Category Archives: Dating Tips

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.

 

 

Wafflers for Breakfast: A continuation of a previous “Men to Avoid” Post

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It is a gorgeous unseasonably cool morning here in Charlottesville, Virginia and the tree covered mountain outside my bedroom window is bathed in the golden hue of summer sunshine.  As is the habit with my revelations, I awoke this morning with a thought burbling in my head that quickly turned into an “aha” as I sipped my first glass of water for the day (part of an Ayurveda routine/dinacharya).

This particular catharsis has to do with the subject of indecisiveness and the disfunction it brings to a relationship.

I wrote about this in a previous “Men to Avoid” series blog titled: Men to Avoid: The Wafflers.   I apologize for limiting this concept to men.  This problem is far from gender specific.

Here is what I realized this morning and wish to add to the Wafflers conversation:

Reasons Wafflers might waffle (def: have a habit of lacking commitment to a decision thus “waffling” on a subject) include:

  • an inability to connect with their own feelings and needs
  • a desire to please everyone
  • a desire to avoid conflict

These are all signs of low self-esteem most often associated with some sort of abuse which includes mental, emotional and/or physical.

Someone who has buried their feelings and constantly puts the needs of others before themselves is doomed to be unhappy.  This is the definition of dysfunctional behavior coupled with narcism.

In order to accomplish satisfaction in a relationship (and this counts for any relationship) it is important for all parties to be able to clearly express their preferences for action in a situation  then if those preferences differ, to be able to problem solve a compromise and then follow through with the agreed action.  If circumstances alter and a different plan is needed then all parties must be alerted and a new plan agreed upon and executed. Follow through is an act of respect for oneself, the other parties involved and for the sanctity of the agreement.

The waffler often changes the plan without notifying the other parties, failing to follow through with the agreed course of action, waiting until a critical mass is reached forcing someone else to take definitive action.  By refusing to follow through with decisions this type of person frees themselves from accountability for their actions which gives them a self-percieved carte blanche to complain and blame.

I often hear men complain about what bitches their wives are claiming that these women must always have their way (this statement usually comes just before or after the infamous, “my wife just doesn’t understand me” phrase which is usually followed by an invitation for a sexual tryst).  Inevitably these men are wafflers which is the reason they are hitting on other women when they are married.  They claim to be miserable yet they refuse to make a move either to do the work necessary to improve their marriages or to end them and move on.

So here is my morning’s revelation:

A waffler via the action of indecisiveness  forces the other person in the relationship to take action aka. putting them (the other person) in the role of “bitch” or “asshole”.

Wafflers are always and never getting what they want.  If one is going back and forth on a course of action, then the resulting action is at one moment what they wanted and what they didn’t want. This makes it impossible to satisfy them.

This is what it is like to be with a Waffler:

A couple, Pat and Chris, are walking in the park on a hot day.  Chris suggests stopping at a food truck for an ice cream.

Pat: ” Yeah, ice cream would be good today.”

They walk a few more steps then Pat mentions a diet and desire to avoid such fattening food.  After a few more steps Pat say that the diet has been going well and ice cream would be OK. The couple approaches the food truck were there is a long line of anticipatory patrons and Pat says something about not really wanting ice cream and needing to leave the park soon. Chris asks if there is time enough to wait in line.

Pat: “Yes, of course, I really do want some ice cream after all.”

They get in line.

Chris: “What flavor are you thinking about today?”

Pat: “I am not sure there is anything I want but you get something.”

They stand in line for ten minutes almost to the front of the line.

Pat: “I need to get going”

Chris reinforces a desire to have some ice cream particularly since they have waited so long and a favorite flavor is available but if it is urgent they can leave now.

Pat: “No we can wait we are almost to the front. My appointment is not that urgent.”

They get to the front of the line. And both order ice cream. And begin to walk towards the park exit. Pat begins to walk quickly.

Pat eats half the ice cream then tosses it into the trash.

Pat: “Hurry up, Chris.  I was supposed to pick up my 98 year old deaf and blind grandmother from the airport 20 minutes ago. She is flying in from Perth, Australia today and has been on a 26 hour flight! I can’t believe you made me stop and get ice-cream. Now I have ruined my diet and will have diarrhea from consuming a milk product.”

Chris: “Gee, Pat, I am sorry.  I failed to understand the importance of the situation.”

Pat: “It’s OK. It was a fun time.  That ice cream was really good and totally worth being late for Grammy and the diarrhea.”

