…it is not as clear as it seems

‘New Normal’? No Thank You

Breast cancer has certainly been a journey, but I won’t refer to any part of it as my ‘new normal.’

Throughout my surgeries and my chemotherapy, family and friends, doctors and acquaintances, cancer resource   centers and websites, have thrown this ‘new normal’ term around as if it is somehow a phrase of encouragement.

It’s not. It’s one of resignation – one I refuse to make.

The following things – only a few of many — have happened to me over the years.  Not once did I feel the need to categorize the resulting life changes, as some sort of permanent attack on the person I know myself to be.

My self-concept has remained intact.

My life is still normal.

  • I had a baby.
  • My baby went through distinct stages of her life to become the amazing 20-year-old that she is today.
  • I gained 40 pounds; I lost 40 pounds.
  • I earned a bachelor’s degree raising a young child by myself.
  • I earned a graduate degree; I earned a second graduate degree.
  • I became a first time dog mom (My dogs are family).
  • I have been poor.
  • My first husband abruptly left me.
  • I re-married and, as a result, lived an affluent lifestyle
  • I divorced a second time.
  • I learned to live on MUCH less all over again.
  • I was in an emotionally abusive marriage; I am now not in an emotionally abusive relationship.
  • I was active in my church – I was not active in my church – I became active in my church again.
  • I have had best friends; I’ve lost best friends.
  • I moved from Indiana to Massachusetts; I moved from Massachusetts to Chicago.

Each change provided more depth to my view of life and to my character.  I realize some may view my list as minor, but my point is this: Life is fluid. It is dynamic – we never know what next year will bring.  We all spend our lives in the midst of adapting to change.

This Thursday, my surgeon will do my exchange surgery.  He will exchange the expanders placed during the reconstruction phase of my mastectomy, with my ‘permanent’ implants.  I will be ‘me’ – the same me I’ve always known, but with new breasts. Stronger after all of this, perhaps, but still the same woman with whom I grew up.

To call my life after breast cancer a ‘new normal’, is to suggest that a boundary of ‘no return’ has been crossed.  For me, it has not. I may have new concerns in connection with the cancer, but to have concerns about some part of life at any given point, is perfectly normal.


How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You… A Review

Love : Holding hands couple on beach  Romantic love and happiness Stock Photo

How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You…

A Review of Leil Lowndes’ Love Manual


Self-help books. Handbooks to everlasting love. Is it really that easy – read a book; change our lives?

I once evaluate a popular press book in effort to understand how the author’s advice might match scholarly interpersonal research.  I evaluated Leil Lowndes’ (1996) popular press book How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You (HMAFLY) in the context of scholarly evidence.  Granted, this is an older book, but it is one that I tried to use in looking for a husband.  I identified three of Lowndes’ claims and explored the adequacy of her evidence.  In addition, evidence from research is used to support or refute her claims.  Since Lowndes promises readers the techniques needed to secure life-long partners, I wanted to determine if one can accomplish this by relying on her book as a user manual. 


Please forgive the formality of the language of this post.  I am doing a similar evaluation on two more recent ‘manuals’, and plan to be a bit more casual in my approach.

Since HMAFLY addresses only heterosexual relationships, the term ‘partner’ is used in this evaluation to refer to male-female partners only.  To investigate the adequacy of Lowndes’ claims, the evaluated research includes studies published over the past 20 years.

The chosen studies investigate long-term romantic relationship development, maintenance and success.  In addition to the research cited, social exchange theory (Thibaut & Kelley, 1986), a meta-analysis in sex differences (Dindia & Allen, 1992), Timmerman’s (2002) study on sex differences in language, and Blumstein and Swartz’s (1983) American Couples: Money, Work, Sex, a book rich in case studies, were examined.  The journals cited include Social Forces, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Marriage and the Family, and Communication Studies.

Lowndes is a public speaker, communication consultant and an author of seven popular interpersonal and business communication books.  Lowndes’ website (2007) includes her full biography.  The site lists Lowndes as president of Applause, Ltd., listing many big name corporations like Kodak, Mattel, and Walt Disney Company as clients.  Lowndes, clearly a commercial personality, relies on both popular and academic sources, personal experience and hypothetical examples to support her claims.  Her three evaluated claims, each presented in the context of developing relationship intimacy are:

(a) to be successful a relationship must be equitable

(b) the establishment of similarity is a critical part of relationship development

(c) to establish and stabilize a relationship, one must communicate with a partner in a way that bridges a gender gap (Lowndes, 1996, pp.105-199).

Lowndes’ scholarly sources mirror those used in this evaluation.  She lists psychology and sociology journals in her bibliography, including Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Social Forces, American Sociological Review, Journal of Psychology, and American Sociological Review.  While journal articles are listed in Lowndes’ bibliography, she does not specifically cite many of them in her text.  However, she occasionally alludes to them in sweeping general statements, referring to her sources simply as ‘researchers’ instead of identifying each individual work.

