Archive for the ‘Dating chemistry’ category

Why are we drawn to bad boys?

November 9, 2007

Bad boyThey are like forbidden foods when we are on a diet. They pull us toward them, no matter how much self-control we try to have. We work to resist, but their beckoning becomes too much for us. We succumb to their wiles.

What is it about bad boys — who are, of course, really midlife men — that is so irresistible to some? Intellectually, you know they are certain trouble. They will say and do the things that melt you. You quickly give them your heart on a silver platter: “Here it is — my heart. Take it. I offer it willingly.” Even if you’ve seen signs that he won’t protect it, you serve it to him with little, if any, hesitation.

Is it that they’ve learned how to address your surface emotional needs? They say all the right things, “Don’t ever change. You are perfect the way you are.” “I see us together for a long, long time.” “Where have you been all my life?” “You’re someone I can take home to my mother. She’ll love you.” “You make me very happy.” “I’m afraid I’m falling for you.” I even had one say on the phone to his sister when I walked into the room, “Your future sister-in-law just came in.”

It’s not just their words. It’s their touch, their kiss, how they look at you, with that look that says they are really, really, really into you. It’s the pheromones — that chemistry thing, but it’s like love potion mixed with steroids.

Are we so needy to hear sweet things that we overlook the parts that aren’t good? We want to be in love so desperately that we ignore the clear signs he isn’t emotionally mature or available? We aren’t fully emotionally available ourselves so we choose guys who will leave us in the dust as quickly as they stole our hearts? Is it low self-esteem, even when we have high self-esteem in many other areas?

What is it that is so alluring? Have they figured out how to hypnotize us? They know what many women want from a man? That they can love us and leave us and we’ll still long for them to return with open arms?

What’s your theory — or experience — with the temptations of bad boys? Why do we fall for them so readily? Even when we’re at midlife and know better?

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Looking for a connection

November 4, 2007

“I’ve had a lot of sex in my life. I’m looking for a connection. Sex is an important element in a long-term relationship, but it’s not the only important thing.” My jaw was agape as I heard him share his philosophy.

I admit it. I’ve come to expect the polar opposite from midlife men in the dating scene. Not that they can’t be great guys. But — at least in my three years of dating — it is a very rare man who doesn’t want or expect sex reasonably soon in a dating relationship. Somehow the concept of a woman wanting/needing an emotional connection is elusive to nearly all the men I’ve gone out with. Is it that I tend to attract horn dogs? Or are there just more of them involved in Internet dating?

The man who said he wanted a connection was unique. I hadn’t encountered anyone like him. I asked him what made him have this point of view.

“A lot of personal development work. I saw that in my past dating relationships I’d put too much emphasis on sex and pressed for it before I really knew the woman. We’d wake up next to each other a few months after beginning dating and realize we didn’t really know if we had compatible values, goals, or beliefs. Our relationship was based mostly on sex. And I decided I wanted more.”

I could have kissed him right then. But he was driving, so I saved it for later.

unicornI’d heard there are men out there like this — in fact many of our male DG readers are, based on their comments. But to actually be dating one — I felt like I’d come upon a unicorn. Single men like this are rumored to be out there, but encountering one personally — what a treat.

Have you dated men who wanted a solid connection before becoming sexual? If so, how has that worked out?

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Advice from sister-surrogate sages

October 29, 2007

Having lunch with two friends, both 16 years my senior, we were discussing relationships. They asked about my love life, always wanting an update on the soap opera of my dating situation. One had been married nearly 50 years, the other was a divorcée from a 30-year marriage. I often bounced my relationship dilemmas off them.

I shared I was torn between two really great guys, one of whom I’d been seeing for 5 weeks, the other for 3. Both were generous, affectionate, communicative, tender, intelligent, and successful. The 5-week one had also shown he was reliable, thoughtful about pleasing me, and emotionally mature, but I wasn’t physically drawn to him. He wasn’t unattractive; it was more his kiss and touch didn’t do it for me. The 3-week man also displayed some of the same positive characteristics, but since we hadn’t spent as much time together, the evidence was less apparent. But I got goose bumps with his touch and kiss. We definitely had chemistry.

