Apr 232012
 

Charlotte had finally broken up with her boyfriend of four years. All her friends—including me—were relieved. “Bob” had been bad news. Now Charlotte was sitting in my kitchen, sipping a gin and tonic, and confessing that she was considering going back to him.

The mind has a funny way of spinning reality. I remembered my own breakup. Observing my mind-talk, I was surprised at how often my thoughts grew into tall stories. In one, my ex desperately missed me and wanted to get back together. In another he was actively dating and had totally forgotten about me. At times, I would even tell myself our breakup was only temporary. My girlfriend Kelli set me straight.

“You’ve been thinking that getting back together is impossible,” she said. “I’d like you to entertain the idea that it’s not.”

She continued. “Jump into the fantasy that you’re reunited and see how you feel.”

I took her advice, and afterwards I felt like I’d been sprayed with cold water. There was no going back. We had split for a reason, and that reason had not changed.

“Tell me what would be different if you two got back together,” I asked Charlotte. “What has changed?”

Charlotte thought a moment, “Nothing really. I just miss him.”

I totally understood.

“Missing him and getting back together are two different things,” I pointed out gently. “Imagine being back with Bob. Go ahead. Imagine it!”

She closed her eyes.

“OK,” I said. “You guys have been back together for five months, and you’re having dinner at your condo. How do you feel?”

I have a knot in my stomach,” she said.

“Do you still want to get back together?”

“No!” She laughed.

 

 

Jan 022012
 

“I should have seen it coming,” she began. My friend Cameron had been recently dumped by her boyfriend of three months. Cameron and I were sharing tapas at one of our favorite lunch spots downtown.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said.

“But all the signs were there. We were arguing a lot, he’d become distant, and his friends were acting strange. The writing was on the wall.”

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I said sympathetically.

“I’m proud of how I handled myself, though,” she offered.

“Oh?” I was glad she had stopped beating herself up.

“I handled the whole thing with grace. I listened to everything he had to say, told him I was sorry to hear it but appreciated his honesty, and wished him well. Then we hung up.”

“Hung up? He broke up with you over the phone?” I was appalled.

“I know that’s not kosher, but I’m glad he did,” she said. “That way, he couldn’t see my face and how I really felt.”

“And how did you feel?”

“Angry. More angry than sad. I was mad at myself for not breaking up with him first.”

“I get that.” I’d been there too.

“He was right; we weren’t a good match. We should have ended it a month ago.”

The next day, I thought about our conversation. The next time, I’m dumped I’m going to take a page out of Cameron’s book. I’ll listen carefully, thank him for his honesty, and wish him well. The less emotion shown the better.

Even if it’s been a long-term relationship, I’ll keep any drama to myself. I’ll avoid arguing, bargaining, lashing out, or crying. After all, there’s no reason to act like he’s destroyed me; he hasn’t. I will get through it, and one day I’ll find someone who loves me as much as I love him. I deserve that.

Cameron had shown me how to handle a breakup with grace.

Nov 132011
 

After ninety minutes of “This planet is lining up with that planet in that house,” all I could remember was one sentence: “This stage of your life is about slaying dragons.” My friend Jim, a brilliant astrologer, was reviewing my natal chart.

Jim explained that I was being challenged to face my biggest fear, and it wasn’t going to be easy. As Bette Davis said in the classic movie All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Career was easy for me, Jim said, but relationships were not. My emotions could be somewhat frozen. No shit, Sherlock, I said silently to myself.

Since my marriage fourteen years ago, I haven’t been in a relationship that’s lasted more than three years. Looking back on these relationships, I realize that almost every one of my ex-partners complained about my lack of feeling.

Several years ago after I broke up with the first man I had lived with since my divorce, I plunged into a dark space. I turned to a therapist for help.

The therapist helped me see that I had a fear of being present. I was also afraid to face intense emotion, especially sadness. In order to defend my heart, I covered it in a hard shell. I learned that in order to free it, I would have to go to the place I fear most: my sorrow.

For the past year, I’ve tried a wide range of modalities to help open my heart including ecstatic dancing, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, talk therapy, and psychic healing, but it wasn’t until I met with my ex-partner two years after our breakup that something in me broke open. There’s a rabbinical saying that the only true open heart is a broken heart.

In that meeting, I became the man I longed for: I was present, vulnerable, and open- hearted. The anger and hurt dissipated, and the love I felt for this man flowed through me.

