Okay yes, we’re still talking about this. But this one has been a real journey and honestly, those of us who have committed to 3-hour, back-to-back, Greg Grippo-focused episodes of The Bachelorette have been through a lot, and the least we could do is learn a lesson at the end of all this. In case you need a reminder (you don’t), recently millions of people watched as Greg Grippo, one of three contestants remaining on season 17 of The Bachelorette, had an intense emotional meltdown when the lead, Katie Thurston, was unwilling to communicate her love to him in a way that felt reciprocal. He said, “You fill a hole in my heart.” She said, “Nice face.” I’m paraphrasing—a little. A meltdown ensued, an unexpected and painful (for all of us) breakup followed, and Bachelor Nation took to the streets (social media and podcasts, primarily), to debate: Team Katie? Team Greg? Was Greg gaslighting or having a justified emotional response? Was Katie cold and withholding? The answer, I think, is yes. Both things, all things. Whatever reaction you had to those horribly uncomfortable breakup scenes likely held some truth, because ending relationships is complicated and messy and usually pretty gross. For the record, as a Master’s-level Counselor with professional experience in relational communication, there are some specific examples of gaslighting behaviors in their interactions and I bet if we got to watch back any of our own breakups, we’d see some gaslighting there too. Humans with big emotions, especially about love and intimacy, will do some wild things to get what they want, including using tactics to confuse and manipulate each other.
Let’s be clear about one thing, though. While we might not all agree on the level of gaslighting Greg Grippo engaged in here, he most definitely wrote us a playbook for Emotional Manipulation 101. He relies on the narrative that being with Katie is the only thing that’s made him happy in the two years since his dad died. His family and friends then come in to reinforce this, telling Katie that he just hasn’t been himself, but now that she’s here, the Greg they know is back. Yikes.
I believe them. I believe that Greg is finding joy in this process and that he is genuinely feeling lighter and happier. I don’t think he’s acting (ahem, cue the Meryl Streep moment). I think he’s coming out of very regular, grief-induced depression because he’s had time to heal and now he’s on a TV show with a bunch of dudes he likes to hang with and a cute girl he likes to make out with, mostly in the rain. (In the desert. It’s fine.) But to frame his happiness as solely dependent on Katie is setting a fertile ground for a relationship built on emotional responsibility and caretaking. It’s so much to take on. And it’s manipulative.
And this, my friends, is a lesson we can all learn. If watching Greg and Katie in these final scenes together felt just a little too familiar, then it’s likely you have experienced emotional manipulation. You’ve probably even done it. Honestly, who hasn’t at some point? A little silent treatment here and there can be pretty passively impactful. Or maybe using the old “Well if you don’t know why I’m upset, I’m not going to tell you!” technique when you can’t articulate the reason for your feelings, you just know you’re having them and someone needs to pay attention ASAP! Storming out of the room during an argument without telling your partner you plan to return? We’ve all done it. These are all forms of emotional manipulation we see Greg use. They aren’t healthy modes of relational communication, but we’ve all done them, haven’t we? We’re all human here. If these are your primary methods of communicating during conflict, then maybe the lesson for you here is to practice something new. Maybe begin practicing expressing your emotions directly and clearly. Maybe examine why it might not feel like you can? We could all probably work on this more, and maybe GG was sent here to inspire us. Get to work!
Or, hear me out, maybe you watched all this go down and had an even stronger reaction. Maybe you were like me and the familiarity was TOO specific. Maybe, like me, you’ve lived it over and over again. Honestly, any moment of the GG drama could have been picked from any of my previous relationships. This is because I have spent a lifetime choosing partners out of a compulsion to be with highly emotional people who depend on me for emotional caretaking. I have been “Caught in the Grip(po)” of this compulsive cycle without ever even knowing why or how until recently.
