Profile Writing Party! – my latest for The Huffington Post – May 16, 2013
“Dating is a numbers game, and online dating has the best odds.” — Judsen Culbreth, The Boomer’s Guide to Online Dating
One of my dear friends told me the other night that she is finally “giving in” and joining the on-line dating revolution. She told me she thinks, “it’s finally time” to see what’s out there, although she is “leery” of what she might find. I laughed! She is making it sound just miserable. She shared this announcement with as much enthusiasm as a woman who says she has just scheduled her mammogram and annual visit to the gynecologist for the same day.
I am excited for her. I know several people who have met amazing partners through online dating and can count more than a handful of couples who are now married after meeting online. Why not take advantage of technology? We use match services and networking sites to find everything these days — employees, employers, nannies, contractors, hair stylists, dog groomers and everything in between. Why shouldn’t we use online dating to find some great dates, potential partners, and future spouses (if things go well!)?
After announcing her intention to join the online dating revolution (let’s be real … this isn’t a revolution: Internet dating has been around for a while!), our conversation quickly turned to what in the world she was going to write for her profile.
She was grappling with what I think so many online daters grapple with: Just how do you take your life, your personality, your passions, your interests, your fears, your habits, your pet peeves, your dreams, your hopes, and your goals, and string all of that into a series of words, written in black and white, that will hopefully be intriguing enough to someone else to have them reach out to you to learn more? Perhaps even more importantly in the world of online dating, she wondered what pictures she should!
My friend is very humble. She’s beautiful inside and out. She has a great job. A great family. A great faith. She’s athletic, kind, empathetic. She has a heart of gold. She’s fun and funny. She loves college football. She is independent. Oh great … now this is starting to sound like the start of a tacky dating profile for her.
And that leads to what we have planned!
As she asked me what she should write in her profile, we decided it would be fun to have a profile-writing party for her! We decided we would invite a few friends over (add another friend named Kendall-Jackson) and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create what we hope will be the perfect profile for her. After all, who better to provide some “insight to the world” on who she is than her friends. Who better to help her find the right words to navigate that balance between being “too arrogant and too boring” than her friends? Who better to help her walk that tightrope between “too much, too little and just right” than her friends?
As I already mentioned, we know there are many success stories that come from online dating. We also know there are plenty of creepy stories that come from online dating. Our goal is to increase the odds of meeting a few good men (I guess in theory it only takes one!), and do all we can to screen out the creepers (although I hear that is inevitable).
As we finished planning our little profile party, I smiled as I stole a line from Jerry Seinfeld. I told her, “What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night?” (I modified it to say, “that lasts though lunch or dinner!”). I told her to have fun with it … and I know that we are going to have fun at our profile-writing party!
Our party is planned for three weeks from now (it’s hard getting everyone’s schedule synced!). That’s where you come in. I know many of you have used online dating and here’s my question for you: What has worked? What hasn’t? Any clichés we should avoid? Thanks!
Thrilled to write for CupidsPulse.com for the first time! The EX Words!
I recall speaking to a divorce support group a few years ago. Whenever someone referenced their EX-husband or EX-wife, each person was careful to use the phrase “my former husband” or “my former wife.” This wasn’t just something that one person used but rather everyone in the group. I thought it was interesting. After all, using the term “EX-husband” seems pretty common. When I asked what this was all about, I was informed that they believed that EX- implied a negative connotation, and they preferred to approach the word a bit more positively. OK! To each his and her own!
But I would like to stand up for EX- words and suggest that there are a number of EX-traordinary EX-words that should be fully embraced post-divorce. One can wallow in EX-cuses and get stuck in the EX-crement of what they just went through, or one can focus EX-clusively on moving forward and on the EX-citement and EX-cesses that this new life will bring!
Whether your divorce was your idea or not, it is now a part of your story and part of the journey that defines your life. Someone made an EX-it, which EX-empted you from EX-tending your commitment to your marriage. I speak with countless people who are stuck in the EX-istence of “what was” as opposed to eagerly anticipating the EX-pectation “what will be.” One of my favorite quotes that got me through my divorce was, “I can’t control what happens to me. I can only control how I react to it.” I love it when I encounter others who hold a similar attitude. No one is EX-empt from divorce. To those who say, “It will never happen to me” (like I did), you may find yourself in shock one day. Divorce EX-tends to all corners of our society and EX-cludes no one.