I was wondering if it was right to keep seeing the 5-week guy since I didn’t have the same physical reaction to him. Was I being fair to him? Would I grow to get excited by his touch? Should I let him loose and focus on the one who got my blood boiling? Or should I continue to see both a bit longer and see if one emerged as the clear front runner?

wisdomMy two sages offered their input.

The longer-married one began: “After a while, the physical part of a relationship wanes, no matter how hard you try. If you have to choose between a good man and a hot one — at least for the long term — always choose the one who treats you the best. The hottie may be good for a tryst, but sex appeal is not the primary basis on which to build a relationship.”

The other chimed in, “Yes, passion fades, but respect, kindness, and emotional maturity are more likely to stay intact. If you’re looking to stop dating around and settle down, focus on the one who shows more solid character, even if you’re less drawn to him physically.”

“But,” I protested, “if I can’t get excited about him physically, how will that bode for the relationship? In the beginning if one isn’t pulled to a man, can you learn to be passionate toward him?”

“Do you think he’s teachable? Could he learn how you like to be kissed and touched?” asked the 50-year veteran.

“Yes, I believe he would want to learn. He does seem interested in pleasing me.”

The divorcée added, “You can be swept off your feet by passion. It is exhilarating. But it often blinds us to the lack of other important criteria by which to make a long-term decision. Yes, ideally your future mate and you will have passion for many, many years. But the relationship should be grounded on mutual respect, caring, kindness, and wanting to make each other happy — not only in the bedroom, but in general.”

The long-married friend capped the conversation with, “Dear, you’ve only just begun to get to know these men. You don’t have to choose at this juncture. Just enjoy having two great guys in your life, be respectful of their feelings, and when the time is right, it will be clear which one should get your focus. Or maybe neither of these is the right one for you. Have a good time while being mindful of not doing or saying things that make them think you are focused on one exclusively.”

These surrogate big sisters served thoughts to chew on as we nibbled our lunch. Having their 80+ years of relationship wisdom in which to marinate my thoughts was the seasoning I was looking for.

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The faux vacation fling

October 17, 2007

You had an instant, magical, mutual connection. On the first date you both expressed how attracted you were to the other, and how much you enjoyed your time together. He kissed you on the cheek during dinner, showing that he was a gentleman — not assuming privileges too soon.

After dinner, neither of you wanted the date to end, but the restaurant was closing. You didn’t want to say goodnight just yet. The waitress suggested a bar for “mature people” which you interpreted as anyone over 30. You struck out in pursuit of a place to linger with some unobtrusive dance music. The suggested tavern had morphed into a hard-rock, under-30 place. You found a nearby lounge at a chain restaurant, so cozied up in a booth for more time together until it, too, closed.

You couldn’t wait for the first kiss. It was as yummy as you’d hoped. You said goodbye for the evening. He promised to call the next day. He did. He called every day for the next four days, when you saw each other again. The hours passed quickly as you hung out, enjoying holding hands, talking, and sweet kisses. No pressure to go beyond simple affection — he wasn’t pressing for sex. More expression of your both feeling close to each other. At the end of the evening, you felt you’d found someone with whom you could spend the rest of your life. Yes, you realize this was happening quickly and knew your friends would tell you to slow down, but you hadn’t felt like this in years.

He called the next day and the next and the next. But there was no definite time set to get together. You called him and asked about lunch or dinner, but there was always some reason he couldn’t set a day and time — meetings, business dinners, evening classes, short business travel. Was he in a relationship and just trying you out to be his spare? Had he changed his mind about how he felt? Had he been feeding you lines? Was he a player? If so, he would have pressed more for sex.

You toy with getting angry and telling him off. But you don’t really know what’s going on. He does call, so you think he’s still interested. You struggle to not take it personally. He never really said he’s finished; he’s just not making an effort to get together again. But he does still stay in touch. You’re tempted to cut the cord, but decide there’s no loss with staying the course.