Later Pat explains the tardiness to Grammy: “Chis was a controlling ass today and HAD to have ice cream even though I said I needed to be here for you.”

Insanity right? Pat waffles instead of expressing real preferences.  Either action on Chris’ part regarding the purchase of ice cream would have been dissatisfactory.

It is important to remember that we are solely responsible for our own comfort, welfare and happiness.  It is other people’s responsibility to take care of their own comfort, welfare and happiness.  People can work together to achieve mutual satisfaction but ultimately one is beholden to oneself. When I really need something I can express myself clearly and listen to someone else’s needs. If that makes me a bitch then so be it.  Someone else might call that behavior good communication.  In many situations there can be found a happy compromise but sometimes a mutually satisfying compromise is impossible. Whichever the case clear, respectful, consistent communication is paramount for functional relationships.

Social Activities: Secrets to Spotting a Substance Abuser: Part 2

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You are what you do.  And what you do for fun is more important than what you do for work when it comes to defining who you are.  Many people stay in jobs that they have outgrown or because it is what they are trained to do but how you spend the rest of your time is a personal choice and regardless of whether or not you change your career your activities outside of work reflect what you are interested in at the moment- a clearer snapshot of someone at a particular moment in time in their life.

When I meet someone for the first time at a social gathering I like to ask them, “What do you do for fun?” rather than, “What do you do for a living?”.  I do this for several reasons:

  1. It is a different take on the usual question (What do you do for a living?) which usually catches people off guard.
  2. It makes me more memorable because I asked an unusual question.
  3. If this person is a potential friend or dating partner, the answer to that question will tell me how we might be spending time together since I probably won’t be going to work with them.
  4. The answer will help me determine if they have a substance abuse problem.

People who abuse substances, particularly alcohol, pot and cocaine tend to surround themselves with other people who do the same and there are certain activities that foster that sort of camaraderie.  Here is a list of some of the main ones:

  • They attend many sporting events like football at the college and professional levels, particularly where there is tail-gaiting involved beforehand. The occasional tail-gaite is one thing but season tickets, especially to more than one sport could be a problem.
  • They go to horse oriented events like polo matches, steeple chase races or track races often. There is a lot of standing around at these events and it seems to warrant the consumption of alcohol.
  • OK, I guess I should just say spectator sports in general.
  • Beer tastings, wine festivals alcohol centered events.
  • Fishing and boating-  another activity where there is a lot of sitting around for hours on end.
  • Golfing- again, a lot of standing around.
  • Motorcycling.
  • When they socialize with their friends they meet in bars or at someone’s house to watch a game.
  • Attending big concerts and/or play in a band – where they spend a lot of time in bars.
  • Entertaining at home centers on drinking alcohol.  Listen for themes of events like Margarita night, Annual Holliday Scotch tasting instead of Cookie exchange, Hearts Tournament, Horseshoe extravaganza.
  • They choose vacation destinations based on relaxed  rules and availability of drugs: Jamaica, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Bangcock – you get the idea.

I am not saying that all people who participate in the above activities are substance abusers. Understand that by liking or attending any on or two of these activities does not indicate that someone is a substance abuser but listen for volume and frequency.  Substance abuse is a lifestyle.  Substance abusers’s lives center around the substance of choice.  It is how they move through the world and navigate relationships. If you run across someone whose spare time focuses primarily on enjoying a mind altering substance and spending time with other people who do the same, you are most likely in for trouble.

So ask the question and listen carefully.  It could save you some heartache in the long run.

 

How To Spot a Substance Abuser Before You Get Too Involved: Introduction

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I was clueless about substance abuse.

I was clueless about substance abuse.

Life with a substance abuser is a special kind of HELL.

It is similar to how the protagonists must feel in those adventure movie scenes where they are being chased by a band of  hooligans who are shooting at them and as they run across a rope bridge precariously strung across some impossibly deep ravine when footing planks begin to drop off  in random intervals like autumn leaves being blown off a tree whilst a large dangerous animal just happens to appear at the bridges other side – no place feels safe, nothing is certain and life seems as if it goes from one crisis to another.

Having been on that disintigrating bridge, with those angry hooligans and the hungry tiger two many times in my life I have made a study of how to spot substance abusers before getting too involved.  I have decided to share my methods with you as a way of minimizing your chances of ending up, as I did, in a long-term relationship with a substance abuser without having a clue as to the signs that would have saved me a lot of pain and anguish.