This renders it difficult for readers to determine if Lowndes is referring to her popular sources or her academic sources as she explicates her claims.  The popular works she depends upon to support her claims are Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand (1990), John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992); and Lovemaps, written by John Money (1986).

 Love : Young Couple in love  Stock Photo

Lowndes’ Claim 1: Equity

Lowndes’ (1996) first claim is that to be successful, a relationship must consist of partners who each see their romantic relationship as equitable (p.161).  For Lowndes, this means that the partners in an equitable relationship have identified value in each other by adding up each others’ assets and determining that the total assets of the partner mirror the total assets that each of them has to offer the other.  She isn’t referring exclusively to monetary assets; though they are included on her list of the coveted characteristics she defines as assets.

To support her equity claim, Lowndes defines a “What’s in it For Me (WIIFM) principle of love,” that states that all men and women have a personal ‘market value’ (Lowndes, 1996, pp.160-161).  According to Lowndes, it is an individual’s assets that determine his or her marketability in the vast marketplace of potential life-partners (p.161).  Lowndes identifies seven assets necessary for success in the marketplace of love, of which two are perceived through communication: knowledge and personality.

Lowndes (1996) defines ‘knowledge’ as intelligence in a variety of subject areas (pp.187-188).  She does not offer very much detail regarding intelligence/knowledge as an asset, but rather highlights the importance of an individual’s projection of it as opposed to actually having it.  For example, Lowndes states that women “have a tendency to fall in love with men who can help them professionally” (p.188).

Lowndes implies that acting as a mentor demonstrates knowledge.  Along this line of thought, other ways to project knowledge might include topic of conversation choices, word choices and appearance.  For example, knowledge projection might consist of choosing to discuss the latest novel one has read instead of the most recent television episode of Duck Dynasty,  using the term ‘making love’ as opposed a brassy blatant alternative, and presenting oneself with glasses and conservative clothing as opposed to wearing the fashion trend of the moment.

Lowndes’ cites her own interest in the “seedy, professorial, pipe-smoking, suede-patches-of-his-sweater type man” as evidence of knowledge being an asset.  It is important to note that her ‘evidence’ is entirely appearance-based – it does not speak to actual intelligence levels.

Another way that Lowndes implies that knowledge projection is more important than possession is that she advocates life-long learning, while at the same time suggesting that each individual focus learning on what the opposite sex cares about, even when it is in conflict with his or her own interests.  Lowndes (1996) addresses women: “You may not find discussing cars, facts, sports, business, and politics as interesting as psychology, philosophy, relationships, reactions, and trends, but your [man] will find you a more intriguing woman if you can hold your own while pitching phenomenon and numbers around with him” (p. 200).

It is in this section of HMAFLY that Lowndes recommends that her readers read John Gray’s and Deborah Tannen’s books to get a better understanding of gender differences in communication (Lowndes, 1996, p. 197).

Additional indication that Lowndes advocates an artificial approach to relationship-building is the question she asks and then immediately answers: “Does this new breed of sensitive man and superwoman exist?  The question is academic, because it’s not reality but your [partner’s] perceptions we’re dealing with” (p.196).  She follows this point with a discussion of what a person should talk about around the opposite sex and how he or she should talk about it.  This discussion is referenced later in the evaluation of Lowndes’ remaining two claims.

Lowndes refers to personality in broader terms than she does knowledge, with her definition of personality encompassing verbal communication, attentiveness and overall likeability.  In presenting this claim, Lowndes notes that it is important to have a specific list of assets to offer a partner.  She adds the following ‘but’: “You really don’t want to marry the handsome prince or the beautiful princess” (p. 168).

Lowndes notes that those who possess more of a particular asset than his or her partner may feel resentful.  Likewise, one noticing that he (himself) or she (herself) possesses less of particular assets may feel guilty or inferior.  The related studies cited in this paper refer to Lowndes’ unbalanced partners in terms of being ‘over-benefited’ or ‘under-benefited.’

Though Lowndes makes no reference to the research, the formula for determining an over-benefited or under-benefited status is provided by Thibaut and Kelly’s (1986) social exchange theory.  Thibaut and Kelly’s research speaks to relationship outcomes of the equation, rewards – costs = outcomes, with outcomes as only one of three levels of relationship self-evaluation.   Only two of the three levels are addressed by Lowndes (1996): outcomes and comparison level (CL). Outcomes are referenced indirectly by Lowndes through her WIIFM principle: the more assets one has to offer, the more potential partners will see it to their benefit to make a connection with him or her (pp.162-163).  Comparison level involves relationship satisfaction and is known by researchers whom have studied Thibaut and Kelly and evidently by Lowndes, as a suggested standard by which a person evaluates the rewards and costs of a relationship in terms of what is deserved.

