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You Need A Therapist, Not A Blogpost

A joke I heard recently went something like this: Did you ever notice it’s only married men who have porn addictions?

In case I’ve completely botched the punchline, here’s what the comedian was getting at: If you don’t have a partner to call you out on your porn habit, is it really problematic?

A single, twenty-something client of mine shared that she has an older, married boyfriend — as do many of her single, twenty-something girlfriends. And this begs the question: If everyone in your cohort is doing it, is it still wrong?

A simple Internet search will bombard you with blogposts about whatever may be tugging at the edges of your ethical or moral comfort zone. So, if you’ve found a blog (or ten) about whatever you’re doing (or what’s being done to you), does that bring you comfort? Absolution? A perhaps skewed sense of normalcy?

Years ago, I relied on therapy when my marriage was going south. I leaned heavily on my therapist for advice and counsel — partly because I wasn’t comfortable sharing with friends and family some of the more personal details of my crumbling marriage.

But something has shifted in our collective comfort level with sharing.

The more bloggers write about their most intense orgasms, the ten life lessons they learned during their affairs, and the best thing to come of their sexless marriages, the more freely the rest of us seem to have gotten in sharing our own more intimate laundry.

It feels unnecessary to wait for your therapy hour to start divulging when it’s open season for true confessions. Your deepest and darkest aren’t any more shocking than what most folks saw pop up in their News Feeds ten times in the last week. But if every behavior, thought, and experience is blessed by the online gods, how do we weed out what’s truly helpful? Can we?

Used to be Jerry Springer’s guests were the outliers. We were uncomfortably titillated by the personal details they were willing to share with the world. Now, not so much. The unattractive and unspoken rule of blogging has become this: If you want to make a splash in the online world, you have to be willing to bare all the improprieties and unfairnesses you’ve either had thrust upon you (and how you learned to cope) or those you’ve thrust upon others (and how you came to repent).

And that’s why the bar of what we’re exposed to — and what shocks us — keeps getting higher (or lower) as the case may be.

And so the trickle down begins. The more we see something, the more inured we become. Like my client and her friends who are dating married men, it becomes normalized. Her willingness to participate in the behavior affirms the okay-ness of it for the rest of the group — and vice-versa. To her credit, my client was torn up enough about it that she found herself a therapist.

Think about the last time you confided in a friend about your relationship. Raise your hand if you gave her every last detail about how your partner sucks, but left out the part about how you do, too. My hand is raised. I’ve done it. But not in therapy. Never in therapy.

Even a close, empathic friend isn’t a therapist. Not even close. Those who love you may mean well but not know what to do with your woes. The saddest story I heard recently was about teenage girl who confessed to her parents that her brother had been molesting her. Her parents promptly dismissed her concerns and the girl promptly committed suicide.

As an online blogger and clinician, I can tell you this: Nothing you read that resonates with you will ever replace the value of your own therapy. Don’t confuse something that reminds you of your own experience with something that will heal you. You may see your history in someone else’s story, but it will never be your own. Bloggers can’t absolve you of your sins, cure your wounds, or soothe your psyche. It’s up to you to do that. Writers may seek and find healing in their craft but that’s their catharsis, not yours.

One of the best things about therapy is that it’s confidential. You can have at it and not worry about betrayal or judgement or misguided advice. If something is weighing on you, seek out the relief of professional help — not the burden of someone’s personal opinion. You don’t need others to bless your problem with seriousness or severity. Trust yourself to know when things feel too big to manage on your own. Yes, go online. But put your Googling skills to good use by searching for a seasoned therapist instead.

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Journal Your Way To Post-Divorce Healing

There’s just something healing about putting pen to paper. I’m a firm believer that writing about things can make them more manageable and less scary. Divorce can feel unmanageable and very scary — and that’s where this journal and workbook can help.

Therapists often encourage their clients to keep journals to document their emotions, experiences, and growth. I’ve seen the transformations possible through writing — and they are boundless.