It turns out, I have a thing called Love Avoidance. It develops through some specific childhood trauma related to family enmeshment and it manifests into issues with intimacy. There is a range for Love Avoidance, but mine happens to be severe. Unlike avoidant attachment, which people seem to be more familiar with, a Love Avoidant craves intimacy. We don’t run from it—we seek it out. But because in childhood we took on some kind of overly mature role protecting or nurturing our families, we think we can only be loved by people if they need us to manage their emotions or they depend on us to take care of their emotional needs. Like, a lot. In fact, we take this role with so much determination that we become absolutely suffocated by it. Intimacy feels like drowning. Maybe even dying. It’s called Engulfment and we engage in all kinds of avoidant behaviors to find relief from it, but because it’s a cycle, we continue the compulsive behavior of choosing people who need emotional caretaking because they will let us. And then we all end up in the cycle again. It’s pretty torturous for everyone involved.
The good news, for people who experience some level of Love Avoidance, is that you can recover. The first step is the most difficult one because it requires some brutal honesty about our choices and patterns. But it’s just possible that Greg Grippo can help.
Do you constantly choose a partner with high emotional needs? Are you drawn to the Greg Grippo in the room, someone who needs constant reassurance and/or attention? The person whose eyes seem to be masking something intense and mysterious? Do you always pick partners who have an emotional connection or response to every single thing that happens? Do you feel constantly drained in your relationships but still choose people who just need and take so much from you? Do I sound like a 2am infomercial trying to convince you to buy my self-help program DVD box set? Yes. I do. And I’m sorry, but this could be really important if it’s the first time you’re hearing it!
Before my recovery, I would have been obsessed with Greg. It would have become a full-blown TV crush by the end of the season. From night one, I would have chosen him. He would have had his emotional meltdown and shown his propensity for emotional manipulation, and I still would have chosen him. I would have taken care of all of his emotions and he would have let me until we destroyed each other. We don’t get “Caught in the Grip(po)” over and over again because of “fate” or “true love.” We do it out of compulsion. It took a series of devastating losses (and a lot of therapy) for me to recognize these patterns in my own life. Maybe watching Katie Thurston making a different choice this season will be the start for you.
Image: Craig Sjodin / ABC
Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while. Maybe you just got out of a stagnant relationship and you’re dying to try something new. Maybe you’re newly out as bi and you want to explore your options. Maybe you’re in an open relationship and want to test the waters on your own through a courtship with a cute couple.
You probably also know the stories. The aggressive unicorn hunters, the couples opening up their relationships for the wrong reasons, the gross boyfriend who just wants to have two women catering to his pleasure. You’re probably not in any way interested in getting caught in the crossfire of these types of threesomes situations. Neither am I—and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to.
The reality is that yes, there are a lot of bad actors among couples looking to invite a third into the bedroom, however, good experiences absolutely exist and, as long as you know what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, aren’t hard to come by. Trust me, I’ve had them!
To help me help you, I spoke with two other threesome connoisseurs and good friends, Instagram personality and actor James Rose and comedian and host of The Manwhore Podcast, Billy Procida, about their experiences being a third. Together, we came up with these tips.
Figure Out What You Want First
The first step in finagling your very first ménage à trois is to figure out exactly what kind of setup you’re looking to get into. “I always think it’s great to set up some expectations beforehand and make sure everyone knows what the hope is—if all goes well”, adds Procida. Are you in it simply for sexual intimacy? Or are you looking for emotional intimacy as well? Ideally, do you hope to find a couple with whom you can have an ongoing relationship or just a casual one-time experience? I’m a firm believer in being as upfront as possible about what you want (I’m a Sagittarius) especially when it comes to relationships, as it will save you time and energy.
This may change as you journey further into the experience, and that’s okay, but take your temperature now and see what you’re actually comfortable with and excited about.
Determine Your Boundaries And Practice Enforcing Them
Boundary-setting can be intimidating when you have to do it with just one person, so it may seem daunting to prepare for it with a couple, but it doesn’t have to be. Making sure you know exactly what your boundaries are—your hard limits and your soft limits from positions to where you’re comfortable meeting up—just as much as your desires will help you in your experience.