(I’m having fun writing this piece, so EX-cuse me while I keep going!)
To those people who are stuck EX-amining their unplanned lives collapsing around them, I say this: No EX-cuses! Inhale, then EX-hale. Now, pick up the pieces and become an EX-ample of how to move forward successfully after hitting a bump in the road. No one can do this EX-cept for you. Let the world EX-plode around you with new opportunities. EX-press your emotions. Don’t let your ability to love or to be loved go EX-tinct.
Having a failed marriage and becoming a divorcee at age 40 was not part of my EX-pectation for my life. That being said, it did become my EX-istence and part of my story. I was one of those people who opted for life to go on positively. I met an EX-traordinary man. I am EX-tremely grateful that he came into my life and the lives of my kids. It’s nice to be confident in the EX-clusivity of our marriage. We have a common passion and bond around our EX-tra-curricular activities and have EX-plored the world together. We have EX-panded each other’s horizons. I feel EX-alted and respected by him, and in EX-change, I try to honor him in the same way. The bottom line is that this relationship and marriage EX-ceeds anything I ever imagined before.
Mae West said, “All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” EX-actly!! My point is this: whether you call someone your EX- or your former-, make peace with that part of your past and move forward. Take advantage of your second chance, and make it EX-traordinary. I think I’ve EX-acerbated my point. There are some fabulous EX- words. Use them. Live them. Celebrate them. Just think: what a great way to celebrate getting rid of one EX by introducing several new and more powerful ones!
By the way, I also met a woman once who didn’t use the term “EX-husband” or “former husband.” Instead, she had me laughing when she started taking about her “wasband.” I thought I misunderstood. Then she clarified and EX-claimed, “The man who was my husband is now lovingly referred to as my ‘wasband.’” Love it! I thought that was EX-tremely clever.
My latest for eHarmony.com about stepping outside of your comfort zone! Comfort Zone
Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. ~Brian Tracy
I recently returned from a long weekend in Utah where I hiked, rappelled into a slot canyon, and climbed back out again. This is not normal for me. I’m not used to hiking up mountains and standing on the edge of sheer drops where one misstep could lead to a quick drop hundreds of feet down to the ground (yes, my guide smiled and responded when I asked her about liability; she reminded me that I did sign a piece of paper waiving all of my rights should something happen to me!).
It was amazing. The scenery was breathtaking. The adventure fueled me. I came back refreshed and renewed, and vowed I would do things like this more often. It could be because I spent a few days outside – fresh air, amazing views, lots of laughter with great friends (and I didn’t have to worry about fixing dinner for 4 nights!). I’m sure all of that was part of it.
But, I strongly believe that it had a great deal more to do with the fact that I completely stepped outside of my comfort zone, got my adrenaline flowing, dealt with a little bit of fear and nervousness (OK, a lot of fear and nervousness), and did something I had never done before.
There is something about challenging yourself, and doing something a bit different that gives you confidence, an edge, and a sense of accomplishment that does wonders for your personal growth. There is something about overcoming some nerves that builds confidence. Something about trying something new and being really clumsy in the beginning, but soon figuring it out, that makes you proud of yourself. I can’t describe this feeling, but it’s a comfort (more like a strength!) in knowing that you stepped outside of your comfort zone.
Here is my challenge to you: challenge yourself! Do something different. Do something you have never done before that gets your adrenaline flowing just a bit (or a lot). Do something which makes you a tiny bit nervous. For some (crazy!) people, this could be jumping out of an airplane, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. For others, it might be joining a new club or group where you don’t know anyone. It might be going on a singles trip. It might be trying a new restaurant – alone. It might be taking a road trip to visit an old friend. It might be taking up a new sport (even though you feel your body is going to protest loudly!).
The point is to do something – something different and outside of your normal routine! If something is “easy” or “safe” or your own “status quo,” then that would be a good place to try to switch things up!
Some people hear this message, and just ask, “Why?” Why would I want to do something that makes me nervous? Why would I want to do anything different than my normal routine? Why would I want to upset my apple cart and step outside my comfort zone? Seriously? WHY NOT!?
