Archive for the ‘Releasing back into the dating pool’ category

“The Bachelor” mirrors real life

November 20, 2007

Before you say, “DG, are you crazy? The Bachelor is totally contrived,” hear me out. I’m not saying it’s not artificial, nor that much of it parallels real life. In fact, I admit to only watching 2 episodes this season, and none of any previous season.

I mean having 25 women live in a mansion while competing for a man’s affection is strange, don’t you think? And I find it far fetched to believe some of these women developed such deep feelings for a man with whom they barely spent any one-on-one time. But I do believe some feelings could develop on both sides. However, I’ve always thought it ludicrous that the producers expect a couple to become engaged at the end of such a manufactured love test.

Brad WomackSo when Brad Womack, the bachelor of this season, chose neither of the final two women last night, I wanted to cheer. Finally, someone who understands that it is folly to ask someone to marry you after knowing her so little time.

However, I was as confused as the two women, because he repeatedly expressed how deep his feelings were for both women, and how he could see himself married to either. The episode contributed to our bafflement since it didn’t allow us to hear Brad’s justification — especially when we saw him buy an engagement ring and tell the audience he was sure of his decision.

But it reminded me of the wail I hear from many women: “He said he really cared for me, he’d never met anyone like me, I made him very happy. He did all the right things to sweep me off my feet. I told him how much I cared for him and he never said he didn’t feel the same way. How could he lead me on like that, then go poof? I believed him, then he just disappeared. He played me!”

In The Bachelor’s case, the producers want to entice us to tune in tonight to hear Brad’s side of the story. In real life, we rarely get that chance. Brad seems like the real deal — sensitive, vulnerable, respectful to these women. Was he lying when he told each one he felt deeply for her? I don’t think so. I think people can have deep feelings, but not yet feel in love.

So was Brad right to not propose when he knew he wasn’t completely in love? Absolutely. My guess is he understood the seriousness of marriage and wanted to be absolutely clear he was making the right decision when he asked the woman he chose.

Now might he be a perfectionist or commitment averse? Perhaps, but I didn’t hear anything that would make me believe that. Might some of the men who have left you in the dust have other issues? Of course.

So we can’t say Brad is a clone of some of your past loves. But I think he is representative of guys who are genuine, honest and straightforward, yet they don’t behave as we want them to. We can call them names and say how much they’ve hurt us. And after we grieve and obsess over trying to figure out what happened, we can be grateful because we wouldn’t want to be with a man who wasn’t absolutely, positively sure he wanted to be with us. Otherwise, we’re just a place holder.

Yes, I will be tuning in to hear Brad’s side so I can understand why he made the decision he did. And then we can see if his logic applies to other relationships, past and future.

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Paranoid or observant?

November 12, 2007

You’ve been dating around for a few years, having second dates or more with a dozen or so men. You have enough experience under your belt to notice that in the past there’s been a shift of behavior that has preceded a guy’s going poof or breaking up with you. There’s a change in something that he had done predictably. Maybe he usually makes contact at least once a day, or typically asks you out for the weekend by Thursday, or wants to have lunch during the week as well as Saturday night.

Because of the behaviors of past guys, you’re on the lookout with the man you’ve been seeing for a few months. You’ve been blindsided in the past, but in retrospect the signs of a change were there, you just didn’t interpret them as pre-break-up or pre-poof signals.

You’re watching for a shift in pattern that might reveal a change in his perspective about you. You are aware if he skips a day of contact, since he typically calls/IMs/texts each day. You contact him on those days, and he seems glad to hear from you (assuming you don’t yell at or guilt him). You try to not be overly sensitive, bordering on paranoid. But you notice when there’s a change in patterns.

You wrestle with yourself to not make more out of it than that he was really busy or distracted by work/kids/life. But the question resurfaces, “Is this the beginning of the end?”

Ideally, you let it be, noticing but not commenting unless it happens a handful of times. At times life gets overwhelming for most people, and as long as a missed day of contact doesn’t spread into 3 or 4 days, you’re probably fine. However, if the pattern of pulling away begins to repeat itself, don’t be surprised if he goes poof or you get one of those dreaded “it’s not working” emails.

