Bad Parenting: Curse, or Blessing?

Ricky and his father, hashing it out.

I don’t watch sports. I don’t care about football or the NFL. I have no interest in hot chicks. But for reasons that are hard to explain (even to myself), I watch HBO’s Ballers.

In Ballers, The Rock plays a former NFL player who stumbled into the financial advising industry to help other players avoid pissing away their income during their brief stints playing professional ball (a lesson he learned the hard way).

One of the players The Rock’s character represents is Ricky. Ricky is impulsive, temperamental, and selfish. He has talent but a lot of growing up to do. He also has daddy issues, as his father bailed on him and his mother when he was still in diapers. Toward the end of the first season, Ricky gets real during an interview and shares his resentment toward his father with the world. Sure enough, Dad—a former NFL player himself who saw the broadcast—shows up to confront Ricky and an interesting conversation ensues.

Ricky’s pissed, saying that Dad bailed, wasn’t there for him or his mother, and that he struggles with feeling abandoned and unloved and that’s contributed to his anger and his issues. Dad’s counterargument is that Ricky’s angst and anger toward him was the very reason for his success on the playing field, that his own father did the same to him and it fueled his success. Son thinks Dad’s behavior hurt him; Dad thinks it helped him. So who’s right?

They both are.

Anyone who’s ever talked about their mommy or daddy issues or read a book on the topic knows that we tend to focus on the negative aspects of bad parenting. Bad parenting can have long-term consequences that can’t be fixed overnight. However, we don’t often look at the positive side of a bad parent or a bad childhood. The pros are there, if you look for them.

I was raised in a blue-collar family where luxuries were scarce. We had enough, but we rarely went out to eat and never had family vacations. My sibs and I were on our own if we wanted clothes, a car, car insurance, gas, or spending money of any kind. Minimum wage jobs made it hard to afford much of anything. When my transmission went out during college (on a truck I still owed money on), I had to pay with a credit card and spend a year paying it off. No matter how hard I worked, I could never “catch up” financially. Far from a terrible situation, but it had some interesting effects on me.

I inherited a very tight, fear-based, “lack” mentality about money. It was always “there’s not enough and that’s life” instead of “if you’re willing to do X and Y, you can prosper.” I still struggle with this to some extent and spent a lot of my adulthood being broke despite lots of education, and my mentality has caused me to miss opportunities.

On the other hand, I also inherited a certain amount of grit. I know how to get by on very little. In a culture that lives on credit cards and borrowed money, I’ve always lived within my means and had far less debt than anyone I know in my age bracket. And, I don’t live in fear of going broke; I’ve been there and I know I can survive.

Growing up in this old-school, lack mentality had its ill effects on me, but it also had its positive effects. The same goes for the challenges your parents and upbringing offered you.

  • That abusive father of yours may have dented your self-esteem, but his abuse may have taught you to have greater compassion and respect for others than most people have.
  • That critical mother who always found something to nitpick about your appearance may have given you a complex about your looks, but you probably learned to place value on things other than physical appearance in yourself and others.
  • Your overly strict, achievement-oriented parents meant you lost out on childhood fun in favor of good grades or becoming a champion swimmer, but maybe you learned the discipline required to run a successful company or you wound up competing in the Olympics.
  • You know Eminem, the white rapper? He grew up in a harsh environment of poverty, abuse, and neglect. He’s had a tough road, but his struggles led him to creative expression through music, and a new life to go with it.

The truth is, our successes can make us a little stronger, but it’s our failures and struggles that help us grow the most.

No matter what parenting ills you were exposed to, find the positive. It’s there, if you look for it. And it’s given you strength that no one else has.

Update, Plus Hilarious Tinder Profiles

Yours truly, taking the leap at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Greetings, and happy August, peeps!

How’s your summer? Are you going outside and soaking up the vitamin D like I am? Or are you sweating your ass off and praying for football to begin? Either way, hope you’re making the most of every day.

I haven’t been posting as regularly, but I promise I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve been doing some heavy duty thinking about this business and this site, and where I want it to go. I’ve been brainstorming, making Pinterest boards, scribbling on scratch paper, and doing research.

I’m not finished yet. Still more to do. But I’ve begun building that foundation. And if I’ve learned anything about running a business, it’s that you have to start with a solid foundation. That takes time, especially when you aren’t especially business-savvy. Which I’m not.

