Tag Archives: maine


Killer Self Esteem: 5 Steps to Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships

Killer abs and killer legs… people work hard to get them. Killer self-esteem, on the other hand, is not a desired trait, yet, incredibly prevalent in the dating world.  As an adult dater, our insecurities, gain clarity and sometimes, strength as we continue to date. We have seen love and loss and are aware of our foibles and faults. Awareness is good. And, verbalizing your discomforts is a smart strategy in a relationship. However, insecurities that seep into the cracks and crevices of our relationships may expand over time, causing riffs that wreak havoc. It is a slippery slope as they say, emanating from a seemingly innocent question that when repeated enough times has the exact opposite effect that we intend it to have.

“Do you like me?” This common refrain reflects our insecurities and is behind many of our actions in the early months of a relationship.  Check out what happens when you continually prod your partner for an answer.

The Needy Scenario

Take 1…“Do you like me?” “Of course!”
Take 2… “Do you like me?” “Yes”
Take 3… “Do you like me?” (eye-roll) “Yes”
Take 4… “Do you like me? Are you sure?” (Am I sure? Do I like him?) “Um, yes, of course”
Take 5… “Do you like me? Seriously?” (Do I? He really is a little much, sometimes) “Actually, I have been meaning to talk to you about something…”

The Jealousy Scenario

Jealousy is another way to quickly sabotage your relationship.  Jealousy emanates directly from insecurity and low self-esteem.  This is a conversation from a former relationship that started at the same time that I began to run Local Flames workshops on healthy relationship skills (irony times 10!).

Take 1…

“Who was there tonight?” “Oh, it was a great crowd, really good people.”
“Any men in the room?” “Sure, this really nice guy Mark and another great guy, John”
“Were you attracted to them?” “Uh, I was running a workshop so it wasn’t really relevant.”

Now, repeat this conversation every week, sometimes multiple times a week, after each event.

“Who was there tonight?” “Lots of people”
“Any men in the room?” “Yes” (note the reduction in detail over time)
“Who?” “It is not relevant. I am not going to tell you because you continually accuse me of ridiculousness.”
“Were you attracted to them?” “Oh my god!! No!!”

If this were to keep going, if I hadn’t left him at the doorstep of his insecurity which I did, eventually my thoughts may have meandered down this road: “Fuck it. He has been accusing me of cheating on him for months. Maybe i’ll just try it out.   These other men look better and better every time he opens his mouth.” As I have seen with my clients, one person’s jealousy can contribute to another person cheating, which thereby reinforces the first person’s insecurity and belief that people cheat on him (or her)!

Why do we do this? We have beliefs about ourselves that we look to reinforce. We feel badly about ourselves from things our parents told us, from experiences we have had, or from shame related to something that happened to us.  Then, we behave in ways that reinforce that we are right to feel badly about ourselves. She may be looking for him to prove she is unlikable by continually asking if he likes her. Her low self-esteem is killing any potential the relationship had. I have seen this equally in men and women, whether in different or same gender relationships. People are usually not completely aware that they are causing their own downfall. It is easier to blame others for how we feel rather than to face ourselves and our faults head on.

5 Steps to Stop Sabotaging.

It takes courage to start believing in yourself by understanding that we all have faults, big and small. Here are five steps to stop sabotaging yourself and your relationships.

1: Catch yourself in the act. While it may be worthwhile to ask your insecurity question once or twice to check in, it is important to recognize when you are asking the same question of someone over and over.   Ponder why you are asking the question. Do you really need to know the answer? Is that because you didn’t believe the answer the first time, or has something happened that you feel you need to ask it again? Is it your anxiety/insecurity asking or are you asking?

2: Explain yourself. The best gift you can give your partner is a greater understanding of you. Tell them explicitly what makes you feel insecure and what you makes you feel loved. There is nothing wrong with having insecurities because we all have them.  Assuming your partner can read your mind and know what you need is a bad bet.  Communicate what you need from your partner to feel calm and good in the relationship. For example, “I tend to get sort of uptight and insecure in the beginning of a relationship. It helps me to know how you are feeling about the relationship.”

3: Recognize it in others. When someone is peppering you with questions that give you pause, consider what is really going on. It can be helpful to gently state your position clearly to reassure your partner of how you feel. “Yes, I truly like you and am enjoying our relationship. I will tell you if I have a problem.” “I enjoy doing workshops. I am not interested in seeing anyone but you.” Pay attention to whether you are doing anything that may be contributing to your partner’s discomfort and insecurities. For example, are you showing up late without explanation? Are you moody and you don’t tell your partner why?

