One body-shaming boyfriend learned a hard lesson about respect when he crossed the wrong girl.
23-year-old Shelby Johnson has spent years struggling with her weight.
Things got so serious that as a teen, she had to be hospitalized after dropping down to a brittle 80 lbs. After that scare she managed to put on weight, along with self-esteem, she tells People.
“I haven’t been self-conscious in years. I was when I was underweight, but when I started getting to my goal weight my entire mindset changed”
– Shelby Johnson
“I felt more confident, more whole even. I knew that I was getting where I wanted to be and strived to be”
A devastating DM
Things were going so well that Johnson would even find a boyfriend who she thought loved and accepted her for who she was.
That was until one day, when he DM’ed her with a particular complaint.
“It’s not like I haven’t told you you’ve been gaining and needed to lose anyway. You’re definitely getting a beer gut babe.”
– Shelby Johnson’s boyfriend, per her Tweet
In that moment, all of her insecurities returned, she shared.
“His comments did make me self-conscious. I started trying to work out 24/7. A couple friends noticed and expressed concern in my sudden desire to be so fit. ”
As she began to question her own response to her boyfriend’s message, Johnson took to Twitter to ask her friends if she was overreacting for feeling hurt.
Dumping dead weight
She received more than just a second opinion.
Her tweet went viral, gaining nearly 39,500 likes and 5,200 from people telling her to dump her boyfriend, and that she’s beautiful already.
“He doesn’t deserve you. No need to keep that negativity around. You look great,” said one.
“Girl, dump him and find you someone who loves everything about you,” urged another.
Another commenter recommended an upgrade from her boyfriend.
“Dump him and buy a dog:)”
– @ktmlowe_ on Twitter
Johnson says that the overwhelming reaction “made me realize I wasn’t crazy for being hurt.” In another tweet, she announced that she dumped her boyfriend, joking that in doing so she was “dropping a hefty 180 lbs.”
Know your worth
Johnson says that although her now-ex-boyfriend was “really unhappy” about being dumped so publicly, he’ll use it as “a learning experience to be a better person.”
She just hopes that her painful experience serves as an eye-opener for women with similar experiences.
“Be careful, notice red flags and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and leave something that is no longer making you feel happy”
– Shelby Johnson
When it comes to relationships, compromises are important. It’s part of understanding, accepting and ultimately embracing one another.
However, one thing that’s non-negotiable is mutual respect. As Johnson’s story showed, anyone who disrespects or demeans you doesn’t deserve your time of day, let alone your love.
A rude follower responded: “Says the women who can’t keep a man.”
But Berry didn’t let that rude person get her down and replied, “Who says I wanna keep the wrong man? Cuz…. I don’t.”
Of course, the commenting didn’t stop there, and another follower wrote “Geesh Halle, had some trouble with men in your life??”
Berry responded to that, “Nope, they had trouble with me.”
“No man has ever taken care of me… EVER!”
– Halle Berry
There’s no doubt that Berry has had some heartache in the public eye, from multiple divorces to a split with a partner just after they had a child. But her life is her business, no matter how famous she is – and that is an important message to us all.
Have faith in yourself
Relationships end, and they may end in a hard, sad, way – but that’s not a reflection on you or what you deserve, ever.
Toxic relationships and bad breakups happen very often, to many of us. It’s how you have faith in yourself and the promise of the future that you get past them.
While it’s sometimes true that it’s important to look at any unconscious patterns we may have if we keep ending up in one toxic relationship after the other, it’s no reason to victim-blame — ever. It’s simply part of the healing journey, and every human being is worthy of healthy love.
Your friend or someone you know has gotten fired from every job they’ve ever had. Their dates always flake on them and their friends always betray them. The common theme: it’s never their fault and if you press them on it you’re the one to blame.
According to a team of psychologists in Israel, these types of people may have a toxic personality disorder called “tendency for interpersonal victimhood” (TIV), which they describe as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”
People with TIV wholly and truly believe they are never wrong and that their victimhood is a core part of their identity.
How to tell if someone ‘plays the victim?’
Not everyone who feels victimized is toxic. Bad things do happen and it’s okay to be upset about it.
Rather, TIV occurs when someone constantly feels like a victim and they bring others down with them.
Rahav Gabay and her colleagues determined that people with TIV tend to have four dimensions:
Constantly seeking recognition
Of all the allegedly horrible things that happen to someone with TIV, people never apologize to them. Worse, they don’t even acknowledge their wrongdoing.
While apologies can be hard to come by, this only becomes an issue when the person who plays the victim is in desperate search of recognition for the supposed bad things that are done to them.
A sense of moral elitism
People with TIV are never wrong. In fact, their moral compass is better than everyone else’s and they use this assumption to manipulate others into their own perspective.
This behavior may be a defense mechanism as a way to maintain a positive self-image.
Lack of empathy for others
Everything that happens to TIV people is the absolute worst and no one else’s pain or suffering matters, or so they think. This can especially be toxic in a relationship as TIV people only care about their own problems, never others’.
