Stephanie Livingston–Psychologist

manuscript excerpt

Long Shot: Beating the Odds to Love and Happiness (preface)

by on Jan.05, 2017, under manuscript excerpt

I’m a recovering Long Shot—a single woman over 30 whose chances of marriage was slowly diminishing as the clock kept ticking—who barely beat the odds at age 41. My eventual trip down the aisle was more like a trot than a gallop and was preceded by many emotional barriers and red flags I ignored along the way. I am not alone. According to the 2015 United States Census, there has been a consistent decline in married households from 1967 to 2015. In 2015 half of adults age 18 and over lived with a spouse compared to two thirds in 1967. The age of first marriages is going up along with divorce rates. Flying solo is becoming the norm, despite the abundance of research on the physical and psychological benefits of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this pattern including changing attitudes toward marriage, birth control, women’s economic and academic successes, societal shift from interdependence to independence, and a host of other explanations.
The focus in Long Shot is primarily on psychological factors that may hinder the marriage minded woman’s pursuit of love and happiness. This book will help the reader to assess when you are the problem in your relationship quest and provide guidance as to what to do once you identify the girl in the mirror as the impediment to getting what she wants. Long Shot is my attempt to: shed light on the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors of today’s single female looking for love; help the reader understand the importance of making healthy love connections from a holistic perspective (mind, body, social); and provide workable solutions for single women who are eager to change their approach to getting to love and marriage.
Time and time, again, single female patients, clients, relatives, colleagues and friends ask the same question of themselves: “Why, am I not married, or at least in a serious relationship?” What most women don’t realize is the question is not germane to any one particular group. Women of different ages, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, educational levels, and family backgrounds are all struggling with the same issue regarding their single status—“Why Me?” My answer to that question is always the same—begin by looking in the mirror.
As a practicing psychologist for over 25 years, I have learned many things about the nature of relationships, and have devised a plan for success for women who do not want to grow old alone. In this informative and interesting guide to finding intimate love, I hope you can appreciate my fictitious, but clever paradigm using horseracing terminology and analogies to conceptualize the challenges single women face seeking romantic love. Rather than simply offering dating tips—an outside-in approach, this book is more about self-exploration—an inside-out approach. The goal is to discover uncover hidden agenda preventing you from securing a committed relationship through personal insights—rather than pointing the finger—and to use proven psychological strategies to implement changes in thinking and behaving.
The idea for Long Shot is based on the notion that there are three types of single women: Fillies, who are proactive; Long Shots, who are ambivalent; and Nags, who have given up. For the marriage minded, those in their twenties are looking to get married and have children. Those in their thirties are just looking to get married and maybe have children. And those over 40, may be feeling like they have missed the marriage and children boat, and are trying to fill their emotional needs with other things.
It is my opinion that if a woman doesn’t marry either right after high school or college, when her chances of finding a beau are probably the greatest, the trip to the altar becomes more difficult. Once singles settle into jobs and careers in their twenties they have a much harder time finding their dreamboat. Eventually, socializing and partying start to wane as work and responsibilities take over. Dating has now become a chore and she starts to think that all the good men are gone. Her once positive outlook, turns into negativity and then apathy.
I have noticed that the women who are getting married tend to be family oriented, willing to compromise, and make getting married a priority in their lives. Although every marriage is not a happy one, not all single people are happy with their single status either. Relationship minded people seem to be more persistent in making their relationships work and even if they don’t pan out, they are more resilient and inclined to seek out love again. Connectors are goal directed—not desperate—in their dating efforts and find the time to pursue a personal life, even when they have other responsibilities.