For months, my therapist has been telling me to welcome the sorrow. While I understood what he was suggesting, I couldn’t imagine actually welcoming anything as painful as sorrow.

I know sorrow has been my muse. Sorrow has helped me create some of my best paintings and write some of my most poignant pieces, but it’s still tough for me to welcome it. Yet when my ex-partner and I talked I allowed my pain to penetrate me—if only for a minute. By becoming vulnerable and undefended, I rediscovered the love that had been there all along.

While I’m a long way from slaying the dragon, I got a glimpse of what life would be like without this dragon in my life. I now have a felt-sense of the man I want to be. I know what it feels like to allow love to freely flow through me.

Sorrow still scares me—any intense emotions do—but a tiny crack has appeared in the wall of my resistance. If I can keep chiseling away, I have to believe it’s just a matter of time before the wall crumbles. The dragon will be slayed.

Oct 062011
 

A while back I wrote a blog on the decline of men; it generated quite a response. One reader wrote this about her ex-husband, “I was the bread-winner, housekeeper, child organizer (he was a good dad, but I definitely was the one on top of things), etc. He wasn’t even interested much in sex!”

She continued, “As much as I love men (and sex with men!!!) and as much as I love the idea of finding a great mate with whom to grow old, the actual idea of day to day marriage or cohabitation is pretty unappealing….” Her story is a common one.

Here’s a CNN article that gives one theory on why men are failing.  Do you agree?

Oct 032011
 

I just learned about a new trend that I’m not liking: rating your exlover on line. Exrated is has joined the growing number of websites that allow individuals to comment anonymously on others’ performance, personality, and preferences. ExRated founder’s Tom Padazana, explains, “I hope this will be a research tool to help people make more educated decisions in dating.”Exrated’s motto is “forewarned is forearmed.”

Few have written ratings so far, but most who have haven’t been kind. One reviewer wrote, “Bring your own Zoloft. Fun in bed, but absolute bonkers out of it. Everyone’s conspiring against her, so she thinks.”

The whole concept seems mean-spirited to me. What do you think?

 

Sep 162011
 

Today marks the official end of my celibate summer. After yet another breakup last June, I swore off dating—and sex—for three months. For the past four years, I’ve been in a relationship, one for three years and the last relationship for one year; it was time for a break.

My friends didn’t think celibacy would last. “Celibate summer? You’ll be lucky to make it through celibate Saturday,” they teased.

Celibate summer wasn’t as hard as I (or they) thought. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with my friends, especially my girlfriends. I’ve enjoyed this time to embrace my singleness.

Some friends still don’t understand. “I bet you have four guys lined up for today,” one suggested. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Today will be no different from yesterday. The last thing I want to do is embark on a “manic manhunt.”  I’ve been there, and I don’t like the feeling.

I won’t put up a profile on Match.com, SilverDaddies.com (Ugh. I guess I’m that age now.), or Manhunt.com. At least not right now. And you won’t find me hanging out in the bars. Most gay bars don’t get rolling until midnight, and I’m in bed by ten most nights.

The only thing that has changed is that I’m now open to dating, but I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. A potential date would have to parachute into my front yard and knock on my door to find me. Several friends have said not to be so quick to dismiss the possibility. I appreciate their optimism, but that’s not where I want to put my focus.

I want to be comfortable with “what is,” and right now I’m single. Most importantly, I’m happy. And isn’t that what really matters?

 

Sep 152011
 

“I should have seen it coming,” she began. My friend Cameron had been recently dumped by her boyfriend of three months. Cameron and I were sharing tapas at one of our favorite lunch spots downtown.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said.

“But all the signs were there. We were arguing a lot, he’d become distant, and his friends were acting strange. The writing was on the wall.”

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I said sympathetically.

“I’m proud of how I handled myself, though,” she offered.

“Oh?” I was glad she had stopped beating herself up.

“I handled the whole thing with grace. I listened to everything he had to say, told him I was sorry to hear it but appreciated his honesty, and wished him well. Then we hung up.”

“Hung up? He broke up with you over the phone?” I was appalled.

“I know that’s not kosher, but I’m glad he did,” she said. “That way, he couldn’t see my face and how I really felt.”

“And how did you feel?”

“Angry. More angry than sad. I was mad at myself for not breaking up with him first.”