Those with outcomes falling above what a man or woman feels he or she deserves are defined as satisfied (overbenefited), while those whose outcomes fall below what they feel they deserve are defined as unsatisfied (underbenefited).

I determined that Lowndes believes that an imbalance is a problem, whereas Thibaut and Kelly’s (1986) work indicates that a particular ‘ordering’ takes place before a person determines his or her over-benefited or under-benefited status to be a problem.  According to Lowndes (1996), equity theories suggest relationship dissatisfaction can result from an asset imbalance between partners (pp. 168-172).  The only evidence that Lowndes (1996) cites in support of her claim is a 1977 unpublished manuscript.  According to Lowndes’ citation of the manuscript, interviews of 500 couples were conducted (p. 168).

Unfortunately, the value of Lowndes’ evidence cannot be assessed as she provides no details of the study and the original work is not accessible to this evaluator.  Lowndes cites the result of the study without offering statistical data or evidence: “The more equitable the partner’s assets, the happier the couples were” (p.169).  While the result appears to support Lowndes’ claims, the research methodology, statistical results and discussion are needed for proper assessment.  Without this information, there is no way to interpret Lowndes’ reported 1977 study result.  For this reason, two studies of relationship equity and satisfaction were reviewed.

The first of the two studies, Larson, Hammond and Harper’s (1998) documented research of 66 couples who had been married five years or less, and who were defined as ‘inequitable’ (p. 495).  Larson, Hammond, and Harper hypothesized that spouses in marriages low in equity would also be low in intimacy (p. 492).  The hypothesis was not fully supported ; the researchers found no significant differences between the under-benefited groups and over-benefited groups (Larson, Hammond and Harpers, 1998, p. 496).  Larson, Hammond, and Harper’s research challenges Lowndes’ claim that negative feelings arising from ‘marrying up’ or resentment resulting from ‘marrying down’ will destroy a relationship or prevent one from forming in the first place.

To further investigate if equity should be a premarital concern, the second study reviewed was Wilcox and Nook’s (2006) study using participants who had been married at least five years, looking specifically at egalitarian marriages and marriage satisfaction.  Since Lowndes implies that women need to be able to match a man, asset for asset, it is important to determine if one should force new values upon him or herself in the search for a life partner.  For example, Lowndes implies that positive results might be expected for a woman who is inherently disinterested in having a career, but who strives to achieve success in the workplace for the purpose of becoming more marketable.

Wilcox and Nook provides evidence to the contrary.   Their research, focusing primarily on women, found that wives who seek to be a co-provider are less happy in their marriages than women who don’t seek equality in their marriage duties (p. 1331).  The findings infer that Lowndes’ equity claim, which is not multi-dimensional, doesn’t take into account the desires that partners have for marriage lifestyle, in which potential partners may not desire equality.

Clearly, equality does not necessarily equal equity as Lowndes would have her readers believe.  This means that Lowndes has either misinterpreted or misrepresented equity theory in HMAFLY.  Thus, the first of Lowndes’ claims, when evaluated in the context of scholarly research is reduced to general advice that simply directs the reader towards deception as the most direct route to love.


Love symbol Stock Photo - 18806200

Lowndes’ Claim 2: Similarity

            Lowndes’ second claim is that the establishment of similarity should happen early in the search for a marriage partner.  She describes the tenets of “three critical conscious similarities” (p.105).  They are: (a) shared interests are “conspicuous, unmistakable and easy to create”; (b) “world view, values and beliefs are important”; and (c) shared assumptions regarding what a partner should expect from a relationship must be present (Lowndes, 1996, p. 105).  As Lowndes explains this claim, it is again evident that she doesn’t have a problem with individuals using deception to establish similarity.  In fact, she suggests to readers that they ‘fake’ interest in their partners’ interests for this very purpose (p.107).

Lowndes discusses the importance of expectations in connection with comparison level (CL), one of the components in Thibaut and Kelly’s (1986) social exchange theory briefly explained earlier.  As a whole, Lowndes’ three similarities represent a contradiction to the clichéd popular thought that opposites attract.  For this reason, similarity and attraction research was reviewed to determine if opposites do attract, thus disputing Lowndes’ claim.  Since AhYun (2002) conducted a meta-analysis of 80 studies on similarity and attraction, it is not necessary to separately analyze individual studies on the topic (p.154).