4: Believe in yourself. This is hard. When you believe in yourself, your need for reassurance from others will reduce and you won’t feel the need to ask the insecurity questions as much. Maybe develop a mantra to say when you are feeling insecure: “I trust this relationship and that she will tell me if there is a problem.” Needy is not sexy.

5: Trust the other. Very often, our insecurities relate to a lack of trust in others. Think about whether your questions of, and behaviors towards, others relates to your lack of trust of them. Did the person actually do something to lose your trust or do you just have a hard time trusting others? Ask yourself what you can do to work on trusting the other person and then communicate that to your partner. For example, “It really helps me when you volunteer information about what you are doing at night” or “I really appreciate when you compliment me.”

As you walk through this world, you will determine your experience. The one common refrain that people repeat to me in relationship coaching sessions again and again is “I can’t stand needy men/women!” Needy is not sexy. Neediness is someone that needs to be reassured and who can’t stop asking those insecurity questions. Don’t let your self-esteem destroy the potential of your relationship. When you find yourself blaming someone else for your current state, I have a suggestion for you… stop, look inwards, and start there.


Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

how the flames started

The fire roared to life

The Genesis of Local Flames

In October 2012, I thought it was high time to address what had gone wrong in my life. My second divorce was declared complete. It was initially fun to look around and blame other people or parents for my issues but really, in the end, I, softly, acknowledged that the convoluted trajectory of my life had arisen directly from me and my actions. I embarked upon a journey of writing, meditating and yoga. I whipped my body and soul into shape with a 40 day program at Portland Power Yoga. I scribbled unending, incomplete, angry sentences in small notebooks with deceivingly serene covers. I wrestled my brain into ceasing the replay of nasty pre-divorce scrimmages and forced it to hear my breath, filling my body, fully, for perhaps the first time.

From the silence, a radically simply idea arose: if we were to evaporate tomorrow, all that would truly matter are the connections and love we have with others. There are so many ways in which we have lost connections to others in our technology dominated world. We all feel loneliness, especially those of us who are single. Local Flames was my way of creating a place where people could form connections with others and feel a part of something.   It was to be a place where people knew your name, where you could take the time to heal from that last relationship, where you could avoid getting back together with that guy just because you didn’t have anyone to go to Port City with you on Friday.

July 2013… Big Idea #1

Early on, I brainstormed that what was really needed was divorce coaching, especially for men.

Flashbulb moment: Coaching with divorced men! That’s it!

Emanating from too many dates that turned into therapy sessions, my thought was to provide an outlet and practical advice for men who had been crushed by their divorces, financially and emotionally, leaving them overly dependent upon their match.com dates for spiritual redemption.  My well of empathy for men following divorce goes deep; I hear of too many of them that are financially screwed, totally out of their element, with questionable shoe and jean choices and an inability to cook for their children.

I thought if men had a compassionate, non-judgmental, experienced and educationally and life qualified person to talk to and answer their questions about the children and the ex, they could focus their conversational abilities during dates on their interests, and passions, and books and travel and basically, anything, besides their custody schedule and the last nasty text from their ex. I imagined slowing men down, allowing them to pick their next date or wife wisely. I have seen so many men (and women) (and myself) chose a partner within months of their divorce, resulting in a second wedding, marriage, disillusionment and not surprisingly, divorce. Critical to this all, I was hoping to serve and protect children, those children who’s pleading gaze falls upon their parents, with unspoken words cajoling them to please, please pull it together in time.

September 2013… Bigger Idea #2

From continued, questionable, tiring online dating experiences, my facile, never-quiet brain produced another whammy.

Flashbulb moment: Matchmaking and active, intellectual and engaging events so people could meet, in real time, in person! That’s it!

The game of singledom, smiling and feigning satisfaction with life, while creating 10 word marketing pitches and photos from a thinner time had lost its charm. The solution would be to create the only place worth going in the midst of our 6 month winter, a living room, a comfy setting, where people know your name and just happen to be single and available. We would have game nights, and house parties where people show up with instrument in hand, and contemplative nights where we wonder about the meaning of life and how we all got to this interesting place in life. (We actually did all those events and they rocked!)

In the fall and winter of 2013, I made steps towards shutting down a psychological research company I had founded in 2002 following the birth on my triplets and starting a new business focused on love, connection and relationships. My immersion in the yoga world led me down a pathway of not just wanting to provide a place for people to meet, but a place to grow and learn, to feel seen and heard and feel less lonely and more connected.  I wanted this connection to be inclusive and comforting, for others and for myself. Yes, some would accuse me of starting the business just to find myself a beau and to them I say… yep, there was a bit of that in the plans as well. Regardless, in April of 2014, excitement was building from the musings of newly hired staff convinced that we could crack the age old conundrum of how to meaningfully meet other available, interesting human beings, in Portland, Maine of all places.