The route of this behavior can be that since the person believes they have suffered so much, they don’t think anyone else deserves empathy for their suffering.
This lack of empathy can also show up in a group or national level in the form of “competitive victimhood” or an “egoism of victimhood” where members of a group cannot see things from another group’s perspective.
Rumination about past victimization
Since romantic relationships never worked out in the past for TIV people, there’s no chance they’ll work in the future. This is a fallacy as the past doesn’t dictate the future, but it’s a core belief of people who always play the victim.
Always ruminating about past grievances and thinking it reflects the future is something perpetual victims tend to do.
Why TIV is toxic
People who always play the victim are extremely difficult to deal with because they’re selfish and never wrong.
They’re also obsessed with seeking revenge for those who’ve wronged them and may punish others who had nothing to do with it just because they’ve been wronged before.
Forgiving is part of growth
We all play the victim from time to time. Sometimes bad things really do happen to us and it makes us sour.
The problem is when the victimhood because constant and when the person never learns from their mistakes. It’s also problematic when they never forgive others – you don’t know what everyone is going through and nobody’s perfect.
Ultimately, the problem with playing the victim is it doesn’t allow you to learn or grow from the past. If you don’t acknowledge your faults, how can you make adjustments for the future?
If you know someone who’s always playing a victim, it might be time to reduce your relationship with them or have a frank discussion about it. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic people.
Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke have been dating for eight years and although they don’t shy away from praising one another publicly, they don’t often make headlines with their relationship — and that’s exactly how they like it.
Darke, a Michigan native who you may recognize from the big screen (think Oscar-nominated Still Alice) or small screen (think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), told Vulture in 2020 she’s “okay with [the media’s] lack of interest in us. We’re boring to them,” she proclaimed, pointing out that “90% of the paparazzi photos of us are getting coffee […] or going to the grocery store.” She joked, “You can only sell so many photos of two people waiting for an Uber!”
It’s this normalcy that makes Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke’s union so refreshing. As is their unshakeable friendship and their ability to find joy in the most mundane tasks, as long as they’re doing them together.
Here’s what we can learn from Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke’s sweet romance:
Work brought Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke together
Mixing personal with professional can often spell disaster, but in the case of Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke, it was work that brought them together. And it’s work that provided them with a shared foundation that’s resulted in relationship success.
The two actors met on the set of 2013’s Kill Your Darlings and, as the Harry Potter alum told Playboy in 2015, he was pretty much drawn to Darke instantly. In the film, their characters flirt and engage in a NSFW scene in a library and, as he told the outlet, “There’s no acting going on — not from my end, anyway. There’s a moment when she makes me laugh, and I’m laughing as me and not as my character,” he revealed.
She was incredibly funny and smart. I knew I was in trouble.
Radcliffe spoke more about the movie that introduced him to the love of his life with PeopleTV in 2019, saying, “Our characters are meeting and flirting with each other, so there is this kind of sweet record of us just meeting for the first time and flirting.” He also joked that “it’ll be a hell of a story to tell our kids one day because of what our characters do with each other.”
But acting didn’t just bring them together, it also offered them a strong base on which to build their relationship. “One of the first things we bonded over was how much we really love what we do and there’s something that’s really beautiful and really lovely about being with someone who just innately understands that about you,” Darke told People in 2018.
And even though they haven’t worked together since, they still continue to collaborate — just in a slightly different way. “He helps me make self-tapes sometimes,” she continued, adding, “He’s a great reader, by the way. We’re both incredibly supportive of the other person’s career.”
Labeling relationships early on can be detrimental
Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t believe in labeling relationships or sorting them into different boxes. Rather, he prefers to remain open to possibilities when it comes to meaningful connections, which is a good thing because his romance with Darke grew out of friendship.
“I don’t think you can ever control how anything starts,” he told Us Weekly, explaining that “the whole modern idea of ‘friend zone’ and all that stuff — that’s a word I don’t like very much.” Noting that you should never close yourself off by holding onto a preconceived notion of what someone means to you.
It’s not like I seek out that way of meeting people or think I have to be their friend first, but I think it’s often a very natural thing to progress from into a relationship.
These days, after eight years together, Radcliffe and Darke’s friendship is as strong as ever. “I think that’s the kind of relationship I always aspire to have with someone I’m in a relationship with — you want that person to be your best friend,” Radcliffe told the magazine, confirming, “In the case of Erin, we definitely are.”
They’re not afraid to be themselves
When you find the right partner, not only will they be your biggest supporter and closest friend, but they’ll also embrace all sides of your personality. For Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke that meant geeking out together and lovingit.
“I grew up doing lots of things where I thought, ‘This is super nerdy. I’ll never be able to do this around a girl,’” Radcliffe admitted during a 2020 interview. Then he met Darke and she got it. As he explained:
That’s the wonderful thing about the moment you find the relationship you’re meant to be in. It’s like, ‘Oh, I can do all of that stuff and you don’t mind. And you actually think it’s fun, too. This is fantastic!’