This has happened before, where things began swimmingly, deliciously, fabulously, only to have the connection dissipate. You can blame him for whatever (being a coward, leading you on, apparently lying, being uncommunicative), but that doesn’t really get you anywhere. You could blame yourself (easily wooed, heart on your sleeve, needy, see things as you’d like them not as they really are, you get your hopes up too quickly), but that doesn’t get you anywhere either.

vacationI’ve decided that when I have these fizzled encounters — which luckily are rare — I will reframe them as vacation flings. So what if I wasn’t really on vacation, or if these assignations happened within 25 miles of my house. A vacation fling is full of juicy romance, yet you know it is unlikely to continue when you return home. The difference between a real vacation fling and a faux, close-to-home one is with the former you know going in that it isn’t going to last. With the latter you have to reframe it in retrospect — rewriting a bit of emotional history. Delusional? Perhaps. But it’s harmless.

Does it still sting? It can. Or, just like with a vacation dalliance, you can look back with a smile, enjoy the connection and affection, and be happy you experienced it. After all, he wasn’t abusive or mean, he was just not there for the long term — that being more than two weeks.

Have you experienced reframing a short, strong connection in a way that leaves you happy, not angry or hurt? If so, how did you recategorize the “relationship”?

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Are you open to receiving?

September 21, 2007

Melanie HamiltonDo you think of yourself as feminine? When I hear that word, I think of the terms usually used to define the word: delicacy, prettiness, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion. I conjure up an image of a demure, eyelash-batting, quiet girl/woman wearing pink lace and crinolines. A la Melanie Hamilton, Scarlet’s rival in “Gone With the Wind.” Well, a 21st Century version, of course.

I am nothing like that image or most of those descriptive terms. And yet I know I can be feminine.

When I took the “Making Sense of Men” evening seminar last month, I learned a different take on femininity. The author of the program, Alison Armstrong, defines it differently. Her description of femininity is centered around receptivity.

She says (and I’m paraphrasing here) men are drawn to women they can contribute to in some way. That is not to say we need to be damsels in distress. Not at all. We can still be our usual confident, competent, strong selves. But we have to give off vibes that we are willing to receive.

“Receive what?” you aptly ask. “I am financially and emotionally sound. I don’t need a man. However, I’d like to have a good, fun, caring man in my life.”

Understood. When men like you, whether romantically or as a pal, they offer to help you or be with you. They will offer advice, which some of us interpret as “He must think I’m clueless” and we get upset. A man may also show his fondness of you by warning you (“The weather is turning nasty, so be careful driving on the freeway”), which again infuriates us because we think he must think we’re dolts.

Let me give some examples of what some strong, independent women do.

  • A man you are interested in asks you out for lunch/dinner. You insist on going Dutch as you don’t want there to be any underlying feeling that you owe him anything. Instead, if he offers, let him buy. He likes taking you out. Let him. Instead of arm wrestling him for the bill, smile, say thank you and that you appreciate his generosity. If you feel compelled to even the score, tell him you’d like to treat next time. Or offer to buy after-dinner drinks and/or dessert. Or invite him to your house for dinner next time.
  • A guy you’ve been dating a few times and feel safe with offers to pick you up at your home for a date, even though it’s out of his way. You could insist on meeting him at the venue because it would be easier on him. When you accept his offer, you’re allowing him to do something nice for you. Men like this.
  • A male pal offers to walk you to your car/the subway/the bus stop on a dark, blustery night. You say, “Thanks, but I’m fine.” He’s showing he cares for you by wanting to ensure your safety and spend a little more time with you. Let him. Say thank you.
  • You are struggling with some boxes. A neighbor (not a sleezeball) offers to help. You decline because you don’t want to put him out. Let him help. He wouldn’t have offered if he wasn’t fine with doing it. It will make him feel better about himself to have helped.

You show your openness and receptivity in many simple ways. If a man you like and feel safe with offers something that would be helpful or nice, accept. And verbalize your appreciation afterwards. That’s what they want — to be noticed and thanked. If a man likes you, he wants to make you happy and give you what you want — even if there are no romantic implications.

For example, after a presentation I gave Saturday, a new colleague/friend in the audience told me he was so inspired that he was now committed to taking action within 48 hours. I offered to be his accountability partner. He accepted. I threw out this consequence if he didn’t accomplish what he promised: He’d send me a pound of Godiva. He laughed. “What flavor?” “Milk chocolate with nuts. But if you’re really committed, it doesn’t matter because you won’t be sending it.” We laughed.

