Archive for the ‘Pre-date contact’ category

When should you disclose any, er, unusual preferences?

October 30, 2007

kinkyI was once contacted by a man who said in his profile that he was “slightly kinky.” When I asked what he meant exactly, he said he’d explain in person. He was a perfect gentleman on the phone and in emails, so I thought it was worth a coffee meeting to find out. I’ve learned that one person’s kinky is another’s normal, so I decided not worry too much about it until he explained. During our coffee date, he elaborated that he was a cross dresser on occasion. Okey dokie.

But another man didn’t even hint at his unconventional preferences until an email nearly a week after our first lunch. We’d had a dozen emails, phone conversations and IMs and nothing was even hinted at beforehand. I know people share his sexual practices, but I’ve not met anyone personally who told me they did. So I’m thinking that this man should have placed an ad on or something similar, not YahooPersonals.

However, an acquaintance who is a swinger into swapping, has an ad on YahooPersonals, as well as more provocative sites. He sent me his profile to read and he thought he was being explicit about his practices. He wrote that he was “adventurous” but he didn’t say “sexually adventurous.” He thought “adventurous” was enough. I thought it meant he liked to rock climb or participate in outdoor adventures. He said he told women from YP on their first coffee meeting that he attended swapping parties. I told him I’d feel duped if he waited until then to disclose such an important element of his life that would affect many women’s decision to meet him or not. I’d be irritated if I got dolled up and drove to a coffee meeting, then learned of his practice that I don’t support and wouldn’t date someone who did.

I felt a bit hoodwinked myself by the man who didn’t share his out-of-the-ordinary practices. I’d spent some time getting to know him and was interested in a second date. But I don’t share a proclivity for the experiences he described. And I doubt I’d learn to like those kind of activities.

When should one disclose such alternative tastes? I think you are beholden to at least hint at it in your profile or initial email, as the first man did. Did the second man think that I’d become so enamored with him that I’d ignore my own values? Did he think he’d scare off women if he shared earlier? He was just postponing the inevitable, but taking up someone’s time in the process.

When do you think someone should disclose any practices that they know others may find off putting?

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Should you state your dating goal even before meeting?

September 25, 2007

In Sync with the Opposite SexI just listened to the 4-CD seminar, “In Sync with the Opposite Sex™,” with Alison Armstrong. A close friend has attended a number of her seminars and highly recommends them, so I’ve been immersing myself in her work. This CD was recorded live, so you hear Alison’s fun presentation style and her wittily interacting with the participants.

I was especially interested in this CD set because it focused on dating. While I’ve learned a lot in my 3 years and 81 men, there is still a lot I don’t know. Alison shared a lot of information, much of it made sense, some new info and some common sense.

One of her points stood out for me. She encouraged daters to be clear on what you want and what you have to offer. And to state that even before you go on a date with a potential suitor.

Most of us are a bit reticent to state exactly what we want as we think we may come across negatively. For example, one of the audience members said, “I want to have a mutually adoring relationship with a man who wants children within the next two years and will financially support us. I will raise our children, keep house, cook, support his endeavors and have regular sex with him.” Some of us think that sounds unprogressive nowadays.

She even suggested that if you’re looking for a casual sex partner, say that up front. “I am looking for someone to have wild, casual sex with, but without long-term attachment. I offer no-strings-attached, safe sex on an hour’s notice, and will promise to always call the next day.”

Most of us would not have the courage to spell out our desires quite so bluntly. Alison’s point is that if you don’t say what you want, you’ll spend a lot of time meeting with, and perhaps dating people who aren’t interested in what you’re interested in. Yes, it will turn away lots of people, but that’s the plan. Rather than be in scarcity mode where you have to entice the opposite sex to give you what you want, why not be clear on what you want from the start?

I’m not sure. On one hand, her logic makes sense. That is if your belief and experience is you have an unlimited stream of potential partners regularly filling your email box and life. If, however, you’re like half the men online and 25% of women, you never get one contact, you can get in the mindset of not wanting to turn away anyone.

Alison’s point is that you need to weed out those who aren’t ever going to be a fit rather than trying to ensnare someone until he’s so taken with you that he’ll give you what you want to keep you. The latter, I’m afraid, just postpones the probability that one day he’ll wake up and say “This is not what I wanted.” And he’s either gone physically or emotionally or both.

For example, when my ex and I first got together, he said “I’m not looking for a relationship.” I did most of the pursuing and after 8 months of dating, when he got a job closer to me (we were a 2-hour drive apart) one of us (probably me) suggested moving in together. Throughout much of the relationship it felt like I was more committed to the relationship than he was. I should have listened — and believed — what he said. He told me up front what he was looking for by telling me what he wasn’t looking for. Had I told him I had marriage and family on my mind, he probably would have broken up with me. And would that have been bad? In retrospect, probably not. But who knows.

I think some of us believe we can change the other’s mind (see “Do you think you’ll change his mind?“) or that he’s just not clear on what he wants. Thinking this way is asking for trouble.