Even if you bring it up as gently as possible, with no blame or guilt, it’s a rare man who will admit he’s having second thoughts about your seeing each other. Some will try to cover it up, more from not wanting to hurt you or have a confrontation than from purposefully lying. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it up — you should see what he says. But even if he comes back with, “I’ve just been crazy busy with work and the kids lately” he will know that you’ve noticed and it may help him feel okay about coming clean. It’s like when as a kid your mom found you doing something you shouldn’t have, at first you may fib to see if she will ignore it. But if you had any conscience and your mother was not crazy, you may have confessed to her after a while.

And this knife cuts both ways. If you find yourself behaving differently toward him than in the past, perhaps your feelings have changed and you just haven’t articulated them yet. If you used to answer no matter when he called, and now you let it go to voice mail if you’re doing something else that may be a sign you’re less engaged. Or you used to invite him to dinner during the week and now you’d rather watch The Bachelor, notice if you’re feeling less interested in your time with him.

So notice the shifts and see if they are signs you should pay attention to or just ignore. If you choose the latter, at least you won’t be completely blindsided when the “Have a nice life” email comes through.

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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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Gently telling him you want to be friends

October 29, 2007

A DG reader sent this question:

Any ideas on how to gently let a good man go? I had several dates with a kind, intelligent, respectful man. We had much in common but by the third date it occurred to me that what we had was friendship, not a romantic attraction. He had different feelings that I was unaware of. I decided it was best to let go rather than lead him to believe I was interested in developing a relationship. I feel badly about this and if it should happen again, any tips?

This is always a difficult question for anyone who dates with sensitivity and caring for the feelings of the other person. Here are a few ideas I’ve found effective when I’ve delivered this communication, and I’m sure other readers will share their ideas.

  • If you’ve only had a few dates, as you have with this gentleman, you can have this conversation on the phone or even in email. I’ve often sent an email after a first or even second encounter when I realized the guy wasn’t a match. I’ve said something like, “You are an intelligent, interesting, fun guy. However, I didn’t feel the spark I know I need to explore a romantic relationship. But I’d like to have you in my network of friends. Would that be OK with you?” Most often the response is “Sure.” Occasionally I’ve received, “I have enough friends,” which is fine, too.
  • If you’ve seen each other more than a few times, work to talk to him in person, assuming you live within a comfortable distance. If you are dating long distance, then have a live phone conversation, don’t leave it on voice mail. And never do it via email or worse, text or IM. And if you live a distance apart, don’t wait until he visits to tell him, as he will have gone to considerable trouble and expense to see you expecting to be pursuing you romantically. If you want to deliver the message in person, you should travel to him.
  • When you are with him, don’t do anything physically that would make him think you feel differently. So don’t initiate hand holding, lingering hugs, or passionate kisses. If he tries to kiss you passionately, break it off quickly and turn your cheek.
  • Arrange a meeting like coffee or a drink, not dinner. If the expectation is a longer outing, you will be worried about when and how to deliver the “let’s be friends” statement and will be on edge. A shorter encounter also allows him to leave quickly if he is upset at your decision.
  • Think carefully how you want to express yourself. Avoid the clichéd “It’s not you, it’s me.” Some people think telling him what a great guy he is will only confuse him when you tell him you want to be friends, as he may think, “If I’m so great, why doesn’t she want more?”
  • When I’ve delivered the “let’s be friends” talk, I didn’t say, “I’m not sexually attracted to you,” but instead said, “While I have grown fond of you, I realize that fondness is as a friend, not a sweetheart.” If he responds as one man did, “Well, good relationships always start with friendships,” escalate your language to be even clearer. “I am not The One for you, so it would be unfair to continue as if we are going to be romantic.” If he insists that he does indeed think you are The One for him, you have to be blunt, as he’s not getting the gentler wording. “As good of a guy as you are, I’m clear you aren’t The One for me. But you have many qualities I enjoy, which is why I’m wondering if we could be friends.” Or “I just don’t think we are a match. But I’d love to stay connected as friends, if that would work for you.”
  • How blunt you have to be will depend on how quickly he gets the message. If he is insistent that you are a good match, you will have to be more explicit, while still trying to be sensitive to his feelings. If he continues to not get it, you may have to just say, “I’m not romantically attracted to you, but I would love to stay your friend, if that is comfortable for you.” One man said, “No, if you can’t be my sweetheart it is too hard to have you in my life knowing I can’t have you.”

