Staying Zen while Dating Online

Dee Wagner

 ~ co-author of Naked Online, a modern day Zen and the Art of Internet Dating, speaks of some of the trials and tribulations involved with online dating, and how to stay zen in the face of it all


Podcast available

Are YOU One of the 49 Million people in the US who have tried online dating??

I know I am! And I know most of the people I know who have been single in the past 5 years have as well - it seems that there is an endless number of website, apps and services dedicated to helping us find love from the comfort of our  living rooms.  There's Match, eHarmony, PlentyofFish, Zoosk, OKCupid, Craigslist, Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Hinge ....just to name a few.  I don't know about you, but it can be overwhelming when you even start to think about the prospect of creating a profile- let alone one for all the sites you'd like to try.  My guest today not only found love through online dating, but she wrote a book on staying zen while doing it! Dee Wagner, along with Cathy Jernigan and Dee's partner John Cargill wrote "Naked Online: A DoZen Ways to Grow from Online Dating.  Dee was in the process of writing the book when she met John through her dating journey.  Dee is a psychotherapist, John's a designer and Kathy is a freelance writer.  Together, they designed a manual for keeping your sanity, managing your relationship anxiety and overall staying zen while exploring the universe of online dating. You can find them at

In this interview you'll hear about:

  • How the authors of Naked Online intended the book as a guidebook and how they envision their readers utilizing it
  • How a person can find their "zen" while engaging in the often anxiety provoking behavior of online dating
  • Why it's important to be in love with yourself as you write your online profile
  • The fantasy component to meeting someone online
  • The "Email Checking Addiction" and how to cure it!
  • Ways our attachment style informs our relationships
  • Why it's so difficult for people to talk about what they want sexually once sex enters their dating relationship
  • Why internet dating can feel lonely even though you may be swimming in a sea of dates!

Fun facts about Online Dating:

I found so many fun websites with facts & figures about online dating- I thought you'd get a kick out of them -

Here goes:

Pew Research - 5 Facts about Online Dating

The Richest - 20 Shocking Facts about Online Dating

Huffington Post - Online Dating Tips

Statistic Brain - Online Dating Statistics

Guest Resources

You can find Dee Wagner  at:


Twitter: @LustierLife

Amazon: Naked Online: a DoZen Ways to Grow from Online Dating

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School Of Psych

Jared DeFife, PhD

 ~ the host of the School Of Psych podcast joins us today for a reciprocal interview in which he talks about his path, his practice and his podcast.  Meanwhile, over at the School of Psych podcast, you can hear his interview with Dr Mullen.


Podcast available
Machine Transcript & Video:YouTube

On the School of Psych Podcast, Jared brings his listeners captivating interviews of people who have a deep knowledge of psychology, culture, and have a perspective worth sharing.  In his private practice Dynamic Counseling & Consulting in Atlanta Georgia, Jared focuses his work on helping his clients recover from heartbreak.  Jared feels a deep connection to people who feel their emotions deeply, and can be preoccupied with a relationship.  His passion is helping his clients overcome uncertainty and ambivalence in their relationships and break free from destructive self-doubts and self-criticism.

The school of Psych Podcast has been in the Top 10 of  iTunes Science & Medicine New  Noteworthy category since it launched January 2016.  It was a pleasure to interview Jared to find out more about this go-getting supporter of the brokenhearted.

Jared is a rock star!

In this interview you'll hear how Jared:

  • felt the weight of the world on his shoulders
  • learned early on about heartbreak and how that now informs his clinical work
  • thought he was going down one career path, then made a sharp turn in a different direction
  • decided to become a therapist
  • stepped out of the lab and into the clinical setting
  • the push back from the academic world regarding his decision
  • who would be Jared's ideal client
  • what you can expect from School of Psych Podcast

Over on School of Psych Podcast

Jared interviewed me about childhood experiences that influenced how I work with my clients and how I made the decision to become a therapist.  I speak about being abused and scapegoated as a child, how I used music and exercise as a form of escapism, how I coped, and the 1 person that taught me that my instincts to protect myself were probably going to save my life.  I don't spend a lot of time sharing my own personal story publicly.  This was a bold step in speaking about my own struggles and inner resiliency.  So many things influenced my experience - I do hope you go over to School of Psych to check out my story!


Where's Jared?

The School of Psych Podcast can be found on iTunes and at

Follow Jared on Facebook  ( and Twitter (@schoolofpsych)

If you're in the  Atlanta area and want Jared to help you with your heartbreak or other relationship struggle you can find him at

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This is the companion podvid for the Irrelationship podcast release.

Irrelationship – Are you in one?

Borg, Brenner and Berry

~ like peas in a podcast, the 3 co-authors of 'Irrelationship' join us to educate us about this topic, as presented in their latest book. This fascinating insight into the psychology of dysfunction in relationships, both personal and professional, will give you a fair share of 'AHA' moments as you may recognize patterns in yourself or those around you...