In the spirit of both those experiences — writing and divorce — I’m thrilled to announce that my new journal and workbook, From Bitter To Better: 7 Steps to Moving Beyond Your Divorce is now available.

If you’re going through — or have gone through — a divorce, you already know the jumble of emotions is confusing at best. It’s such a disruptive life event, it’s sometimes hard to figure out how to not let it consume you. If it feels like you’ve tried everything to feel better, my journal and workbook will offer you something completely different: a new way to tell the story of your divorce which allows the healing and rebuilding to begin.

Based on my award-winning book of the same name, my journal and workbook will guide you, support you, and challenge you to move beyond your divorce…and invite you to welcome and create your new and better post-divorce life!

It’s here. Now. We can do this together.

Just click on the book cover graphic below…and let’s get started!

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Why You’re Not Over Your Divorce And What To Do About It

I was filling out the required paperwork at a doctor’s office when I got to the question about marital status. Married? Divorced? Separated? Widowed? I’m definitely not separated and luckily not widowed, but which of the other two choices best describes my status? My answer: Both.

A young woman recently wrote this about the death of her first husband: “Even though I’m happily remarried, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a widow — and always will be.”

I totally get that. And I could say the same about divorce: Even though I’m happily remarried, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m divorced.

Divorce doesn’t go away when you ink those papers or go in front of a judge. Time itself doesn’t blot it out.  And, obvious technicalities aside, getting remarried has zero bearing on your divorce status. If you’re divorced, you’re divorced. It’s part of your life’s resume.

Divorce sticks. I know that because I married again — and I still couldn’t shake it. When you graduate high school, you’re still a graduate — doesn’t matter if you’re six months out or ten years. The experience shaped and informed you. It had an impact on the direction of your life. Same goes for divorce.

Divorce, always, is an ending that forces a new beginning and requires we find the energy to create it. It demands answers to two questions we need never have asked had we stayed married, which are, in a nutshell: How the f*ck did this happen? and Now what?

The Holmes-Rahe Life Stressor Inventory has divorce and marital separation taking up two of the top three spots for stressful life events. Number one? Death of a spouse. So, only the death of a spouse trumps a marriage going kaput. (Howboutdah, people?) Lesson? Give yourself a break. This is tough stuff.

One of the very hardest things about divorce is no one tells you where to put it, right? Where do we file something in our psyches that has shaken our lives to the very core? After divorce, everything looks and feels different. Yes, your family looks different and likely your bank account does, too. But even your kids look different when you see them through your new Divorced, Single Parent eyes. Even your job feels different when you realize it’s the only thing standing between take-out Chinese and food stamps.

Getting acclimated to all these changes takes work, it takes gumption. And most people don’t do it. Why? Divorce recovery work isn’t sexy. It doesn’t promise you Chrissy Teigen’s body or Kim Kardashian’s Instagram fame. Divorce recovery work is quiet, inside work. It’s not splashy or glam. It’s the work of yeomen when all we really long for is a quick fix. That, and many of us just want others to think we’re fine, we’re over it, we’ve moved on.

You can’t hide (or hide from) your divorce label, but you can choose to wear it as a badge of survival: an emblem worthy of someone who went through something catastrophically crappy and came out the other side smiling. Yes, you can choose this.

My most favorite-est and sexiest bra I’ve ever owned I got at Target. Yes, Target. It was black and the center front gore (space between the boobs) was a cool, crisscross of silky material. When I wore it, I felt sexy and pretty. Point is, it didn’t matter what the label said, it was how I chose to feel when I wore it.

Countless times, I’ve heard people say, “Divorce is/was the biggest failure of my life.” This blanket statement always drives me wild. One of my sons — at his unknowing peril — once used the word failure when talking about my divorce from his dad. My response? “I don’t consider a 20-plus year marriage and three amazing kids a failure!” And I don’t. I never will. And that’s how I’ve chosen to think about my first marriage.

Now, first things first. If you want to change the way you feel about your divorce, you need to change the way feel about divorce. If you’re still beating yourself up/embarrassed/ashamed/bitter about your divorce, it’s time to change that up. Time to claim your membership in the club and be okay with it.