What’s Up with Single Mainers?


Erin Oldham, Ph.D., is the founder of Local Flames, an organization dedicated to supporting people in developing and sustaining healthy relationships. We offer a newsletter to connect people to local events and the latest research on healthy relationships as well as workshops, divorce consultation and relationship coaching. Erin has a Ph.D. in psychology specializing in child development and has researched how children and adults form secure attachments and healthy relationships for 25 years. Contact Erin at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970 for more information about her workshops and coaching. Localflamesmaine.com


Diving in, again.

Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Second marriages are exciting and fraught with danger.  While the chemicals in our brains tell us that we are absolutely going down the right path, the cold hard numbers speak to a different reality.  Two-thirds – that is 2 out of 3, of second marriages end in divorce.  So it is really important to gain some awareness before leaping into that next marriage.  And I have to tell you that being aware of what you are doing is exceptionally hard to do while experiencing good sex for the first time in a decade or two, so try to shift your focus, breath and read. Continue reading

Divorce | Local Flames | Matchmaking | Dating in Maine

It was a good decision, that second divorce was.

It was just a good decision, that second divorce was.  2+2 = 4 and deception + apathy = divorce.  Straight forward, not complicated.  A solid decision.  And one my children got.  Straight away.  They got that I was in this for them, that I was considering them, seeing them, hearing them.  Paying attention to the shake of their shoulders when he grabbed them when he was mad at the world.  My eyes leering to the left, daring him to touch them again, lest I completely lose it. Paying attention to the quiet close of the doors when we started yelling in the kitchen, that brilliant green kitchen that spoke of calm and screamed of trouble.  Hearing my daughter say, “He is mean”.  Mean, a word without ambiguity, spoken clearly and astutely.  But really, he was hurt, like the rest of us. Wounded without awareness of where and how deep his wounds went.  So when we make a decision like divorce, we try not to impart a wound to the young among us.

“Mom!” eyes rolling, secretly proud.  “Why are you the only mom who listens to rap music and dances around!”  Why?  Because I have come back, to myself, to my humor, to my dancing, to my freedom.  To the ability to feel the smile spread on my face, raising my cheeks and my power.  My house is now the place where the neighborhood kids gather on weekends, which surprises, since I am a combination of no holds barred, guidelines galore and forehead kisses in front of friends.  The space is safe, the energy is calm, the antithesis of what used to exist.  In my haste to fill in my wound, I wrapped my arms around a man I barely knew but who seemed nice enough.  Seemed was hardly good enough but I was trying to get in front of my fear of being a mother of three and a Ph.D. and a divorcee and strangely independent.  A fear that caused me to ignore my stupendously amazing qualities and focus on all that would make someone skip to the next profile on match.com.

So because of my wound, I couldn’t see straight and put myself straight in the path of a man who lied and covered and hid.  A good match, really, if we are going for parallel lives.  I was going for the infill, someone to jump inside and fill the gaping wound, I just didn’t realize they would keep falling and nothing was going to fill me up but me.  But we decided to jump together, eyes closed, all for one and one for all.  But without a thought of what it was to give up and abandon yourself, abandon your intuition, your beliefs, your deep knowledge that this was meeting not a single real need, just a Band-Aid, a Band-Aid with nice designs on it so that all who gazed at the wound would smile.

But the kids knew, they always know. They could feel the discomfort and the disquiet. The glares and the whispers, the leaks in the ship.  We were slowly drowning together, shouting at the top of our lungs, “Hear me, Understand me, Fill me!”  But two people who are both empty can get no further than the curb.  We could not support each other or understand each other or empathize with each other.  The initial euphoria at feeling a temporary wholeness leaked out like a balloon losing helium.  Deflated, useless, pathetic we were in each other’s presence.    So when I made the call, sent up the distress signal from our sinking ship, the crew was relieved that we would be spared from catastrophe.

The kids let out a deep breath and realized they were in fact standing on solid ground again.  Once their sea legs were gone, they could look around and see that things had not changed. There was continual love and connection, safety in the constant.  Safety in understanding what had happened, a serious life lesson in jumping off a cliff without a thought for the ground.  “He and I are not a good match.  We moved too fast, got married before we took the time to know each other.  He is not a bad person and neither am I.  We were just not meant to be.”


Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com