If You Could Be Brutally Honest With Your SO, What Would You Say?

Rely on Reddit for such a stimulating and often funny thread: If you could be brutally honest with your SO what would you say?

A rather serious entry has one person confessing that s/he would say:

You don’t love me as much as I love you, and every time you say those three little words, it breaks my heart.

To which a commenter wisely replies:

One always loves more than the other, and it always hurts. The gap in that love is proportional to the pain it causes. In a healthy relationship, the gap is small and easy to forget. But for the rest, it is a measure of the inevitable end, and a source of power for the one who loves least.

Other samples below and 700+ on the actual page.

# I don’t like a lot of your friends… They are tools. I agree to hang out with them because I know it makes you happy.

# When I suggest you pick where we go to eat, I really mean it . . . like seriously . . . really. . . please just choose a place

# For fucksake woman just watch the movie. I see the same things you do so stop asking if I saw that or ask for an explanation on something in crowded theaters, it’s embarrassing.

# Quit typing ‘lols’ when you IM me about something funny, adding that s makes you seem royally retarded.

# I love you. But you are soooo dumb. So dumb.

# we need to lose weight.

# I wish you would take less time complaining, and more time inquiring about my troubles. I deal with obsessive thoughts and high anxiety, and your trivial, dramatic complaints almost doubles my anxiety. I wish you enjoyed sex more, and I wish you wanted it more often. I wish you were more confident in bed, and took charge more often. I also wish you would stick up for yourself. Most of the things you complain about could be solved by just fucking communicating like a human being…

# Just put the fucking keys in the key bowl when you’re done with them, instead of leaving them in random locations throughout the house. I have enough problem getting the kids out the door without having to go on a treasure hunt for the damn keys every day as well.

# I don’t want to be the one who “lights up your life”. You’ve been feeling down lately, and all I want to do is sit in the darkness along side you until you’re ready to come into the light again. Oh, and you eat ice cream abnormally loudly. It annoys me sometimes.

# If he actually showed serous interest in me, I’d leave you in a heartbeat. I’m sorry.

Hat tip to Chris’s delicious feed, which I’m still following, after all these years. I am myself, by the way, still posting links to Delicious. 8,000 and counting…

Fortune Excerpt on Networks and Relationships

This week’s Fortune magazine contains two articles of note! The first is a lengthy excerpt from The Start-Up of You. The second is a brief profile/introduction of Reid.

The brief profile ends by mentioning the book:

In 2009, Hoffman joined venture firm Greylock, where he runs a seed fund and helps manage a portfolio of nearly 100 companies, including Groupon (GRPN), Tumblr, and AirBnb. With LinkedIn’s IPO and other investments, Hoffman is worth some $1.5 billion. Now comes his book, The Start-Up of You, in which he shares tips on building a great career. Paramount among them: being an authentic networker. After all, Hoffman has 800 Facebook friends and 2,579 LinkedIn connections, and sits on six corporate and four nonprofit boards. At meetings he spreads out no fewer than five screens — iPads, Androids — to keep up with contacts. That skill has helped Hoffman recruit to Greylock such web stars as former Mozilla CEO John Lilly. Hoffman now believes that the defining principle of the web’s next innovation cycle is data. “We are generating a massive amount,” he says. “What are we inventing?” It’s one of the first questions he asks everyone he meets. The other: “How can I help you?”

The funny thing is, “authentic networker” is oxymoronic to some. The cynical view of “networkers” is that they are by definition not very authentic. We prefer the term “relationship-building” and talk more about building “networks.” As it relates to authenticity, there’s also the challenge of trying too hard–obvious attempts at sincerity leave us cold. This made writing about the topic particularly challenging for us: in the very act of writing analytically and prescriptively about how networks work and how you should deploy them in your career, it’s hard not to come off as overly calculating–exactly what we’re saying not to be.

The reality is that unless the process of bonding and allying with others comes off as effortlessly as tying your shoes, which is to say, unless allying and helping really *is* what you want to be doing, the collaborative mind-set will fail, and so, ultimately, will the relationship.

All that being said, check out the excerpt for an introduction to some of the network themes we address in the book. In the full chapter, we go deeper on each of these points, and expand into other topics.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a bit more on networks here on my personal blog, over at the Startup of You blog, and leading discussions in the LinkedIn Group, which I encourage you to join and participate in. The book is about much more than networks, but it is an excellent theme to start with!

