Archive for the ‘Who are you and what do you want?’ category

The man-sieve

December 1, 2007

Unless you live in a remote area, there are eligible, age-appropriate single men all around you. You have developed a filter for either attracting them or not, or accepting or rejecting date requests.

sieveBefore you began dating you may have said, “I don’t really know what I want, so I’ll go out with anyone who asks.” Your “man-sieve” has small holes and catches many men.

Or you set abundant criteria a man must meet before you’ll consider going out with him. Your man-sieve is loosely meshed, with large holes, allowing all but a very few to pass through.

As you date a few men, you adjust the man strainer. If you meet too many men who don’t meet your minimum criteria, you loosen your sieve so more fall through, only allowing the ones who are a likely match to be caught.

Or if you find nearly no one meets your expectations, you realize you are being unrealistic and you allow a few more to be caught. Maybe rather than insisting a man be 6′ tall you go out with 5-foot-11 or 5-foot-10 ones. Or rather than turning down anyone who doesn’t have a 4-year college degree, you look for intelligence, articulateness, and worldliness, even though he left Harvard mid-way, à la Bill Gates.

Have you examined your man-sieve lately? We often do so after a particularly odious date — “I’ve got to develop better criteria for who I’ll go out with.” Eventually you come upon a good mix of must-haves with nice-to-haves. You refine your filter so you are only going out with men who are good potential matches.

What have you noticed about how you’ve adjusted your man sieve over time? Have you tightened or loosened your criteria — or perhaps some of both?

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Giving and receiving emotional support

November 16, 2007

emotional support“My ex-girlfriend wanted me to support her emotionally, but she didn’t do the same in return,” my sweetie shared.

“Hmm. I’m not sure I’d know the signs that someone was wanting emotional support unless they were crying or upset. What are the signs you want or need emotional support?” I asked.

“Good question. I don’t really know. I just know I didn’t get what I needed from her when I had an upsetting day.”

“What was missing that you wanted? If I were to emotionally support you, what would that look like?”

“Again, a great question. I’m not sure.”

So he didn’t know how to tell he needed it, or what it would look like, but he knew he didn’t get it. Sounds a bit convoluted, but I think we can relate to knowing something is missing, but not knowing exactly what that is. For some, it would be a lack of compliments or positive acknowledgment of your accomplishments. For others it is listening when they’ve had an upsetting event or a bad day, without trying to offer solutions.

Being a bit unsure myself of what emotional support meant exactly, I asked a very emotionally supportive friend for her definition.

listenng signpost“When someone is upset, you don’t try to solve the problem, especially since some are without resolution, especially around kids or spouses. But instead, just to actively listen, and ask about the person’s feelings. Things like, ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘I bet that hurt your feelings,’ or ‘Why do you think that comment hit you so hard?’ You don’t focus on activities, outcomes or solutions, but instead on helping them identify their feelings, and then, if they are interested, on the source of those feelings.”

In my life when I’ve been upset and someone has commented on my emotions, I’ve felt absolutely heard. If someone focuses on just the solution, I feel less heard. We know this intellectually, and many of us have taken (or taught!) courses on active listening, but sometimes in our romantic relationships we forget to apply what we know.

How do you let someone know you need emotional support? Early in my marriage, I tried to offer suggestions to ease my ex’s upsets. (I know this is counter-stereotypical.) He finally told me he needed me to hear him out first, before offering solutions. For a while after that I’d ask, “Do you want me in active-listening mode or in problem-solving mode?” Nearly always he’d say the former. I learned to listen first and he’d let me know when he wanted some ideas for solutions.

Do you know how to let someone else know you need emotional support? And what exactly it looks like to you — active listening, being held, only asking questions, not solutions? And do you know how to detect when your guy wants emotional support? What does it look like to him? It may be very different than what you need.

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Where are you on the relationship recovery path?

November 13, 2007

DG reader Devon wrote:

All divorced people are in a different place along the post-divorce road. I met someone wonderful last summer, attraction, chemistry, great sex, good conversation and we had fun. It lasted 3 months, I was ready for a companion, he was still recovering from the break up of his family and the stress of a recent divorce. After 4 years of being single I have a different outlook and want something different than a newly divorced man. I wonder if anyone has put a name to the stages of recovery from divorce, there must be similar things people go through. I would guess we all go through a rediscovery of (good) sex.

