Marcia Gay Harden Fifty Shades of Grey Debate

Marcia and WendyIt’s not often that a busy single mother of three is faced with taking time out to learn about the practices of bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. But that’s the place Academy Award Winning Actress, Marcia Gay Harden found herself in when she accepted the role of Christian Grey’s mother in the much anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey  film (opening nation wide today.)

And like a consummate professional, Ms. Harden reached out to a relationship expert for research. I am honored to tell you that we had a cup of tea in my garden and a lady-like chat about leather, bruises and other matters of the heart. The questions the actress wrestled with were the very ones that dominate our national discourse in the wake of the film’s release.

“Doing 50 shades make me curious about the relationship between pain and pleasure,” she said. “And, of course, is that different from the difference between pain and love?”

Good questions. The truth is there is a world of difference between intimate partner violence and safe, sane and consensual  fetishism. But, strangely, both can contain love. The problem lies in the definition of love held in the secret chambers of the individual mind. Those with traumatic childhood events often have a schema of love that brings them back to the scene of the crime, re-traumatizing themselves with unhealthy adult relationships. For those with scar-free childhoods, there’s some evidence that S&M behaviors may arise because fear and sexual excitement are roommates in the amygdala. The neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin regulate a variety of behaviors including maternal  bonding, adult romantic bonding and, yes, aggression and fear, suggesting that in our anthropological past fear and sex may have sometimes been intertwined.

While Harden admits that clearly “It’s not my world,” and politely sidesteps the debate about whether legal consent was obtained in the story, she is quick to point out that “The movie doesn’t say this relationship is okay. It’s the ultimate fantasy: let’s tame a bad boy. And maybe let’s expand the horizons for the good girls.”

But back to her original question about love and pain. Pondering the experiences of the film’s heroine, Anastasia Steele, Marcia Gay Harden Fifty Shades of Grey seems to come to her own conclusion. “At the end of the day, Anastasia doesn’t feel loved. She questions “why would you hurt me”, and she draws an adamant boundary. That is something all young people need to learn to do…. set and maintain their boundaries.”

If you’d like to learn about healthy love, checkout my online video workshop Ten Steps to Mindful Love.


Top Online Dating Scams. Protect Your Heart and Money!

Stress at workplace. Sleepy student.At the recent iDate convention in Las Vegas, during a round of speed networking (Think: speed dating for business networking) I found myself sitting across the table from an executive from a fascinating company called Scamalytics. This innovative company combs through dating websites looking for fake profiles, tell-tale content or suspicious behavior that might indicate a scammer, or worse, a scamming syndicate. I know. It sounds like the mafia for the love lorn. But far from preventing just run-of-the-mill broken hearts, Scamalytics is protecting people from broken bank accounts, or even saving their lives. For with the heart soon follows the wallet. Innocent users have been bilked of tens of thousands of dollars and using sextortion blackmail, have even contributed to humiliation that has led to suicide. This stuff is no joke. So, in no particular order, here are the top online dating scams:

419 Scam – This is the classic romance scam where someone is lured into an email and phone relationship that becomes very strong and personal. Then the scammer undergoes one major crisis after another and they defraud the victim many times with financial bail out schemes, all with the false promise, “If I can just get through this problem, then we can be together.”

Cam-Girl Fraud – Young women with their own websites that make money from webcam nude exhibitions pull customers off online dating sites to give them a show and get paid. These women give the impression to men that there are no good women on dating sites.

Sextortion – This is often run by an organized ring. The scammer chats with a victim online, makes them fall in love, and then gets them to engage in sexually explicit acts via web cam. The video is then used to blackmail the victim by asking them to send money or it will be posted on the internet.

Worse of all, scammers are hacking into University networks and look credible by having a campus email address. According to Scamalytics, the top schools sued by scammers are:

1. Boston University

2. Utah State University

3. Rutgers University

4. University of Waterloo

5. UniNet

How can you protect yourself from these scams? Know your attachment style that may make you vulnerable to falling in love with someone who could hurt you. To learn more, try my Psychology of Human Mating workshop.


Spend Valentines with a Digital Boyfriend?