AhYun reports that the included studies’ individual effect sizes were gathered, weighted by sample size, and cumulated (p.154).  He formed three hypotheses, the first of which can be used to evaluate Lowndes’ similarity claims.  Hypotheses 1 predicted that the highest percentage of individuals would be attracted to those who possess the greatest number of attitude, interest and belief similarities with them” (AhYun, 2002, pp.150-155).   As AhYun (2002) hypothesized, his research “showed a strong positive relation between attitude similarity and interpersonal attraction.  Overall, the study produced a strong relationship, (r =.51) (p.157).  Therefore, AhYun’s research supports Lowndes’ similarity claims.  However, her advice for how to establish similarity with a potential partner is problematic.

In HMAFLY, Lowndes suggests that similarities can be successfully simulated.  This suggestion is not supported by AhYun’s research.  Though the issue was not explicitly addressed in AhYun’s study, that he used a variety of attitude items in his measure demonstrates that there are a number of possible similarities at varying intensity to be explored when connecting romantically with another person.

To expect that one could successfully determine what similarities he or she needs to simulate prior to relationship development and the natural course of self-disclosure is not realistic.  Research conducted by Norton, Frost and Ariely (2007) also indicates that ‘faking’ similarity early in a relationship will not be productive.  Norton, Frost and Ariely’s research, which focused on issues of similarity and familiarity, was broken into five studies, two (Study 3 and Study 4) of which produced results relevant to the discussion of similarity in relationship formation.

Norton, Frost and Ariely (2007) report that the goals of Study 3 were to gather traits (listed as adjectives) that people use to describe themselves and also to determine the status of a relationship as similarities weaken due to a couple learning more about each other over time (p. 99).  The researchers found that the “number of shared traits was related to liking.” More importantly, Norton, Frost and Ariely found that once an individual determines that there is dissimilarity between him or herself and a partner, additional information about the partner may be “determined as further evidence of dissimilarity” (pp.99-100).

In Study 4, Norton, Frost and Ariely explored this last point of Study 3, dubbing the phenomenon of developing dissimilarity perceptions as the “cascading nature of dissimilarity” (p. 100).  It was predicted that if a participant identified dissimilarity with a partner on the first of ten listed traits, that participant would find the remaining traits dissimilar (p.100).  The results supported this prediction (p.101).  As in Study 3, and as Lowndes suggests in her book, similarity was shown to correlate with liking  (p.101).  However, the results show that while Lowndes’ similarity claim is supported, the condition of simulated similarity cannot be sustained, particularly when she advises men to self-disclose in their communication with women early in the relationship.

Since Norton, Frost and Ariely’s (2007) research found that perceived dissimilarity becomes more frequent as familiarity builds, it is likely that a man could unintentionally facilitate the perception of dissimilarity by his partner as he seeks to become closer through personal revelation.

Norton, Frost and Ariely’s cumulated results of all studies show that their predicted cascade of dissimilarity had a more negative effect for women than it did men indicating that, as Lowndes’ would have her readers believe, a women’s early self-disclosure is no more damaging than a man’s (p.101).  As in the evaluation of the first claim, the second claim, falls short of what one might call good advice.   In addition to ignoring the complexities of relationship formation, once again, Lowndes advocates deception.

Conflict between man and woman Stock Photo - 10511725

Lowndes’ Claim 3: Communication: A gender gap

            Lowndes’ (1996) third claim is that to establish and stabilize a relationship, partners must learn to communicate across her self-defined gender gap (p. 196).  Her discussion of this gender gap could easily lead her readers to envision a great empty chasm, with a man standing on one side, a woman on the other, each trying to get his or her message heard while the distance between them is just too great for the goal to be accomplished.

Lowndes offers suggestions on how this gender gap can be bridged.  Her suggestions dealing with the gender gap can be divided into two clear categories: self-disclosure and word choice.  Lowndes defines man-talk and woman-talk, offering specific examples of how to communicate in a way that will evoke favorable response from the opposite sex. She suggests that only when one appropriately manages the method in which he or she discloses information about him or herself can the walk towards long-term bliss begin.

Lowndes relies solely on hypothetical examples and personal anecdotes to make her points.

According to Lowndes (1996), woman-talk consists of clear communication rules that can be divided and categorized as subcategories under the assets she discusses earlier in her text: knowledge and personality.  Lowndes’ rules are written in trite sentences using ultra-conversational language. When translated into researchable terms, her rules for women can be collapsed and translated into four rules.

The first rule is that a woman should not display her intelligence at times when it might intimidate or challenge her partner.  Lowndes advises women to study all of the topics important to her partner, but to not communicate learned information in a way that might indicate that she knows more about those topics than he does (pp. 200-201).  This rule for women suggests that while Lowndes supports life-long learning in HMAFLY, she doesn’t advocate knowledge as an asset in the same way she presents it.  After all, it could be argued that selected projection of intelligence may not be intelligence at all.  The second rule is that women should avoid early self-disclosure.