So, stay tuned. This site will be a place to come not just for dating advice, but for guidance on making relationships work and for becoming your best self. After all, good dating strategy and good relationships rely on maximizing our success as individuals. They rely on understanding ourselves, understanding others, and overcoming the numerous obstacles that get in the way of achieving what we want most.

What kind of obstacles? Bad habits. Poor communication. Mental illness. And most of all, ignorance.

We’re all ignorant, of course. It’s just a matter of degree. But success in life, and in relationships, requires information, education, knowledge. I want to provide those things here. I want to provide them for you… and for myself. Because I’m going to take the journey with you, by aiming to be the best person I can be in my life and in my relationship.

I’m excited about this. I hope you are too.

Meanwhile, here’s something fun to keep you occupied until I can offer some hardcore content.

You all know about Tinder by now. The swipe-left swipe-right dating and hookup app that has fascinated and horrified singles for years.

You may never deign to Tinder, but you’ll appreciate these clever Tinder profiles. These are people who’ve taken the awkwardness of online dating and the absurdities of Tinder and used them to their favor. Hats off to them.

Here’s the link to the article.

I’ll see you soon.


Dating: Do Guys Care About Your Career?

Years ago, I attended a local dating-related event where the audience was filled with single women and men. We talked about the usual dating topics: how to meet someone, what’s attractive, the challenges of dating online, etc. Some of the experts said some things I strongly disagreed with. However, the moderator made a quip that stuck with me:

“Guys Don’t Care about Your Career!”

I found it memorable for a few reasons. One, it’s an overgeneralization about men, and I’m not a fan of those. Not all men are the same! Two, it’s insulting to tell women their careers don’t matter. And three, and perhaps most perplexing, a part of me actually understood why he said that and what he was trying to convey. While many men do consider a woman’s career choice when evaluating her, let’s face it: it’s not as important to men as men’s careers are to women.

Fast forward a few years. A matchmaker I know — a woman — posted something interesting on Facebook. She stated that a potential male client told her he didn’t care one whit what his future female partner did for a living. This irritated my colleague. It made her feel like he’d just trivialized and insulted something that women work hard for and take very seriously.

A long and colorful debate commenced on Facebook. Sure enough. the moderator from that event years ago joined the debate, and made it clear his stance on the matter hadn’t changed at all. He claimed that no only do men not care about women’s careers, women shouldn’t care about men’s either.

And I thought about this. For weeks.

On the one hand, I saw his point. I’ve seen women focus too much on a guy’s job and use that as an index of his worth. Even online, men with high-paying, high-status jobs get more hits. This irritates me. Sure, a job can indicate a man’s ambition and financial stability, but it doesn’t guarantee either and it definitely doesn’t guarantee he has more substantive qualities that make a relationship work. I’d take a financially stable elementary school teacher over a self-absorbed physician or fiscally irresponsible trader any day. Hell, I did, back when I was single, and it worked.

Yet, on the other hand, to disregard a woman’s career and personal accomplishments is, as my colleague said, insulting. It’s like telling a woman that her hard work, her intellect, and her ambition aren’t important, that she’s nothing but her looks and, at best, her personality. How condescending! And what a great way to demonstrate a sexist attitude by showing no appreciation for the very things men value in themselves!

Then, it came to me. The source of the debate wasn’t about who was right or wrong, or whether career is important or not. The debate was about understanding that men and women differ… NOT just in the value they put on a date’s career, but in how they want to be valued.

Many women want men to value their careers and accomplishments because, historically, oppression and inequality barred women from such pursuits or otherwise frowned on them for it. Women want to be valued for what they do in the world, not just for their looks or their ability to bear children. On the other hand, men have always been valued for their careers, to the point where society (women included) has judged and ranked men by their job title. Now, men want to be valued for their other substantive traits.

The moderator and matchmaker had different perspectives, but they wanted the same thing: to be valued in the ways that mattered most to them. When you place no value on a woman’s career, it’s the same as placing too much on a man’s: it insults them and shows that, on some level, you’re still stuck in the past and adhering to old sexist views.

We need to be done with that shit.

Lecture over. Let the comments ensue.


Other Resources

Christie’s Books

Blog Post: Are Men Threatened by Strong, Successful Women?

