Category Archives: Advice for the mid-life dater

Valentine’s for One

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Valentine’s is traditionally the day that sweethearts exchange tokens of affection. For single people this can be a reminder of the state of “singleness” resulting in discomfort or sadness. I have experienced this myself and dreaded February 14 as a day of isolation and loneliness.

Happily, with some effort on my part, that has changed.

Over the many years I have spent single, I have learned a very important lesson:

I need to be the most important person in my life – Period.

So I have decided to make Valentine’s the day I celebrate love for myself  just as a lover or partner might. I buy myself a card and/or flowers, indulge in a chocolate or three and take myself out to a movie or other treat like a pedicure. I avoid  places where there will be loads of couples, like restaurants. I tell myself, “I love you”, throughout the day too – which may seem silly but it is fun.

The result: February 14th is now a day I look forward to with the enthusiastic anticipation of a second grader who will receive a shoebox full of cards and treats.

Whether you are single or partnered, you are the one person you will be with and care for for your entire life – so, like the song says: love the one you’re with!

What are ways you can celebrate self love today?

Note: For a great meditation for self love look up Sarah Blondin’s “Loving and Listening to Yourself” from her Coming Home to Yourself series.

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Something New

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Someone was asking me recently about all of the ways I weed out the men that are unsuitable for me.  I mentioned a few key things like how he talks about his ex, how many alcoholic drinks he consumes on our first outing (if applicable according to venue) and whether he speaks in a positive or negative way about things in general. But one thing I hadn’t really thought about before is how far a man goes out of his way to impress me.

If you are a regular reader or you have known me for any significant period of time you know the lengths that some men have gone to get my attention. There was the guy who I barely knew who presented me with a pair of half carat diamond studs on our third date, the man I met on vacation in Barbados who paid for my upgrade to first class just to have my company on the return flight to the States and innumerable dinners in expensive restaurants, bouquets of flowers and boxes of high-end chocolates. But all of that happened prior to my dating enlightenment- that time in my life when I stopped looking at the external gestures (many of them cliche anyway and not really having anything to do with me personally) and started looking for a particular set of characteristics in a potential partner.

I blame my former shallow outlook on the materialistic society in which I was raised in which I was crammed with fairy tales of imperiled princesses or chamber maids saved by  what was prescribed as the most desirable man possible, someone wealthy and good-looking. This concept of seeing a man for what he could provide in a material sense rather than examining his character was further entrenched by 13 years spent in a isolationist prep school where almost everyone’s value was equated by their familial wealth. I refused to play this game – or so I thought. I decided I would not choose a man for his money and in rebellion turned down several rich suitors. I chose instead to marry someone who lacked two dimes to rub together but with whom I shared a certain taste for the finer things and was delighted to shower me with the material trimmings of love (jewelry, nice clothes, expensive wine, art, etc). This was great for a while but slowly I came to realize that there are qualities a good partner should have that don’t come wrapped with a bow.

I am reminded of Madonna’s 1980’s pop hit, Material Girl. The basic premise is while “on” Madonna is all about the material stuff ala Marilyn Monroe performing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,but in the end she goes home with the guy who distinguishes himself by offering her simple pleasures (and I like to imagine has a good character).  The message: stuff is nice but it is the simple things that are more important when it comes to love.

What I am saying here is this: Find someone who impresses you without all the trimmings. Someone who gets your attention because they are smart, funny, interesting, honest, forthright and intellectually stimulating to you. A person who gets your attention because they are a good person with morals and values and some interests that align with yours.

Remember y’all, anyone can buy you things but its the person who is offering the things you can’t buy that matters most.

 

 

A Deer Message

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I have been stuck lately.  Stuck in a horrible rut of self-doubt, fear and worst of all boredom.  I have been bored with myself even – a rarity in my world.

This morning while setting up for a poolside yoga class I sometimes host at my apartment complex, I discovered a fawn stuck between the fence rails behind some lounge chairs.  The poor little thing had been struggling all night to squeeze its narrow body forward through the fence. It had rubbed the skin at its hip bones raw from the effort of trying to move forward and scrapped its forelegs to the point of bleeding trying to get momentum on the cemented pool patio with its hooves.