Lowndes, in the consistent antiquated tone of HMAFLY, warns women that the process of getting to know a woman friend is much different than getting to know a man.  She states: “Women, when talking to their friends, often ask each other how they feel about a certain situation. The last time some men used the word feel was when they told their high school buddies they got to feel up a girl in the backseat” (p. 203).  She makes similar statements throughout her text.  From this, readers can infer that a woman should not discuss feelings with her partner until she is asked about them, thereby preventing early self-disclosure.

Lowndes’ (1996) third rule is to avoid competitive messages during crisis or challenge and to not participate in decision making unless asked to do so.  It is clear that Lowndes believes that women need to allow men to take the lead in communication.  Lowndes does admit that her suggested rules may seem outdated, but promises that they work (Lowndes, 1996, p. 201).  With her promise comes no evidence beyond a story of her and her high school boyfriend’s instances of miscommunication.  The fourth rule is to avoid the use of powerless language.

According to Lowndes, this means that women must not use phrases like ‘would you’ or ‘do you think’ because it will confuse men who interpret everything in the most literal sense (p. 218).   Her rule can be visualized by considering a man and woman sitting together in a room.  The woman, who is uncomfortable with the room temperature, asks her partner if he thinks the room temperature should be adjusted.  Following Lowndes’ advice, the woman should have instead stated that she thinks the room temperature needs to be adjusted.  This way, she won’t get frustrated when he simply answers her question, and he won’t feel like an idiot when she gets up to adjust the temperature.

Lowndes’ (1996) rules for men correspond to her women’s rules, simply taking the opposite stance.  When collapsed and translated into researchable terms, her advice can again be translated into four rules.  The first is to not center conversation on intellectual ideas and instead talk about “…people, feelings, philosophy, rationale, and intuition” (p. 201).  Lowndes offers no help to readers in connecting her discussion of knowledge as an asset to the idea that one partner may need to conceal his or her intellectual abilities.  One can only assume that Lowndes expects her readers to know when to conceal and when to disclose.

Since HMAFLY centers on perception making rather than relationship forming, Lowndes indirectly suggests to readers that they control the display of their assets according to the need of the moment.  The second rule is to encourage a woman to self-disclose during each shared communication episode.  Lowndes fails to discuss how it might influence communication in a relationship if a woman takes her advice to not self-disclose early and a man takes her advice to push early self-disclosure.  It can be presumed that the resulting conflict has the potential to stall or stop relationship development all together.

The third rule for men is to use supportive and non-competitive messages and responses in conversation with their partners.  Lowndes notes that to avoid competitive messages, men should stick to topics women like, because those topics are not likely to spark heated debate.  Again, it appears that Lowndes encourages knowledge repression, conflicting with her discussion of knowledge projection as an asset.  Yet, she directs men to “pick up a copy of Psychology Today, a magazine with a readership of intelligent women.  It’s an excellent way to brush up on what subjects hot for women” (Lowndes, 1996, p. 202).

Her fourth rule for men could create an awkward power shift in the developing relationship: men are advised to use powerless language and to invite their partners’ influence – to listen to her advice.  Since Lowndes asks women to withhold advice unless asked for it, one might conclude that women following her instructions would need a clear statement from a man that he does, in fact, want advice.  Powerless language, at least in this case, would not be the most direct route to putting either partner’s personality assets forward in a positive way.

Academic research supports and also contradicts Lowndes’ (1996) claim that her rules for woman and men facilitate intimacy development.  Since each set of Lowndes’ collapsed rules are designed to provide guidance that will ultimately lead to a marriage, Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson’s (1998) research on newlyweds was studied.  Gottman’s involvement in the research adds the perspective of a popular author who, unlike Lowndes, has established credibility as a scholarly researcher.

According to The Gottman Institute’s website (Gottman, 2004), Gottman is the author or co-author of 178 published academic articles and 37 popular books on marriage, sex and other interpersonal relationship aspects.  In this study specifically, Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson (1998) studied seven process models of interactions between husbands and wives in effort to make predictions of marriage stability (pp. 9-10).  Since Lowndes’ communication rules are interaction based, it makes sense to analyze her claims in regards to this research.   Research participants answered questions about “their marriage, well-being, and health” (p.10).  The scenarios involved communication in conflict.

Though Lowndes does not focus specifically on conflict, Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson’s (1998) research provides a ‘worse case scenario’ that allows their research results to be applied to communication at the beginning of a new relationship, which has the potential to be as volatile and contain the same irrational moments that occur in conflict.

Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson found that in happy marriages, women do not approach conversation as a challenge, husbands are willing to accept their wives’ feelings and encourage expression and input, and both partners are able to manage their feelings and impressions to a positive relationship result (pp. 10, 17).

