

-all of the times you have been to rehab

-your unresolved issues

-how unbelievably lonely you are

-the cult you belong to

- how much more fun you’re having than with your date from this afternoon

Good luck and happy dating! Keep your chin held high, and remember it only takes one.

Comments (0) Nov 08 2010

Are You Having An Emotional Affair?

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One hot topic that seems to concern many these days is what constitutes and emotional affair. Emotional affairs are confusing for many couples. Because there are no concrete sexual betrayals, they can be easy to hide under the rug or justify. The partner involved in the “affair” will often get angry when accused and the tension can aggravate the stress and resentment building within the marriage. Emotional affairs can be defined by the following:

When one partner begins to develop emotional intimacy with someone outside the relationship that takes precedence over his or her spouse/partner. In an emotional affair, the person cheating is deeply connected to the new friend and often this is the first person that they will run to with all the issues taking place in their life. They will reveal personal details and share things that might upset their spouse. There is cause for alarm with emotional affairs because over half of emotional affairs do turn into sexual affairs.

Emotional affairs are a process. They are often very subtle and seemingly innocent in the beginning.

1) You may notice that you are developing a close friendship with a coworker or peer. As the friendship builds, one of the first signs of trouble is feeling like the new friend is the first person you want to share the joys, sorrows, and intimate details of your life with. This person begins to fill in the void that is missing between your partner and yourself.

2) The next phase is when the new partner begins to become your primary emotional support. Your alliances shift and there are definitely feelings that begin to develop.

3) Finally, sexual attraction develops. Even if there is not a strong physical attraction, the emotional intimacy you have developed leads you to begin to imagine your new friend sexually and wonder about your chemistry.

At this point, you are really in the danger zone. Since such a high number of marital affairs begin as an emotional affair, it’s really important to stay conscious and put the brakes on before further betrayal takes place. That is why it is important to take a step back and explore what is lacking in your primary relationship before the physical cheating begins. Once it happens, it can never be undone and if your relationship survives, you may spend many agonizing years working through the pain and heart- ache.  Many people who have experienced infidelity in their marriage or long- term relationship can attest to the pain being as great or greater than losing a parent or loved one. If you feel that you or your partner are involved in an emotional affair, it may be helpful to seek therapy and get to the bottom of the issues that have made you seek such a deep level of intimacy outside your relationship.

Comments (0) Oct 14 2010

Relationships and Depression

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Relationship and Depression

Everyone has bad days or struggles. It’s normal for most people to respond to stress, grief, loss of a job or relationship, and other overwhelming situations with sadness or depression. The process of healing or recovering from something stressful is unique for each individual. But, for some, who may be biologically predisposed, fighting a substance abuse problem, a very pessimistic attitude, or an underlying medical condition, a clinical depression, or depressive episode may begin. This can be extremely devastating in romantic relationships.
Many partners will try to encourage their spouse to “snap out of it”, “cheer up’, or “get it together”. It can bring up so many feelings of inadequacy, anger, frustration, guilt and sadness for the non-depressed partner. For the depressed partner who already feels worthless, hopeless and dysfunctional, they can find evidence to support their view that their relationship is just another failure. What many people do not realize is that once a depressive episode sets in, it is not under the person’s control. Biological and chemical changes take place in the brain, and it is a very real medical condition that must be treated, much like Diabetes or Heart Disease. Although depressive episodes can eventually lift on their own, treatment is mandatory to preserve a long term relationship.

One of my clients, Bella* a sweet Eastern European woman, first started to become aware of her husband John’s* depression relatively soon after his job loss from a computer firm. He used to go for long bike rides on the beach, always work on house repairs, laugh with friends over a glass of wine, and their sex life had always been fantastic. At first she thought it was normal for him to stay in bed all day. He needed a break to regain his strength and then she knew he would get online and look for another job, since she was not able to work.
Slowly, one week turned into a month and then two. John stopped talking to her. He wouldn’t eat her delicious meals. He stopped leaving the house and even showering or getting dressed. Their sex life was nonexistent. No matter what she or his family said to encourage him, a dark veil had descended upon him and their words went in one ear and out the other.