“I get that.” I’d been there too.

“He was right; we weren’t a good match. We should have ended it a month ago.”

The next day, I thought about our conversation. The next time, I’m dumped I’m going to take a page out of Cameron’s book. I’ll listen carefully, thank him for his honesty, and wish him well. The less emotion shown the better.

Even if it’s been a long-term relationship, I’ll keep any drama to myself. I’ll avoid arguing, bargaining, lashing out, or crying. After all, there’s no reason to act like he’s destroyed me; he hasn’t. I will get through it, and one day I’ll find someone who loves me as much as I love him. I deserve that.

Cameron had shown me how to handle a breakup with grace.

 

Sep 142011
 

Here are three short videos on how to move on after a breakup:

Breakup Tip One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7WdYQsm6iU

Breakup Tip Two:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy3kJZUGYv0

Breakup Tip Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q06sCQPQOM4

 

Jul 082011
 

My heart went out to Melissa. She was in pain.

“I can’t sleep,” she said. “My mind is racing, and no matter what I do, I can’t make it stop. My emotions are all over the place.”

Melissa and I were sipping Margaritas and munching on chips at our favorite neighborhood Mexican dive.

I totally understood. When I had my big break up two years ago, I tried to control and crush my crazy thoughts and roller-coaster feelings, but that only increased their charge. Instead, I found that by observing them with curiosity and without judgment, like clouds they gently floated by.

My therapist helped me with this sage advice:

“Ask yourself what’s not okay about this moment, then note your answer,” he began. “If it’s not okay, then think of your mind as a garden; your job is to pull out the weeds. An obsession? A weed. A fantasy? Another weed. A thought about the future? A memory of the past? Weeds. Keep pulling the weeds until one flower remains: this present moment.”

I saw how my mind worked—all the crazy stories I made up in my head. I noticed them when my ex and I were together, and I observed them now that we were apart. I learned to welcome them and use them as a kind of restart button to become present. When I caught myself in a fantasy or another form of “crazy thinking,” I could remember my therapist’s wise question, “What’s so bad about the present moment that you can’t be in it?”

I could also observe my emotions. Like my thoughts, I used them as a vehicle to become more present. When I felt sad, I asked if that sadness was based on a memory or future projection, or if it was what I was actually experiencing at that moment.

I learned that sensations are a clear pathway to the present. When I listen for the sounds around me, see my surroundings with what the Zen Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind,” and follow sensations in my body to track what I’m feeling, I sink deeper into what spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle calls “the power of now.”

I wanted to share these experiences with Melissa but caught myself. The timing wasn’t right; Melissa was still too raw. The best I could do for her now was to simply listen and empathize. “You must be exhausted,” I said.

Jul 082011
 

Charlotte had finally broken up with her boyfriend of four years. All her friends—including me—were relieved. “Bob” had been bad news. Now Charlotte was sitting in my kitchen, sipping a gin and tonic, and confessing that she was considering going back to him.

The mind has a funny way of spinning reality. I remembered my own break up. Observing my mind-talk, I was surprised at how often my thoughts grew into tall stories. In one, my ex desperately missed me and wanted to get back together. In another he was actively dating and had totally forgotten about me. At times, I would even tell myself our breakup was only temporary. My girlfriend Kelli set me straight.

“You’ve been thinking that getting back together is impossible,” she said. “I’d like you to entertain the idea that it’s not.”

She continued. “Jump into the fantasy that you’re reunited and see how you feel.”

I took her advice, and afterwards I felt like I’d been sprayed with cold water. There was no going back. We had split for a reason, and that reason had not changed.

“Tell me what would be different if you two got back together,” I asked Charlotte. “What has changed?”

Charlotte thought a moment, “Nothing really. I just miss him.”

I totally understood.

“Missing him and getting back together are two different things,” I pointed out gently. “Imagine being back with Bob. Go ahead. Imagine it!”

She closed her eyes.

“OK,” I said. “You guys have been back together for five months, and you’re having dinner at your condo. How do you feel?”

“I have a knot in my stomach,” she said.

“Do you still want to get back together?”

“No!” She laughed.

Going back to your ex is a fantasy many people entertain after a break up, no matter how bad the relationship was. Most agree it’s a bad idea. “Putting sour milk back in the fridge doesn’t make it drinkable,” my girlfriend Kelli likes to say.