IMG_0430Today I appeared on CBS’s The Insider to comment on a new app for women called Invisible Boyfriend. The app promises to “give you real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship – even if you’re not – so you can get back to living life on your own terms.” Apparently your digital boyfriend can be customized in terms of looks, age, height and income. Once created by your fantasies, he can go ahead and post compliments on your social media and even send flowers to your office. It’s everything a girl ever dreamed of — a dude who is a perpetual no show. Do we need an app for that?

What I told Insider producer, Earnest Winborne is this: While an invisible boyfriend might be seen only as sad fall out from our growing isolation and reliance on technology to solve problems and clearly a must-have for shut-ins and those who are intimacy avoidant, there is also a little bit of mating strategy to the concept. For both genders, having a high status mate increases their own mate value. And human culture, far from being a village full of homogeneous monogamy junkies, is also rife with mate poachers. Nothing like a good boyfriend to attract a better boyfriend. And, if you can live with the idea that you are deceiving all your friends and family, then why not buy a cloud-boyfriend?

Of course, the real truth here is that technology is a poor substitute for the life enhancing benefits of a real relationship. And the emergence of an app like Invisible Boyfriend points to a tragic fact of many children of divorce — healthy relationship skills were not modeled for them. Sadly, too many modern single people lack the vital mating intelligence to find and maintain the love they deserve. That’s why I have made it my mission to teach relationship skills. To learn more, click:

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iDate Convention News

dr-wendy-walsh-reporter-cnn-keynote-address-idate-idateexpo-2014-las-vegas-03I’m off to the iDate conference, the world’s largest convention for the relationship industry. There has been such an explosion in the dating, mating and divorcing culture in recent decades that an entire industry has grown out of it. At iDate, I’ll be teaching a panel on Attachment Theory to Dating Coaches and Matchmakers, encouraging many to sign up for my new launch of to increase their business.

Tom Kershaw, head of product management at Google will kick off iDate with a keynote address on big data and dating. Other panel discussions include such topics as enforcement of dating fraud, the sociology of internet dating — Are people showing up for dates? — and yours truly will lead a panel on how Relationships have become a news beat not unlike sports, politics, or fashion. From Celebrity relationships to advances in tech dating and the trend of conscious uncoupling, even hard news covers relationship topics. I’ll include a few of my segments below do you can see the diversity of this growing journalist beat. See you at iDate in Las Vegas this week!

Fox New Channel, O’Reilly Factor: Turning to the internet for love.

CNN’s Don Lemon and Dr. Wendy Walsh Talk Sex and Technology


Does Your Partner have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Man taking euros banknotes with stealthy expression.It seems to be the darling diagnosis in the romantic realm. “Our relationship stinks because she is a narcissist.” “We divorced because he was a narcissist.” While the armchair diagnosis may produce a pat answer to heartbreak at cocktail parties, it’s important to understand the true nature of the disorder called a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.)

It is estimated that 6.2% of the American population exhibits NPD, and exaggerated sense of self that is a defense against the real issue, low self-esteem. The DSM-5 criteria for the disorder includes these behaviors and thought patterns:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Obviously these behaviors are rarely conducive to a healthy relationships. But there are many reasons why someone might choose to continue a relationship with a narcissist, not the least of which are children or financial intertwinement. Sometimes, if the disorder is mild, a compassionate, secure relationship can even help to heal someone with NPD. If you’ve looked at your options and really believe the symptoms are mild (i.e. they don’t involve domestic violence, substance abuse or chronic cheating that may threaten you family’s health) then here are a few tips to dealing with a narcissist:

1. Have Compassion – Remember the underside of NPD is extreme low self esteem and self loathing. The distorted ego is designed to protect the mind from negative feelings of low self worth. Narcissism is often caused by child abuse or critical parenting.

2. Kiss the Ring – The only way to connect with the person with NPD and gain trust is to collude with the inflated ego. It’s what therapists do when a patient presents with NPD. Don’t challenge the distortions.

3. Get Validated Elsewhere – Sadly, the person with NPD has major issues around love. They don’t believe anyone can love them because they don’t love themselves. Also, one of the ways they maintain their false self is to put down others, especially those they love, as a defense mechanism. I’m certainly not suggesting an affair, but the only way to survive this relationship is to have high self esteem yourself, and to surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally. Friends and family will remind you how lovable you are and help you not be so reactive  to their protective defenses.

However, if you find that living with a someone with true narcissistic personality disorder is affecting your mental or physical health, the only remedy is to end the relationship.