Adding that his girlfriend “comes from a big family of card players,” Radcliffe revealed that Darke also had plenty of nerdy traditions to share with him. “She’s introduced me to a lot of card games. We play a lot of board games, too. I feel lucky I’ve found somebody I can turn to and say, ‘Do you want to play Scrabble?’ And for her to say, ‘Sure.’ It’s super nerdy,” he said.
Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke are happiest when they’re together
Actors are often on the go and, as Radcliffe told the Radio Times, “There’s always an element of long distance with two actors in a relationship,” which is why he’s “very grateful for Skype and FaceTime.”
It’s no wonder then that when he and Darke are in the same place, they spend as much time together as possible. Offering a glimpse into their daily life, he shared, “We play a lot of games […] we watch a lot of TV. We go and see movies. We hang out and eat. We read.”
While the pandemic wreaked havoc on a number of celebrity couples, it only brought them closer together. Deciding to quarantine in New York in Radcliffe’s apartment, the actor told Vulture they “have a little Post-It on the wall that we’re keeping a tally on. There was something about it that just made me laugh, immediately treating it like a prison film,” he joked, adding, “We’re both in the situation where we’ve never been more grateful not to have a kid, or more annoyed that we don’t have a dog. But generally speaking, compared to a lot of people, we are very, very much okay.”
And that’s because they genuinely are happiest when they’re together. As Radcliffe told People in 2019, Darke makes everything better, including the most boring of tasks. “A day on my own with nothing to do is kind of like, I’ll go crazy by the end of that day,” he said. “But doing the most mundane stuff, like going shopping, with her, it’s just a joy. It’s fun. I never thought I would find going to the supermarket a genuinely fun experience,” he laughed, adding that you know you’ve found The One when you realize that “if they weren’t there, you could be doing the exact same thing and it would suck, but them being there just makes it awesome.”
There’s a lot to be said for how a person makes you feel and the right partner will always make you feel at ease. Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke show us how a winning union allows both parties to be 100% themselves and how finding someone who brightens up all aspects of your day (even grocery shopping) is the ultimate sign of relationship success.
Finding love has been hard in 2020, with a global pandemic and many people never leaving their houses and all – but then again, when hasn’t finding a match been kind of difficult?
Ryan Reynolds’ new Match commercial touches on just this issue – and shows how, when it’s meant to be, love will indeed find a way.
It also subtly highlights a critical mistake many single people make when looking for the one. (Yes, this especially applies when online dating during a pandemic).
Ryan Reynolds stars in Match.com ad
The commercial follows a woman named 2-0-2-0 (get it?) who finds herself matching with a guy who goes by the name of Satan.
Satan is true to folklore, red and mean-looking with big horns, presiding over hell (nothing at all like the fetching Lucifer character on Netflix), but that doesn’t stop him from wanting love. He matches with 2-0-2-0 and discovers it’s a mutual match.
“The feelings are mutual, so what are you waiting for?” his app reads.
The devil himself was able to find someone
The first date goes like many others. They meet under a bridge, introduce themselves and stroll off. The video continues with a montage of dates they have throughout the year, enjoying empty theaters and football stadiums as they lead the rest of the world towards a shutdown.
Of course, their dates are against the backdrop of the world around them being a mess, from stealing toilet paper to watching movies in an empty theater, but they are still in their idea of a perfect love story.
Looking for love? Avoid this critical mistake and focus on this
While this video is undeniably funny – it’s also exhibitive of a really important truth that all of us should remember in our own dating lives.
If you think there is nobody out there for you, or if you think that because we’re in the middle of a pandemic there is no chance, you are sabotaging your own chances of finding someone from the get-go.
Love is out there, and the perfect person for you is out there (cause if Satan himself can find love in this ad, you sure can despite your perceived shortcomings and imperfections) if you are willing to believe it.
If you want love, don’t make excuses, and don’t deny yourself the chance to find it. You deserve that opportunity.
The important takeaway from this funny video is not that Satan and 2020 are one in the same (though that is debatable), but that no matter what your life circumstances are, you should never stop believing in yourself and in the possibility of meeting someone.
We know that getting involved in a romantic relationship requires taking some risks. You hope for it to last, but you can’t predict whether or not it actually will. However, there are some signs that can tell you how serious your partner is about your relationship — red flags that might indicate you’re just a placeholder. Before diving into them, let’s get familiar with the term.
Place-holding happens when two people are dating — one of them is committed to the relationship while the other is still waiting for “the one” (consciously aware of that fact or not). Obviously, the first one is the placeholder.
As a placeholder you are there for your partner and you do all the things you normally do in a relationship, but you’re only holding the place until someone “better” comes along. You can date for a really long time, but your partner knows that you’re not that special person. So the relationship will end sooner or later.