The findings also indicate that while Lowndes’ rules direct women to not initiate conversation in tense moments, that it is in fact the way a woman initiates that makes the difference in a man’s acceptance of her initiation.  Ignoring the situation all together has the potential to create more problems.

Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson’s (1998) research supports Lowndes’ rules for men and women that center on softening their approach in their conversations with men.  The Gottman, Coan and Swanson research also indicates that Lowndes is correct in advising men to accept influence from women.  However, Lowndes (1996) specifically advises women to avoid conversation when the man is angry (this falls under the rules that advise women not to ask men about feelings and to not present challenges), while Gottman, Coan, Carrere and Swanson’s research indicates that a woman’s effort to appropriately engage in conversation with an angry man would not, in itself, end a relationship or predict relationship satisfaction.

The third claim, that a gender gap exists, has not been entirely discredited by the scholarly research.  As in Lowndes’ first and second evaluated claims, it is not her claim that is unsupported, but the advice she offers to readers in regards to the claim.  The quality of her advice is an issue since HMAFLY is a ‘how to’ guide – a user manual.

cats in love on tree branch with birds illustration Stock Photo - 16099811 

Lowndes’ claims: conclusions

A review of Lowndes’ HMAFLY forces two conclusions:  (a) her advice to singles is too simplistic, providing none of the depth needed offer effective and efficient relationship advice to men and women, and (b) Lowndes advocates deception in initial relationship development.  As indicated by the conclusions of this evaluation, there are two separate issues here: Lowndes’ claims and her advice.  Each of Lowndes’ three claims discussed indicates that men and women should develop an alternative personality specifically for the pursuit of love, covering up or dismissing each of their established identities.  Deception is harmful to developing relationships, rendering Lowndes’ advice useless, even though her claims are supported by research.

A study of social penetration theory (Altman and Taylor, 1973) reveals that rules like Lowndes’ manipulate the natural processes of self-disclosure leading to intimacy.  Seiter and Bruschke (2007) conducted research demonstrating that deception can interfere in the development of intimacy.  The results of research conducted by Seiter and Bruschke, imply that Lowndes’ suggestion that men and women stick to stereotypical roles when determining their communication style with romantic partners may damage a relationship.

The final evaluation of Lowndes’ HMFLY finds that while Lowndes’ claim of equity, similarity and gender differences in communication can be partially supported, her advice cannot be supported with the research chosen for this evaluation.



(2004), The Gottman Institute, About John Gottman, Ph.D. Retrieved April 7, 2007 from


(2007), Lowndes Biography. Retrieved April 15, 2007 from http://lowndes.com/bio.htm.

Altman, I., & Taylor, D. A. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal
(pp. 27-58). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

AhYun, K. (2002). Comparing the production of power in language on the basis of sex. In M.

Allen, R. W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, & N. A. Burrell (Eds.), Interpersonal communication research: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 145-167). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1983). American Couples: Money, Work, Sex. New York, NY:      William Morrow.

Dindia, K., & Allen, M. (1992). Sex differences in self disclosure: A meta-analysis.

Psychological Bulletin, 112, 106-124.

Gottman, J. M.. Coan, J., Carrare, S., Swanson, C. (1998). Predicting marital happiness and

stability from newlywed interactions.  Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 5-22.

Larson, J.H., Hammond, Clark H.& Harper, J. M. (1998). Perceived equity and

intimacy in marriage. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 24, 487-506.

Norton, M.I, Frost, J.H, & D. Ariely. (2007) Less is more; the lure of ambiguity, or why

familiarity breeds contempt. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 97-105.

Seiter, J.S. & Bruschke, J. (2007). Deception and emotion: The effects of  motivation,

relationship type, and sex on expected feelings of guilt and shame following acts of deception in United States and Chinese samples. Communication Studies, 58, 1-16.

Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1986). The social psychology of groups (9-30). New

Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

Timmerman, L. M. (2002). Comparing the production of power in language on the basis of sex. In M. Allen, R. W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, & N. A. Burrell (Eds.), Interpersonal communication research: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 73-88). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Wilcox, W. B., & Nock, S. L. (2006). What’s love got to do with it? Equality,

equity, commitment and women’s marital quality. Social Forces, 84, 1321-1345.

3 things I’d have done differently during chemotherapy

Beautiful Gemstone Collection  26396 480x320When something like breast cancer happens, it is hard to know how to approach the challenges of treatment.

Here are AT LEAST three things I’d have done differently during chemotherapy:

I’d have limited my number of scarves and wigs – I wouldn’t have purchased all those items. I spent hundreds of dollars on items I never wore.  I wish I’d have bought one inexpensive wig for special occasions, and fabrics at craft stores to make my own scarves.  Many scarves sold to cancer patients are hideous, and some are quite expensive for the quality you’ll get.  In the end, I ended up going with a couple favorites and donated the rest. Avoid the ‘pre-tied’ scarves unless you want to look like you stepped out of a “Little House on the Prairie’ episode.