Fortunately, one of the fabulous maintenance guys who come to clean the pool in the morning had spent many years raising deer and when he arrives a few minutes later. He knew exactly how to handle the fawn and work with a couple of his co-workers to free it without harming it further.

The message:  Sometimes we get stuck and end up in a fruitless struggle to become unstuck by ourselves.  If we are patient, (and particularly if we ask our Higher Power), the right people will appear at the right time and help us in a way that sets us back on our path.

It is the same with the search for a life partner.  Ask. Be patient. and in the right time the right person will come into our lives.

With gratitude.

Mary

How Do You Know?

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The Shoop Shoop Song by Betty Everett was a number 1 hit back in 1964 which claimed:

“If you want to know if he loves you so, its in his kiss.”

Though I am fairly unsure if you can tell if someone loves you by a kiss, I do agree with Betty that they way to discern a person’s feelings for you is through their actions rather than their words.  I am fairly sure that I have written on this subject before so I apologize to those of you dear readers who find this a repeat subject matter but this post has been burbling in my brain and must be written or I might mentally explode.

A few years ago I became completely enamored with a man who had a considerable command of the English language. After a few months of spending time together he used his words to woo me and won my heart as surely as Cyrano won the heart of Roxanne. . His professions of my beauty, wit and charm soothed my battered post-divorce ego while his expressions of undying love hypnotized me into utter stupidity. He formulated a verbal roofee which I cheerfully swallowed. In fact I became so punch-drunk with love, I flat out ignored how he was acting.  I even made excuses for his behavior to my friends who could clearly see the reality of the situation. Of course, after a year-and-a-half, to no one’s surprise except my own, shortly after sharing his feelings of commitment towards me, the relationship became slightly less geographically convenient and he rather nonchalantly dumped me.  I was devastated while he seemed to move on with ease.  I share this embarrassing story because the scenario is all too common and if I had simply paid attention to this man’s behavior rather than his words, I could have avoided a huge heartache.

In his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey makes the point that a man who is truly interested in a woman is naturally driven to do three things:

Profess,

Protect,

and

Provide.

Harvey observes that if a man is seriously interested in a woman he will want to profess his feelings for you.  I will venture to stretch this statement to include women and say that a person who is genuinely interested in another person will want to profess their feelings.  In any case,  the message is that the action of wanting to share this special person or at least tell everyone about them and how fabulous they are is inherent to genuine affection. So if somebody really likes you and has a plan to keep you around for the long run, they are going to make an effort to introduce you to their family, friends and co-workers. In 18 months, this man, I will call him Wordsmith Duane, introduced me to only one of his friends and just two of his family members – hardly the action of a person so madly in love as he claimed to be. The concept of professing his admiration, devotion and love of me to others was absent from his agenda. If we ran into someone he knew while we were out he would leave me standing there without introducing me.

It is logical that when you love someone or are at least thinking of them as long-term relationship material you will want to protect them form harm. Harvey claims this is a primal main function of the human male but I argue that women are similar in this behavior.  Note that parents are programmed to love their offspring and do all matter of things to ensure children’s survival to adulthood otherwise there would be no such things as baby monitors, car seats and bike helmets. At any rate, I have a food allergy to something that is often concealed in foods and though not a death threat has an unpleasant affect on my body resulting in misery for those around me. Wordsmith Duane failed to remember that I had this allergy and even up to the last few days of our relationship, would thoughtlessly offer this type of  food to me.  If he were genuinely concerned for my welfare he would have taken a conscious mental note of my health issue and would have not offered me this food and may have evolved to the place of asking about it at restaurants before I did.  He would have been keen to protect me in order to keep me around longer.