Some men tell me it’s off putting to hear a woman say, “I’m looking for a man who’s interested in marriage within the next 24 months and a family soon afterward.” They say it feels pressured, rather than letting a relationship evolve and see if they like each other, rather than feeling, “If I don’t propose soon, I’m dog meat.”

What do you think about being so straightforward from the beginning? Is this refreshing or repelling?

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Let the games begin

September 6, 2007

As I respond to an interesting potential suitor’s email today, I hear myself saying the command heard at the start of the Olympics. I’m don’t like to think of dating as a game — although there are gamelike parts. I work hard to not play games in dating, even though there are plenty of those who do.

Let the games beginWhat I mean by the line is that once you respond positively to someone’s initial inquiry (or he to yours), it sets off a series of emails, often fun and flirty. If you pass muster with each other, you progress to a phone call, then if that is acceptable, a meeting. In each interaction, you want to display your personality, while simultaneously working to be on your best behavior (if you’re at all conscious).

Responding positively sets the dating “game” in motion. I wish there were a better metaphor, as the word game used in reference to dating is so negative. But you know what I mean — a loosely prescribed set of actions.

But in this game, the rules are not agreed to by all the players. Which leads to assumptions, frustration and disappointments. Sometimes the players appear to be playing very different games, but they’re doing it on the same field. And one can’t understand why the other is doing X because it makes no sense in the rules they are playing by.

Since the rules are nebulous, it is unclear when one is winning. In dating, ideally you both win. But some have agendas like, “If I can get him to buy me a drink, I win,” “If I can get her number, I win, “If he takes me to a nice restaurant, I win,” “If I can get her to kiss me, I win,” “If he buys me jewelry, I win,” or “If I can get her in bed, I win.”

And any player can leave the game at any time, and they do, often without informing the other player. One declares, “Game over,” but only in his/her head.

So it is hard to allow the games to begin when you don’t want to play any manipulative mind games. The best you can do is try to adapt to the situation as you experience it with the other, so you are co-creating the rules of the game for the two of you.

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Is it neediness, loneliness, or pent up love?

September 5, 2007

I’ve noticed some men start with sugary sweet talk even before a face-to-face meeting. Some of them try to soften me up, thinking I’ll then be an easy mark on the first date for a roll in the hay.

But others don’t hint at sex, and say sweet, romantic things in email or on the phone. I’ve generally written off this sweet talk as neediness, or just the expressions of lonely men.

Now I’m wondering if it might also have something to do with the man aching to love someone, to shower her with affection, to pamper and spoil her, starting with his expressions of care. When he finds someone who is nice, communicative and apparently receptive to his verbal kindnesses, he is so overjoyed, he thinks he is smitten. But he hasn’t even met the object of desire yet.

I think many people have a lot of love to give, and get satisfaction from giving love. They give to their family and friends, but yearn for a romantic partner to act out their definition of themselves as a romantic, loving mate. After all, without someone with which to actually be romantic, you are just a theoretical romantic, not a practicing one. If you call yourself a romantic but have no one to romance, your definition of yourself can become shaky.

So is neediness and pent up love the same? The dictionary says “needy” is “lacking the necessities of life.” One could easily argue that giving or receiving love is a necessity. So lacking the ability to fully experience love is indeed needy.

Now when a man writes sweet things, unaccompanied my sexual innuendo, I give him some grace. I wait to assess if it is out of his neediness, loneliness or pent up love.

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Failed phone audition

July 26, 2007

princess phoneWe’d flirted online a few times many months ago, then stopped. I can’t remember why. We started again last week. Last night he called. This psychology professor included these tidbits in his 45-minute monologue:

  • He told me in great detail of his recent tooth extraction — his third — and his options for implants or a bridge. Why extraction? Because he went to the dentist only every 3 years (his insurance would pay for every 6 months) and ignored the infections that caused his teeth to rot.
  • He planned his vacations only around time-share pitches at hotels so he could have a free weekend stay.
  • He dabbled in day trading, so currently had invested this month’s mortgage money and had maxed out his credit card advances to buy a new stock, even though he’d lost money in the past.
  • He described the social psychology class he just finished teaching. When he began to explain social psychology, I said, “That was my minor in college.” He continued with his explanation as if I had no idea what it was.

I asked him questions and injected statements — when he took a breath, which wasn’t often. There were many times he could have asked me questions about my comments, but he didn’t. I tried for 15 minutes to extricate myself, and finally did. He said, “Give me a call when you have a few minutes.” Right. Like that’s going to happen.

This call reminded me of a few things:

  • While I try to give people grace, I learned everything I needed to know in 30 minutes that this man was not a fit for me. Anyone who ignores his dental hygiene for 3 years and repeatedly has teeth removed because of it doesn’t have the decision-making skills I’m looking for. This well-paid man is so cheap he only goes on free vacations. If he’s gambling with his mortgage money, this is not someone whose values I respect. And finally, if he ignores what I say, he’s just interested in a monologue so it doesn’t really matter if I’m there or not.
  • I make assumptions that because someone is educated, in a certain profession or knows certain information (like psychology), they will behave in a socially astute way. Not necessarily.
  • I’m glad I have a “phone-call first” rule. If I didn’t I’d have taken time to get dolled up and drive to a Starbucks to sit excruciatingly while this man blathered on. Now I won’t be making that drive.
  • I need to be bolder when I want to end a call, perhaps bordering on rude for those who don’t pick up on subtler clues.