Once you know what they are, practice saying them out loud. Getting comfortable with the words coming out of your mouth can help infinitely when the time comes. You can also practice setting boundaries over text, a perfectly valid way to set your boundaries ahead of time!
If you’re going to hop on the apps, you can mention some of your hard limits in your bio to save yourself the trouble, however, you can’t trust 100 percent that your matches will read them, so you may want to reference your bio and ask if they’ve had a chance to read it. In some apps like Feeld, an app marketed to folks looking for threesomes and other non-monogamous situations, there are sections for desires and boundaries that you can fill out.
Look For Red Flags And Green Flags
Some of the couples you’ll want to avoid will be obvious if you know what to look for. There are also a few things that, in our experiences, constitute a good sign. We all agree that we feel more comfortable and have had better experiences with couples who are more established and have more experience. If you’re new to the experience, it’s best to avoid couples who are inexperienced and whose relationship in any way seems fragile. “Look out for the couples that passive-aggressively fight in front of you,” Procida recommends.
Another red flag that Rose points out is if they themselves from the start only feel attraction, sexual or romantic, for only one of the individuals in the couple, it would feel unethical for them to continue pursuing that relationship just for the relationship with the partner they’re attracted to.
Something else to look for if you’re on the apps is a couple with a shared or connected profile, and definitely one that has pictures of both partners.
Keep Communication Open With ALL Partners
Something to avoid is forming an unbalanced relationship with each of the partners in the couple. Unless previously discussed and negotiated, avoid developing a stronger emotional or sexual connection with just one of them. While their relationship issues are their problem, doing so could create feelings of imbalance in the threesome relationship. If you find that one of the partners is attempting to do this, that’s also a red flag. “Couples should find the addition of a third person something that can bring them closer together, not something that they use to work out their relationship issues”, says Rose.
Rose also advises that, if you end up catching feelings (especially stronger feelings for one of the partners) it’s best to be upfront about it with yourself and with the couple. “I will usually journal or talk it out with myself to establish what I’m feeling, what needs to be addressed, and how this will impact my relationship with the couple,” they say.
Feelings don’t have to be a dealbreaker to continue the ongoing relationship, but it does require ongoing communication, boundary-setting, and emotional awareness.
“The cool part about being a third for a couple is that they are welcoming you into an already (ideally!) healthy relationship, and you get to enjoy some of the most pleasurable aspects of it,” says Rose. Partners who have been doing this for a while are comfortable with communication and oftentimes you end up with a lot of their attention placed on you and your pleasure.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want in the moment. It’s not awkward, just remember how ridiculous sex is,” Procida reminds us.
Threesomes won’t—and shouldn’t—look like a porn set, so don’t feel pressured to perform in any particular way. Remember to go with the flow, be present, and remember to communicate what you want!