a)The first and most important thing to do is seek treatment. What many people do not realize is that over 90% of people with depression respond positively to the tried and tested methods of therapy and medication. It may take a little bit of experimentation to find the right medications and dosages, as well as what type of therapy works best, but it is well worth it. The non-depressed partner must be the advocate for treatment. Set up the appointments and go with your partner to the doctor. Remember this is a medical condition. Most likely, you will need to see a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist for ongoing treatment.

b) Remember that depression is nothing new. It has been around since the beginning of time and different cultures have come up with ways to combat it before medication existed. Depression occurs when certain negative thoughts are thought over and over and pathways are carved into the brain. You may want to try alternative ways of coping with depression, while continuing with therapy. Expose your partner to self help videos, CDs, and books. Encourage them to try mindfulness meditation, which has been proven to help depression. Find a mindfulness class designated for depression, such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes. There are many and you can go with them to support them.

Go for walks, when they are up to it, and play a game. Point out everything you see before you that you like. Say things like, “I like the color of the sky today. I like that person’s shirt. I like her hair. Then, encourage them point out one thing they like. It feels funny and eventually you will both laugh, depending on how severe their depression is. It can help show them to look for what they do like, instead of what is wrong, which depressed people typically do. Also, have them list and feel what they are grateful for. Close your eyes with them and really feel the love you feel for the things in your life you cherish. Helping your partner learn to think differently may not be completely effective if they are too severely depressed. But, it is a great option while they are on the road to recovery.

C) Remember to be patient and nurturing. It will get frustrating when they are not in the mood for sex, don’t help out around the house, and are nonresponsive. But keep giving them love, affection, and support as much as you can. Encourage them to express their anger in a healthy way, and not keep it bottled up. Many people believe that depression is anger turned inwards. Get mad with them at whatever it is that has upset them and help them learn to express their anger. This can help shift the energy.

It is always the responsibility of both partners to keep the relationship together. But, when someone is ill, they may not be able to do what it takes to keep the relationship together on their own. But, the part that is their responsibility is to be willing to do what it takes to get better, for the sake of the relationship.

Most depressive episodes will last between 2 weeks to 6 months if left untreated. However, they may last up to two years or more for some patients with residual symptoms remaining. However, if proper treatment is sought, there should be some relief within a few weeks.

Depression can be considered a possibility if over a two week period or more, the person has consistently experienced five or more of the following symptoms: feeling sad and tearful, loss of interest in things that usually bring them pleasure, change in appetite (weight gain or loss), change in sleep, feelings of fatigue, lack of self worth, inability to concentrate and thoughts of death. If these behaviors are out of character for them, and their work life and social life is affected, chances are they are depressed.
It can be very difficult to date someone who is depressed and chances are, unless they get help, your relationship may have trouble getting off the ground. However, because depression affects so many people and responds so well to treatment, it should not be a deal breaker for most people. We all have strengths and weaknesses and baggage to bring to the table. With proper treatment, many people who have experienced depression go on to live completely happy fulfilling lives with real love and success. With practices like yoga, meditation, psychotherapy, and a spiritual community, many people never experience relapses.

Comments (0) May 16 2010

Top 4 Tips To Prepare Emotionally For Cosmetic Surgery

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Alisa Ruby Bash, MFT

1) Anxiety, Depression, and Guilt about Surgery
Many people who decide to do an elective cosmetic surgery can experience a multitude of emotions ranging from excitement, fear, depression, anxiety, guilt or anger. Making the decision to change one’s physical appearance is not something to take lightly. Make sure you have thought through your decision and discussed everything thoroughly with your physician. Of course anyone will be a little nervous before going under the knife. But, it may be helpful to discuss any intense or uncomfortable fear or anxiety prior to the surgery with a licensed therapist.
Also, one thing to consider is that postoperative depression or anxiety is not uncommon with any surgery. The anesthesia and effects of surgery may produce some temporary emotional changes. Also, people who are predisposed to depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and other psychological issues are more likely to experience an emotional letdown after a plastic surgery procedure without proper treatment. It can be difficult to feel good before you look good. Everyone has fears about what they will look like when the swelling goes down and it can be difficult to remain patient and not feel guilty or question your decision. However, many plastic surgeons provide preoperative and postoperative counseling or referrals to psychotherapists to help you thrive emotionally as your body improves physically.