The road to Long Shot has taken a couple of interesting turns for me. I have expanded my years of experience in health psychology working with patients in hospitals and clinics to later applying these same principles to peak performance training in my work with athletes, corporate executives, students, and artistic performers, helping them to push the limits to achieve at higher levels. My “mental fitness” philosophy surmises that mental skills strategies, which work on the playing field, board room, classroom, or on stage also apply to those seeking out loving relationships. As a result, I have incorporated aspects of positive psychology which promotes achieving your best by focusing on your strengths, in treating singles who are struggling with relationship issues. Martin Seligman (2006), founder of positive psychology, has conducted research on optimism, with respect to health implications. His research shows that being an optimist is usually a good thing in terms of health, longevity, and happiness, and pessimism tends to have negative effects such as depression, isolation, and ill health. It stands to reason that your mind-set likely affects your relationships too. It made sense to me that that the Filly, Long Shot, Nag concept was consistent with the optimism-pessimism model, as it applies to relationships.
Fillies are at the optimistic end of the continuum, placing them on the inside lane/fast track of the dating track. Nags occupy the pessimistic end, in the outside /slow lane. And Long Shots are in the middle lane teetering on this seesaw and can go either way. Knowing that optimism and pessimism are learned thinking patterns and can be changed, it follows that state of mind is largely a choice. Just like you can learn to become an optimist and improve your quality of life, you can also learn to become a Filly and improve your chances of finding love. It is my belief that pessimism will serve as a barrier to achieving your relationship goals. By choosing optimism your chances of success will significantly improve.
On the personal side, my husband Kyle-Pierre (KP), kept referring to the single woman in her thirties—including me when we met—who kept waiting for Prince Charming to appear, as “Long Shots.” He viewed us Long Shot girls as perfectly good candidates for love connections, but because of our unrealistic expectations, how we spend our time, and sometimes even our emotional issues, the likelihood of making a love match was slowly diminishing. According to KP, it was the Long Shot’s attitude and behavior that were getting in her way. He saw me as a Long Shot because I was in my late thirties, unmarried, no prospects and no children. I was living a life of going to work and coming home to sit on the couch, eat salads and watch TV. He believed that I had settled into a life of singlehood. However, he was surprised and impressed that I stepped outside my comfort zone and approached him when we first met. I later invited him over for dinner on our second date—something I had not done in years. Although KP and I hit it off, I had erected many walls to being vulnerable to love again. I had to work through many of my issues before I allowed myself to take another chance at romance. If you have an emotional wall up—for whatever reason (e.g., breakups, childhood trauma, daddy issues, abandonment fears, mental disorders)—it may take a bulldozer to knock it down. Most guys are walking around with a chisel, not a bulldozer. They often don’t want to spend the time or energy chipping away at your issues, especially as you get older. Help him out. Even though men are more used to rejection than women because they have historically been the ones to put themselves on the line to ask for a date, they don’t like rejection either. If a woman provides a smooth path for him to get to know her, he will more likely go down that road rather than pursue someone who requires a lot of work. Most men are looking for a path of least resistance.
When I hear thirty-something women, who are slowly giving up on dating and content to go home after a long day at work and have dinner in front of the television, I think of me at that age. It is easy to slip into that pattern, waiting for Mr. Wonderful to just suddenly appear. Hard work on the job does not guarantee you companionship. You also have to put in the time in your personal life. As pointed out in Malcolm Gladwell’s (2008) book Outliers, to become an expert at something, a person must put in at least 10,000 hours—the 10,000 hour rule. I think the same is true of romantic endeavors. The dater-in-training has to sort out many issues about her own behavior and emotions as well as those of her future partner. Figuring out what’s important to you and prioritizing your values can be a daunting task. If you are not putting in the time, chances are you are not going to be very good at it. I did the numbers and over a 20 year period, 10,000 hours averages out to about 10 hours per week. If you have not spent time seeking, engaging in, and refining the process of finding that special someone it is no surprise that you aren’t making much headway. It’s true that most of us are not experts when we commit to another person, nor do you have to be. However, you can increase your odds of success by embracing the idea that where you place your time and energy are the areas that will likely flourish in your life.
Long Shot is divided into three parts: Starting Gate, Backstretch, and Homestretch. Case examples are given in Parts 1 and 2 to further illustrate important points. Of course, for confidentiality reasons, names and circumstances have been changed to maintain anonymity. Part 3 provides an eight-steps-in-eight-weeks program to becoming a Filly.