Watch this Goalcast video on how Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton found true love after betrayal:
Here are a few major signs that you might be a placeholder:
1. Your partner makes it clear that they don’t want anything serious
Some people will be honest about this from the get-go. This is probably the clearest sign that you shouldn’t continue dating them. When someone tells you that they don’t want anything serious, it’s kind of obvious that they won’t commit to the relationship and that you’ll serve only as a placeholder.
2. It’s a rebound relationship
It’s unlikely for someone to tell you that you are a rebound so you’ll have to figure it out yourself. Most people that recently got out of a relationship think that dating someone else will help them move on faster. It’s selfish but it happens a lot. These relationships rarely blossom into commitment and in this case “rebound” is just another term for “placeholder”
3. Your partner avoids making plans for the future
If the person you’re dating avoids or even refuses to make plans for the future, you might be a placeholder. If you’ve been together for more than six months and they still can’t discuss anything that isn’t directly in front of them, this is a major warning signal.
Plans are part of a serious relationship so if your partner can’t make at least short-term ones or doesn’t commit to them, you’re clearly not a priority.
4. You only date when it’s convenient for them
You always try to “fit” their schedule, but they never do that in return. If you only meet when they want and where they want — without even realizing, you become the whenever-is-convenient partner.
Think twice if your boyfriend/girlfriend is always so busy and they only make time for you when they need you (usually for sex). The other person should also put an effort into seeing you, so when they don’t, your relationship is obviously not that important to them.
5. Your partner doesn’t introduce you to important people in their lives
For a relationship to have a future, you should know the people in each other’s lives. If you feel like your partner is hiding you from their friends, he/she probably is.
When it comes to parents, it’s normal to meet them later in a relationship. But if your partner doesn’t even talk on the subject, it’s because they don’t even plan on introducing you.
6. They’re not giving you enough attention or disrespect you
They don’t really care how you feel or how your day was. Whether you’re in or out of the room, it’s all the same for them. They always talk about themselves and never seem to remember what you tell them. These are all signs that you might be a placeholder.
Also, respect is vital for a healthy relationship. If you’re not a placeholder, your beau will always treat you with respect. He or she will make you feel included and important.
Are you allowing your partner to turn you into a placeholder?
You should carefully weigh the pros and cons. And if you can’t feel secure about your partner’s interest in you or feel that your relationship isn’t going anywhere, maybe it’s time to end it.
How to avoid a placeholder situation
First of all, don’t get involved with someone that clearly states that they’re not ready for a relationship. Don’t fool yourself thinking that they’ll change their mind after they get to know you better because this rarely happens. Do you really want to sacrifice time, energy and feelings just to see if you’re the exception?
Secondly, avoid dating someone that has recently gone through a bad breakup. That person won’t be able to focus on you and your needs. You’ll eventually heal them, but end up hurting yourself.
If you’ve been dating for a while, you should at least know his closest friends. If you’re important to your partner, they’ll make sure to introduce you to everybody sooner or later. And you won’t have to specifically ask for this to happen.
Also, you should be able to make plans together. This should come naturally, but if it doesn’t, don’t force it. If you find it hard to plan anything because he or she loves “staying in the moment,” think twice about continuing seeing them.
Don’t allow anyone to treat you like an option. If someone wants to see you, they will, no matter how busy they are. Let them know that your time is just as valuable as theirs. Don’t become the whenever-is-convenient partner or the “filler” for when they don’t have something better to do.
Last but not least, don’t find excuses when someone doesn’t treat you as a priority and especially when they don’t treat you with respect. If you keep finding excuses, you will just reinforce their bad behavior.
Sadly, if your partner is a really good actor, they can fool you. But sometimes the signs are clear and you might allow him or her to use you as a placeholder. Learn to read those signs and get out of that relationship before it gets the best of you.
A healthy relationship can’t be built on broken promises and disappearing acts. Don’t waste yourself on someone who thinks you’re disposable.
What would you say if I told you that, by asking and answering the right questions with a complete stranger, and then staring into their eyes for several minutes, you’d suddenly find yourself in love, and it would be mutual?
The whole thing would take—oh, I don’t know—an hour or so. If you’re not the gullible type, or the kind who’s into gimmicks, or believes in a formula for anything so difficult to pin down like love, well, I’m with you. But I’m sure you’d agree that it’s always best to keep an open mind, right?
A method of modern love
Although creating a feeling of closeness and intimacy between people who have just met is challenging, particularly in lab conditions, in 1997 psychologist Arthur Aaron of Stony Brook University and his team created a method that supposedly does just that.
It consists of 36 questions broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the last. The two people take turns answering each question, the idea being that mutual vulnerability builds closeness. And then, the final task (and the cherry on top) is at once terrifying and utterly disarming: staring into each other’s eyes for four whole minutes.
The method even inspired a movie called 36 Questions, where its lead characters go through this unconventional method.
Does it, um…work?
In 2015, Aaron’s unorthodox study was tested by writer Mandy Len Catron at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In her New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” she discusses her experience testing out the method with a friend—someone she knew, but not intimately.
