I Love You. Now Change.

I Love You. Now Change.

Everyone wants their partner to change.

“Why can’t he be more romantic?”
“If only we had more sex [hotter sex; less sex; any sex], I’d have no complaints.”
“I just want her to make me a priority.”

In my (gasp) 22-year career, the one constant among my clients is that each has believed with every fiber of her being that the key to her relationship success rested in her partner’s willingness to change.

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Just Say No

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

I just got married this past summer to my girlfriend of 3 years. She’s very close to her family to the point that we vacation with them every summer (just locally at the beach). This year, someone came up with the idea to vacation together mid-winter, which means we’ll be flying off to Aruba in a few weeks. I don’t exactly hate my in-laws. I mostly hate how much my wife loves them. And I’m not a fan of being cooped up with them on an island for 2 weeks. It’s tough enough when we’re just at our local beach but at least then I can hop in my car and head south if I need to get away. I’m feeling pressure to be a good new husband but I’m starting to loathe any time I have to spend with my wife’s parents. Do I just need to suck it up?

ANSWER

You definitely need to suck this vacation up. Future vacations, however, are negotiable. You do know that vacationing with your in-laws is optional, right? I’m not sure how you even wound up in this mess. I’m guessing you’re a really nice guy who doesn’t like to say no to his wife.  How are you going to feel when she asks if her parents can move in with you? Just painting some coming attractions for you to weigh against the pain of grabbing your balls and learning to speak your truth.

Resentment begins as a seed formed by saying yes when every cell in your body wants to scream no. Over time, that seed grows roots and the resentment comes out in passive aggressive ways – because there’s no way of muting your truth indefinitely.

My gut tells me that this is a small example of your propensity to be overly accommodating in your marriage, which probably means that she’s a very happy girl but that happiness is situated on a house of cards – it’s not stable or sustainable.

I used to be married to a man who told me everything I wanted to hear. When that relationship ended and I learned that the life I thought we shared was a series of beautiful stories spun to keep me happy in the moment, it sucked. I not only needed to mourn the relationship – I needed to mourn two versions of that relationship: The one he fed me daily and the one I later learned to be the truth. I can tell you without hesitation that I’d have preferred dealing with things I didn’t want to hear than feeling like I’d been sold a rip off instead of the Prada I’d proudly toted for years.

Go on this vacation because it’s what you committed to. When you come home, sit your beautiful bride down and tell her that she’s welcome to vacation with her parents, but that you’ll only be joining her on vacations that involve the two of you. She’ll thank you in the end.

Gender & Orientation: Male, Straight. 

My Year of Fear

To be totally honest, I sort of hate change, which creates a kind of stumbling block for someone who sells it.  My aversion to change would be tricky for you to pick up on because, initially, I embrace taking risks the way a teenager does. I set outlandish goals, throw myself into action, racing through task lists at breakneck speed. I do this until I can see the finish line - and then I find a million legitimate reasons not to cross it. My reasons are so insurmountable that I could convince virtually anyone that the end in sight isn’t right for me; that a change in course (or slamming on the breaks) is exactly the right maneuver.

I know why I do this. At some level, I’m afraid of change, even when that change promises to bring something magical into my life. My fear of change has honed me into a master saboteur, someone who can find a reason to say no when all signs point to yes.

I didn’t set out to make 2015 the year in which I’d embrace fear, but as I take inventory of the past 11 months and the progress that made this a stand out year, I have to acknowledge that the distinguishing factor for me was a willingness to say yes even when I was riddled with fear.

Here’s the biggest example of how this played out in 2015: For 7 years, I’ve been building a media career, hoping to bring the tools and concepts that I teach in my office to a wider audience. This has been a goal of mine because over the years I've seen just how teachable life skills are: relationship skills, communication skills, emotional management skills, etc. I’ve essentially wanted to spare people some of the struggles I’ve experienced from having to create these tools for myself. 

In June of this year, at the end of a grueling ballet class on a Friday night, my manager calls me to tell me that a production company wants to fly me out to LA to audition for a show that E! has picked up. They’re auditioning a handful of shrinks and I’ve made the short list. Can I be in LA on Monday.

My knee jerk thought is a resounding no. No, I can’t cancel my Monday clients – it’s fucking Friday night. Furthermore, I’m in the middle of a program that I’m hosting called Goals Bootcamp and I’ve got work to do this weekend for that program. And also, there’s Steph, my wife, who needs (or wants) time to prepare for me to fly to the other end of the country, or at least that’s what I think. This will ruin our Sunday night. It will disrupt my clients. And it’s just plain inconvenient

The thing is, I love E! Network. They gave me my TV debut years ago. I know the people who make the decisions at that network and I like them. So something strange happened. I said yes.

Three weeks later, I’m offered the job as host of what will become a show called Famously Single. And of course, I say no.

The contract is all wrong. It’s filming in LA, which, had I known at the time of the audition, would have prompted me to pass. The shoot schedule will require me to leave New York for months. What will that do to my clients? What will that do to my practice? What will it do to my marriage? How will I pay my bills? No. No. And NO.

“Don’t decline that opportunity until we talk. You’re not turning that down!!!” is the text that my friend Michael sends me after hearing that I’ve been offered the show. This, coupled with similar communications from other members of my tribe, is why I never send the email saying no.

Ultimately, the contract morphs into something I can live with. So now it’s happening. I’m flying out to LA in November. I’m committed. There’s no backing out. And this scares the shit out of me.

I am the embodiment of a control freak – a Virgo to the nth degree. I like predictability, certainty, risk taking on my terms, and it’s becoming clear to me that what I’ve signed up for is the antithesis of those things.

I do it anyway. It’s an exercise in emotional flexibility, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. Once I’m there, I make the decision to surrender to the process. It seems to be the logical choice given that I have control over nothing. I don’t choose my clothing, my hairstyle, my makeup – even the shape of my eyebrows is decided on by an expert. I’m informed of the next day’s schedule half an hour before I fall asleep each night. On the set each day, I’m told what I’m doing five minutes before I have to do it.  The only thing I have control over is what comes out of my mouth – a liberty that I’m both astounded by and beyond appreciative of.

I blink and it’s over. I’m on a plane back to Manhattan, my head whirling, trying to make sense of what I’ve experienced. I just spent 3 weeks living my dream I say to myself. When I land, I’ll repeat that sentiment to anyone who will listen – for weeks.

I can’t imagine the ways in which my life will change when the show airs in May. I alternate between having nightmares and wet dreams about the outcome.  This uncertainty scares me. It fills me with fear. Which seems a fitting way to wrap up 2015.