Life is an adventure. I listen to so many people, especially middle-aged friends, both those who are married or who are divorced and dating, who tell me they are bored of the same-old, same-old. They are often looking for someone else to bring excitement into their dull lives. That’s what I call missed expectations. If you are bored, or your life needs a little bit of excitement, create it yourself. YOU are the one who will grow from these experiences and the growth is pretty cool because it is growth in learning something totally new, experiencing something completely different, and gaining additional confidence as you open more doors.
Ashton Kutcher said it another way: “I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.” Comfort is totally overrated! Go be uncomfortable!
What about you? What have you done lately to step outside of your comfort zone? Were you feeling a little nervous or anxious in the beginning? Were you feeling victorious and confident at the end?
My latest post for eHarmony.com … Being There For Friends
Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest…it’s about who came, and never left your side…”
I am a fan of reading Harvey Mackay’s column in the Atlanta Business Chronicle each week. I think he offers really practical insights on a variety of topics. I find myself nodding my head in affirmation as I read his advice or his commentary each week.
A few weeks ago, he wrote a column entitled, “What I’d do if I had my life to live over…” I expected a bit of what I will call the “normal” things to be on a list like this. Things like, “I would have studied abroad. My parents were right when they told me that travel is a great teacher,” and “I would have interviewed my parents and grandparents and learned more about our family history and genealogy.” Great advice, for sure!
But, what really stuck out for me was the number one thing he put on his list of 11 items. It said, “I would have been more available whenever a friend was in trouble or was going through a tough time due to divorce,” … (and then added, “or financial trouble, job loss, or even DUI.”)
Wow! I was so impressed that when Harvey wrote about being available to friends in need that the first thing he called out were friends who were going through divorce. I think we naturally think about other situations where our friends would need us, such as dealing with the death of a parent, or job loss (as he did mention!). To put the first focus on friends going though divorce was impactful to me.
I suspect this made his list because he has personal experience dealing with friends going through divorce. Presumably, he feels he wasn’t “available enough” for them in order for that comment to make his list.
If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I would not have gotten through my divorce without my amazing friends rallying around me. My friends each filled their own unique niche in keeping me positive and getting me through the emotional and physical toll of divorce. Some made me laugh; some cried with me; some knew how to help (whether with the never-ending yard work, or by watching my kids for a few hours so I could have some alone time); some sent me cards each week as the months wore on just to let me know they were thinking about me, or whisked me off to Starbucks for a coffee and some girl talk.
One friend who I met at camp when I was in 8th grade (and then have only seen less than ten times since because we live in different parts of the country) sent me the most wonderful care package. It arrived on a day when I really, really, really needed a pick-me-up. You know how some days in the divorce process are particularly painful and ugly? I arrived home from that day to open the mailbox and find a great and totally unexpected package.
This care package had a variety of items in it, each with a note about why it was in the box: a coffee cup “because I would love to sit and talk with you over a nice cup of coffee,” a tube of hand lotion “because I would hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be all right,” a package of tissues “because I would help to wipe the tears away when you are sad,” and my favorite item (which bought a huge smile to my face) was a bottle of flashy bright red nail polish “because even in our saddest and darkest moments, there is nothing like some bright red toe nails to brighten our spirits!”
What have I learned from all of this? I compare it to when a loved one passes away. People are very concerned and responsive at first, but as the weeks wear on, people get back to their own lives, and tend to forget the person grieving. Those “firsts” of everything that happen can be really tough, and it’s nice to know people, your friends, still remember and care for you.
It’s the same with divorce. When a pending divorce is first announced, people respond. But as the months wear on, people tend to go back to their own lives, forgetting that the ugly divorce process is likely taking it’s toll on the individual. I try to stay connected with people not just in the beginning, but throughout the divorce process, and even afterwards. And, just as my friends did for me, I try to find my “niche” as a friend, and determine what each person needs from me at that point in time. Do they need a listening ear? A dose of humor? An adventure to take their mind off divorce? A person to sit quietly with them? A card? A coffee? A bottle of bright red nail polish? As Harvey said, it’s all about “being more available” to your friends who need you.
What about you? Are you making yourself available for friends going through divorce and other tough situations in life? Are you there for them, not just in the beginning, but as the months draw on as well?