Then there is the providing part.  Men and women traditionally provide differently for their long-term mates and most men in my age range still tend to think in terms of providing financially for a woman. So, in our culture, if a man is comfortable paying for some things other than some dinners out, it is a sign that he is thinking about providing for you in his future. I am talking about investing in things that bring you together like a class you are both interested in or buying you a gift simply because it will bring you joy like a signed copy of your favorite book, a scarf you admired in a shop window when you were out somewhere together or picking up an umbrella when an unexpected down poor occurs (this may fall under the protection column as well).  Wordsmith Duane only paid for things he could figure out a way write off on his taxes.  In the 18 months we spent together in a “romantic” relationship he… Hah, I was just thinking about the things he bought me like flowers when I was sick and a box of chocolates for my birthday and just realized he probably wrote those off as well – I actually fail to recall one single item he gave me that didn’t come from his office as a vendor gift or that wasn’t a tax write-off. That is a bitter pill to swallow at this moment- Agh. But  you get the idea, this man was far from financially invested in our relationship.  I mean, really people, if you are treated like a business expense  then you are engaged in business not a romance.

Other indications that this guy’s brain was somewhere other than in a relationship with me were:

  • A tendency to repeat the same conversations.  I don’t mean subjects we were debating like legalization of abortion or how to cook the perfect hamburger, I mean repeated actual monologues and would tell me about something we did together like see a movie without recalling that I was there.
  • After 18 months of serious dating, he didn’t  know my middle name.
  • He didn’t read my blog- either of them.  Now if you had a practical handbook on a person  you were genuinely interested in or at least a window into that person’s likes and dislikes, you would read it, right?
  • I was constantly making excuses for his lame -ass behavior like “He is so busy,” or “He is super stressed by his work, family, or ingrown toenail….or whatever.”  But worst of all was the, “Oh, but he tells me how important I am to him and how much he loves me so I must just be making to much out of this behavior.” I was being ridiculously disrespectful to myself.

What should happen when a person is seriously interested in you and thinking about the long term?  They want to introduce you to family, friends and co-workers. He /She will invite you to social events with his friends or co-workers and make sure you all have a chance to get to know each other a little.  He/She will include you in family gatherings and chat you up to  familial elders and close relatives. That person will be eager to protect you by driving responsibly and making sure you have what you need to be comfortable. They wi

So heed my words dating people (or better yet, follow my wiser example of noticing actions), you can drink in the compliments and other nice words but when it comes to really understanding how someone feels about you it’s in their actions.

For a complimentary post click here.

To hear the Shoop Shoop Song click here.

To hear Whitney Houston’s immortal, How Will I Know click here.

 

Whitney Houston asks, "How will I know?" in her 1985 music video

Whitney Houston asks, “How will I know?” in her 1985 music video

The Dance Audition

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images All of my friends know that I am passionate about dancing.  It all started when one of my older sisters taught me how to Pony at the age of three.  By age six I was in ballet class.  Years passed by learning tap, modern and jazz and by age 14 I was dancing weekly in disco clubs aka Saturday Night Fever.  Cotillion introduced me to ballroom dances like the waltz but also social dances like ChaCha, Foxtrot, Jitterbug and Swing and I am pretty sure it is a requirement to learn to Shag in order to graduate from private school in Richmond, Va where I grew up. I spent the better part of my college and early career years in dance clubs bumping and grinding to my hearts content and people love me to attend their weddings because they know I will decorate the dance floor for hours at the reception.  In fact I met my second husband while dancing (click here for story). You get the picture. So now my dance habit manifests itself with Latin.  Usually, at least once a week I squeeze in a lesson and and hour of  spicy Salsa or sensual Bachata seasoned with the occasional Cha cha thrown in depending on the mood of the DJ. And I LOVE IT. It is my way to relax, socialize and zen out of my usual world while getting some serious exercise. But one of the best things about social dancing is how it defines character and relationship potential. One’s approach to and execution of a dance is a litmus test for their way of relating to people which is why usually on the second or third date I invite a man to go dancing with me.  I know that dancing may not be a priority in a man’s life but trust me, this works.  Here’s what I can learn through this process.