The questions range from “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” to much deeper questions about mothers, death, and personal approaches to problem solving.
It was going as well as could be, and in response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at her and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other,” which from Catron’s account, they were.
When it came time to stare into one another’s eyes, they chose to leave the bar they were in and go stand atop a nearby bridge. Romantic much? Catron found the prospect of looking at someone for four minutes very intimidating:
[T]he real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected…I felt brave, and in a state of wonder.
Mandy Len Catron
“You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love,” writes Catron. “Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become. Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”
Strengthening existing bonds
Writing for Salon, Melanie Berliet decided to try the method with her boyfriend after five years of dating and three years of living together. She went into it with the following question: “Is it even possible to grow closer once there’s nothing left to discover?”
Still, she found herself nervous about the prospect of the questions revealing them as somehow mismatched (even though she describes their bond as “impressively strong”).
Unsurprisingly (from where I’m standing), they learned a few new things about one another, like the fact that they have opposite answers to the question “If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you choose?”
Just the newness of this revealed discrepancy is a revelation to the author. But when prompted to list positive attributes about one another, Berliet’s sense that her chosen partner respects her immensely was only strengthened.
It’s impossible to guess how long the amped up intimacy will last. But I’m more certain than ever that I’m with the right person. And that openness and vulnerability are powerful tools we can use to spark love, and sustain it.
No formula is foolproof
In 2017, Carina Hsieh tested the study for Cosmopolitan, arranging a last minute Tinder date. She calls the end-result “a disaster.” Her experience with her date, Matthew, was overwhelmingly awkward, at times agonizingly so, and largely served to highlight how different they were and why it would never work.
He was close to his family, she was not. He mentioned his need to “drop off the face of the earth” for days at a time, which was already a red flag for her from previous relationships. And the dealbreaker: he described himself as a “Chihuahua person.”
To Hsieh, the experience of answering and asking the questions was a good way to speed things up “if you’re meant to be,” but, she added, “if you’re just not compatible, those differences will come out sooner rather than later.”
So how can a scientific study produce both lovers and not-lovers? Because, silly, study or not, love is ultimately always a choice. Aaron’s study, as I see it, is a very handy dandy tool that can be used to carve out love, hone love, facilitate it, strengthen it—but without a mutual will, there’s no real way.
Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed. But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action.
Mandy Len Catron
The moral of the story, then, is that falling in love is one of the most proactive things you can do in life.
Contrary to appearances, Netflix’s hit movie Marriage Story is not a story about divorce. It is, as its title indicates, a story about marriage. More specifically, it is the story of how a good marriage goes bad for one simple reason: Appreciation Deficit Disorder.
What is appreciation deficit disorder?
While Appreciation Deficit Disorder isn’t a clinical disorder, if it was it would be defined as something like this: a “disorder” characteristic of the character we meet individuals like Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson)– who are in decent, functional relationships, but who are “appreciation-deficient” with regards to themselves, their spouses, and their relationship as a whole.
In fact, the failed marriage between Charlie and Nicole could be considered a textbook example of this as-yet undiagnosed “disorder” because it displays all the classic symptoms of this brand-new, made-up malaise.
Here are the symptoms of appreciation deficit disorder:
1. Physical and emotional withdrawal
Example: Charlie and Nicole have been living parallel lives for the last joyless and sexless year of their marriage.
Example: Nicole repeatedly criticizes Charlie for being selfish, whereas Charlie repeatedly criticizes Nicole for being… Nicole;
Example: harlie claims that Nicole hated him during the last year of their marriage, whereas Nicole feels Charlie has been contemptuously ignoring her core needs;
4. Negative sentiment override
Example: The spouses are both so flooded with negative emotion that they each accuse one another of rewriting their shared past, as when Charlie insists that Nicole has only decided, after the fact, that she wasn’t happy with their life in Brooklyn, when at the time she was.
Fortunately, appreciation deficit disorder contains, embedded within itself, its own obvious cure: appreciation.
Indeed, the renowned couples therapist Terry Real considers appreciation not only the single “most effective” strategy for improving a relationship, but he goes so far as to say, “This one principle is equal to all the others combined.” As we will see, most of the top couples therapists in the world agree.
How to avoid appreciation deficit disorder:
Step 1. Appreciate one another
Marriage Story opens with tender and heart-warming expressions of mutual appreciation between Nicole and Charlie. At first sight, it certainly doesn’t seem like they suffer appreciation deficit.
The world’s pre-eminent marriage researcher, John Gottman, would say (with one important reservation) that Charlie and Nicole both have good “love maps,” a term that evokes the amount of “cognitive room” one has for all the little quirks of their spouse’s personality and personal history, as well as the marriage itself.
Gottman’s research shows that having good love maps is the very foundation of the seven-story “sound marital house” that constitutes a strong, sustainable relationship. His research also shows that having good love maps is a necessary prerequisite for building the next level up in the sound marital house, “fondness and admiration.”