What advice do you have on how to deliver the “let’s be friends” talk? What’s worked for you? Or not worked when you’ve been on the receiving end?

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Are you holding on when you should let go?

October 23, 2007

Have you been in (or perhaps are in) a relationship that the other person isn’t as into? It doesn’t have to be a committed relationship, as this can happen even in dating. You are more into him than he is to you. He indicates this by his lack of calling, initiating outings, or verbally giving what you need. But you are into him, so you hang on for dear life, and keep him around by giving him what you know he wants.

jump off bridgeSoon after my ex announced he was leaving, I had a prophetic dream that painted a perfect picture for my (and perhaps your) situation. We were on a very tall bridge. He was hanging off the side. I was safe on the bridge behind the railing, hanging on to him with all my might, not wanting him to fall. I was crying, clutching at him, trying to bring him back topside.

He was saying, “Let go. It’s OK. This is what I want.” Finally, he slipped out of my grasp and fell down, down, down. About half-way a parachute appeared out of his backpack and he floated peacefully to the ground, having had the experience he wanted. Feeling relieved that he was safe, I turned around and entered the limo waiting for me.

This image allowed me to see that I was holding tight onto him, as I didn’t want to let him go, even though it was clear he wanted to go. I thought he wasn’t going to be safe since I didn’t know about the parachute on his back. I didn’t want him falling to his death. But he didn’t get to the dangling position by accident — he purposefully put himself there. By letting him go, we both got what we wanted. He got the freedom to experience life as he wanted, unencumbered by anyone. I could have a life that he never wanted but I did.

So letting go when someone obviously doesn’t want to be with you will bring you both more happiness. Sometimes our nocturnal dreams are clear indications of our waking dreams and reality.

Have you held on when you knew you should let go? What happened when you cut the tie?

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Lessons from a bad date

September 15, 2007

dating wheelOnce in a while, when you spin the dating wheel, it stops on “Bad Date.” Of course you don’t know this going into the date. And luckily, my experience is it only happens about 10% of the time. But tonight I landed smack dab in the middle of that slot. Since it doesn’t happen often, I wasn’t prepared for it, but still managed to eke out a few lessons. I’ll tell you those after I set the scene.

We’d sent a handful of short emails and talked briefly on the phone a few times. His cell service was so bad, it dropped every third word, so I explained I couldn’t hear him and we cut the calls short. Usually, I like to talk to a man a bit to know some about him before I agree to a meeting. Because of the bad phone coverage, I didn’t know a lot about him going into our drink date.

I met him at a bar after a dinner meeting with colleagues. He waved as I entered. I wouldn’t have recognized him from his picture, which I now saw was 10 years and 80 pounds ago. Still, I greeted him as I always do, with a brief hug. He didn’t stand from the bar stool, but managed to slide a hand down to my tush. As I promptly removed it, I thought “Strike One.”

This self-described “sophisticated, worldly and refined” man wore a well-worn suit jacket with an unpressed shirt. He told me several times how he is the sole heir to a local mega-business so was very wealthy. Funny, his tailor had yet to see any of this fortune.

champagneWhen I sat down, his glass of champagne was half gone so I asked how long he’d been there. He’d just arrived. “And he’d already downed a half a glass?” I noted. I sipped mine as he began the interrogation.

When I tried to reply to his questions, he interrupted. Often he would tell me the same thing over and over and over again. He asked me to guess the answer to questions and when I did, of course it was wrong.

The conversation took a turn when he leaned toward me and said, “I want to take you out to your car and ravish you.” He then continued with specifics of what this would entail. When I didn’t respond by grabbing him by the hand and rushing to the car, he decided he should increase the frequency of sharing his intentions, respited only briefly by non-sexual comments.