2) What Are My Expectations For Surgery?
Choosing to undergo plastic surgery is most appropriate when the expectations are simply to improve the physical appearance of a bodily or facial feature. Expectations to improve the rest of your life can be a bit unrealistic. While the results of plastic surgery may positively affect your confidence; which in turn helps your relationships or career, try to remember changing the external will not necessarily change the internal.
A study in 2005 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that 75 percent of the respondents indicated that they chose plastic surgery to gain an improved appearance and a more active lifestyle. Likewise, 70 percent sighted emotional and psychological rewards after surgery, with notable happiness and renewed self-esteem and confidence.
Also, make sure that you and your surgeon are on the same page with your vision of what the new body part will look like. Most plastic surgeons will be very clear with what they can and can not achieve and what will look most natural for your body type. It is up to you to communicate with your surgeon about your goals for your surgery and to listen to what your Dr. says.

3) Screening Yourself For Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a mental illness classified under the same category as Hypochondriasis in the DSM, occurs when a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, or nose. However, any part of the body may be the focus of concern (e.g. lips, genitals, breasts, teeth, facial hair, buttocks, or body build). Most people with BDD describe their preoccupation with their perceived physical flaws as devastating or intensely painful. They will often avoid social contact, check mirrors, store windows, and car bumpers to see their reflection and scrutinize their appearance excessively. They often go back and forth between excessive mirror checking and avoidance of mirrors. People with BDD tend to seek multiple cosmetic surgeries, and are often unhappy with the outcomes, regardless if the results are successful. Left untreated, BDD will cause difficulty in relationships, and all social interactions and may lead to hospitalizations and attempted suicide.

Unlike normal concerns about appearance, the preoccupation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder is excessively time consuming and associated with impairment in all areas of functioning including relationships, work, and friendships. BDD affects only 1-2% of the population but can be treated with medications so talk to your Dr. or therapist if you think you may have it.

4) How Will Plastic Surgery Affect my Relationship?
Studies have shown that people who are considered more attractive are often favored at work, receive more frequent promotions, are hired more easily, and are generally perceived at more intelligent and successful. Also, they are perceived as more honest and kind in research conducted at several universities.
Individuals who undergo plastic surgery may notice a difference in the way strangers treat them, although their relationships with family and close friends may not change much. In some cases though, just having greater self-confidence from cosmetic surgery can improve the way people deal with even their immediate peers and acquaintances.
However, with the changes, there is a possibility that underlying issues in relationships may be triggered. Plastic surgery can produce major positive changes in one’s appearance and self-esteem, which makes them realize they have more options for partners than they did when they first met their partner. This can trigger jealousy, insecurity, and resentment in the partner not receiving surgery.

Or, if the results are less than ideal, it can put an extra strain on a relationship as one partner feels guilty and the other feels resentment. It is imperative to communicate thoroughly with your partner about your plastic surgery beforehand and to consult with a therapist if your relationship is already challenged. These issues can be worked through and more often than not, relationships receive an extra boost of passion as the patient feels more confident, happier and sexier than ever before.

Alisa Ruby Bash, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Beverly Hills, California. She is a frequent guest on “Extra” (NBC) as an “Extra Lifechanger” and has contributed to AOL, Oprah.com, More.com, Figure Magazine, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and has a column with Los Angeles Family Magazine. Please see alisarubybash.com for more info.

Comments (1) May 06 2010

Tips For Summer Love- Create Your Own Holiday!

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Why wait for your birthday to celebrate? Everyone has Valentine’s Day and New Year’s memories. Celebrate your love by having secret holidays that just the two of you know about this summer. Keep a list of the first time you kissed or he said “I love you”. Where were you? What songs were playing? What foods were you eating? Keeping love fresh and exciting is easy when you have fun together! Sharing silly secrets like your own holiday will keep things fun and will surely keep you both feeling playful. Email him a reminder that today is the anniversary of our first date. Go back to the restaurant or go for a drive somewhere beautiful singing to your favorite songs. Take the time to be creative and to feel present in the moment by indulging all of the senses on your holiday. Falling in love alters your brain chemistry and even the most frustrating tasks suddenly seem a little more manageable. Although this natural “high” is temporary, this is often when couples are willing to step outside of their respective comfort zones and often report feeling the most alive. Keep the feeling of falling in love alive as long as you can. Love lasts when you both remember to keep having fun together and appreciating the little things in life!