Some of the men I’ve dated might have been keepers if the timing had been better. Since the healing process is different for everyone the whole thing is rather unpredictable. Any thoughts?

Good point, Devon. Yes, I think there are stages of recovery after a the end of an important relationship. However, it can be hard to identify where you are in your own recovery, let alone determine someone else’s. Here are some steps on the path.

First, you need to grieve the loss of the relationship and your life with your ex. If you jump too soon into a new relationship, you aren’t fully available to be with a new person.

The path includes admitting how you contributed — even a bit — to the decline of the relationship, even if he treated you hideously. If you don’t look at why you got into or stayed in a dysfunctional relationship, you’re doomed to repeat the same pattern until you identify your part and work to heal it.

Once you are healed, you learn (if you hadn’t already) how to enjoy time by yourself without needing a man in your life. Once you are centered and happy, you can choose to open your heart to another and begin dating. If you start before this point, you will be frustrated and disappointed about the men who you attract to you. Even after this point, you may still attract men who are not good matches. But it’s all part of the process if you learn from it and don’t make judgments about “all men are jerks, cads, sex crazed, etc.”

What are your thoughts on the relationship recovery path? Are there steps missing in the above? What would you add? How do you know where you are on the path — or how to tell where someone else is?

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Good first-date advice from a gay man

November 7, 2007

The following was written by Brian Rzepczynski, “The Gay Love Coach” but the concepts apply to heterosexual relationships as well. I thought his concepts were so good, I wanted to share them with you (with his permission). Change the gender references to what fits for you.

“The First Date: Assessing His Boyfriend Potential”

You sit on the lumpy lounge chair at the local coffee shop, sipping your cappuccino while trying to look occupied reading today’s local newspaper, your eyes periodically shifting to the front door of the shop, hoping to catch a quick glance of the man you’ll be meeting for the first time. You’ve had a million first dates, it seems, but the nervous anticipation and excitement always seems to show itself through your sweaty palms and rapid heartbeat. What will this meeting be like? Could he be “The One?”

Even though your blood’s pumping at the prospect of meeting someone new, you feel confident and relaxed within yourself as you approach this situation. You’ve worked hard to be a good, upstanding man and you recognize that you’re a “good catch.” You’re comfortable with who you are and you have a solid vision for what you’re looking for in a potential mate, having taken the time to craft a dating plan that emphasizes your personal needs, wants, values, and requirements in a relationship and partner. Your first date here is an opportunity to meet and get to know a new person with no expectations of outcome. You are going to be yourself, knowing that this isn’t about performance, and you’ll have a chance to briefly gauge whether this man possesses some of the traits and qualities that you seek in a Mr. Right. Your thoughts are interrupted by the presence of the handsome creature that now stands before you. You both shake hands as you greet, smiles beaming, and he proceeds to sit down to begin the get-to-know-you dialogues.

Who is this man sitting across from you? Is he boyfriend potential? While compatibility largely rests on the goodness-of-fit between the two of you with your relationship visions and attraction/chemistry, this article will pose some provoking questions for you to track the answers for when you begin your dating quests with new people and learn about whether they’re your “type” or not. These questions can act as guideposts through your dating journey. And remember, the answers you obtain do not reflect upon this person as being “good” or “bad.” The answers are simply used as a way to help you quickly determine if this individual matches with your personal requirements so that you can make informed choices that will promote your achieving a successful and lasting relationship with your Mr. Right.