1. How the invitation happens – Usually somewhere in the first conversations the question of “What do you like to do for fun?” emerges.  Part of my answer naturally includes dancing, the mere mention of which often evokes a look of terror on the face of the man who asked. Fearful or not, how he responds is what is important. If he clearly states within seconds that he will never get on a dance floor for any reason, I know that there is a lack of open mindedness that could inhibit a good relationship.  If he offers to come dance with me despite his fear of making an ass of himself on the dance floor, he earns major points for being a good sport and showing at least a supportive interest in something that is meaningful to me.  If he enthusiastically jumps at the chance to invite himself along mentioning a long time desire to learn how to dance, he is on his way to winning my heart because he has demonstrated a definite interest in something for which I am passionate with the potential to share the experience in the long term. And if he tells me he already  enjoys dancing, well then, he gets an instant invitation to prove his mettle on the dance floor (sometimes people pleasers will tell me they dance and they really don’t or reveals blatant red flags on the dance floor and must be banished from the potential mate list immediately.

2. How the man does at the lesson- Does he pay attention to the instructor and do his best to grasp the basics?  His attention span dictates his level of commitment.  Usually, I am not paying much attention to him during the lesson since the partners are rotated.  Since I live in a world of many social events it is important for a partner to be able to handle this type of social activity where I may have to be attentive to other people- some people can handle that, others not so well.

3. Making it flow- It would be ridiculous to expect a first time dancer to be able to dance well after one lesson. Even seasoned dancers must practice a new step for a while before they are good at it.  The key is can he keep time with the music and let go enough to at least have fun.  When my high-school flame came to visit me a couple of years ago, we went salsa dancing and even though he didn’t get the steps, we had a blast just improvising on the dance floor in time to the music.  Relationships must have ” flow “( that magic of just being in the zone) even if the two of you are doing something different than everybody else.

4. Indication of relationship potential- Social dancing is about clear communication, allowing your partner to be themselves and a willingness to be in the moment.  The leader of the dance must clearly and gently communicate the desired dancing pattern, the follower must be open to feeling those communications and trusting of the leader.  The follower will only trust the leader if the leader provides clear direction, otherwise the follower is confused and may try to guess the movement which usually ends in disaster – just like in normal relationships.  When there is clear communication and willingness to receive it, then the dance is harmonious even when each partner dances with their own style and flair. Clear communication comes from confidence.  If a man gets out there and is a disaster at dancing that is fine but how he handles that indicates how he will handle other difficult situations. The real jerk will blame someone or something like the DJ or the instructor for his ineptitude. He will be closed minded about suggestions from seasoned dancers.  The total ass will say he knows how to dance, prove himself to be a liar and be a pain to dance with. I literally had a guy tell me he danced Salsa for nearly a decade and when we danced, he wasn’t even doing the basic step correctly which made our steps out of synch. He stepped on my feet three times in one dance and jerked my arms so forcefully to spin (also out of time with the music due to the incorrect step) that both my shoulders hurt the next day. Another of his partners stopped him mid-dance  to show him the basic step at which he became super offended and wanted to leave. That was a very clear message and explained a lot about why he was single, his questionable employment and basic attitude of limitation.

A good man who has trouble with dancing is honest about it laughs it off and comes up with a solution to dancing that is right for him whether it is not dancing or taking lessons but whichever he chooses he does it with confidence and grace.  A good dancing man knows how to send signals appropriately and respectfully and improvise when needed. So you see why it is important for me to take potential mates dancing? It is not necessarily about the physical aspect- though it can be nice to see how a man moves- it is more about relationship potential assessment than anything else.

Maybe you have a good way to assess relationship potential.  If so, share.