Why Blaming the Ex is Pointless (or Badmouthing the Ex, Part 2)

Years ago I wrote a blog about badmouthing your crappy ex, and why it’s a bad idea. It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons, most of which boil down to the fact that when you say crappy things about him or her, it makes YOU look bad, not them.

When you’re dating, your dates or potential dates don’t know you. They don’t know your character or backstory; they only have whatever data you offer them during that brief interaction. Calling your ex an asshole/jerk/bitch/idiot, no matter how true, raises a red flag that you haven’t come to terms with the past or, to put it bluntly, that you’re just not a very nice person. Not a big turn-on.

This article did generate some comments from a few unhappy readers. These people felt annoyed by the advice, seeing it as unrealistic, unfair, or judgmental. One or two others were like, hey, you chose to get with that person and that was your choice.

When it comes to a crappy ex or a painful relationship, we look for ways to come to terms with what happened. We want the pain to go away. We want the shitty feelings to disappear. Lousy exes and lousy relationships make us feel bad about ourselves, and no one wants to feel that.

When we feel bad about ourselves, when we feel pain, we often look for someone to blame. In many cases, people blame the ex. She did this, he did that, he was a narcissist, etc. This not only makes you look bad to those you’re trying to date now, it makes you look like a victim instead of someone who participated in that relationship. In other cases, we blame ourselves. I should’ve known better. The signs were there. I chose to be there and to tolerate that. This makes you feel more empowered because you’re putting the onus on yourself, but it’s also destructive in its own way.

Likewise, when people go through something difficult like a shit relationship, I see their friends pull out their own blame cards. They blame the ex: “It’s not your fault, your ex is a dick.” Or they blame you: “Hey, I told you she was crazy and you chose to be with her.”

The problem with this? Blame. Whether you blame the ex or you blame yourself, you’re still blaming. You’re still looking for some scapegoat for your pain, someone or something to pin it on. The problem with doing that is it doesn’t really help you feel better in the long term or move on, and the pain stays buried in you.

Blame throws away your power.

Relationships are learning experiences. Every single person you date, get involved with, or marry teaches you more about who you are and what you need. Every one. ESPECIALLY the shitty ones. Yeah, it’s kind of fucked up that we need to experience pain to learn, but sometimes that’s the way it is.

When you think about that lousy ex, instead of thinking about what they did and why they’re a jerk (or why you’re an idiot for getting with them), think about what they taught you. What did their lousy behavior teach you about yourself and your needs?

I recently posted on Facebook a description of the types of things a narcissist says to someone they “love.” A woman I know said that those words described her ex to a tee. When I expressed how glad I was that her current partner is such a gem (and he is), she said she would never have appreciated him if it weren’t for that narcissistic ex. That’s what I’m talking about.

A shitty ex teaches you what you DON’T want. They teach you boundaries. They show you what your true values are. They make your deepest needs clearer to you. Best of all, they becomes EXES, giving you space to find someone better. Someday, when you get past the anger, you will thank them for what they taught you.

I won’t lie: this isn’t an easy process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen. It WILL happen, if you step away from blame and focus on what you can learn, on how it will benefit YOU.

I once read a great quote but cannot seem to find it anywhere. It went something like this:

Success is rising above your many failures, rather than getting buried beneath them. 

Failure is part of life. Shit exes are part of life. How can you rise above?



Christie’s Books

Deja Vu: When You Keep Dating the Same Kind of Person Over and Over

Years ago, when I was single, I decided to break out of my Introverted Bubble and do something outside my comfort zone: I went to an organized happy hour event filled with utter strangers, alone. While this was a professional happy hour for networking, it quickly became clear to me that it was really a way for singles to meet. Because that was more than I could handle, I decided to pretend I had a boyfriend, which allowed me to talk freely to anyone without the pressure of dating.

As such, I met a string of interesting men. Once they discovered I wrote dating and relationships books, knowing I wasn’t a dating prospect, they began sharing their dating frustrations with me. I recall one in particular, who asked me why women are so “self-entitled.” I asked for clarification, and he seemed to have a pattern of choosing women who demanded a lot from him in terms of what he provided financially, who seemed to feel that they deserved to be taken care of then and in the future.