Step 2. Be grateful for the things you appreciate
Researchers like Sara Algoe, Amie Gordon, Emily Impett, and Samantha Joel would also be impressed with the way that Charlie and Nicole express gratitude for how their partner invests in their relationship– a tendency that functions as a “booster shot” for relationship commitment and overall happiness.
For instance, even when Charlie complains about Nicole’s untidiness – “It’s not easy for her to put away a sock, or close a cabinet, or do a dish” – he nevertheless expresses his gratitude for her effort and attributes it to her fondness for him: “but she tries for me.”
Likewise, Nicole peppers her appreciations of Charlie with generous expressions of gratitude, singling out, for example:
He takes all of my moods steadily, he doesn’t give in to them or make me feel bad about them.
As the marriage historian Eli Finkel explains in his widely-praised book The All-or-Nothing Marriage, “In the long run, people who experience elevated levels of gratitude also experience stronger relationship commitment and are less likely to break up.”
But if Charlie and Nicole are so good at appreciating one another in all of these ways, then why do they break up?
Step 3. Express your appreciation
While they feeling appreciation, Charlie and Nicole don’t express their appreciation out loud to one another. When we finally hear Nicole’s appreciation of Charlie articulated out loud, we come to understand that one of the main factors that causes both their marriage and their divorce to unravel is the unwillingness to give voice to appreciation.
Most of the top couples therapists in the world – John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Terry Real – emphasize the crucial importance of not just appreciating our partners but expressing that appreciation.
For instance, Terry Real writes, ”When I speak of cherishing, I do not mean just feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I mean doing something to let your partner know what you are appreciating.”
Gottman makes the same basic point:
When you acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner and your marriage, your bond is strengthened.
Why is expressing appreciation so important? Perhaps for the same reason that it’s so important not just to appreciate a house plant, but also to water it.
Step 4. Appreciate one another’s life dreams
Why does Nicole refuse to read her appreciations out loud to Charlie? While there are many answers to this question, they all ultimately boil down to another, more fundamental symptom of ADD.
Nicole is both hurt by and angry at Charlie because he has failed to listen for and appreciate her deepest needs and most-cherished longings.
According to Gottman, whenever there is a gridlocked conflict in a relationship the thing to do is dig down to what he calls the “dream within the conflict.”
By “dream” he means the hopes, aspirations and wishes that are part of people’s very identity and that give purpose and meaning to their lives. In Gottman’s experience, the best way to drill down to the dream beneath the conflict is to explore the underlying symbolism of the surface-level desires at play in the disagreement.
If he had taken me in a big hug and said ‘Baby, I’m so excited for your adventure and of course I want you to have your own piece of earth’ then we might not be getting divorced.
The marriage researchers Shelly Gable and Harry Reis have shown that when partners communicate and celebrate their individual successes with one another they both feel greater positive emotions and mental health, and also experience increased feelings of trust, intimacy, and satisfaction in the relationship.
As Eli Finkel explains, “Enthusiastic responses are beneficial because they convey the listener’s shared joy in the event and appreciation of the personal significance of the event for the discloser.”
Step 5. Appreciate (or, at the very least, accept) your partner’s influence
In Marriage Story, Nicole complains that all of the furniture in their apartment was Charlie’s taste. She bemoans the fact she didn’t even get to pick their apartment but just moved into his.
More generally, and perhaps most significantly, she remarks that during their marriage:
It would be so weird if he had turned to me and said ‘And what do you want to do today?’
In their long-term study of 131 newly-wed couples who they followed for nine years, Gottman and his fellow researchers found that even in the first few months of marriage, men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier relationships and were less likely to eventually divorce than men who resisted their wives influence.
“Statistically speaking,” he writes, “when a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”
Step 6. Appreciate and assert your own needs and dreams
It seems fair to say that Nicole also fails to appreciate her own dreams and assert her influence in a way that Charlie can understand.
She says, “I made noises about wanting to move back to LA, but they came to nothing, but “making noises” is a far cry from clearly and insistently articulating your dreams and desires. And unfortunately, as Terry Real writes:
You cannot create an extraordinary relationship unless you’re willing to do the hard work of identifying what it is that you want and pursuing it.
It is for this reason that, out of the many possible forms of appreciation that exist, Real prioritizes the cultivation of self-appreciation.
“First and foremost,” he says, “I want you to cherish yourself. I want you to value your own wants and needs. I want you to value your voice.”
Real has a confrontational way of encouraging people to appreciate and express their own wants up front. He invites them to swallow this bitter pill:
You don’t have the right to complain about not getting what you never asked for.
Step 7. Appreciate relationality
If Nicole had discerned and appreciated her own dreams more fully, she might have been able to summon the courage to not only stand up for herself but to speak up for herself and ask for more out of Charlie and for more out of their marriage.
This is the very essence of what Real calls “fierce intimacy” or “daring to rock the boat.” Grabbing your partner by the collar and saying, ‘Such-and-such is really important to me. You better take it seriously. I’m not kidding.”