First a little history:

I grew up in the south in the ’60’s and ’70’s.  For a glimpse into my early childhood life watch the early seasons of MADMEN. I grew up in a world of upper-middle class white America (WASP to the core) where people related to each other through alcohol.  Christmas Eve church service at our church had a distinct aroma of Bourbon wafting about the evergreens and candle wax scents, summer afternoons were for beer, cocktail parties were a frequent pastime activity for adults.  By the time I was 14, if I were at certain friend’s homes (about 75% of the families I knew) on a non-school night at 5:00pm I was usually offered a cocktail and invited to sit with the adults for a few drinks before dinner.  On hot summer afternoons groups of kids would get inner tubes and float down the river, one tube less inflated to hold the  manditory cooler of beer.Keg parties were a large part of the high school social scene, particularly the exclusive private schools – the wealthier and more socially prominent  a family was, the less inclined they seemed to regarded laws concerning substance use. It was an environment that encouraged substance abuse by preventing kids from feeling the consequences of their actions.  I knew several boys who were sent to rehab before the age of 16 only to come out and be sent to boarding schools where they enjoyed greater freedom to indulge in their drug of choice.  One 17 year old boy was caught dealing drugs at my school and was dismissed.  A week later he was back at school and it was announced that his grandmother was donating the money to build the new wing for the school’s library.  Another boy received a very expensive car for his 16th birthday and totaled it two days later while driving drunk.  His father got him a new car the next day and hired a high profile lawyer who got the boy off free of any charges.  A week or so later the same boy wrecked the new car while driving drunk.  His father purchased a third identical car for him and hired the same lawyer to get him off the charges a second time brushing off any problem the boy had as youthful folly. Drugs were everywhere in the youth culture, crossing socio-economic lines.  Although I did not do drugs in high school, I drank.  But so did everyone else.  It was just normal.  I offer these stories as an illustration of the world in which I grew up in an effort to explain why I so slow to recognize the signs of substance abusers – and to qualify my coming advice as worth heeding as I have had a considerable amount of exposure to the group in question.

As an adult I married two men (at different times) who had substance abuse issues in their families and who demonstrated signs of substance abuse issues themselves.  One hid bottles around the house, indulging where I couldn’t see him. The other was so sneaky that no one would see him drink any alcohol all day then suddenly he would be stumbling about the house and slurring his words. How did I miss the warning signs before saying, “I do”, not once but twice?

You see, my mistake was that I thought alcoholics were people who lived on the street and had no job.  Think Otis from the Any Griffith show. I had never heard of a functioning alcoholic so I thought the drinking and drugs were all fun and games – if you had a job, and particularly if you were very successful, you could not have a substance abuse problem therefore any substance you chose to indulge in was fine as long as you maintained your status and image- that was the message I got.

Believing this myth is one of reasons it failed to realize that someone with an education, ambition, a residence and a job could possibly have this type of problem. I was well into my second marriage  before that myth was challenged. I had turned to a therapist for help because my life was spinning out of control following a trip to the emergency room with my spouse who had passed out at the dinner table on a day where no one saw him drink. The therapist pointed out that my husband may have a problem and suggested a twelve step program that might help me.

So my first guiding principle in  spotting a potential substance abuser is:

Know that anyone can be a substance abuser.  Anyone.  Regardless of any job, social standing, background, religious affiliation, ethnicity, level of wealth or anything else.

Keep that in mind when you meet potential dating partners then you can utilize the other evaluative tools I will offer  you in future blogs to determine for yourself is a person potentially has a substance abuse problem.  Remember, I am not a doctor, a psychologist, or a specialist in this area.  I just have a lot of life experience and wish to be helpful in helping others consciously avoid getting involved with this type of person.

 

 

 

 

What to wear: First Weekend Away

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So you are in the middle of life and you are dating.  Good for you!  You have met someone you like and have been going out for a while then he invites you to join him for a weekend away.  This is a great opportunity to get to know how you interact over a longer period of time than a date and how well you travel together- because we all know that being away with someone is quite different than being with them in familiar environs.  For one thing, if you get tired or bored, you can’t just leave and go back to your own space, you have to problem solve and work it out.

The first weekend away may also brings up some wardrobe issues – particularly what to wear to bed.  If you have already been sleeping with this guy you may have a no-brainer answer to this question like, “Duh, Mary, Chanel #5.”  But some of us get chilly at night and post romantic encounter may want a little something on to keep us comfortable while actually sleeping.  If you have yet to explore a physical relationship and this might be the first time you go there (This may seem obvious but please know that a man who takes you somewhere overnight probably expects a full out sexual encounter unless otherwise agreed  and you are staying in separate rooms) then you must decide what message you wish to send with your sleepwear.