I was taken aback by his complaint, which was stated with a lot of derision. The conversation with him and his friends took a different turn and he went off somewhere else. But I never forgot that conversation. It sounded like he had a pattern of dating demanding, narcissistic women. His comment made it sound like all women are that way. That’s what happens — when we have negative dating patterns, we begin to assume all men or all women are the same way, because that’s all we know. This guy must have dated a string of self-entitled women to lob such an accusation against all women, and I knew that.

We all have dating patterns. We all have a “type” we tend to like and attract. It’s a problem when the pattern is a destructive one. Maybe you always wind up with high-maintenance blondes, or guys who are emotionally unavailable, or people with mood swings. Your patterns are yours and they’re different from other people’s.

My question to this man is, “Why are you choosing these women?” What did he see in them early on, before he discovered how demanding they are? This guy was tall and good-looking and well-employed. He’s was kind of guy a lot of women find attractive. Not only that, but he knew it. He had an arrogance about him and he seemed shallow and uncaring. Of all the men I met that night, he left the worst impression.

If he was anything like how he came off that night, it makes some sense that he would attract self-entitled women. Self-entitled people can often appear attractive, successful, and confident, which can be very alluring. If you’re attracted only to this surface allure, you may find yourself in a relationships with someone who’s shallow and… self-entitled.

In other words, this guy was choosing these women for the very traits he hated in them, but without realizing it. Every negative trait has a positive side to it, and vice versa. Narcissistic people are confident and bold and good-looking, which is why people like them until they finally see the truth. The guy who seems really fun, carefree, and spontaneous at first can wind up being irresponsible and childish. The woman who’s exciting and stimulating can turn out to be a moody drama queen. The independent, strong and silent guy can turn out to be distant and commitmentphobic.

When we have negative dating patterns, we’re often attracted to the positive side of that negative trait. We just don’t see the negative side because we’re blind to it. In the case of this guy, he didn’t see the shallowness of these women at first because, on some level, he seemed a little shallow himself. He liked the external package these women came in and didn’t yet recognize the warning signs.

The reasons we get sucked into these negative patterns are complex, but the patterns are often due to some underlying or even unconscious desire to face some internal conflict we struggle with. People who pick narcissistic partners often struggle with self-worth and seek out those who they believe have it. Once they discover that narcissists have almost no self-worth at all, and they consider why their own self-worth isn’t what it ought to be, they can start making other choices.

Negative dating patterns exist for one reason — to be discovered and conquered. That’s why they keep repeating themselves over and over, hoping that this time you’ll see the light.

What patterns have you faced, and how did you break them?

Venting: Useful Tool or Waste of Time?

Vent (verb): Give free expression to (a strong emotion). Source: Google.


We all know what venting is. It’s letting go of frustrating emotions. Voicing a rant of complaints to a trusted friend. Blowing off steam. Why do we do it? Because life is frustrating as hell sometimes. Work pisses us off, our partners frustrate us, and life can throw us a seemingly endless volley of shit balls that we can’t seem to dodge anymore.

When it gets be be too much, sometimes we vent our frustrations to someone who will listen to (or put up with) them, whether that’s a trusted friend, a Microsoft Word file, an employee at some business, or the ultimate bastion of anonymous griping: the internet.

Why do we vent? Because it feels good. We feel better after letting it all out.

However, letting it all out can have a significant downside. We hurt people. We create conflict, We bring more ugliness into the world. And, in some cases, we do nothing to solve the real problem.

So that leads to the BIG QUESTION: Is venting useful? Or is it at best a waste of time and, at worst, a detriment?

The short answer: It’s both.


To Vent or Not to Vent?

I’ll never forget hearing about Russell Crowe’s brushes with anger, in particular an incident where he threw a phone at a hotel clerk, cutting him below the eye. When he was interviewed and asked about this and other incidents, he showed no remorse for his behavior and then offered up the thing that I’ve heard many times, that you can’t just let that stuff bottle up inside. You have to get it out.

From then on, any respect I had for Russell Crowe dissolved into nothing. Why? Because he used the need to “vent” his frustration as an excuse for his shit behavior, believing it was justified and even for his own good health.

Not all venting involves violence or even strong anger, obviously. But this Russell Crowe incident illustrates a challenge we all face: the need to deal with our frustrations and discovering the best way to go about it.

It IS good to deal with anger and difficulties and not them them fester. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that.