Podcast available
Machine Transcript & Video:YouTube


Today’s guests on The Coaching Through Chaos Podcast are Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D., Grant H. Brenner, M.D., and Daniel Berry, RN, MHA. They are the co-authors of the new book, “Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy (Central Recovery Press, 2015). The term “dysfunctional relationship” is part of our vernacular these days. I don’t think I’ve met a person that didn’t relate to having had experienced at least one, whether that be in their family of origin, their intimate relationships, or in their friendships at some time in life. Borg, Brenner and Berry, otherwise know as The Irrelationship Group, have defined a dynamic in relationships that demonstrates how certain dysfunctions are permitted to perpetuate themselves and they provide an in-depth path to getting into a healthier dynamic with your partner to allow deeper intimacy and real, reciprocal love. They call this relationship dynamic irrelationship.

Borg, Brenner and Berry define irrelationship as, “a shared, co-created, psychological defense system; it is a defense against the fear and anxiety that come along with allowing another person to matter. Irrelationship is a way of protecting those within it from the messy business of really relating, because while intimate connections promise caring, compassion, and empathy, they also require emotional investment and risk. Irrelationship is not a syndrome, an illness, or a pathology. It is a way of being in relationship, a dynamic—something partners do together.”

In this interview, The Irrelationship Group explains to us:

  • How the relationship of The Irrelationship Group got started, not through professional connections, but through other, more serendipitous happenings
  • How a book that started off focusing on compulsive caregiving developed into a book about intimate relationships
  • Who the Performer and the Audience are in the irrelationship and how they dance through time
  • How irrelationship protects you from many things, but not necessarily things you want to be protected from
  • How Irrelationship is a “self-other help” book, rather than a self-help book
  • How irrelationship short-circuits the possibility of experiencing real intimate love
    and last but certainly most important
  • Once you recognize yourself in irrelationship, what you can do to develop a more healthy emotional experience with your partner (or to learn how to make sure you do not enter into the same dance in the future)

To better acquaint you with the concept, here's a couple of excerpts from the book......

Excerpt #1

Anatomy of Irrelationship

p. 33-34

Consider the following descriptors. Do any of them resonate with you?


  • Do you think you can save, fix, or rescue the person you are drawn to?
  • Do you hope they can fix, save or rescue you?
  • Is your idea of love mostly about taking care of your partner?
  • Is your idea of love mostly about your partner taking care of you?
  • Do you feel a lack of empathy or reciprocity when you are busy doing things for the person you love?
  • When you show you really care, do you feel drained, used, or depleted instead of invigorated?
  • Does your relationship often feel like more work than play and more unspoken discomfort than joy?
  • Do you feel your relationship is ultimately not enriching your life?

If you answer yes to any of the above question, it suggests that you may build relationships for all the wrong reasons. But stay with us: you are building awareness, and that is an important first step. Also, don’t blame yourself for this kind of behavior; this is a pattern you’ve come by honestly.
The fact is, our culture supports one-directional caregiving. It is considered virtuous and makes us so-called good family members, good neighbors, and good citizens. But chronic one-directional caretaking is actually a dysfunctional pattern learned as infants or small children in the earliest months and years of our relationship with our primary caregiver, usually a parent. In this pattern, we sought to elicit behaviors we needed in order for us to feel safe. Those formative transactions were the beginning of a life-long pattern of interactions whose purpose was, and continues into adulthood to be, to manage relationships so that they sustain feelings of safety above all else. Irrelationship is a prison, a straightjacket built for two that does not allow a flow of spontaneous loving, but it does protect, at least superficially, against feelings of anxiety. Irrelationship is the ultimate defense. And the attempt to feel safe and anxiety free can trump any kind of authentic loving, but no matter how much we want to love, over time, the underlying hidden anxiety pushes us to repeat the pattern chronically, so that we never learn how to form real relationships of genuine intimacy and reciprocity. Instead we live in isolation, even though our lives appear to be actively engaged with others whom we regard as our closest associates, friends, partners , or spouses.”

Excerpt #2

Another Implication of Trust for Irrelationship

One of the apparent contradictions seen in individuals caught in irrelationship is their high tolerance for certain types of emotions pain, particularly loneliness.  This may be related to the blunting of awareness of feelings referred to earlier.  In fact, irrelationship is a defense against true connection that drives the individual to fill his or her consciousness and time with taking care of others.  The paradox is that this "busy-ness" with others ensures that no profound experience of others - no trust or intimacy- can develop.

The following conversation illustrates a couple stuck in an irrelationship trance.  On the surface, the conversation revolves around simple disappointment.

He: You're really not very nice to me.

She: What? Yes, I am.  What are you talking about

He:  No, you're not.  You just aren't.

She: I am so.  You just don't appreciate me.

He:  Appreciate you?  When you're so hard on me all the time?

She:  Hard on you? With all the things I do for you, you think I'm hard on you?

Obviously, each person is dissatisfied with something in the dynamic of the relationship, nut neither person is willing to step back and to try to find out what's actually happening.  Instead, each is lobbing accusations at the others unexamined viewpoint without challenging their commitment to irrelationship.  Instead they dig in their heels and argue about some undefined idea of "nice".  They even forget - dissociate from - happier memories of their shared past, choosing to recall only bad memories and mean things the other has said and done. This allows each person to believe that he or she has proven how "bad" the other person is.