A friend recently asked my advice on this subject and I recalled experiencing this same dilemma a few years ago (Ugh! has it really been that long since I was away for a weekend with a man?). She is going away with a man she has been dating a few months and even though the weekend centers around a particular hobby of his, she feels that it is something of a landmark in their relationship. She wants to wear something nice to sleep in but is finding it difficult to find sophisticated, comfortable, affordable and sexy but not slutty or silly sleepwear.  I also like a little coverage when I am sleeping with something on.  So here are my suggestions:

1. I like something that is classic and simple like this Calvin Klein night shirt I found on Zappo’s for $43.00:

It is classic and flattering. The shirt tail comes down low enough for good coverage and the V-neckline is tastefully sexy . It is perfect if the AC is too low or the weather is a bit chilly.

2. If you tend to be warm when you sleep, I like this simple yet slightly playful Natori Lhasa Gown in Grey (also on Zappo’s):

It looks comfortable and sophisticated without being fussy or overly dramatic. May be a bit pricey though at $130.00. The y also offer a less expensive version without the lace that I really like as well.

3.  This option from Nordstrom.com is an upscale play on shirt and shorts pj’s in tangerine:

 

(Sorry the picture  is so small).  It is on sale for $51.00.

 

Do you have any other resources you would like to suggest?

 

 

The 80/20 rule- dating advice

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Pareto’s principle or the 80/20 rule is often used in business and economics to determine efficiency and to make decisions.  You have probably heard or read it used in terms of wealth distribution ( 20% of the population owns 80% or the wealth or 20% or the population pays 80% of collected taxes – not the same 20% by the way) . But Christian Carter has finally written something that makes sense to me.  He is using Pareto’s principle to describe the ratio of good available men to all men.  (To learn a little about Pareto’s rule click here)

In a recent email he writes:

Out of a random sample of 100 handsome guys, you’d probably find that only 20 of them (or so) are:

– Single

– Emotionally stable and at least semi-mature

– Able to carry on an interesting conversation

– Open to a relationship, should the right woman come along

– Not a player, or looking for just “fun”

This is just an estimate from my own personal experience, but I think you get the point.

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HOOORAAAAHH!  Now I get  why there are seemingly so few great men out there.  I have been frustrated, as I am sure many single women in their “middle-age”are also, because I failed to realize I was looking for something so rare.

I love that Christian includes “able to carry on an interesting conversation” on his list of qualities.  I have found this especially to be true (with the exception of a very interesting and eloquent man I have been communicating with lately.)   What I love about the “conversation” attribute is that if a man fails to intrigue me with words he hasn’t got a chance regardless of his status or qualities. I know the misery of being with someone who has a limited capacity for thinking and expression.  You know what I mean,  A person with this issue might repeat themselves, the same stories, the same jokes, phrases and responses to adnauseum as if they are in a mental and lingual holding pattern for ever.  Like the man who made a funny comment about the way I said the word, “phone”. (Occasionally, my native Southern accent makes its way into my word pronunciation.  Sometime I pronounce the word phone with a very long “O” sound so that PhOne becomes Phowne. It is very cute when it happens, I am sure.) It was funny the first time he said it.  I showed  that he was paying attention to me and what I was saying, that he found something  charming about me.  The second through fifth time he said it, it was sort of an inside joke- an attempt at creating intimacy, perhaps.  By the 20th time it was annoying and I asked him to stop.  By the 30th time it was a demonstration of mental calcification on his part, a lack of creativity (couldn’t he move on from that joke and create another?) and a lack of respect for my wishes. Or they simply lack a decent command of the language.  I thought, “Good god, am I going to have to hear this for the rest of my life?” and I decided, “Nope.” and ended the relationship. Of course that was not all that was problematic in the relationship. The “phone” thing was merely a symbol of some bigger issues. OR there is the man who uses too many slang and/or curse words in his speech.  I mean, just get a little more creative, will you? But I digress.

In my experience it is not that there is a dirth of single men that is the problem but meeting all of Christian’s criteria that is the main issue. But Christian also says that it is not  the quality of men out there that is important.  He claims it is how women interact with them that counts.