Starting Gate provides the rationale for claiming your lane— inside/fast track, middle lane, or outside/slow lane. It is a framework for understanding your place in the dating game using the continuum of optimism to pessimism—Filly to Nag. Fillies have the most promise of finding a mate because they are optimistic, energetic, social, relationship focused and willing to compromise. Fillies tend to look for the silver lining in most situations and do not view themselves as failures when things don’t go their way. They are hopeful about the future, even when things look bleak and bounce back from disappointment and realize that this too shall pass.
Nags are pessimistic, passive in their dating efforts, may have given up altogether on finding a mate, and are supposedly content to live and die alone. Nags see life through a bleak lens and tend to focus on what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. They tend to feel lonely, helpless about changing their circumstances and may give up on pursuing difficult goals. When life throws them a curve ball, they tend to dwell on their misfortune by asking, “Why me?” rather than seeking a solution to a temporary problem. You can see why Nags might have a hard time in their romantic endeavors.
Long Shots, as their name implies, still have some possibility of finding a mate, but their chances are slim. The Long Shot may have been an optimist at one time, but has slowly let pessimism overtake her life. There is still time for the Long Shot to turn things around, but she must be willing to do the necessary work. The Filly, Long Shot, Nag (FLN) Scale is included in Part 1 to help you to claim your lane on the dating racetrack.
Backstretch discusses the reasons for changing your lane, helping you to see why you need to move into the inside lane to become a Filly, if you are not already there. The emphasis here is on evaluating the mating dilemma from a holistic perspective including: biological factors (e.g., instincts, touch), psychological factors (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger, abuse, self-esteem), and social factors (e.g., family dynamics, race, sexual preference, age). This holistic approach is often used to understand mental and physical illness as well as other complex phenomenon. Believe me, there are few things that are more complex than the nature of intimate relationships.
Homestretch provides a remedy for how to work on your love life from the inside out, by engaging in self-reflection and learning how to be proactive when it comes to finding love. Eight eBets offers an eight-steps-in-eight-weeks program to increase your odds of making good love choices by teaching you how to move onto the fast track. Each week for eight weeks you will focus on one of the Eight eBets: Educate yourself, Evaluate your relationship history, Envision your destination, Eliminate emotional clutter, Enumerate your goals, Expect realistic change, Energize your mind and body, and Enjoy the moment. Each eBet is followed by a series of exercises and a LAP assignment, which includes identifying your Limitation; developing an Action plan; and assessing your Performance. Each successful LAP around the dating racetrack gets you closer to the finish line.
Long Shot is designed to help you become a successful doer in the dating world, not a passive recipient of whatever happens. You will learn how to identify thoughts and behaviors that are no longer productive and acquire new solutions that will move you closer to your love goal. Taking control of your life is much more empowering than letting things take their own course in hopes that you will one day hit the jackpot. In just eight weeks, you should be able to make inroads you never thought possible, regardless of your age category. For the purposes of this book, each of the following estimated generation categories will be used: seniors (born before 1946), baby boomers (born between 1946 and1964), Gen X (born between 1965 and1982), Gen Y/millennials (born between 1983 and 2000).
By the time you finish reading this book, you will know how to get the most out of your romantic endeavors by zeroing in on the most important aspect—you! You will be able to:
• Identify where you are on the dating racetrack—Filly/fast track, Long Shot/middle lane, or Nag/slow lane.
• Recognize the benefits of choosing Filly optimism over Nag pessimism.
• Understand how a woman becomes a Long Shot who is stuck in indecision.
• Understand physical, psychological, and social factors that can influence your love journey.
• Implement an eight-week plan to change to the Filly/fast track if you are not already there.
• If you are already a Filly, use this program to stay on the right track.
Doing the work from the inside out, means looking at yourself in the mirror and courageously making the necessary adjustments to move toward internal happiness. Although self-reflection can be difficult, the benefits are life changing. Knowing your true self, increases the likelihood of finding the right mate. The wonderful thing about human beings is that most of us want to change, we just don’t know how. The tips, exercises and guidelines set down in the Long Shot program will take you step-by-step through the process of changing. Let the race within begin!

