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The Advice Goddess: April 2017
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:52

Insecurity blanket

Q: I’m extremely insecure about my looks, though objectively, I know I’m pretty. I constantly ask my boyfriend for reassurance. He gives it to me, but feels bad that I feel this way. Now I’m worrying that I’m making such a good case for what’s wrong with me that he’ll start believing me. Possible?
— Bag Over Head

A: One oft-overlooked beauty secret is to avoid constantly giving a guy the idea that you might actually be ugly.

People will sneer that it’s “shallow” to care about how you look, and they’re probably right — if it’s all you care about. However, research confirms what most of us recognize about the especially eye-pleasing among us: They get all sorts of benefits — everything from social perks to job opportunities to discounts when they act like dirtbags (with judges assigning them lesser fines and a lower rate of bail for misdemeanors).

As a woman, being babe-alicious is a pretty vital tool for landing and maintaining a relationship, because the features that men — across cultures — evolved to consider beautiful are actually health and fertility indicators.

So, for example, full lips and an hourglass bod are basically evolution’s bumper sticker: “Your genes passed on here!”

Not surprisingly, psychologist Tracy Vaillaincourt, who researches competition among women, explains that women attack other women “principally on appearance and sexual fidelity” because men prioritize these qualities in their partners. 

One way women chip away at rivals is by trash-talking another woman’s looks to a man — suggesting he really could do better. That’s what you’re doing — but to yourself. It’s the relationship version of “Ewww, you’re not really gonna eat that, are you?” (And you’re the fricasseed crickets.)

Beyond that, constantly begging a romantic partner for reassurance — while being kind of a black hole for it — can be toxic to a relationship. 

Also, the fact that your need for reassurance seems bottomless suggests it’s not your exterior, but your interior that’s in need of work. Get cracking on that, and try to remember that your boyfriend is with you for a reason — and it probably isn’t that your mom and grandma are crouched behind your sofa, holding him at gunpoint. 


Rebeauty and the beast 

I’m a woman in my 30s. I was married for five years, but now, thank God, I’m divorced and about two years into a wonderful new relationship. Disturbingly, I occasionally call my boyfriend by my awful ex-husband’s name. He laughs it off, but it really freaks me out. Should I see a neurologist? Is my memory going? Or — gulp — do I miss my ex on some subconscious level?
 — Disturbed


Right about now, you’ve got to be recognizing the unexpected benefits of those gas station attendant shirts with the guy’s name sewn onto them.

As with dead bodies carelessly submerged after mob hits, it’s unsettling to have your ex’s name bobbing up when you love somebody new. Naturally, you suspect the worst — that you’re subconsciously pining for the ex. But — good news! — the likely reason for your name swapperoos is something you should find comfortingly boring. According to research by cognitive scientists Samantha Deffler and David C. Rubin, we’re prone to grab the wrong name out of memory when both names are in the same category — for example, men you’ve been seriously involved with or, in the pet domain, gerbils you’ve dressed in tiny sexy outfits.

You might also keep in mind that your ex’s name was the default for “man in my life” for more than twice as long as the new guy’s. Other memory research suggests that especially when you’re tired, stressed, or multitasky, it’s easy to go a little, uh, cognitively imprecise. You send your mindslave off into your brain — back to the “My Guy” category — and the lazy little peasant just grabs the name he spent five years grabbing. So, you might think of this as a mental workforce issue. The Department of Emotions isn’t even involved.

However, research by cognitive psychologist Robert Bjork suggests that you can train your memory to do better through “spaced retrieval” — correcting yourself just post-flub by asking and answering “Who is the man in my life?” and then letting a few minutes pass and doing it again. 

But considering that you have a partner who just laughs at your errors, your time would probably be better spent appreciating what you have: an easygoing sweetheart of a guy and no readily apparent need for a neurologist. 

Bottom line: Your calling the guy by the wrong name probably points to a need for a nap, not unwanted company — as in, a tumor named Fred squatting in the crawlspace behind your frontal lobe. 




Hello hath no fury

Though my boyfriend is loving and attentive, he’s bad at responding to my texts. He’s especially bad while traveling, which he does often for his work. Granted, half my texts are silly memes. I know these things aren’t important, so why do I feel so hurt when he doesn’t reply? 
 — Waiting

 You’d just like your boyfriend to be more responsive than a gigantic hole. (Yell into the Grand Canyon and you’ll get a reply. And it isn’t even having sex with you.)

What’s getting lost here is the purpose of the GIF of parakeets re-enacting the Ali/Frazier fight or the cat flying through space on the burrito. Consider that, in the chase phase, some men text like crazy, hoping to banter a woman into bed. But once there’s a relationship, men (disproportionately) use texting as a logistical tool -- “b there in 5” -- while women continue using it as a tool for emotional connection. That’s probably why you feel so bad. Feeling ignored is also not ideal for a relationship. In research psychologist John Gottman did on newly married couples, the newlyweds who were still together six years down the line were those who were responsive toward their partner’s “bids for connection” -- consistently meeting them with love, encouragement, support, or just attention. 

Explain this “bids for connection” thing to your boyfriend. (That mongoose in a dress is just meme-ese for “Yoo-hoo! You still there?”) However, especially when he’s traveling, a little reasonableness from you in what counts as a reply should go a long way. Maybe tell him you’d be happy with “Ha!”, “LOL,” or an emoji. You’d just like to see more than your own blinking cursor -- looking like Morse code for “If he loved you, he’d at least text you that smiling swirl of poo.”


(c.) 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail




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