Second, you need to rewrite the story of your divorce. And it’s no simple exercise. Like you, I have my own tied-up-with-a-bow story about my divorce. And, guess what? In it, I’m the good guy! Aren’t you, in yours? Reality is, there’s a better, more healing version. Ask yourself: Is my divorce story one that is allowing me the freedom to live my best, most peaceful life?

Join me at She Did It on May 17th. Divorce recover work may not be sexy, but it will never make promises it can’t keep. It can’t help you lose 30 pounds in 30 days, or get you 10,000 followers on Facebook, but it will help you tell a new divorce story that will make all the difference in the way you feel about yourself — while instilling lasting, positive change in your life. Actually, that is pretty sexy.

Whether you’re divorced one year or twenty, your better, post-divorce life begins with you. Let’s do this.

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9 Truths Moms Of Boys Only Need To Know *PODCAST*

I have three sons and zero daughters. When my boys were small, I would hear the question, “Are you going to keep trying for a girl?” until I thought my head would explode. Some folks seemed affronted when I would tell them I was done having kids. As if, by having only sons, I was somehow disrupting the natural order of the universe.

The above is the first paragraph of the article I wrote in 2014 about having only sons. The article went viral and it’s since been published around the globe in at least a dozen languages. I can only ascertain that it hit a “soft spot” for moms who are parenting only boys.

It only recently occurred to me that I should record it as a podcast. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

My sons are the greatest joy of my life…and I know yours are, too.

 

 

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Falling In Love? Don’t Ignore These 6 Red Flags *PODCAST*

In every new relationship, the first weeks are crucial. They’re jam-packed with visceral and practical information about the person we’re considering getting involved with. Problem is, many of us plow through these early informational tidbits without giving them the credence they’re due. They may be vague doubts or huge, waving red flags. But because falling in love feels so damn good, we keep on.

Save yourself a boatload of disappointment and heartache. Listen in as bestselling author and psychotherapist, Abby Rodman, describes 6 of the “red flags” you should be on the lookout for at the beginning of a relationship.

 

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Is Your Big Ego Stopping You From Finding A Healthy Relationship? *PODCAST*

Could there be a scientific or personality-driven reason you keep choosing the wrong type of partner?

According to Sigmund Freud, there are three separate but interacting systems that drive human behaviors. They are the ego, the id, and the superego. 

So, how do these systems come into play when it’s time to select a mate? Many clients come to therapy with this burning question: “Why do I keep choosing the wrong kind of partner?”

If you’re also stumped by this frustrating conundrum, there may be a simple reason for it. It may lie in the part of your personality you’re operating from when you choose partners.

Listen in as best-selling author and psychotherapist, Abby Rodman, offers a deeper explanation as to why you’re stuck in this negative relationship loop. It may just change how you choose your next mate!

 

 

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Falling In Love? Don’t Ignore These 6 Red Flags

The first weeks of any new relationship are jam-packed with visceral and practical information about the person we’re considering getting involved with. Problem is, many of us plow through these early tidbits without giving them the credence they’re due. They may be vague doubts or huge, waving red flags. But because falling in love feels so damn good, we keep on.

A friend of mine — I’ll call her Lisa — recently reconnected with a high school boyfriend, Logan, at a mutual friend’s wedding — and the sparks between them reignited. Quickly, they pledged their commitment to one another, and started planning their new life together. They made a boatload of big promises in a matter of weeks.

But Logan had a pretty major tidbit: Though they had been separated for several years, he wasn’t divorced from his first wife. When Lisa pressed Logan on this, he assured her it would happen soon — explaining that his new relationship with her was the catalyst he finally needed to pull the trigger. But as weeks turned into months, Logan made many excuses as to why his divorce wasn’t moving forward.

Lisa was initially willing to ignore this very significant warning sign. As time went by, however,  Lisa grew increasingly frustrated by Logan’s inaction. During one argument about it, Logan dropped the mother of all excuses: “I’m afraid my wife will commit suicide if I push this divorce. I need more time.” Shocked by this revelation, Lisa decided to back off. After all, she didn’t want this woman’s blood on her hands.