Knowing a Man vs. Knowing About a Man

Sportswriter Joe Ponsnaski is in the middle of writing of biography of Joe Paterno. And then last week happens.

On his blog, Ponsaski reflects on the man, and starts with this:

Writing a book comes from the soul. It consumes you — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. I have thought about Joe Paterno, his strengths, his flaws, his triumphs, his failures, his core, pretty much nonstop for months now. I have talked to hundreds of people about him in all walks of life. I have read 25 or 30 books about him, countless articles. I'm not saying I know Joe Paterno. I'm saying I know a whole lot about him.

Love this distinction.

Editor of Modern Love Column: “Hard Stuff” More Interesting than Romance

Daniel Jones, the editor behind the insanely popular Modern Love column, talks about trends in submissions:

What is the one relationship theme or essay topic that you see over and over?

I see a lot about Facebook.


That’s got to be the single most written-about topic. It’s just invaded modern life so much that people can’t get away from it. The more surprising thing I see a lot of for a column called “Modern Love” is people being diagnosed with and dying of cancer. It’s gotten to the point where it becomes a red flag, something to avoid. When I’m reading, where I get to that line of “and then he was diagnosed,” or “and she was stage 4,” whatever… It sounds horrible to say it, but, really, there’s just way too much of it.

Have you seen a shift in the trends of the topics you see, from when you first started the column?

In the past year, I got a bunch of stories about people dealing with siblings – or friends, or lovers – who were dealing with going through gender changes and surgeries – like, people whose daughters became sons. That’s not something I saw any of for years. I think the public acceptance of that has shifted, at least in what I see in what people are willing to talk about publicly.

And this on romance vs. the hard stuff:

Do you consider yourself a romantic person?

Umm… I don’t think I’m all that romantic. I think I have romantic dreams about what my life should be, but I’m not getting all excited about Valentine’s Day or anything.

Then, do you think it’s at all ironic that you’re the editor of a column about love?

I think it’s just more about how complicated human relationships are. I pretty much equate romance with naiveté, you know, before “the hard stuff.” And I’m more interested in the hard stuff.

Friends: People Who Have the Same Flaws as Us

Anne Lamott:

A person's faults are largely what make him or her likable. I like for narrators [of novels] to be like the people I choose for friends, which is to say that they have a lot of the same flaws as I. Preoccupation with self is good, as is a tendency toward procrasination, self-delusion, darkness, jealousy, groveling, greediness, addictiveness. They shouldn't be too perfect; perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting. I like for them to have a nice sick sense of humor and to be concerned with important things, by which I mean that they are interested in political and psychological and spiritual matters. I want them to know who we are and what life is all about. I like them to be mentally ill in the same sorts of way that I am; for instance, I have a friend who said one day, "I could resent the ocean if I tried," and realized that I love that in a guy. I like for for them to have hope — if a friend or narrator reveals himself or herself to be hopeless too early on, I lose interest. It depresses me. It makes me overeat. I don't mind if a person has no hope if she or she is sufficiently funny about the whole thing, but then, this being able to be funny definitely speaks to a kind of hope, of buoyancy.

That's from her 1995 classic, Bird by Bird.

The Opposite of Love is Indifference

Many opposites are not nearly as different as they first appear. For example, as Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel observed, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference; for at a minimum, to love or hate someone is to have intense emotions toward them. We see how the similarities between love and hate often outweigh the differences when one is transformed into the other, a phenomenon that literature — from Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Harlequen Romances — has exploited and explored for millennia.

The psychological proximity of love and hate is part of the hard wiring of the human psyche. Dan Gilbert explains, in his book Stumbling on Happness, that the same neurocircuitry and neurochemistry triggered in response to stressful events ("fight or flight") are also triggered in response to sexual arousal. As a result, when we are stressed in the presence of a person we find sexually attractive, we have a tough time telling what we are responding to: are our passions inflamed (hate) because of a stressor, or are we aroused (love) because of the attractive person?

In the 1994 movie Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, Bullock's character, Annie Porter, appeals to this possible confusion when she notes, upon finding herself in the hero's arms after several near-death experiences, that "relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last."