Venting, By Itself, Solves Nothing

Yes, I said it. Venting solves nothing. In some cases, you feel better afterward as you release that pent-up frustration, but guess what? It will come back to haunt you the next time life doesn’t go your way. Not only that, but every time you vent your irritation about your job or your annoyance at your partner’s money management problems, you’re basically lobbing garbage at those listening to you. You risk damaging a relationship with a colleague by venting too aggressively. You tax your friends and partner, who grow weary of being your dumping ground. To people you don’t know well, you sound like a whiner. And, if your venting comes with a side of anger management issues, you risk being an abuser and criminal.

You see, venting is like a drug. It feels good at the time, but eventually the physiological and emotional effect it has will wear off and you’re left with the back end of that high… the withdrawal or hangover. Not to mention any damage you’ve done to others. A drug only offers a short-term solution, and you will never stop needing that drug.

Moreover, it’s a common misperception that venting is necessary to one’s mental and physical health, that you have to “get it out” a la Russell Crowe. But Russell Crowe is a meathead who believes this because it benefits him and allows him to continue abusing his massive privilege as a large, white, celebrity male. And, Crowe-bashing aside, research doesn’t support the need to let it out. Studies have shown that blowing off steam in a harmful way like that can often increase feelings of anger and rage, and does nothing to prevent the rageful feelings from recurring. In other words, anger begets anger.

I know this from my own experience. I’m prone to temperamental outbursts, too. When I vent my anger, I feel even angrier. It builds, like tossing fuel on a raging fire. Eventually, when it’s over, that high of relief does come, but it exacts a price in the form of remorse and damage done to whatever thing annoyed me in the first place. Plus, I feel like an idiot. One of many reasons Russell Crowe’s actions irritate me so much is that I can (sort of) relate — I know what that kind of frustration feels like, but I am able to abstain from harming others verbally or physically because I CHOOSE to. There are feelings and there are actions, and they’re separate things.


Who Vents?

Everyone vents. But in my experience, women and men vent in different ways. In many cases, women tend to vent their annoyances to friends or family members, talking about their micro-managing boss, their irritating sister-in-law, or their boyfriend who won’t pop the question over lunch or a glass of wine. This is so common among women that it’s almost a stereotype.

However, men vent too. Not as often to their friends or family, many of whom will chastise them for it (after all, men aren’t supposed to complain, right?)… but in many cases by taking out their frustrations on others or venting anonymously on the internet. Go through the comment section of any well-known website and the most angry, trollish comments are typically from men. I know I’ve encountered a few of them here.

Women’s venting sounds more like complaining, and men’s more like anger and threats, but in the end it’s the same thing. They have a problem and they have no clue what to do about it.


So, What Now?

Often, people think of this problem as an either/or scenario: keep it all inside or let it all out. But neither of those is healthy.

Instead, find a way to vent your feelings and annoyances as a way to not only release them, but as a way to begin dealing with them and, if possible, solving them. Vent to a trusted friend or associate in a non-aggressive way. Explain your annoyances. Ask for that person’s advice or perspective; or, if you don’t want advice, ask for them to just hear you out while you problem-solve. Yes, you’re problem solving here. Venting can be the first step in the problem solving process.

Talking about frustrations can help you get to the root problem and, eventually, to a first attempt at coming up with a solution. That solution may be as simple as changing your attitude about your annoying job. Or, maybe it means talking to your boss about your concerns. You may decide to at least start looking for other job options, even if you aren’t sure you want quit. You may decide things are so bad that you’re going to up and quit.

Some people, especially men, blow off steam through sports or hobbies. This is also a healthy way to deal with frustration, especially if it’s a problem with no immediate solution. For women, a little self-care in the form of a yoga class, a hike, or hot bath can help.

Whatever it is, vent with the purpose of working through problems in a productive way, not just spewing your frustrations on others so you can feel better for an hour. Me? I vent by writing. When things get bad, I write out all that’s pissing me off on the computer. Eventually, patterns start to emerge and so do potential solutions. I like this method because it doesn’t harm others, nor does it tax my loved ones. Sure, now and again I’ll call up a good friend or share something with my husband… but I wait until it’s something important, something that’s too complicated for Microsoft Word to handle.

Overall, venting can be a good thing or a bad thing. If done in an appropriate way and with the goal of solving a problem, venting can be the key to a better life.

Christie Hartman, PhD


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