Images: Omar Lopez / Unsplash
You’ve probably been there: a couple of vodka sodas deep, contemplating leaving the bar, when you get that familiar “wyd?” text. Or maybe you’re alone on your couch watching your favorite Netflix show and scrolling through memes, when you come across a meme you know your ex would find hilarious… so then you’re the one who’s tempted to send that “wyd?” text. When it comes to the question of hooking up with your ex, the answer that immediately comes to mind is “no”. Or to be more precise, “hell no!” Whether you’re asking your friends for advice, talking to your therapist, or doing your nightly internet search for the very specific problems that only affect you, the general consensus seems to be that it’s best to steer clear of hooking up with an ex. Which is totally valid, considering they’re your ex for a reason. While I never advocate for backsliding, dating is not black and white—one could even say that when it comes to relationships there are, well, 50 shades of grey (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Like pretty much every girl ever, I hooked up with an ex. Let’s call him Jake, because that’s his name. (Sorry dude, but you have a really common name, I’m not changing it). Jake and I reconnected, aka Jake slid into my DMs. We broke up forever ago and stayed friends, meaning that I don’t currently have a Voodoo doll of him and didn’t burn all his pictures. Curious enough, I went, and four drinks and some serious eye contact later, we were “reconnecting’” in the backseat of his car. I’ll stop the story there, because, like, TMI. In the wake of judgmental stares and a barrage of “No, tell me you didn’t!” from friends, I figured that I could A) turn this hookup into an article and fulfill my lifelong dream of being Carrie Bradshaw, B) make my friends calm the F down, and C) do my part to eliminate the shame that is associated with hooking up with an ex. I researched, and then researched again (bravo, Jake), and discovered that hooking up with an ex doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. While a majority of the time the case for sleeping with an ex can be made to be a horrible-no-good-very-bad idea, I dared to wonder, could there be an upside? And if you’re going to do it, is there a healthy way to go about it, rather than shadily sneaking off from the bar and not telling your friends where you’re going? In order to answer that question, I spoke with dating expert Judge Lauren Lake of Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, about the right way to hook up with your ex.
First things first, a big disclaimer: If your ex was a toxic, abusive, and/or a negative influence in your life, then do not go back to them in any way. You should keep that door locked, fly to a foreign country, and throw that key into the bottom of an ocean. Lake echoes this: “If you feel like the person will be able to manipulate you or play on your emotions, stay away. You should only interact with exes when there is mutual respect,” she says. This so-called “mutual respect” between exes may seem like a myth, but if you have experienced it and are considering diving back into those familiar waters, read on for some advice.
Be Realistic With Expectations
please present the signed permission slip from your therapist before approaching me romantically
— cranky beth (@marybethbarone) October 3, 2019
First and foremost, you should be honest with yourself. Figure out why you have the sudden urge to slide back into your ex’s DMs or to answer that “I miss you” text. Go ahead and check all that apply: Are you bored? Lonely? Horny? Do you actually miss them? Actually miss their genitalia? There are no wrong answers, but it’s important to know yourself. According to Lauren Lake, “Hookups with exes are common. Sometimes it’s about unresolved feelings and sometimes it’s just about missing the physical connection.”
With that foundation set, you then need to be realistic about what you’re expecting from these (probably) two minutes of passion. Do you want to rekindle the relationship and get back together? If that’s the case, then I highly suggest that you communicate this to your ex beforehand, because sex will not fix a broken relationship. Lake advises, “If things are heating up, it’s best to pause and make sure you are on the same page. If not, one person may think it is the first step to getting back together, or that it may be an ongoing hookup, while the other may have no intentions to ever hookup again.” To put it bluntly, just because your ex has sex with you doesn’t necessarily mean that they will want to get back together—they probably just wanted to have sex. Sorry, but it’s true. Best to save yourself the back-and-forth and figure that sh*t out beforehand.
On the flip side, if you’re just a human with urges and want someone that feels familiar, comfortable, and who knows what you like, then sex with your ex can be a positive thing. If both of you are on the same page of your soap opera romance, then you can relieve any pressures about pursuing an emotional connection and just enjoy your carnal lovemaking (no details pls). Lake puts it best: “Just because the relationship went bad, doesn’t mean the sex did.” She’s got a point.
But, before you book an Uber to their place, remember that communication is always key. It’s pretty much impossible to have a one-night stand with someone that you have a history with, typically because a one-night stand does not come with an entire matching bedroom set (i.e. your past and baggage). “Since you’ve already had a relationship with the person, it wouldn’t be a one-night stand, but it could be a one-more night stand,” says Judge Lauren Lake. So like, just be clear as to why you want this and what you want out of it.