Lisa spent many months waiting for Logan to divorce before she realized it was never going to happen. Their relationship ended when Logan decided to give his marriage a second chance. By ignoring this red flag, Lisa had bought herself a whole lot of heartache and disillusionment — and time she couldn’t get back.

Sadly, many warning signs may not be as obvious as Logan’s. That’s why it’s important we dig deeper. Here are five red flags to look for in the first weeks of a potentially serious relationship:

1. Baggage. Logan’s baggage was a complex, unresolved marital situation that prohibited him from moving forward with Lisa in a meaningful way.

If someone has significant baggage or strings attached elsewhere, it’s imperative you determine how significantly these issues will affect you and the relationship.

We all have baggage and we’re wise to accept that’s true for others, too. But be discerning. If that baggage is going to spell big trouble for your relationship, think twice.

2. Comfort. Nothing wrong with seeking comfort in a romantic relationship. But there’s a certain type of comfort — I call it dysfunctional comfort — we’re better off avoiding. Here’s how it works: You’re viscerally (and unconsciously) drawn to someone because they remind you of some dysfunction — or someone dysfunctional — in your family of origin. An obvious example is the daughter of an alcoholic who partners with an alcoholic. But, in many cases, it’s more complex than that. Did you feel unseen as a child and now you’re partnering with someone who doesn’t seem all that interested in what makes you tick? Was your childhood home chaotic and your new partner gamely brings chaos to your door? Ask yourself why this person feels like a perfect fit. It may not be for the right reasons.

3. Boundaries. My parents have friends who met and got married two weeks later. Sixty years later, they’re still together. This is a wonderful love story but, in general, marrying someone you just met isn’t highly recommended. It’s more important to really know this person before you integrate them into your life whole hog. If it seems your new partner is trying to monopolize your time and insert him/herself into every aspect of your life within a short time span, you may want to back up the truck. Love at first sight does exist, but that doesn’t always signal a healthy start or guarantee longevity. If your gut is telling you this person’s lack of personal boundaries feels intrusive, don’t ignore it.

4. Acceptance. Does your new, dreamy partner tell you how great you are, but has more than a few suggestions as to how you can improve your career, hairstyle, clothing choices, or weight? In fact, it may start to feel like he wants someone else entirely. Conversely, be aware if you’re doing the same. Do you want to change him/her to fit your ideal? A determination to change a person — along with specific ideas as to how they should go about it — is never the fairy tale ending to any relationship.

5. Requirements. Any hard and fast requirement in a relationship isn’t optimal. “I won’t get married anywhere but my parents’ church,” or “I’ll never move out of the neighborhood I grew up in,” or, “If we couldn’t have kids, I wouldn’t stay in the marriage,” are all examples of rigid requirements and/or ways of thinking. You’ll know one of these beauts when you hear it because the way it’s presented negates any possibility of negotiation. At first, you may not object to some of them — they may feel harmless enough. But someone who isn’t willing to negotiate or bend, promises to be a difficult partner.

6. What Others Say. Are your friends/family/coworkers as excited about your new relationship, or do they seem concerned? Have they noticed changes in your energy level, availability to them, or your mood? Certainly, we can’t let others determine what makes us happy. But if the people who care about you seem worried this new relationship may be taking a toll, you might want to consider why.

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Is Your Big Ego Stopping You From Finding A Healthy Relationship?

“Wow! That guy’s got an ego the size of Texas! Who does he think he is?”

Ever heard someone described that way? Sure you have. But throwing shade at someone by accusing them of having a big “ego” (not to be confused with egotism) isn’t really an accurate sentiment. In truth, someone who has a well-developed ego is more likely to be thoughtful and reasonable — not, as we’ve come to believe, a self-important asshat.