I’d have avoided negative online discussion threads – Forums are scary places.  Most people, I learned, visit the threads to vent.  I read one horror story after another. None came to fruition in my own experience, but terrified me nonetheless, into the deep hours of the night when I couldn’t sleep. The vast majority of people recover and don’t post tales of victory.  They put the experience behind them and simply live their lives. No time to post.

I’d have indulged more in life’s little comforts – I’d have found peace in the company of friends, candles, soft sheets, music therapy, and services such as massage, counseling, make up classes and yoga, offered at places like the Geneva, Illinois’s Living Well Center.  These types of havens are found in locations across the country.  Generally, services are free to patients and caretakers.

A new journey…

I was in recovery from my ten -year marriage to misery, and just able to stand back up straight after the effects of my poor choice for the antidote: an inebriating, unhealthy online ‘relationship’.

I was finished with poor choices. I was ready to let go of negativity. I confidently embraced the life ahead of me.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I thank God every day that I was on the other side of these ordeals before I had to begin this new fight.  Stress can damage our systems and leave us unarmed.  It can steal our soul and destroy hope.

The National Cancer Institute tells us that that although “psychological stress alone has not been found to cause cancer…psychological stress that lasts a long time may affect a person’s overall health and ability to cope with cancer.

If I had not divorced my husband when I did, I probably never would have. I worry about those who are stuck — diagnosed before they have a chance to break free of a bad situation.

I had bad days through chemotherapy, but I could smile. I could breathe. I could rest when I needed to rest, and take care of myself however I felt best. I could focus on getting better without having to also field the insults, rejection and daily degradation of an emotionally bankrupt man.

For that I am fortunate.

In times of depair…

At any momment...

…I often think of this quote when faced with challenge.

It became my mantra through diagnosis, treatment and recovery of breast cancer.  I have not been able to find the name of the author. I wish he or she knew how much these words have meant to me. 

Words are powerful.

As excruciating as any I’d experienced…

The online relationship ending was as excruciating as any I’d experienced in my traditional break-ups.  Like most break ups, it impacted me in permanent way.  I don’t make excuses for people anymore.

It didn’t feel right when my once husband called me names and degraded my own reality.  But I made excuses for him.  I did the same with Andrew.

I remained in an unhealthy marriage for years because I didn’t trust the voice inside me.  After my electronic love fell apart, I revisited my life with my husband and saw the same red flags, waving high and with vigor…the same message coming from the depth of my soul, as throughout my time with Andrew.

I am, though, encouraged to know that stepping out of my comfort zone helped me to redefine it.  It was an emotional year or so – one that I had often wished would pass quickly or let me sleep through it.  Now I’m glad I was awake for all of it.  I no longer ignore the obvious or dodge the painful. I simply look at concerns squarely and, when necessary, definitively state: “No. This isn’t right,” and move on to my next challenge.

And there was a new challenge.

Question: How do you know when an online relationship is unhealthy?

Answer:  If this question has crossed your mind, you are in an unhealthy online relationship.  Healthy relationships feel good.  They provide us with more answers to life’s mysteries than questions.

In The Journal of Popular Culture, Anastasia Salter (2011) discusses virtual romance and sex in her article, “Virtually Yours: Desires and Fulfillment in Virtual Worlds.”  She states that “when compared with the risks of taking the physical body into a world of fantasy and desire, perhaps the ‘healthy’ choice for the separated mind and body is indulging in fantasy” (1134).  I agree with this to an extent — if you are going to dive into something racy in the spirit of fun and adventure,  as long as you are careful, it might be best to do it online.

But that doesn’t mean your emotions will be safe, and many of us know how easy it can be for our hearts to get involved though not invited.  Just as men and women sleeping together as ‘friends with benefits’ can become ugly because of unplanned attachment, so can the creative use of the letters on your keyboard.

There is nothing wrong with a desire to abandon inhibition, liberate yourself from the pain of an unfortunate life event, to explore who you are, or to add some sizzle to your nights. 

In effort to more fully respond to your question, I offer the following 10 red flags that your emotional stability might be on the line in a particular virtual ‘relationship’, creating an unhealthy situation for you:

  1. He/she prefers electronic communication to a face-to-face visit or phone call.
  2. His/her messages are often initiated after 10:00 pm.  He/she  communicates with you when all of his/her primary interests for the day have been exhausted.
  3. He/she asks for naked pictures of you.
  4. The two of you have not been on an official date.
  5. He/she does not ask about the details of your day.
  6. He/she does not answer personal questions directly, often ignoring them entirely.
  7. You don’t know his/her address or place of employment.
  8. You want to know him/her as a person; He/she clearly knows you as a sex object.
  9. You have stopped dating other men/women because you are waiting for your online interest to materialize in your life as, perhaps even as a surprise.
  10. You make excuses for him/her.