Comments (1) May 06 2010

How To Get Over Your Ex!

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Breaking up with someone has been compared to withdrawing from heroin. Of course there are many kinds of breakups. Some feel like a 200 pound weight has been lifted from your chest. Some make Chinese water torture sound like a spa treatment.

But, whether your breakup was mutual, long overdue, or completely out of left field, one thing is for sure- you will be thinking about it and will need time to heal. Break ups and divorces are one of the primary stressors that can trigger all kinds of predispositions we have towards developing different types of mental disorders such as anxiety, panic disorder, depression, Obsessive compulsive disorder, or even schizophrenia, if we do not take care of ourselves during this vulnerable time.

Losing our love object is very traumatizing for most people and it is normal to go through a grieving process. Most everyone does end a relationship at some point in their lives and we all experience the pain. The difference between people is what they choose to do with the pain and how they learn to cope and develop resilience. Most people want to avoid the pain and a grieving period at all costs. Who has time for that? We are creatures born to seek pleasure and avoid pain (unless pain is considered pleasurable for you). That’s ok.

But, if you think of it with the surfer’s analogy, it helps. If you swim towards the wave, you can go over or under, but if you try to swim away, you will get worked. What we try to run from always has a way of finding us when we least expect it in the dark corners. If we realize it is going to hurt for a little bit and deal with it, it will go away a lot quicker. Even if you were the one who ended the relationship, if you were close to your partner, you probably will miss certain things about them and find yourself thinking about them even when you don’t want to.

The process of moving on, letting go and ultimately healing usually does run its course to a certain extent. However, some people may be able to move on more quickly and with less pain than others. It’s kind of like getting over a flu. You still may be in bed for a week. But, if you take your vitamin c, rest, and drink your soup, you might be back to work in a couple days. When we are emotionally ill, like after a breakup, we must take care of ourselves. This is the time to love yourself twice as much as you ever did before. That means surrounding yourself with a support system of friends, family, a therapist, club, support group, yoga class, drinking buddies, AA meeting, book club, or whatever it takes to talk it out when you need to, cry, and feel safe and listened to. Indulge yourself as much as your budget allows. Be gentle, treat yourself, and make a pact to do everything you can to make yourself feel good while you are getting over your ex.

For some, it may feel like no matter what you try, you just can’t stop thinking about that ex! Everything is a reminder and it feels like you are constantly replaying all of the dramas, the good times, the bad times, the first day you met, over and over. It is like a prison that you feel you will never get released from. If this feeling goes on and on and really disrupts your life after an extensive period of time, there are things you can do to move on. This is when you may want to incorporate some tricks from cognitive behavioral therapy into your life. The first trick is called thought stopping. First, decide how long you want to give yourself to get over your ex. Make sure that you do give it some time. After your designated grieving period, get very clear on the image of a big red stop sign. You can also imagine the sound of an annoying car alarm. Then, also visualize a picture of yourself smiling and happy in a beautiful place– the most beautiful place you can imagine. See yourself glowing and in love with all of your dreams coming true. Now, every time you catch yourself drifting into a destructive obsessive tangent about your Ex, first picture the stop sign, hear the alarm, and replace it with the picture of you really happy. Try it over and over and it will become easier. Meditate on the image of yourself happy and peaceful in your free time. Pray for it, exercise or go for walks, holding the image in your mind as long as you can. Really believe that that will be you very soon. Also, buy books that make you feel good and calm. Keep them by your bed side. Find sites online that make you feel peaceful and hopeful and visit them in your weak moments. If you wake up in the middle of the night, read a little. Finally, after you have given yourself time, write out a list of what you want in a new mate. Have the list be as specific as possible taking into account the things you liked about your ex and what you learned you want now with someone new. Realize you deserve more and the last relationship ended for a reason. Get out there, live your life and watch as each day brings new things you could have never possibly imagined into your experience and creates the next chapter in your beautiful, long, journey.

Comments (0) May 05 2010