Here’s my latest post for LAFamily.com … Happy & Joyful
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
There’s something about this word “happy.” Since going through my own divorce several years, I find that people define happiness differently. If you had asked me prior to my divorce if I was happy, you would have heard a resounding, “yes!” from me. Yes, I was “happy.” Sure, I wasn’t “happy” going through my divorce, but now years later, I am “happier” than ever. I’m “truly happy”
Happiness feels different to me now. Substantially different. It’s a different emotion — one that is more centered, more deeply rooted, more content, more knowing, more comfortable. That begs the question, “Was I really not happy before? Did I just think I was?” If I try to explain this to people, I try to say that happiness feels like an emotion that sits on the surface, whereas what I feel now is much deeper, and I use the word “joy” to describe it.
I love the quote I started with above which says that when what you think, say and do are all in harmony, then that is when happiness occurs. Maybe after divorce our lives are shook up enough to be truly focused on what we want out of life. Maybe after divorce, we become clearer about ensuring that our thoughts, words and actions are in alignment. Maybe after divorce, our priorities get realigned and new doors open for us that we never thought possible.
I’ve had this same conversation with many other divorced men and women. It surprised me at first to find how many people could relate to what I was trying to verbalize: “I thought I was happy then, but based on how joyful I am now, how could that have been true happiness?” Was I faking happiness? Was I settling? If I had a dollar for every person who has said to me that they thought they would never be happy again during or after their divorce, and who are now happier than they have ever been, I could buy a new car! I hear, “I wouldn’t wish a divorce on my worst enemy … it’s painful … but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
There have been plenty of studies on happiness, and what makes people happy. A lot of it is attitude. People choose to be happy. They choose to see the glass as half-full, and life as an opportunity (challenges and all!). They don’t allow others to bring them down. They certainly don’t hinge their own happiness on a series of “whens” … meaning they aren’t saying, “I will finally be happy when I’m skinny, rich, well-traveled, driving a new car, owning a new wardrobe, wearing a bigger ring, sitting in the corner office, … divorced … married … remarried, etc.”
Perhaps for many people, “happy” is expected, and it’s become an auto-response. We expect people to be happy. People know we expect them to be happy. So, we decide we are happy, when really we are crying out inside because we know our thoughts, words, and actions are not in alignment. And, when we do find ourselves living that life of alignment it’s like a brilliant light exploding in front of us and suddenly we understand that we are SO much more than happy. Perhaps “joyful” is the word that comes to mind and “full of joy” becomes the feeling that we have! Absolutely stuffed with joy … stuffed like the feeling after we eat, and overeat, at a delicious Italian restaurant. We have taken happiness to a whole new level! And, we understand that there is so much more to happiness.
Happy, and I would argue, joyful people, know when it’s time to create that harmony between thinking, saying and doing! They know when it’s time to drop the negativity and move forward. They know then it’s time to adopt a new attitude and begin to see life as a series of opportunities, as opposed to being a victim of life’s circumstances.
What do you think? Is there a difference between happiness and joyfulness? Has “happy” become expected? How are you intentionally being happy AND joyful?
Here is my latest blog post for eHarmony.com … Divorced or Never Married?
“This I know for sure … I am not interested in dating anyone who has been divorced.”
I will never forget having lunch with a colleague several years ago who had recently wrapped up a painful divorce. We were talking about re-entering the dating scene, and she was sharing with me some of the things she was looking for in an ideal man. She wanted someone who was between 45-55 years old, and then listed a few other qualities and traits that were important to her … then she dropped this requirement on me, “This I know for sure … I am not interested in dating anyone who has been divorced.”
My initial response was one of shock, and I asked, “Why would you want to date a man who has never been married before? Wouldn’t you wonder why he hadn’t married by age 45 or 55?” Now, I recognize that is very narrow thinking, but in honesty, that was my first reaction. What followed was a really great discussion about the perceived pros and cons of dating (or potentially marrying) someone who had never been married before, versus someone who had gone through a divorce.