Caution: Mixing Business With Pleasure
Me and my ex communicating like…. https://t.co/8ysg6N9ZT7
— Ruby ✨ (@Rubyyyyy23) August 19, 2019
Once you’ve established your intentions, at least within your own mind, you should then consider the implications of jumping back into old roles. This mainly applies to those of us who would like to explore a strictly physical reunion. If you want to avoid any mixed signals or catching feelings, then it would be wise to avoid slipping back into the original dynamics of your relationship, like going on dates. Groundbreaking, I know. Sure, you can go to their place for a glass of boxed wine or a casual night of “Netflix and chill” (do the kids still do this?), but be wary of going out to dinner, a movie, the bowling alley (I don’t know what you do in your free time). Basically, don’t do things that can, by any measure, be considered a formal date. I know that going out to brunch the morning after and letting your ex pay sounds tempting (and like a good way to save money), but if you do that, you risk blurring the lines of what is just a hookup and what is the beginning of a relationship. Do you know what they call two people who go out for a night on the town and then have sex later? A couple. Sorry, but you’re dating.
It can be easy for both of you to revert to how you were when you were in a relationship, holding hands and packing on the acceptable amount of PDA. But if you’re just looking for a casual hookup, then this isn’t the foreplay you should be doing. Lake explains, “‘Playing house’ for a few days may allow you to feel the euphoria of the honeymoon phase in your relationship without remembering all the problems and issues that drove you apart. You may begin to feel attached again, only to realize later that the relationship still doesn’t serve you.” Even if you aren’t planning on continuing this pattern, having a one, two, three day, whatever-it-may-be relationship with your ex isn’t any better than getting back together and breaking up again. You’re still doing it, just not officially, leaving more room for confusion and (ugh gross) feelings.
Well, Is there An Upside?
Ultimately only you can decide if hooking up with your ex is a good idea or not. Every relationship is different, and what may be right for you may be totally wrong for your friend’s roommate’s cousin or whoever. That said, if you and your ex parted ways mutually, respectfully, and otherwise amicably, then getting with an ex can be fun and something to chat about at brunch with your friends appropriately named Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Judge Lauren Lake says, “The upside would be that you already know one another, care for one another, and have mutual respect. All of these things can lead to an enhanced sexual experience, and the opportunity to experience the connection again, even if it’s just for one night.” In other words, it doesn’t have to be an automatic no… just be smart about it.
So there we have it. Go ahead and take the shame out of going back for seconds and feel free to engage in a super-hot moment in the backseat with someone that knows you (emotionally and physically-wink, wink), respects you, and has the same intentions. Provided they do respect you and have the same intentions. When all that is accounted for, hooking up with an ex can be great, and possibly worth a standing ‘O’vation.
When contemplating your next move, just ask yourself, is the box of condoms half empty or half full?
Images: Sky Cinema / Shutterstock.com; @marybethbarone, @Rubyyyyy23, / Twitter, Giphy (2)
Think About Why You Want To Get Married
Does Your Partner Really Need An Ultimatum?
Deal In Facts
Make It A Dialogue
Stick To Your Guns
Congratulations! You’re engaged! That shiny rock is shimmering on your finger, your manicure is rockin’, your status has officially been changed on social media, and now it’s time to start planning your wedding! YAY! Or, is that, “yay…”? For some of you, your S.O. is completely on board with the planning process, and is excited to take responsibility for their portion of the wedding planning. For others, it’s pretty common to have one partner much more involved than the other. So how the f*ck are you supposed to find and adhere to an appropriate balance of duties? It’s not easy, but there are a sh*tload of tools to help you and your partner break it down so that you can avoid a breakdown.
This happens with ALL couples, and across gender lines. But, whether it’s due to societal gender influences or just personal preferences, I see it more frequently in heterosexual partnerships; the bride is the one bearing the brunt of the “project management” work. Oftentimes, the bride is put in the position of pestering her fiancé to complete the tasks he promised to do. And it sucks! And it’s bullsh*t! Outside of the wedding world, this actually has a name: emotional labor. Originally a reference to the workplace, emotional labor recently evolved to reference the weight and effort of acting as project manager in the home―especially the seemingly invisible jobs no one else seems to track or recognize. Sound familiar?