Here is where Christian sort of offers some useful advice for once.  Read what he writes later in the same email quoted above:

THE POWER OF BELIEF IN YOUR LOVE LIFE

So what do you think could happen if you yourself suspended your disbelief that there weren’t many great men out there…

And instead you lived your life with the generosity that only comes from an open heart who’s willing to seek out the best in people?

How do you think men would respond if you were that woman who believed that every man you start talking to could be interesting, SINGLE, and that he’s probably a great guy?

And how do you think men would FEEL around you if they didn’t see that you looked at them suspiciously as though they might be like some of the other men who weren’t acting so great?

There’s an old principle that stands true in the world of advertising…

It basically says that out of 100 people reading your ad or seeing your commercial, maybe ONE of them is that someone who would buy your product. The rest will tune your message out even if it’s a great message.

Which means, if you try and talk to the 100 people in your ad, you’ll fail to grab that 1 real genuine buyers attention.

To put it another way: “Don’t worry about the DOGS, concentrate on selling the FOXES.”

It’s great metaphor I borrowed from a smart writer I know named Gary Halbert.

The point is…talk to the men you meet AS IF they’re single, open, interesting, and wonderful.

And then don’t worry about the ones who don’t turn out to actually BE single, open, interesting, available, and wonderful.

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I really like that Christian says to just go out there with your good attitude, your heart open and chat up every man you meet with reckless abandon. I think I have been doing this all my life . But what Christian fails to mention here is that when you put yourself wholeheartedly out there and treat every man like he’s wonderful and available you may attract the attention of some serious psychos who can be difficult to shake (I will be starting my “stalker” novel this month) or enjoy the wrath of an insecure girlfriend or jealous wife or two (not a fun experience to be reamed up the butt by a woman who feels you are a threat because you treated “her man”  (I hate this term because it Implies ownership – might indicate the real problem right there) like he was single.)

I agree with Christian that you should be comfortable, open and confident when talking to men – all men, single or otherwise.  But I invite you to keep that radar of intuition up while you are enjoying some good conversations.

A fun book to read regarding weeding out the looser/player/undeserving guys from the keepers is Steve Harvey’s “Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man“.  His 5 questions are super smart and his writing style is spritely and clear.

So Sistahs get on out there, put on your confidence, raise that radar and chat up some guys.

Let me know what happens.

 

Men to Avoid: The Rejection-Sensitive

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You may recall that the inspiration for this series of posts (Men to Avoid) was an article I found in the June issue of Psychology Today.  (click here to view first post of the series.) Now that I am planning work on my first novel, The Stalker (working title), the stalker type or rejection-sensitive man has been lurking around in my brain.  Rejection sensitive people take everything personally and perceive slights in your words and actions regardless of actuality.  As the article aptly puts it, “They become unglued at the hint of disapproval.”

When the RS feels rejected they may react in many different ways usually whining if they have the wherewithal to communicate their feelings,bizarrely out of context anger or in some passive aggressive way like stalking. You have to walk on eggshells around these people because they are waiting for you to slight them and they take everything personally.  The Shoe Guy was rejection sensitive.  He barraged me with nasty texts after I politely suggested he look for his ideal mate elsewhere.  (To see more about the shoe guy click here. )

I knew a man like this in college and have met at least one more recently.  These guys seemed like nice, quiet, people on the exterior but were always listening for signals or creating them in their minds that they were being rejected. The guy I knew in college was part of a circle of friends who often hung out together.  I fail to recall him asking me out for a date but apparently he felt that I had spurned him and started calling me at random intervals around the clock.  This was before caller id and cell phones (ouch, who remembers that?) so I had no idea that it was he until I had moved to NYC and the calling suddenly started up again when he showed up in town. Eventually, his circumstances changed and he stopped stalking me.

The other guy went off the handle during our first (and last) outing.  I made a purposefully overly shallow remark in a conversation with a waiter as a joke and this guy began to seethe.  But rather than asking me to clarify what I meant he took the words that were neither spoken to him nor about him personally and a couple of hours later lit into me with some fairly bitter words.  I was astonished that he had interpreted the passing remark as being about him and shocked at the lack of social savvy and communication skills he displayed.  A mutual friend later revealed that he had been cyber stalking me since.

The best thing to do is to avoid people like this if at all possible.  If you must associate with them, say as little as possible and keep the focus and conversation on them.  The less you say, the less clay they have to mold into perceived rejections.

Have you ever had a run in with this type of person? If so, how did you handle it?