The First Date Evaluation

Generally speaking, first dates are usually better structured when they’re short, focused, and allow for lots of dialogue. Learn as much as you can about this person so you can begin the process of “sizing up” his compatibility with your vision and needs. According to David Steele, founder of the Relationship Coaching Institute, there are four critical skills that singles must possess during their life-partner quest. Two of those skills are relevant to our discussion here. “Sorting is the process of quickly determining if someone you meet has future potential. A successful single is able to initiate contact with people and in conversation get enough information within 5 minutes to know whether they want to get to know them better or move on. Think of “working the room” at a party. Screening is the process of getting enough information to determine if a prospective partner meets your requirements or not. Since requirements are relationship breakers, all of them must be met. Getting this information can occur over the telephone, by email, over coffee, or taking a walk. If you are looking for your life partner, you can’t afford to explore dead ends; and it is important to get this information BEFORE you date them and get involved.” (Steele, 2002)

While it’s impossible to get the full scope of a person on a first date, you should be on the lookout for any possible “red flags” that would halt the possibility of a second date. Or perhaps he will have inspired some intrigue in you to invest further in getting more acquainted with him. So when conversing with the man sitting across from you, think about some of the following points to help you ponder how you’d like to proceed with this particular gentleman:

  1. What is your immediate reaction upon seeing your date? How do you feel? Do you find him physically attractive and inviting? Does he appear to take care of himself and have good grooming and hygiene?
  2. Does he maintain eye contact with you as he speaks or is he looking around the room at the other guys (very disrespectful!)?
  3. Does he appear attentive and genuinely interested in what you have to say? Notice his body posture and whether it’s open or closed.
  4. Does he display a good sense of humor and is he able to laugh, relax, and have fun with your interaction? Does he exhibit good verbal and social skills or seem stiff and have difficulty maintaining and initiating conversations?
  5. Is there a good balance between his talking about himself vs. his asking you questions about yourself? Or does he monopolize the time talking only about his life? Or does he not engage in any self-disclosure at all?
  6. How are his manners? Is he polite, thoughtful, and considerate? Based on your first impression of his manners, would Mom approve of his behavior? Do you feel comfortable being with him or do you experience embarrassment by his behavior?
  7. What does he talk about? Notice any themes? Does he seem positive and upbeat or negative and pessimistic? When he talks, does he seem judgmental, petty, and put down other people or himself?
  8. Does he seem to have goals, aspirations, and ambitions? Does he exude excitement about life and possibilities? Is he passionate? How well-rounded does he seem? Does he have varied interests and hobbies, have an active lifestyle and seem reasonably intelligent and able to converse about a variety of topics and current events?
  9. Does he place a lot of emphasis on sex during your time together? If so, this may be a priority for him and it’ll be important to ensure what type of relationship he’s seeking (casual sex or dating) so you can decide if this fits with your needs.
  10. At the end of the date, how would you rate the experience and your interest on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest? Is there chemistry? Do you feel drawn to him on multiple levels?

Food For Thought

There are, of course, many other questions and criteria you may have, but these points may be a good starting point to launch from on a first date. There tend to be three types of personality styles that men can bring to a first date situation. One are those men who are on their best behavior to try to impress you, gain your approval, or please you to compensate for perceived weaknesses they have so they can “snag” another date from you. Another type are those men who struggle with shyness, anxiety, and insecurity, so the behavior they display during the date may not actually be reflective of who they really are until they feel more comfortable. And then there are those who present their “real self,” an accurate portrayal of who they really are. It may be helpful to keep this in mind when deciding about whether to transition into an exit or for an invitation for another date.

Conclusion

Knowing who you are and being clear on what you want is critical during your time in the dating pool. This knowledge will take you far in weeding out those men who may not be particularly good matches for you and will save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration. You may need several dates with someone to assess their potential and you may find during the process that some of these men may be more suitable as friends —- another addition to your support network!

Thinking too much about these questions can be distracting, so try to avoid being too much in your head during the date. Analyzing and being too cognitive will take away from your date, causing you to miss certain cues during the interaction that would be important and lead you to not focus on being a good listener. Be fully present with your date and enjoy the experience, no matter how it turns out because you will have still learned something. Additionally, try to turn the above questions back on yourself and assess how these factors apply to your style. These questions may provide clues about the areas of your life and personality that are strengths and weaknesses and can be a tool to help you develop goals for self-improvement to make yourself even more “dateable!”

*References: Steele, David (2002). Relationship Coaching Institute.

© 2005 Brian L. Rzepczynski

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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Can an ambitious gal find happiness with a lackadaisical guy?