long shot—noun
1. a horse, team, etc., that has little chance of winning and carries long odds.
2. an attempt or undertaking that offers much, but in which there is little chance for success.

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Long Shot: beating the odds to love

by on Jun.10, 2012, under manuscript excerpt

Morgan sat on my couch, three months before she was supposed to get married. Instead of being happy and excited she appeared more annoyed with her situation. She was in conflict because she was not sure if she should go through with it. She was 28, attractive and worked as a pharmaceutical representative. She was engaged to a great guy, by most peoples’ standards. She did not exhibit any emotion, but just presented the facts as she understood them. She apparently had thought about this for some time, but still could not resolve her feelings about the whole thing. The wedding plans were set. Guests had already purchased airplane tickets to attend, and her parents had spent thousands of dollars to make her day like a fairy tale. Her mother’s position was, “Get over it, your father isn’t perfect either. You need to hurry up and make a decision, or I am going to stop continuing the wedding plans.” Despite all of this, Morgan just could not pretend that she was happy, when she was not. She had discussed her concerns with two girlfriends who gave her opposing views, which only confused her more. Her married friend said that she was just having cold feet, stating that there are always things you are not going to like about your mate. While her friend, who was recently divorced, said, “’Be true to yourself. If you don’t feel a connection with him now, what is the likelihood that you will feel it later.”
According to Morgan, her fiance`, Dave, was the most eligible bachelor in their social circle. He was kind to her and loved her unconditionally. Her parents loved him, her girlfriends were envious, and on paper he looked perfect. He was attractive, intelligent, and a successful banker. She could not understand why she could not make a decision. He had all the things that she thought she should look for in a man, except that she did not feel connected to him. He did not make her laugh, they rarely talked, and he wasn’t passionate about anything. Her doubts had been surfacing for some time and after four years of dating, she found herself in bed with his best friend, shortly after they got engaged the year before. She had always been attracted to his friend because he was more laid back and fun to be with. She even thought that she had more in common with her own best male friend than her fiancé. They were able to talk for hours and she felt like, “he got me.” Morgan was not sure she could live a lifetime with a man who did not “get her.” But, on the other hand she was also afraid that if she broke it off, she may never get married and have children. Both scenarios were frightening to her.
Dating is like a horserace, there are Fillies—who are young, optimistic (i.e., glass half full), and energetic single females, with all the promise of winning the dating race to having a loving relationship; Long Shots, who still have a chance for marriage but the odds are slowly moving out of their favor because they are conflicted. They are vacillating between optimism and pessimism, because they are either older, too picky or have begun to settle into a negative mindset about men; and Nags, who are pessimistic (i.e., glass half empty), have resorted to a life of bitterness and resentment and may even be living with regrets about missed marrying opportunities. Morgan is a Filly, for now. She is in her twenties, the prime marrying and childbearing years, is engaged, and well on her way to realizing her dream of having a husband and family. However, she is afraid that this man may not be the total package—her Prince Charming. But, on the other hand if she does not marry him, she could easily turn into a Long Shot—in her thirties, unmarried, no children, with a growing pessimism about ever getting married and having a family. And worse yet she could succumb to being a Nag—growing older, with regrets about the one who got away and never finding anyone else who might meet her requirements.
Many women struggle with this dilemma of whether or not they should go with the imperfect guy, who does not exactly meet their expectations, or take the risk of not ever finding anyone who does. They do not want to end up spending years looking for that guy who has just the right package, only to find that he does not exist. But in many cases, that is exactly what happens. To Morgan’s credit, she is trying to figure this out before she gets married, even though the wedding is only a few months away. Some women never get to the point of engagement due to the fact they have rejected these imperfect men outright, because they did not meet her expectations. Most women have men in their lives, who are interested in them, they just don’t won’t those men or don’t even give them the chance to see if there is a possibility. Are you struggling with finding the perfect man and getting frustrated that there just aren’t any good men out there? It’s not that there are no good men to date, it is sometimes the filter you are using to determine what a good man is. Maybe this time you are the problem, not them.
If you are not already a Filly and want to become one, at least in spirit and mindset, if not by youth, this book is for you. People want committed relationships at all ages and although a woman in her forties or older may not be looking to have children, her chances of finding a mate will still be affected by her mindset. If she has a Nag mindset, her odds of winning the race will be significantly diminished. This book will help you to develop the characteristics of a Filly, agility, speed, and spirit at any age:
* the AGILITY to understand what drives your behavior, while learning to make the necessary thinking and behaving adjustments.
*the SPEED to develop efficient use of your time and energy
* the SPIRIT to get motivated to take action by instilling optimism and mental clarity

Time and time again female patients and friends of mine are asking the same question, “Why am I not married, or at least in a serious relationship.” Women are eagerly looking for answers to the plight of their single status. Women of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, educational levels, and family backgrounds are all struggling with the same issue—“Why Me.” The answer is the same—looking in the mirror.
In writing this book, I have attempted to shed some understanding on why there has been a shift in our dating and marriage patterns and to provide a program for women of all ages who are considering finding an intimate relationship. This approach involves working from the inside out rather than the outside in. Many self help books that use the outside in approach focus on dating tips, or how to know when a man likes you. The inside out approach focuses on self-reflection and how your own internal issues may be interfering with finding and keeping a mate. This book will help you to know when you are the problem and what to do next.

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