Unfortunately, because Nicole doesn’t fully appreciate her own needs, she cannot articulate them to Charlie, let alone roll up her sleeves and fight like hell to make sure he meets them.
Rather than moving from disempowerment to what Real calls “relationship empowerment,” she moves directly from disempowerment to what he calls “personal empowerment.”
In Real’s view, “traditional femininity” teaches women disempowerment (i.e. “shut up and eat it”). In contrast, third-wave feminism teaches women “personal empowerment” (i.e. “speak out and leave it”). But the next step is what he calls “relationship empowerment,” which encourages women to “stand firm and mean it.”
What is real “relationship empowerment”?
Something like this: “How are we going to be together in a way that works for both of us? How are we going to negotiate our needs? This is what I’d like. Tell me what you’d like. And tell me what you need from me to help you deliver.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that if Nicole and Charley had had the guts to have this kind of conversation they would have been able to work things out. But it certainly would have upped the odds. And it certainly would have been better than either staying in a marriage plagued by Appreciation Deficit Disorder, or complaining after the fact about never getting what neither of them ever asked for.
By identifying the problem and addressing it maturely with these tools, you’re well on you’re way from moving from “appreciation deficit” to “relationship empowerment.”
When it comes to definitive rankings of the most romantic movies of all time, 2004’s The Notebook regularly makes the cut. Unfortunately for fans of the film, relationship experts actually hate the flick, as they argue it creates unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.
Case in point: While the movie’s stars, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, did date off-screen and were often idolized as the perfect couple with a dream relationship, their romance was anything but picture-perfect.
The pair dated from 2005 to 2007, but their courtship didn’t reflect what fans saw on the big screen. At times, it was way better. At others, it was much, much worse.
It’s easy to dream of a love story resembling a perfect fairytale, but dating in the real world is never so simple and, although Gosling and McAdams have since gone their separate ways, there is an invaluable lesson to be learned from their time together.
Their real romance was nothing like the movies:
They hated each other at first
It may be hard to believe, but despite the never-fading love fans saw in The Notebook, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ feelings for one another were exceptionally different off-camera.
Simply put, they couldn’t stand each other at first.
This surprising revelation came from director Nick Cassavetes himself who, while celebrating the film’s 10th anniversary, spoke candidly about just how bad things got on set. So bad, in fact, that Gosling actually tried to get his leading lady fired.
In an interview with VH1, Cassavetes recalled an explosive day when, in the middle of shooting a scene, Gosling pulled him aside and asked, “Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me? […] I can’t. I can’t do it with her. I’m just not getting anything from this.”
A screaming match ensued between the two actors
“We went into a room with a producer; they started screaming and yelling at each other,” Cassavetes revealed, but then things seemed to calm down. “I think Ryan respected her for standing up for her character and Rachel was happy to get that out in the open,” he noted. “The rest of the film wasn’t smooth sailing, but it was smoother sailing.”
While they managed to keep it civil and finish filming, their relationship was certainly no blooming romance.
As McAdams told The Independent in 2013, “We weren’t throwing Ming vases at each other, so it wasn’t loathing, but our relationship was not what you saw on the screen.” She confessed that real-life relationship “certainly wasn’t something that either of us had expected would come out of that filmmaking experience.”
They were mature enough to start fresh
Rather than fostering any sort of resentment or ill-will towards one another, Gosling and McAdams were mature enough to let the past be just that — the past.
When they bumped into each other a couple of years after working together, they were able to start fresh. As Gosling recalled, “Two years later I saw her in New York and we started getting the idea that maybe we were wrong about each other.”
By accepting the fact that people and feelings can indeed change, they were able to start with a clean slate and give their romance a real chance. Instead of fixating on prior issues or what they thought they knew about each other from their time on The Notebook set, Gosling and McAdams allowed a new dynamic to take over — one full of love and support.
McAdams, for one, became her new beau’s biggest fan and openly gushed about how much he inspired her and her career. “He never does the same thing twice,” she noted. “He’s very brave.”
Luckily, the feeling was mutual. Asked about his girlfriend’s praise during a press junket, Gosling proclaimed, “She’s kind. She doesn’t need any help from me. She’s inspired me to do so much as well.” He added, “She’s the most discerning person I’ve ever met.”
Reality was much more romantic
As their real-life love blossomed, Gosling and McAdams became one of Hollywood’s most beloved It couples with fans often comparing them to their Notebook counterparts.
However, according to Gosling, this was actually a disservice to their love. As he told GQ, “God bless The Notebook. It introduced me to one of the great loves of my life. But people do Rachel and me a disservice by assuming we were anything like the people in that movie.”
“Rachel and my love story is a hell of a lot more romantic than that.”
Though, ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be, neither actor had any regrets. As a source told People in 2008, there were no hard feelings and the two actually remained friends.
Following their split, McAdams was spotted supporting Gosling at his DJ debut and they were even seen having dinner together.
