Thanks for unknown blessings to come

Posted November 21, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Getting your dating attitude on

“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” ~Native American prayer

ThanksgivingSince it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US, this quote held significance for not only giving thanks for treasures already in our lives — our families, bounty and life — but also for dating.

One of the fun things about dating is not knowing who or what is around the corner. Will the next guy with whom you connect be the guy for you? If so, will he enchant you immediately knocking your socks off, or will you fall in love slowly? Even if he’s not the one for you, what unknown blessings might your meeting him bring?

As I look back at the 83 men with whom I’ve gone out in my 3-year adventure, I can see many blessings they have brought, whether it’s an enjoyable conversation, information on a topic I was interested in, a pleasant meal, or insight into how that man’s mind works. I’ve even had blessings from men who made contact but we didn’t meet! The ahas were what I learned about myself, what I wanted or didn’t want, or a new understanding of how some men think or operate.

So with every new wink, email or coffee encounter, ask “What blessing is this man offering?” Even bad dates have lessons if you’re willing to look.

At this time of thanks, pause for a few minutes and note the blessings that dating has brought you. (Try not to think of the turkeys!) And prepare for the unknown blessings ahead. Share the significant ones with us.

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“The Bachelor” mirrors real life

Posted November 20, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Releasing back into the dating pool

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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“Men aren’t trained in emotions”

Posted November 18, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40

Not exactly a news flash.

But since this was uttered by a midlife male pal who I adore, I wanted to hear more on his perspective. He’s been dating about 3 years after his divorce from a long-term marriage. We were talking about why it’s so hard for a man to tell a woman he doesn’t want to date her anymore, so he just goes poof. Although I’ve covered this territory with other men, I was interested in his perspective.

“Men are taught to not let their emotions show, through messages like ‘Men don’t cry,’ ‘Be tough,’ ‘Just suck it up.’ Men learn to stuff their emotions and freak out when a woman shows hers. So they just disappear rather than having an adult conversation because they don’t want to face her potentially crying.”

children readingThen he said something that just hit me as brilliant: “Schools ought to have all sixth graders read an age-appropriate version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It would have a huge impact if men and women started understanding the genders’ differences early in life, rather than just making the other wrong.”

What would life be like if we all got that training early on? Heck, what would your dating life be like if you only dated men who had read and understood that book, or others like it? Would there be less judgment and more understanding? I think so.

Instead of always finding fault with the other gender, students would learn to appreciate what unique perspectives and attributes the other contributes. There would be less upset and fewer divorces.

Not that John Gray’s book is the panacea to peace between the genders. But it is a start. Or perhaps there are others that would be better choices.

Right now we depend on learning about the other gender all on our own. We may read books, talk to wise friends or therapists or take seminars from those who are willing to pass on their knowledge. But we know that many people don’t take the initiative to educate themselves. And unfortunately, they never learn and just continue to blame the other gender for being their worst selves.

If you were asked to suggest a book, seminar or resource to another who wanted to learn about gender differences, what would you recommend?

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Giving and receiving emotional support

Posted November 16, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Second dates and beyond, Who are you and what do you want?

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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Is your guy “spoilable”?

Posted November 15, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Second dates and beyond

We’re usually more concerned with dealing with a man who is spoiled — self-centered, immature, and thoughtless. Ditch those guys immediately.

I’m talking about the opposite — someone who is so other-focused that it is hard for him to receive.

spaMost of us — at least me — like to be spoiled once in a while. It feels great to receive without the necessity of reciprocating — at least immediately. I think it’s why spas are so popular, especially among women. We typically give so much to others every day, that at the spa we can just kick back and receive. Of course, we remunerate in tips and fees, but it seems we get way more than we pay.

It is hard for some people to receive without needing to reciprocate. That’s why birthdays are great — you can give (or receive) and there is no concern about the favor/gift being immediately matched. The only expectation is a sincere thank you. And if the gift is truly liked, a big smile, hug, etc. will telegraph the appreciation.

It feels great to give something to someone you know the other will really enjoy. I work to notice what a sweetie likes and give him more of it.

Recently, I told Prince Considerate how much I appreciated his spoiling me and want to learn what makes him feel spoiled. He said, “That will be interesting. I don’t really know, as no one has ever spoiled me.” That includes his mother, ex-wife and past girlfriends. He’s mastered the art of giving, but has little competency in receiving. Not that he eschews receiving massages, favorite foods or compliments, but it is harder to be given to than to receive.

Some would say that not everyone needs to be spoiled. Perhaps. But if you can’t receive readily and without feeling you must repay in kind, there is a block to receiving love. Love, in part, is feeling special around another person. Receiving — even spoiling — is part of that.

What have you noticed about spoiling men? Are the ones who are good at spoiling you equally as good at receiving spoiling?

(See related posting, “Are you open to receiving?“)

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Easy way to ask hard questions

Posted November 14, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Second dates and beyond

Intellectual ForeplaySome people find it difficult to ask probing questions to uncover their date’s values, beliefs and preferences. Enter Intellectual Foreplay: Questions for Lovers and Lovers To Be, a book designed to help you easily dive into potentially difficult conversational waters.

The book is designed to be used by both of you. It is broken up into topic-focused chapters, with a strong warning not to start with the sex chapter! I’ve begun using it with Prince Considerate, not that we have difficulty exploring intimate topics, but I’ve found it makes it really easy on car trips or sitting on the couch to say, “Let’s dip into a few Intellectual Foreplay questions.”

We’ve taken turns choosing and answering questions. No matter what the question, you both answer it. I especially liked, “What attracts you to your partner?” There are questions on communication, hobbies, entertainment, morals, values, ethics, trust, romance, religion, health, money, work, family, food, vacations, and of course, sex.

The authors suggest you can either go through all the questions in a chapter, or choose specific questions from a section, or just open the book and randomly pick one. You can do this in person or on the phone. I’d suggest not doing it via email or IM as the person’s voice tone tells you a lot. So ideally, you’re in person, facing each other so you can see the other’s body language.

I don’t know that I’d bring this book to a first date, but I have shared the concept with someone over the phone and asked if he’d be interested in discussing a few. I cherry-picked a few I wanted to discuss and it went well. The key is you both answer the same question so I offered to go first to reduce it feeling like an interview.

The authors, Eve Eschner Hogan and Steve Hogan used this technique to deepen a long-distance relationship and determine if they were truly compatible. As you can gather by their names, the got married, they say because they got to know each other so well.

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Where are you on the relationship recovery path?

Posted November 13, 2007 by Dating Goddess
Categories: Dating after 40, Who are you and what do you want?

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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