This experience also made me wonder what I did that caused me to fail phone auditions. It is not only me who has rejected invitations for further contact after a call. Occasionally I’ll think a call went swimmingly, never to hear from the guy again.

When you’ve decided not to see someone after an initial call, what did they do or not do that led you to this decision?

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Are you his spare?

May 11, 2007

For a few weeks a gal pal was exchanging flirty emails multiple times a day with a an online match. He then suggested they have dinner and she countered that she was more comfortable with lunch. They continued their multiple-per-day email flirting a few more weeks, but he never again brought up getting together.

She was flummoxed. What was going on?

Two explanations came to me:

  1. He enjoyed flirting, but not actually meeting women. This happens more than one would think. Some people just want pen pals, which is perfectly fine as long as they are upfront about it. Leading someone on when you have no intention of meeting isn’t right. But he had suggested dinner, so we didn’t think he was just a serial flirter.
  2. He was trolling for a “spare” woman. Not necessarily a woman on the side if he was married or in a relationship. But more likely he was seeing someone already, but not seriously. So he was still hunting, seeing if there was someone “better” out there. He wasn’t unhappy with his current woman, but not so enthralled that he was sure she was “the one.” My friend was intriguing enough to flirt with, but not yet enticing enough to press to meet her. (If he did meet her he’d see how fabulous she is!) He was ensuring his pipeline was full in case his current woman dumped him or he lost interest in her.

How do you know if you are his spare? Mostly it will be in the lack of action he takes to meet with you, not only the first time but in subsequent communications. In “Are you getting prime time from your man?” I outline ways you can tell if you aren’t a top priority for a guy. While one would think most of these signs are obvious, the haze of infatuation affects us all so we miss signals that are otherwise apparent.

What should you do if you suspect he is stringing you along as his spare — or potential backup?

  • Limit the time you are willing to put into communicating before meeting. Many DG readers agree that you should strive to meet after 2 weeks or less of email exchanges. After that, no matter how much he says he likes you, if there is no effort to meet, even if long distance, there is not a lot of interest. Too many women have shared they’ve had extensive email exchanges which turned to naught when they met. You don’t want to waste your time, unless you just want a pen pal.
  • Ask him point blank if he is seeing other women. If he stammers and stutters, “Yes, but no one serious,” then you need to decide if you want to meet — or continue to see — him. If you are multi-dating yourself, then maybe it’s not a problem for you. But if you believe in dating only one man at a time, you need to tell him your criteria, and if you are interested in meeting him in the future when he’s unencumbered, tell him to let you know when he is available.

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Should you respond to someone about whom you’re ambivalent?

May 9, 2007

emailYou receive a nice, personalized email from a man on a dating site. He’s crafted an message specific to you, commenting on items from your profile. His profile is fine, but something is a borderline deal breaker. You vacillate whether to respond with your nice boilerplate “Thanks but no thanks” email, or to encourage more interaction.

No doubt like you, I’ve received lots of contacts from guys who clearly weren’t a fit, or of enough interest for me to meet for coffee. Those were easy to deal with. I simply sent them my “Thanks but no thanks” email.

The slippery slope begins when you have ambivalence but decide to write back anyway. There was nothing odious about his profile or communication, but also nothing really compelling. And there was that one (or more) issue that raised a yellow flag. Not to say this is always bad, as I’ve met some great guys who I initially thought weren’t of interest, some of whom I dated multiple times or others who became beaus.

But more often than not, I knew we weren’t a match from the get go. However, his email was so nice, or he was articulate, or there was something interesting in his profile to offset the borderline deal breaker. So I answered the email, which progressed to a phone call, which led to coffee. And after you’ve built a bit of a bond through multiple emails and phone calls, when you meet and there’s no spark, it’s uncomfortable to have to tell him so.

In “Hello — goodbye: How to say ‘no thanks’ after meeting” I discussed how to gently yet clearly let a guy know you aren’t a match. I always feel badly when I must have that conversation when I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be a match from the beginning.

“Then why even encourage him?” you rightly wonder. Because some of my most special guys were ones who I was close to emailing a “no thanks” message. But after some emails, phone calls and coffee, I warmed to them. In “‘I only want to date someone I would marry’” I shared that as long as there aren’t glaring red lights and he seems interesting, go ahead and meet for coffee.

Sometimes you respond to his initial email out of selfishness. You haven’t had a date, let alone an interesting, flirty email conversation in a while. Maybe you are lonely. Or bored. And there’s no one else on the horizon. He seems nice enough, so who knows? So you respond, even though you’re 90% sure you’re not a good match. That’s not really a good way to start any relationship, even if it’s only a one-time coffee one.

The wisdom lies in knowing whom to turn down at the beginning to save you both time and possible rejection and who to respond to, in the hopes that there will be a spark. How do you get this wisdom? I wish it were just from reading these missives. But unfortunately, it is usually from having lived through a few experiences where you have to turn someone down for a second date, knowing you should have done so before the first.

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