Salter notes: “A cyberlover is separated from the real person by the same barriers as a lover found in a supermarket romance or television drama. Cyberlovers lurk beyond the computer screen, acting out parts and offering truths that may or may not be windows to their realities” (1125).  

A healthy person doesn’t often have to doubt reality. They bask in the peace that comes with knowing exactly what they are dealing with, and the palpability of their experiences.


This post was made in participation with the Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby (click the link to view the challenge) I have been asked this question more than once, and the above is a version of the advice I offer based on experience and research. 


Shortly after Andrew’s declaration of love, I started to notice that the time stamp on his messages were an hour off of my own.  They used to be the same. Now, his were one hour later than mine. 

This didn’t make sense. 

About six month into our discussions, he mentioned that he might be moving from Boston.  He was originally from Indianapolis as was I.  Based on what I knew about him, Indianapolis was a logical destination. This was exciting.  There would be, I thought, no more reasons for us to not be together.  I asked him where he was moving to and, in typical ‘Andrew fashion’, he ignored me.  I hadn’t thought deeply into this until my trip to Denver. 

Up to that point, I figured the time stamp disagreement had something to do with either my computer or his — a technical issue.  However, while in Denver, I the time stamp changed by two hours, which is consistent with the time difference between Denver and Indianapolis.  My mind, it seemed, had collected pieces of information and put them together even when I wasn’t purposefully doing any critical thinking at all.

 At the Denver airport, just before my plane boarded for home, I checked the ‘properties’ of Andrew’s email’s, copying and pasting the ‘sent’ IP address into Google to see from where his last email was sent. The response was as suspected: Indianapolis. He knows I visit the area regularly.  He clearly didn’t avoid my latest invitations to Chicago due to a distance issue.  When strategically planned around traffic patterns, it is only a three and a half hour drive from Indianapolis to Chicago. 

 Andrew, it dawned on me, had moved from Boston to my parent’s backyard and never mentioned it.  On that plane ride home, hope stopped.  Its screeching halt felt like I had plunged into an icy pool of water on an uncomfortably hot summer day.

Painful relief.

That first step out the virtual door was tough, but ‘walking away’ resulted in life-altering empowerment.  I had known something wasn’t right, but kept hoping everything would somehow turn out the way I wanted.  My head was still able to function separately from my heart.  This is good to know.

Which is worse?

One evening, while exchanging emails with Andrew, I sent some sort of diatribe about the need to let go of all that represented my abusive married life.  I assumed he would ignore my musings and move straight into sex talk like he usually did.  In the months prior, Andrew had begun to ignore my ‘chit chat’ about my day, opting to send separate emails to begin spicier discussion.  To my surprise, he did respond this time.  I opened his email to find three words:  “I love you.”   He had drawn those powerful words, there in the middle of the night, like a sword suddenly drawn in a crowd for no apparent reason.  It was confusing. I stared at the screen barely able to breathe. Were his careless words pointed towards my heart?  My head? Was he mocking me?  Was he finally opening himself up to me?  My heart leapt for safety, but fell short of arriving at its destination. Instead, I lost it all together, writing back that I loved him too. 

Andrew took advantage of my vulnerable state.  He was playing games.  Is that worse than one who overtly mistreats someone?


I craved overt affection…

The wounds of the intense emotional abuse in my marriage made it difficult for me to identify yet another narcissist: Andrew.

The emotional pull was so incredibly strong, that concrete fact faded into the distance of my mind each time Andrew and I exchanged heated email messages in rapid fire succession, sometimes for up to six hours in a single evening.

rationalized the inexplicable and compromised my values. Whenever my mind would scream “This isn’t right!,” Andrew would end up sending a captivating message that kept my skeptical heart paralyzed, binding it in hope and desire.

Andrew would initiate an email anywhere from 10:30 pm to 12:30 am almost every night (red flag). He would type a phrase, sentence or paragraph that would describe exactly what he envisioned we were doing. I would almost immediately respond within seconds and the evening would begin. The heat was palpable; the raw vulnerability was so intense I would shake.

The mind can stir anything.  It collects images, emotions, memories and desires, and shapes them into something as concrete as the furniture in one’s living room.

Post Navigation

Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery | Narcissist Abuse Support | Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program

Dragonfly Woman

the place to learn about exercise, nutrition and mindset training so that you can be the very best version of you and get on with what is most important to you.

Psychopathyawareness's Blog

information about psychopaths

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.