People caught in irrelationship often use this self-protective "I'm right, you're wrong" tactic with spouses, partners, children, friends, and colleagues.  By not calling time-out to find out what's actually going on, they recommit to brainlock and remain dissociated.  Since it's easier to remember bad things when we're in the same emotional state we were in when they first happened (state dependent memory), it's also easier to remember bad things when we are in a fight or feeling bad. After a while, all our interactions become fighting and bad memories.  And eventually, all relationships in general seem bad, prompting us to swear off dating or cultivating other social contacts.

Did you Relate?

Whew! A little self-disclosure here....I totally related to this from at least one relationship in my past and truth-be-told, I probably struggle to avoid falling into this in my current relationship.  If you're relating to this dance between partners too, don't worry, Borg, Brenner and Berry totally give you the detailed pathway out of irrelationship.  And if you, as I did, worried when you saw yourself in their words, you'll find lots and lots of examples of real-life couples the authors worked with to identify and breakthrough their brainlock to allow them ways to find deeper connection and more intimacy in their relationships.  It helps to know others have been there too.

How to End the Dance of Irrelationship

As you read through Irrelationship, you'll find sections at the end of each chapter called "Toward Positive Change".  These sections are full of self-reflective questions and thought exercises to help you examine your process more clearly.  Then, the authors give you the actual formula to end the dance of irrelationship altogether.  They call that the DREAM sequence - it's their recipe for a successful relationship.

The Authors' Call to Connect and Contribute

At the end of the book, the authors invite you to join in the Irrelationship blog-based community online.  They even invite you to share your story with the community, ask for help if you need it, or reflect with others on their experiences during and post irrelationship. How cool is that !?!

Buy the book…

Connect with IRRELATIONSHIP Group

Website:  htto://

Psychology Today Blog:

Facebook: The Irrelationship Group

Twitter: @irrelation

Press the play button above to listen right here on this webpage, or avail yourself of any of the following additional options...
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: This podcast is now also available on YouTube - which provides a captioning/audio transcript

Westside DBT – Building Lives Worth Living!


Sasha Ginsburg, LCSW

~ the executive director and founder of WestsideDBT  talks about dialectical behavioral therapy, its applications and the programs offered by Learn more about these powerful tools to enhance emotional, interpersonal and behavioral regulation...



Podcast available

How it started

The Westside DBT center was founded by friends and colleagues License Clinical Social Workers  Sasha Ginsberg and Erin Lotz.  Their doors opened almost 6 years ago.  They were initially a small clinic set up to treat those people suffering from interpersonal and behavioral dysregulation as well as people with chronic and persistent suicidal thoughts or behaviors.  They have grown in size expanding their practice to 2 locations and now treat all people ages 13 and up in need of emotional support, skills training to manage their emotions and cognitive support to help retrain the persons self-perception.  Sasha says they help people "build lives worth living". 

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

DBT is a therapeutic approach designed in the mid-1980's by psychologist Marsh Linehan.  It was initially designed to treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Borderline Personality Disorder is marked by a sabotaging pattern of behaviors often stemming from an extreme or unrealistic fear of abandonment, born out of an "attachment break" early in one's emotional life.  The DBT skills training approach allows these people to learn to manage the extremes of their emotions and implements mindfulness and self-soothing techniques in order to allow them to live lives with more emotional stability and emotionally healthier interpersonal relationships. For as much as DBT is still the "go-to" method for helping people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it has been demonstrated to be helpful to people with less clinically significant symptoms, allowing more people to access the method to reap the benefits of the skills training to help manage life's problems and relationship discord.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy originated in Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps alleviate problems with regulating emotions, thinking patterns, and behaviors that cause misery and distress.  DBT combines both cognitive-behavioral therapy (Western principles and practices) and mindfulness approaches (Eastern principles and practices) to help people understand ,accept and change, patterns of living that are causing them suffering.  In understanding this approach one can see how many people can benefit from these skills.

Who Benefits from DBT?

(From the Westside DBT website)

DBT may help if you are experiencing the following symptoms:


  • Heightened emotional sensitivity
  • Quick and intense emotional reactions
  • Slow return to normal mood
  • Chronic problems with depression, anxiety, anger or anger expression


  • Repeated suicide threats or attempts
  • Self-harm behavior such as cutting and burning
  • Relationship difficulties including hypersensitivity to criticism, disapproval, intimacy or fear abandonment
  • Impulsive and potentially self-destructive behavior in areas such as binge eating and purging, alcohol or drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and gambling or spending sprees


  • Extreme (black or white) thinking
  • Difficulty with problem-solving and decision making
  • Unstable self-image or sense of self
  • “Detached” thinking, ranging from mild problems with inattention to episodes of complete dissociation

4 Modules of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

DBT is designed to teach

1. Mindfulness Skills

2. Interpersonal Effectiveness

3. Distress Tolerance

4. Emotion Regulation


How is the therapy implemented?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is implemented through a combination of group and individual sessions over a set number of weeks.  A person can extend their treatment if necessary, but it is best effective when a person initially participates for the designated weeks of both individual and group sessions.

How to connect with the Westside DBT Team


Call: (310) 772-8118