If you’ve listened to my podcast or read my blog, then you know that I preach perspective. I am a firm believer in that how you and your S.O. plan your wedding (together) sets the tone for the beginning of your marriage. So, get your marriage started on the right foot by evenly distributing the emotional labor of the wedding planning process. Communicate with each other! Connect with each other! Use technology to your benefit to help reduce potential friction, so that you can stay sane during your wedding planning and actually get closer to your partner along the way. How? I’ll give you six ways.
1. Communication Is Key
Talk to each other! Have a level-setting conversation. Before you begin the wedding planning process (um, they don’t call it a process for nothing), talk about what each partner wants the wedding day to look and feel like. Discuss what’s most important to each of you, and how you can plan on incorporating those personal touches into your day. Then help your partner understand the enormity of the wedding planning process. It’s a f*cking undertaking! And, with a full-time job and other responsibilities, it’s a process made for two! Dude doesn’t have to be excited about the flowers, or color scheme, or fine china. He just has to be excited to marry you, and help with the logistics.
2. Keep Your Friends Close, And Wedding Tech Closer
Make wedding tech your friend! We use technology every. single. day. So, why stop now? Technology has the ability to be your ultimate project manager/wedding planner. For example, this cool-ass wedding tool, Coda, is amazing! All you have to do is enter your wedding date, a few key details, and POOF! It creates a timeline and sets (loose) deadlines for you. Coda blends documents and spreadsheets that can go everywhere with you; it’s like an app, but so much better. Check out this template. It breaks down big wedding tasks like the guest list and mailing invitations into a series of smalls tasks. It includes automated email reminders for your S.O. to keep things on track, among other cool planning tools. Plus, it’s completely customizable. So use it, bride!
3. Divide And Conquer
Remember that term, emotional labor? Talk about it. This comic cracked me up, and pretty much nails the definition. Discuss what it would look like to have a balanced wedding planning process, and once you have your task list, divide ownership. Make it clear that it’s important to you that your S.O. puts in the work. There will be many instances in your future where each partner is going to need to work on something that they don’t really want to do or go somewhere they don’t want to go, etc. Welcome to marriage. Here’s your head start!
4. Speak Up But Not Out
Don’t lose your voice! If there’s an imbalance, don’t be afraid to call it outーbitchlessly. If your S.O. is dragging their feet on a responsibility they said they would own, avoid the temptation to bluntly criticize or nag them (I know this is SUPER hard, but resist). Instead, keep it solution-oriented. Tell them how you feel when you are overburdened with wedding planning responsibilities. Hopefully they’ll respond with empathy and compassion. And, if not, then table the discussion for a time when you both have a minute to chill out.
5. Make Sure You’re On Track
Check in often with each other, and with that tech tool you’ve been using. Treat planning your wedding like a second job, because it is. Like any good one-on-one meeting with a manager at work, these check-ins should not be a run-through of outstanding action items (ugh). They should be a time to talk about how the division of work feels, what’s going well, and what could go better. Point out progress that you’ve made as well as your S.O.’s progress. And be a good listener. If you hear something you don’t like, stay receptive and absorb your partner’s feedback without being defensive or feeling like it’s a personal attack. Seeking to understand your partner is a great way to feel reconnected with them and get back on track.
6. Look At The Bigger Picture
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Keep it in perspective. Odds are, you’re still going to notice an imbalance of duties. Usually, planning and project execution is one person’s forte much more than the other. That doesn’t mean they’re any less suited to be your partner. Try to keep things in perspective and recognize that wedding planningーjust like marriageーwill be full of ups, downs, and compromises. This is just one event (one very, very important event) in the grand scheme of your lives together, and your relationship with your partner will always be evolving.
When your partner does get it right, don’t forget to acknowledge and appreciate them. That’s good advice for married life, too. Got it? Good.
Images: Morgan McDonald / Unsplash; betchesbrides / Instagram (3)