He accomplished what he promised within the time frame and emailed me proof. The next day a box of chocolates arrived, not because he missed his deadline, which he hadn’t, but because he said he appreciated my support. And I was glad I’d said what I wanted and he listened! In the past I just would have said, “Email me when it’s accomplished.” Or after the Godiva exchange, said “No, really, you don’t have to do anything.” But he shared that it gave him much pleasure to surprise me with this, even though he’d met his part of the bargain. And I thanked him.

I don’t see this receiving business being against any feminist principles any of us might hold. Nor do I see that receiving nice behaviors means you have to return them, but you could if you wanted. You’re not demanding, you’re simply receiving. And if he wants to know more about how to make you happy, you’ll share.

Do you find yourself not allowing men to do things for you? If so, why? Are you concerned it will imply you owe him something back? Can you let go and just receive? And appreciate him for his kindness?

After I wrote this item, the chocolate-sending friend/colleague wrote in his blog “The Stress Doctor is In” about a different conversation we had. You might be amused about by his posting called “You are in my personal space!.”

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Are you “skin hungry”?

September 13, 2007

touchA friend used this term to describe when someone longs for touch. She said it means someone hasn’t been touched in a while, or perhaps as much as they like. Maybe their friends or family aren’t the touching type. They crave human contact — literally. But especially opposite-sex contact, even if it’s just holding hands or hugging.

Although I like physical contact, I’ve had dates get too touchy too soon. I’ve tended to think they were just horny, even if they didn’t try to read my body using the Braille method.

Have you ever found yourself being a bit physically clingy, especially on the first or second dates, before you really know the guy? I’ve found myself slipping my hand in his on the second date, before I really felt a lot of connection, just because it seemed like that’s what should happen at that point.

So I empathize with someone’s wanting physical touch. I’ve learned to be a tad cautious, however, as we know touch sends signals that you are feeling connected and fond of the person. Sometimes this gets interpreted as feeling more attracted to the person than you are.

What to do when you find yourself being skin hungry? See if you can be around family members who enjoy your touch. Young nieces, nephews or grandkids who like to hold hands or sit in your lap while you read to them are great ways to get your skin hunger satisfied. Or plan an outing with a friend who likes to hug hello or link arms when walking. I have a male friend who loves to snuggle, so going to the movies with him is a treat when I have a touching deficit.

But with your dates, be conscious if your itch to be touched is appropriate to be scratched by him. Be sensitive to the message that it sends. And if the touching goes beyond what you are comfortable with, then gently say something. Don’t punish him for a yearning you have that may send him an unintentional green light.

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Kisses do tell

September 10, 2007

KissWomen place more emphasis on the first kiss than men do. We use it as part of determining if we want to see the man again or not.

University at Albany researchers Susan M. Hughes, Marissa A. Harrison, and Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. recently published their findings on kissing in an Evolutionary Psychology article.

This was another study using only college students, 1,041 in fact. So I’m not sure that we can assume that this information applies to midlife daters. But it does seem consistent with my experience — a sample size of one.

Many of the college students reported having been attracted to someone, then discovered they were no longer interested after they kissed them for the first time. “In other words,” said Gallup, an evolutionary psychologist, “While many forces lead two people to connect romantically, the kiss, particularly the first kiss, can be a deal breaker.”

Exactly. In “In search of the elusive good kisser” I share the challenge of finding men who fit my criteria in this area. As I’ve gone out with 80 men now, although I haven’t kissed all of them, I’ve kissed enough that I’ve begun to relax my standards a bit. But if a man is such a sloppy kisser I need a towel afterwards, or has other kissing habits I find off putting, it will be a factor in my decision to see him again.

Kissing as a determinant of another date is mostly true just for women. Men said they saw kissing an a way to gain sexual favors or to make up after a problem. But women use kissing to assess the status of the relationship. Most females shared they would never engage in sex without kissing. However, men would; men said they’d have sex with someone who was not a “good” kisser.

The study showed that it was more common for males than females to initiate French kissing. In my experience, many men don’t gauge accurately if the woman is ready for that intimacy or not. They go there too soon, which can be a turn off rather than a turn on.

What do you think about first kisses? Does the man or woman generally initiate? And do you use a first passionate kiss to determine if you’re interested in continuing seeing your date?

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