Defining Moments

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I am hiking behind my boyfriend of six months through a forest of leafless trees on an early spring day in 1989.  We are backpacking somewhere in West Virginia with two other couples and have taken an off-trail short cut, bushwhacking through young trees with bendy switch-like branches. Thwack! my beloved walks through a branch and lets it snap back, smacking me in the forehead.  It hurts but I giggle and ask him to be more mindful of the branches.  Less than two minutes later another skinny branch whacks across my bare shin, this time leaving a scratch.  “Ouch!”, I exclaim.  I ask again that he hold the branches rather than let them switch back. This is common trail courtesy anyway.  He remembers this for the next couple of branches then returns to his original behavior.  After the fourth or fifth round of thwacking and asking I realize that he is uninterested in changing his behavior and  I purposefully lag far enough behind to keep from being hit every few minutes.

This was a defining moment. One of those bridges one crosses in a nanosecond from innocence into knowledge. Oprah would call it an “Aha, moment”.  I realized this guy had little consideration for me and it was the beginning of the end of our relationship. That this behavior- the lack of consideration demonstrated by letting branches and briars smack into me -even after I asked him to be more aware- was an indication of how he would treat me for the rest of our relationship.

When a relationship is wrong, your instincts will warn you with a revelation. When it does you have a choice to listen or ignore that inner voice. In every failed relationship I’ve had, I can recall  one of these instances, a window into the future that indicated exactly what I was getting.  Experience and heartache has taught me to heed these moments and it least make a conscious decision to stay or go rather than simply ignoring the signs and returning to the blissful blindness typical of the first several months of a relationship.

Not in tune with your instincts?

The best way to get acquainted with your inner knowledge that can reveal great truths out of seemingly everyday moments is to spend time with your self. Weekends alone. Keep a journal. Meditate. Take long walks in nature.  Vacation solo. Whatever it takes to get into your own head and learn to hear your greater intelligence. I promise it will serve you well. Then the next time you feel that tightening in the pit of your stomach and a revelation smacks you in the face you will know weather to keep walking with that person or to turn around and walk the other way.

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How to Spot a Skunk

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When people discover that I write a dating blog they often ask me how can they determine if someone is right for them.  If you have been reading you know I have mentioned many signs that may signal potential problems down the relationship road but the absolute best indicator of someone’s character is how they react in a crisis.

Certainly everyone can behave relatively well during good times, particularly if they have the motive of attracting you.  This is one of the problems I have with long distance relationships because a person can easily hide a hideous personality or major character flaw when they only have to be pleasant for a short period of time generally doing pleasant things like wining and dining and having sex. Life is a ball and you may want it to go on forever only to be horribly disappointed when that person turns out to be ill suited as an everyday-take-out-the-trash-clean-the toilet-do-the-grocery-shopping life.

No, the good times are not the test.  The test is how does a person react when things go wrong.  Do they fall apart, drink heavily, throw tantrums, get violent, angry, laugh or simply breath deeply and make the next logical move or what?  Big hint here people- you want to be with the person who can either laugh or breath and move to the next logical step or both because most of life is about handling stress and dealing with messes.

Here is an example that still makes me giggle.

I invited an intriguing man, “Tom”  and his dog, “Marley” out for a hike along a charming bit of the Appalachian trail one warm early spring day. We drove a ways out of town to the trail but it was closed so I suggested a less interesting but near by place to walk thinking that with the shortened hiking time we might stop at a vineyard  on the way home for a nice glass of wine.  Within five minutes of starting out, the dog took off running at full speed across a field towards a skunk.  Though its owner tried in vein to stop him, curious little “Marley” stuck his nose directly into the skunks backside as though it were a small dog to identify the way that dogs do and, oh yes, the skunk did what skunks do when they feel their personal space invaded- and sprayed right in the dog’s face! Tom trotted calmly over as the skunk sauntered away, and gently clamped the leash on Marley’s neck and said, “Well, it will be an interesting ride back.”

We walked a little more and banished the fragrant pooch to the back of the SUV and endured a painfully smelly 30 minute ride to a pet store to pick up de-stnkifying shampoo.

The day was cut short and it was a truly uncomfortable situation but this guy kept his cool even in the face of my intermitent bursts of laughter.

That my friends, is the kind of temperament that can get you through the hassles  of daily life.

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