Sigmund Freud introduced the concept of the ego — one of three separate but interacting systems that drive human behaviors. The other two are the id and the superego. Briefly, here’s how it all works:

Id: Your id is all impulse. It demands immediate gratification of your needs. According to Freud, all infants are born with an id which ensures our basic needs of food and comfort are met.

The id says: I want this candy bar and I will steal to have it.

Superego: Your superego is the “right or wrong” component of your personality. It’s in place to control the id’s impulses. The superego is often equated with your conscience.

The superego says: It is completely wrong to steal this candy bar.

Ego: Your ego is the decision-making part of your personality. Although it seeks pleasure, it does so with realistic strategies. It’s the part of you that drives conscious decision making.

The ego says: I’m tempted to steal this candy bar but that would be wrong. Instead, I will find a lawful way to get it.

So, how does all this fit in when it comes to selecting a mate?

Many clients come to therapy with this burning question: “Why do I keep choosing the wrong kind of partner?”

If you’re also stumped by this frustrating conundrum, there may be a simple(ish) reason for it: You may be picking these partners from a part of your personality that isn’t designed to make the best relationship choices. 

Here’s how it works:

Let’s take the prototype of the “bad boy.” Many folks are attracted to this type. He’s irreverent and incorrigible. He may also live his life slightly outside of the law. In essence, he’s exciting.

Bad boys light up our ids like Roman candles on the 4th of July. Our association with a bad boy may even allow us to flex our id muscle more freely than we normally would — even if it’s only vicariously. The bad boy says, “Life with me will be thrilling, wild, and unpredictable!” And, oh boy, does our id love the sound of that.

Unfortunately, the bad boy likely has an overdeveloped id (or underdeveloped ego) from which he makes his decisions. And, in the long (or short) run — you’re going to discover his impulsiveness and irresponsibility do not a solid, long-term relationship make.

So, if every partner you choose lives life driven by his id — and/or who activates yours — you’re going to be in for some repetitive relationship disappointments.

So, instead, why not choose a partner from your superego? After all, it clearly knows good from bad. At first blush, that might seem like a reasonable move. But our superego operates from an ideal of perfection — not one of true intimacy. You’ve heard the term, “He (or she) looks good on paper. The superego recognizes there are enough good qualities about this person to consider him/her as a potential partner. It confirms your standards are being met — especially during the falling in love stage.

There are a couple of red flags to watch out for here. The first is whether or not someone who “looks good on paper” is actually that terrific. Lots of folks hide behind good jobs, great educations, and social dexterity to belie the dysfunction within. And, hopefully, you’ll figure that out pretty darn quick. Second, if you’re simply checking the boxes — making your choice based on a person’s resume — how long do you think that relationship will be satisfying for you? A couple of years? Tops?

That’s why choosing a partner from our ego — the moderator of both our id and superego — is the healthiest approach. The best relationships will always be those with a functional balance of spark and practicality. A passionate friendship, if you will. When it comes to relationships, our ego will always steer us in the right direction. Why? Because it carefully takes into account the messages from both our id and superego.

The id says: I must be with this person no matter what.

The superego says: This relationship is a disaster waiting to happen.

The ego says: All this excitement feels good. But I need to carefully consider the pitfalls — and  if a relationship with this person would really be optimal for me.

I realize the title of this article is misleading. It’s not your ego that’s getting in the way of finding a healthy relationship, more likely it’s your id or superego. Because the bigger your ego, the better your chances of finding a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship.

Next time you’re choosing to partner with someone, stop and ask yourself where in your personality this decision is coming from. If it’s not from your trustworthy and well-developed ego, it may be wise to take a huge step back.

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What It’s Really Like To Be On the ‘Today’ Show

When you’ve blogged a long while — as I have — it’s challenging to come up with topics you hope will be interesting to your readers. So, when a colleague suggested I write about my experience on the Today show, I jumped on it.

I’ve been on Today twice. Once to talk about midlife divorce, and once to talk about raising three sons. Some people dream about being on national TV — and here’s where you might expect me to say, “But I’m not one of them.” But, unapologetically, I am.