For example, when he learned I was born in Kansas, he decided to enlighten me on his opinion of Kansans: slow, stupid, uneducated, uncouth, unsophisticated, cautious, boring. When I failed to take him up on his offer for car sex, he began telling me how I was “so Kansas.” Adding, “I mean no harm.” Right. So in essence, I epitomized the adjectives he just used to describe Kansans. Charming.

He downed another glass of champagne while I was half way through my one.

We’d discovered on the phone that we’d concurrently attended the same university for two years, in fact, eating in the same cafeteria. When I brought up the college’s name, he began to describe it as if I’d never been there.

He told me how he didn’t like American women, but loved European women. I wondered, “Then why don’t you go live in Europe?” Probably because the women there would be no more enamored with him than we are.

Since I believe generally people have some treasure inside them if you are patient and willing to look, I worked hard to find something I liked about him. He was intelligent. Unfortunately, that was all I could find.

As he gulped his third glass of champagne in less than an hour, I decided I had given him enough time to see if it was worth investing any more. As I knew within the first few seconds, no. This was worth no more time, and I could have said so within the first 10 minutes. But I don’t like it when someone cuts me off after so little time, so I wanted to see if it might improve. It didn’t.

After Strike One I lost count. With baseball players the ones who hit the most home runs also strike out a lot. I don’t think this man ever hit a home run, just had lots of strike outs.

What were my lessons?

  • Stick with what has worked pretty well in the past — talk to the guy for more than a few minutes before agreeing to meet him.
  • Continue with the “short first date” rule. In our phone calls, he’d asked more than once to have dinner with him. I can imagine how excruciating that would have been.
  • If his picture is from a previous decade, he doesn’t understand that truth in advertising is key to dating ethically.
  • If he does something egregious at the beginning, it’s not going to get any better. He’s clueless how to treat a woman respectfully.
  • If he talks graphically about sex, leave.
  • If he repeats himself frequently, he’s not present.
  • If he downs three drinks within an hour, he’s probably an alcoholic. Leave when you notice two are downed in a half an hour.
  • Appreciate the “normal”guys, who are gentlemanly, kind and can keep the conversation out of the gutter.

What have you learned when the dating wheel has landed on “Bad Date”?

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The sting of rejection

August 10, 2007

Unless you have really thick skin, nearly all rejection has a little sting. Even from someone you aren’t really interested in!

mosquitoIf you email a guy and he responds, even with a nice “Thank you, but we’re not a match,” that has a mosquito-size sting. You’re over it in a nanosecond. You might not even notice.

If you’ve talked on the phone and he either doesn’t call again, or sends an email saying he doesn’t feel a spark, that hurts a little bit too. Like hitting your elbow on your desk. You barely notice.

You go out to dinner with someone after a nice phone conversation. You have an enjoyable time, he’s a very nice guy, but you’re not feeling a spark. However, you have been advised that often there isn’t a spark until the second or even third date, so you’re willing to have another encounter. At the end of the date he hugs you and gives you a quick kiss on the lips.

You send him a nice email thanking him for dinner, telling him the qualities you liked in him, and saying you’re open to another outing if he’d like. You get a nice email in response saying he could see you as a friend, but there was no romantic spark.

Ouch. Not a big ouch, but an ouch. It stings a little even though you didn’t feel drawn to him. Why does it smart a little? You knew there wasn’t a big draw on your side, so why should it hurt at all?

My theory: Because it was he who said “there’s no attraction,” not you. Silly, in a way, because the end result is the same. So why does it matter who pointed out the pink elephant in the living room? Neither of you felt “it” so why should it sting at all? Heck, this was much less painful than dental work, stubbing your toe hard, or falling off your bike. But the ego gets a tiny bruise just the same.

But I think most of us would rather have some closure, even if there’s some brief discomfort, rather than not hear anything.

The key is to not wallow in the pain. Feel it, notice it, and then move on. Remind yourself that it is good that this happened now, as you could have wasted time thinking about and trying to set up another encounter when there really wasn’t a spark. Let it go.

bandaidPut a bandaid on your ego, if necessary, and move on. Athletes with injuries much worse than this keep playing the game, they don’t give up because they’re clear on their priorities.


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