November 2, 2007

Bev, a DG reader, shared:

I met a guy a couple months ago, and I really like him. He is everything I could possibly ask for, except for one thing, he doesn’t work. He is only 43 and on a pension. He told me that he was ill for two years and has not worked for two years since he got well.

I like to consider myself an understanding person and am always thoughtful of the well-being of others. The fact that he hasn’t worked for quite some time, and I don’t see any improvement in that area, except that he says he is planning to start his own business “sometime” has me concerned.

pint of beerI work very hard as a single mother with 2 teens, and I do a lot of overtime when I can. I don’t have a lot of time for pleasure, but I do try to get out as much as I can, and this guy has all the time in the world to go out to pubs and stay up all night through the week, and sleep as much through the day as he wants. All of this just doesn’t sit well with me.

I really like him a lot, and he has a lot to offer as far as a relationship goes, and he has told me that he really wants me, but I am just not sure I can deal with the fact that he is unemployed and living on a very tight budget. I don’t want to make myself look materialistic, and I don’t feel that I am, but I am torn and I don’t know what to do.

So he’s on a very tight budget but he goes to the pub multiple times a week? He has money for a few pints, but not enough to have the lifestyle that matches yours?

This is a tough one. My ex and I had different levels of ambition and lifestyle desires. It created tension as he was happy with thrift-store furniture, for example, and I wanted nicer things. He liked to camp and hike on vacation and I’m a more bed-and-breakfast kinda gal. Money issues are one of the top topics couples argue about.

You’ve only been seeing him for a few months. I’d say that when it is time to have the “exclusivity” talk, you should share what you need to feel comfortable being in a relationship. Some men need a little wake up call to see that if they want to be with a great woman, they need to think beyond their own lifestyle choices. If he wants to continue living a meager life, he can do so. And you’ll choose to see him along with others, decide you don’t want to settle for constant financial struggles, or that you’ll continue as it is now and see if he starts to shift his financial situation.

Whatever you do, don’t stifle your desires without communicating. It will only cause you both frustration. Best to share your vision of what you want and both of you deciding if you can sign on to creating a life together that you both love.

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Prince Considerate

November 1, 2007

Prince CharmingMany women refer to their perfect man as Prince Charming. We want someone who is likable and knows what to say to get along with others. But charm can also be shallow, knowing what to say without really meaning it. And he could be charming to others but lose that capacity with you. I grew up with someone like that — he was charming to strangers but mean to family members.

A man I’m seeing and I were talking about what we liked about each other. I told him how much I appreciated his thoughtfulness and generosity with me. He said, “I’ve never considered myself a Prince Charming. I try to be more of a Prince Considerate. I work to be thoughtful of others.” And he is. I think Prince Considerate is more sustaining for a relationship.

A Prince Considerate, based on the few I’ve had first-hand experience with, is prone to:

  • Call regularly to just say he’s thinking of you, or see how you’re doing. (My PC calls regularly and IMs at least once a day.)
  • Buy you small gifts to show he knows what you like and that he cares about you. (At the movies he excused himself and brought back chocolate for me.)
  • Do thoughtful things for you spontaneously. (My PC regularly gives me foot massages while we’re chatting on the couch, or shoulder massages while we’re waiting in line at the movies.)
  • Be thoughtful of others. (He brought a bottle of wine for our Halloween party hosts, as well as a high-quality chocolate bar for me!)
  • Consider what you like to do. (Knowing I like to see houses decorated for Halloween, he scheduled an hour’s walk in a fun neighborhood near our dinner restaurant so we could enjoy the decorated houses. And he told me ahead of time to wear comfortable walking shoes!)
  • Think through how a suggested activity would be for you. (I explained this in “Is your date sensitive to your comfort?“)
  • Learn your routines and plan around your regular activities. (PC knows what evenings I Jazzercise so suggests getting together afterwards or on other evenings.)
  • Listen to your stories and remember what’s going on in your life, and even your friends’ names. (PC knows I’m going to India and Singapore for January, so suggests movies and restaurants to help acclimate me.)

So, which would you rather have, a Prince Charming or a Prince Considerate (for this discussion, you can’t have both in the same guy)? Why?

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