Those of us who throw our work into the public arena and hope it sticks, know the highs and lows of doing that. But, despite the peaks and valleys, we forge ahead. We do that because we have a message we believe is valuable — whether we’re experts in relationships, dog leashes, or the stock market. And we want to share that message.

That being said.

Perhaps one day you’re watching Today (or a show like it) and you see a guest who’s just a regular person (like you) sharing her message. And you think, It would be so cool to be on a national talk show!  But how does that happen to everyday folk like me?

I was asked to be on because — daydream spoiler! — I had a publicist who made it her mission to get me on. But, first things first: If it’s your heart’s desire to be on one of these shows, you have to declare it. You can’t hide in a closet and expect the producers to come knocking, because they won’t. They have too many other qualified guests banging down their door.

Today wants you,” I remember my publicist saying. And those were about the headiest three words I’d ever heard strung together. They were interested in research I’d conducted on women in midlife choosing to divorce which eventually became the premise for my book, Without This Ring. I’d surveyed hundreds of women and the powers that be at Today liked that.  Because, like all media outlets, they like numbers. Big ones.

I was invited on the show again after an article I had written about mothering three boys quickly went viral, garnering over a million views (again, big numbers). I was slightly more relaxed the second time around, but not by much. (This was a year after my first appearance, and Kathie Lee and Hoda clearly had zero memory of ever meeting me before. But, true to form, they were their friendly, this-isn’t-going-to-hurt-a-bit selves.)

The experience is pretty surreal. You arrive at Rockefeller Plaza early in the morning and are ushered through the crowd gathered outside their studios. You’re greeted by a super-friendly page who directs you to hair and makeup —  a long, narrow room with a line of salon chairs positioned in front of a wall of mirrors. My first time there, I glanced into the mirror only to see Christian Slater(!) standing behind me looking just like Christian Slater should — only shorter. Okay, I thought, I’m really here. Because here is where real stars come to do their star thing.

(My second time there, I waited in the green room with Idina Menzel and Christina Ricci. Carson Daly strolled by. A celebrity I recognized — but couldn’t and still can’t name — told me she liked my dress. I couldn’t say, “This old thing?”  because it was obviously brand new. That, and I’d shopped for it like a feral maniac. I mustered a thank you instead.)

I digress.

The hair and makeup folks quickly and magically transform you into someone who looks like someone who should be on TV. When you’re TV-ready — and barely recognizable to yourself — you meet with the producer. If she’s never met you before, she’s doing her due diligence to ensure you won’t embarrass anybody — which you’re already pretty sure you’re going to do.

Before long, someone says, “Five minutes!” That is the exact moment your nervous system goes into overdrive. For a moment, you almost wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole.

You’re then escorted to the set which looks eerily familiar. You realize that’s because you’ve seen it a million times before on TV. Kathie Lee and Hoda make their entrance and they’re lovely and welcoming. People have asked me countless times, “What are they really like?” And my answer is always, “Exactly what you think.” Hoda is reserved but warm, Kathie Lee is a bundle of infectious, chatty energy. And they’re both pretty gorgeous. (At this point, you may or may not attempt to awkwardly embrace Kathie Lee because you’re a huge fan.)

The segment commences and, in a nanosecond, it’s over. And you can’t remember one thing you — or anyone else — said. And everyone is saying, “Great job!” but you have no way of knowing if that’s true or whether they just don’t want you to commit hara-kari in the studio. After you “come to” you realize Hoda and Kathie Lee have already disappeared to another set for their next segment. And, just like that, it’s over.

In case you’re wondering, you’re not paid to appear, but you do get national exposure for your message. They did put me up in an average-ish hotel the night before taping. I didn’t see them there, so I’m guessing Christian, Idina, and Christina made other arrangements.

Being on Today didn’t change my life, but it gave me an interesting life experience. And, as you know if you’ve gotten this far, something to blog about.