Call it an "emotional paradox": two very different dispositions — loving and hating — can have far more in common with each other than a seemingly intermediate state.

— Michael Raynor in his business book The Strategy Paradox. His thesis is that the strategies with the greatest possibility of success also have the greatest possibility of failure.

The Fantasy That There’s Always Someone Better Just Around the Corner

Yesterday's Modern Love column was one of the best. A great example of how a short story can convey some of the key dynamics of dating / romance better than lengthy exposition. Hard to excerpt, so read the whole thing, but here's the ending:

In the months that followed, I was determined to become a better version of myself — prettier, smarter, more ambitious — and looked for the same in new boyfriends. As it turned out, though, they were looking for someone better, too. In New York, and especially in the movie business, it’s hard to dispel the fantasy that there’s always someone better just around the corner.

Yet by embracing this notion, I had allowed my life to become an ongoing cycle of shallow disappointments that left me longing for someone like my Tim Donohue, who could be satisfied with exactly what he had and who he was. Even more, I longed to be that kind of person again, too.

The “I’m Proud of You” Litmus Test

How many people in your life can say, "I'm proud of you," and you take it fully and without any sort of resentment or dismissal? Whoever those people are, they are probably your mentors.

Someone who credibly says "I'm proud of you" usually has two characteristics. First, he is probably higher status / higher power. Most of the time, having pride about someone else comes from a place of superiority. Second, he must know you well. Most of the time, to be proud of someone means you know where they've been and how far they've come — pride is a word about growth. If a homeless guy on the street (lower status) or Bill Gates (don't know him personally) tell me they're proud of me it won't have a huge positive effect.

To be sure, "I'm really proud of you buddy" can sometimes occur between friends. But this seems less common. Usually friends say "I'm so happy for you" or "Really nice job!" but not the p-word. And family can often be proud, but as with most things family, the obligation and bias dull the effect.

This topic came to mind because I recently saw a friend / mentor and told him about a meaningful professional accomplishment. The next morning, I woke up to an email in my inbox that was one line: "I'm really proud of you." It felt great, and as he falls into both of the categories above, was fully appreciated.

It got me thinking, "How many people could send me that sort of email?" And that's how I arrived at the "I'm Proud of You" litmus test.


Here are other litmus tests I've blogged about.

(thanks to TK and Andy for helping think this through.)

Rolling the Dice When Young and In Love

I'm told an absurd number of Modern Love columns turn into book deals. Given the competitive submission rate, whatever the editors choose to publish tends to be pretty good. This past Sunday's column was one of my favorite.

It's about a popular romantic predicament for people early in life: They fall in love with someone in high school or college. They'd marry the person if they were 35, but they're too young to marry, and still have things they want to do before settling down. Do they commit to the girlfriend or boyfriend in their early 20's even if it means sacrificing other goals? Or do they roll the dice and break up, go do other things, and hope that later in life they can re-connect? (Or, have faith they'll find someone even better.) I've seen men and women play it both ways, with success and with failure.

Mike Ives, in the column, discusses how he chose to part ways with his high school sweat-heart a couple years after college. He figured they'd get married eventually. He traveled the world and lived life. He enjoyed his youth. Three years passed without seeing his girlfriend. He realized he missed her greatly. He wanted to re-kindle the love of old. Alas, by the time he saw her next, she had gotten involved with a new man and was firmly on the road to marriage. It's not clear he made the wrong decision; after all, good decisions can have bad outcomes. The story is poignant either way.

For the first half of my 20s, the Rest of My Life had appeared to wait patiently. And time, like a gift certificate, seemed like something I could hold on to and cash in later. But that night I felt as if the rest of my life was already upon me. Time was short, and I couldn’t think of anything to look forward to.

I grasped for something winning to say. Nothing came. I was drunk. She walked into the station and didn’t look back.

“I Know What It’s Like to Feel Thirsty”

This two minute clip from White Men Can't Jump is the best relationship advice for men from any movie, according to Brad Feld.


Speaking of movies, I watched The Maid recently, a Chilean movie about one family's relationship with their maid. Excellent and highly recommended for anyone interested in the delicate dynamics of an outsider in the house, and especially recommended for those with experience living or traveling in Latin America. Finally, I recently re-discovered Alec Baldwin's famous scene on The Art of Selling from Glengarry Glen Ross. Awesome.