Years later, it was clear that Gosling still held his ex in the highest regard when he noted, “I had two of the greatest girlfriends of all time, [Sandra Bullock and Rachel McAdams].”
Today, Gosling has two daughters with his partner, actress Eva Mendes, while McAdams has a son with her partner, writer/director Jamie Linden. They keep their private lives out of the public eye and focus on their work, which has paid off: both McAdams and Gosling have been nominated for Oscars in the years since playing Noah and Allie in The Notebook.
By realizing that Hollywood’s portrayal of love isn’t realistic and that real relationships are imperfect — but can also be way more romantic — you can free yourself from unnecessary expectations and experience true romance. Real love freed from expectations will leave a positive impression on you, regardless of whether or not the end result reads like a movie script.
Don’t believe everything you see: rather, believe what you feel.
Fact: not everyone has an overall happy upbringing or nurturing, relatively sane parents. I was lucky enough to score one out of two: my mom’s pretty cool. My father on the other hand…
The emotional mind games were unparalleled, the verbal abuse was unrelenting, and it occasionally got physical too. My father’s default setting was one of deep anger and bitterness at how the world had wronged him, and as he saw it, his wife and children continued to perpetrate the overarching injustice at his expense.
Although it’s impossible to boil down a father-daughter relationship to a few brief words, I’ll try.
I was the eldest of three — and the most confrontational by far
I often saw my father as injustice personified, and as I pitted myself against him I knew that it was either him or me. In other words, I knew that if I ever did myself harm, I would be letting him win, and so I somehow always managed to externalize my feelings and direct them at him rather than at myself. Self-preservation.
For a long time I was proud of the fact that I had consistently stood up to my father, that I had refused to be bullied—that I was ultimately very strong, and that I had survived my childhood intact.
But although I had great friends, a pretty functional life, and was more or less a well-adjusted person, my romantic relationships with men were undeniably the dwelling place of my past suffering.
How my dad haunted my romantic relationships:
Lack of trust
Lack of trust and support when you’re young can rear its ugly consequences decades later in your relationships.
This often manifests as jealousy if your guy pays any attention to another woman. In my case I even harbored a fear of introducing my girlfriends to some of my partners.
It can also develop as a general lack of trust that the man you’re with is a reliable person— that he has your best interests at heart, that he’ll show up when you need him, that he isn’t out to compete against you or overpower you in some way.
My father never supported us emotionally, financially, or in any other way, and he cheated on my mother.
I still personally have to work long and hard not to feel disproportionately defensive over the tiniest thing on a regular basis.
Why? Because as a child I was literally — and regularly — attacked. Later, as an adult woman in relationships with men who were nothing like my father (for the most part), I would nonetheless feel attacked over the smallest thing: a tone of voice, a weighted pause.
Does he doubt my credibility? Does he question my capability? Does he look down on my point of view?
My inability to feel even a little misunderstood without losing my damn mind comes from constantly having my account of reality dismissed and ridiculed by my father. But acknowledging that is half the battle!
Fear of abandonment
My father didn’t just fail to earn my trust and attack me. Years later when I reached out to him to try to have a relationship, he chose to refuse contact, and it felt like a horrible abandonment.
In spite of all the negative qualities he possessed, I still wanted to gain his approval. A part of me will always love the guy. When he refused to be a part of my adult life, it was both upsetting and destabilizing.
The fact that I have had to contend with a nonsensical (though palpable) fear of abandonment in my relationships is not surprising.
How I banished it:
If any of this feels familiar to you, don’t worry. There are no problems without solutions.
Here are a few helpful strategies I learned to integrate into my own life to help overcome my daddy issues and become capable of a healthier, more satisfying, and more adult romantic relationship.
Reflect on the qualities you’re attracted to
Do you tend to choose men who share qualities with your father?
This does not have to be a negative thing. My father wasn’t all bad, and no one is. But it’s important to be aware of who you’re attracted to and why. Self-reflect and determine whether the men you’re attracted to are good for you or not.
For me, the number one most important quality in a man at this point is the ability to communicate: openly, honestly, and with compassion.
Check your narrative(s)
Is the voice in your head always negative when it comes to relationships? When you start a new relationship, do you tell yourself it’s bound to fail—as a way of protecting yourself, even when you really it hope it succeeds?
The power of thought should never be underestimated.
Catch yourself in the act. Even if it feels fake at first, turn it around and instead say to yourself “There is no reason why this won’t go really well.” You’d be surprised what a difference it can make.
Look into therapy
Therapy is not for everyone, but at the right time in your life, with the right therapist, you can make serious waves in the ocean that is your messy mind.
I’ve only seen a therapist a handful of times in my life, but I do have a good go-to. She once said to me:
You don’t need to swim for your life when you’re standing in ankle-deep water.
It was all I needed to hear in that moment to break down and cry, have a laugh, and build myself back up again.
Bottom line: love yourself against all odds, and beautiful things are bound to grow. The work never ends for any of us, but self-awareness is the key to a more satisfying life.