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Recommended Resources:


Baumeister, R. F., & Wotman, S. (1994). Breaking hearts: The two sides of unrequited love. New York: Guilford Press.

Franzen, J. (2001). The Corrections. Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Tennov, D. (1999). Love and limerence: The experience of being in love. New York: Scarborough House.

Falling in Love. (1984, color, 107 min.). Directed by Ulu Grosbard; starring Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Jane Kaczmarek, Harvey Keitel.

Fatal Attraction. (1987, color, 119 min.). Directed by Adrian Lyne; starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer.

Inoculate Yourself Against Jealousy

You can make yourself less susceptible to jealousy by making yourself less dependent on another person for your self-esteem. If your partner truly spends time with someone else, has other friends or even finds others attractive, this can only threaten you if you have no other source of reward or appreciation in your life. Instead of focusing on trying to control your partner, remember your side of the relationship is within your control. Cultivate self-reliance; discover how many things you can do and enjoy without depending exclusively on one other person for them. Don't let someone's thoughtlessness or mistreatment jerk you around. If someone else tries to pull your strings, refuse to be a puppet. Pick yourself up and take yourself away. Take care of yourself.

Further, in addition to self-reliance, engage in self-bolstering, rewarding and appreciating yourself instead of waiting for another person to do it. It's one thing to enjoy the attentions and rewards another offers; it's quite another to become exclusively dependent on that person as the source of All Good Things.

Years ago, as I walked to my classroom, I noticed that one of my students, sitting in the lobby nearby, was very dressed up. She looked great. Her hair was nicely styled and her dress looked wonderful on her. I greeted her and complimented her: "Hi, you look really terrific!" She had looked glum to begin with, eyes downcast. In response to my remark, she only sniffled miserably, "Hmph! He didn't notice." I didn't expect groveling thanks but I did feel odd to have my compliment so immediately dismissed. Not only had she thrown away a perfectly nice little opportunity to feel good but, worse, she seemed determined to give one other person, the nameless He, complete control over how good she felt about her appearance. When you give one person such power over your mood and self-esteem, you set yourself up for pain and powerlessness.

An exercise I recommend to my students in relationship psychology is to "take yourself on a date." Pretend you are another person, someone you find attractive, someone you want to impress, whose respect and affection you want to win. Ask yourself out: where would you like to go, what would you like to do? This must be an activity you do by yourself as well as for yourself, by the way. I encourage my self-dating students to be creative and do something special. Don't overspend but, likewise, don't just stay home with a video and a beer, not if that's something you already do. Plan a special day or evening, get a ticket for a play or exhibit or visit the new café you've wanted to check out.

If it's hard for you to take yourself out to a public place, like a theatre or restaurant where you don't want to be seen alone, then go for a drive or visit an art gallery, something many people do by themselves, not just in pairs or groups. Plan to dress nicely, buy or pack a special meal. Go to some trouble for yourself, take time to prepare.

If you have planned your self-date for Saturday night, stick to it and don't change your plans if someone else calls with another offer, no more than you should if you planned this date with someone else. When you go on your date, take notes in a small journal to record what you find especially enjoyable about the exhibit, movie, scenery or food. Or sit back and people-watch. Practice smiling at others without flirting and get back to being on your own.

In time, you might want to plan regular self-dates, say once a month. This can be something you do for yourself, like exercise, meditation or therapy. You will learn about yourself too: which movies you really didn't enjoy, which new cuisine you love that you'd never tried before. One benefit of this is that next time someone else asks you what you'd like to do on a date or outing, you'll have answers!

But the main point, of course, is to learn that you are good company for yourself, that you can literally enjoy yourself. This means that the praise and attention of others will be, in some ways, "extra." You will want others' affection without always needing it. This combination of self-reliance and self-bolstering not only inures you to jealousy and insecurity, it also makes you a stronger, healthier, happier individual. And here's a surprising benefit, speaking of exclusive relationships: Even if you're in a marriage or other committed relationship, you can (and should) keep dating yourself!

The Balance of Intimacy

Intimacy has costs: commitment to one person closes off other opportunities; we may sacrifice our own comfort and well-being for the sake of the other; even after investing all you can in a relationship, you might still risk painful rejection, betrayal, or simply failure.

But intimacy has undeniable and often irresistible benefits: your close other provides attention, appreciate, and other resources; love creates brief euphoria and lasting joy; even non-romantic closeness provides sustaining support and acceptance.

The benefits outweigh the costs for most of us at some time in our lives. You make the call, take the plunge, and hope for the best. Even better, you can work for the best, as long as you use your head. The joys and pains of intimacy are not external events that merely "happen" to you -- they are the products of your own knowledge and effort. Is successful intimacy worth the effort? You bet it is!

Next Session

In our next session, we'll concentrate on the "how" of intimacy: communication. Meanwhile, enjoy your connections with those closest to you --and those who might be getting closer.

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