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The Advice Goddess: July 2017
Tuesday, 04 July 2017 10:31

Falling in leave

Q: My relationship ended recently, and I asked my ex not to contact me. But just as I’d start feeling a little less sad, I’d hear from him and fall apart. I’ve now blocked him on my phone and social media. This seems so immature. Why can’t I be more grown up about this?

— Incommunicado 


A: For you, breaking up but staying in contact makes a lot of sense — about the same sort as trying to drop 20 pounds while working as a frosting taster. 

Sure, there’s this notion that you “should” be able to be friends with your ex. Some people can be — eventually or even right away — especially if they had a relationship that just fizzled out instead of the kind where you need a rowboat to make it to the kitchen through the river of your tears.

However — not surprisingly — clinical psychologists David Sbarra and Robert Emery find that “contact with one’s former partner … can stall the emotional adjustment process” by reactivating both love and painful emotions.  

For example, in their survey of people who’d recently gone through a breakup, “on days when participants reported having telephone or in-person contact with their former partner, they also reported more love and sadness.” 

It might help you to understand how adjusting to the new “no more him” thing works. In a serious relationship, your partner becomes a sort of emotional support animal -- the one you always turn to for affection, attention, and comforting. This habit of turning toward him gets written into your brain on a neural level, becoming increasingly automatic over time. 

Post-breakup, you turn and — oops — there’s no boo, only a faint dent in his side of the bed. Your job in healing is to get used to this change -- which you don’t do by having him keep popping up, messing with your new belief that he’s no longer available for emotional need-meeting.

That’s why, in a situation like yours, breaking up with your boyfriend should work like breaking up with your couch. When the thing gets dropped off at the city dump, it stays there; you don’t come out on your porch the next morning to it saying, “Hey, babe…was in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d bring over some of your stuff — 36 cents, a pen cap, and this hair elastic.”



Mute emergency

I’m a single guy, and I just never know how to start conversations with girls. I have a sense of humor, but I’m bad at coming up with funny lines on the fly. I’ve thought of using a “line,” but if I were a girl, hearing one would just make me annoyed. Do you have any advice on good conversation starters?
 — Speechless


There’s a reason the line from that chick flick is “You had me at hello” and not “You had me at ‘Those jugs yours?’”

Granted, it’s better if you can be funny when hitting on girls. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller believes “humor production ability” is a “hard-to-fake” sign of intelligence in a potential partner. 

Research by Miller and others suggests he’s right — finding correlations between humor and “verbal creativity” and intelligence. But note “hard-to-fake.”

Trying to be funny when you aren’t all that funny is about as successful a tactic as trying to remove someone’s appendix when you aren’t really a doctor.

However, even if you aren’t naturally funny, what you can be is genuine. To do this, just say something — perhaps about something in the environment. 

Ask about that book she’s carrying or whether she’s survived the vegan Reuben. Maybe comment on the attire of the two armed men running out of the place with a bag of money.

Just saying something is basically like opening a tiny door to see whether anything’s behind it.

If a woman finds you attractive, she’ll pick up and respond — and probably not by announcing that if you were the last man on earth, she’d develop a sexual attraction to trees. 


 (c.) 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




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