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Women: Run Like Hell From This Kind Of Relationship

I’m seeing a new relationship trend emerging among my clients. And, frankly,  it’s not a good one. What’s a trend in psychotherapy? Well, it’s when you start hearing very similar stories from several clients — enough times that it makes you go hmm. Lately, for example, I’ve seen a spike in generalized anxiety which many trace to the uncertainty they feel about the political future of our country. But I practice in Massachusetts, so there’s that.

The unfortunate trend that’s surfaced over the past year or so is one I call the Non-Relationship Relationship. I’m primarily hearing about it from women in their twenties and thirties who date men, but I’m betting it also applies to dating across the lifespan and to same-sex couples.

Here’s how the Non-Relationship Relationship (NRR) works: You’re in a relationship with a man. You see him several times a week. Maybe you’ve even met his parents. The sex is good. He texts you every day. He introduces you to all his friends. He takes you to his office Christmas party. You’re planning a vacation together.

All good, right? Except for one thing: He refuses to call your relationship a relationship. And, perhaps more importantly, he won’t agree to exclusivity. In other words, he won’t commit to being faithful.

But you spend so much time together, you’re not really worried about him being with someone else, right? I mean, where would he even find the time?

But then he goes to a bachelor party in Vegas or flies off to a company meeting and now his reluctance to call your relationship a relationship starts to take on meaning. And the hard truth of the NRR is he can do whatever his little heart (or whatever) desires when he’s away from you. Guilt-free.

Now, the twist to the NRR is he’s been honest with you from the get-go. So, when he comes home and admits he hooked up with an ex-girlfriend at his class reunion, what’re you going to say?

Of course, you’re angry and hurt. And you tell him. But it gets you nowhere because he’s got the NRR rulebook as his fallback. He was just doing what he already told you he might do. In his mind, he’s congratulating himself on being Mr. Open Book.

Gaslighting is a popular component of the NRR. Being gaslighted in a relationship means your partner tries to convince you that something you know to be true is a figment of your imagination. And, done right, it makes you start to feel a tad crazy.

In the NRR, what you know to be true is that you really are in a relationship with this guy. But because he doesn’t want to name it as a relationship, because he wants to leave the door open a crack, because he thinks he’s being truthful, you start to question your truth. You think, Maybe he’s right. But isn’t this a relationship? Maybe it’s not. What defines a relationship exactly?

In addition to feeling confused, you pile on worry and jealousy. Because, without a real commitment, you can never establish trust. And, without trust, you’re a chaotic mess every time he goes out with his friends or has dinner with a female coworker. Because, why shouldn’t you be? You’re in a relationship with a guy who claims you’re not.

Why are so many guys adopting the NRR? Simple answer: sex. Remember, my sample is mostly from younger women dating their male cohorts. And these guys in their twenties and thirties don’t want to close off the possibility of hooking up with other women. They’re happy with the NRR because they get to have all the benefits of a relationship with you (companionship, friendship, intimacy) without having to walk away from the opportunity of sex with someone else.

If you’re in a NRR, do you see he’s having his cake and eating it, too? That he’s taking all of the good from you but exploiting it by infusing your day-to-day with insecurity and self-loathing?

The self-loathing piece comes from knowing you’re not doing right by yourself. You’re not saying, “Look, I’m worth more than your two-bit honesty schtick. Commit to me or there’s the door.” No, instead you’re holding out for him to change his mind, to pledge his devotion and fidelity so you can get on with it. Hear me here: This is not going to happen.

If you’re in a Non-Relationship Relationship, know that you’re choosing it. No one is forcing you to tolerate this painful mind game. Why be with someone who is pretty much telling you you’re not enough for him? Because — if you don’t already know — you are enough. You’re more than enough. And the guy who deserves you will know that.

Act like a goddess and be treated like one. Act like a punching bag and brace yourself for the blows. If you want to find out what you really mean to him, put an end to the NRR. If he doesn’t value your relationship (as you already suspect), you may be saying a permanent, healthy goodbye. If he’s willing to abandon his NRR policies to hold on to what you have, he may be a keeper. In both scenarios, you end up with something invaluable —  your dignity and self-respect.