Was it “better” to have someone who understood what marriage was all about and was familiar with all of the compromises, the peaks and the valleys? Was it “better” to have someone who may likely already have children? Was it “better” to have someone who had lived as part of a couple before? Or, was it “better” to have someone who hadn’t been through the negative parts of marriage and divorce, someone who might not potentially be coming in with lots of baggage and chips on his shoulder? Would someone who had never been married be able to adjust to sharing his life with someone else? People are pretty set in their ways, especially by age 50. Would it be difficult to adapt and compromise? We didn’t have any answers, but we had a great dialogue about the perceived pros and cons.
At the same time, I think we were both astute enough to recognize that we were making complete assumptions based on stereotypes. Of course, we realized that every situation is unique, and every individual brings their own perspective to a relationship regardless of whether they are previously divorced or perpetually single!
I had a similar conversation with a new friend last weekend. She just turned 50, has never married, and we were talking about the dating scene. I asked her if she had a preference for dating someone who had been divorced, or had never married. Her response was interesting. She said she has absolutely no preference one way or the other. But, she did say as someone who has never been married, she wonders if men might assume that she is too set in her ways to change much if a partnership were to develop. She wonders if they question why she has never married. She even admitted that she likes certain aspects of her independent life. She laughed and said, “I like that I can decide to have a bowl of cereal for dinner if I feel like it without worrying about having to cook or eat a ‘real’ dinner.”
At the end of the day, she said, she doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what kind of man she would most like to date. She said divorced or never married doesn’t matter to her. She said ethnicity doesn’t matter. She said age doesn’t matter. What is important is sharing a common religion and having someone who can keep up with her active lifestyle! She pointed out that one’s prior marital status is completely irrelevant to the things she deems most important. I told her I would keep my ears open for someone who might be a great match for her!
Going back to the colleague I mentioned earlier — oh the irony! She met a wonderful man a couple of years later who swept her off her feet! They have since married … and guess what? He was divorced when they met!
What’s the moral of this story? While we may have an idea of what is important to us, the reality is we that have to be flexible and open to having our preconceived notions change or we might miss out on meeting, dating, or even marrying, a really fabulous person! I’m glad my husband didn’t have blinders on when we met. If he had said he wasn’t interested in dating an older woman with two kids, we wouldn’t have just celebrated four fabulous years of marriage!
What constraints are you putting on your dating? Are they the really important factors, or just some preconceived notion based on stereotypes? At the end of the day, what’s really important to you? Are you flexible to thinking outside your “usual” specs? You might be pleasantly surprised!
Three Tips for Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Single Mom! Mother’s Day!
If this is your first Mother’s Day celebrating motherhood as a single mom, you may not know what to expect. Here are a few tips for making it a great day.
1. Recognize who we celebrate. Mother’s Day is about celebrating you — the mother. The intent of the celebration holds no caveats about whether you are a single mom, or a married mom or even a mom in the midst of divorce. Marital status has nothing to do with it. You are allowed to be celebrated and thanked for all you do for your children. No guilt. This is your day!
2. Manage your expectations. If the kids’ dad is no longer in the picture, and he used to be the one to remind them about Mother’s Day, and take them shopping to buy you a special card and gift, accept the reality: that probably isn’t going to happen this year. Instead, realign your expectations and create new ways to help prepare your kids for Mother’s Day. Your kids don’t want to feel like they missed Mother’s Day, just as much as you don’t want to miss being celebrated for all that you do. Don’t think twice about it.
Depending on their ages, you may want to:
Do this as much for them, as for you. Set a new routine.
3. Realign your role as mom. It’s easy to get off track in terms of being a really great role-model of a mom for your kids due to the chaos of divorce and the stress of being a single mom. Take this day to reflect and perhaps realign your behavior so that you are being the role-model you want to be. Are you showing your kids a positive outlook or are you allowing negative emotions to get the best of you? Take inventory. Are you being the kind of mom you want your kids to celebrate? This is a great day to set a new course, if needed.
At the end of the day, you will still be mom, and still be responsible for all that being a mom entails. This is true of the day we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, and every other one of the 365 days in this year. I wish you a happy Mother’s Day this day, and every other day. Keep up the great work!
My latest for eHarmony on Cultivating the Art of Gratitude … Gratitude!
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I attended a fabulous seminar in Atlanta two weeks ago. It was about Transcendental Meditation and the health benefits of allowing your mind, body and spirit to slow down for at least twenty minutes twice a day. The audience was a room of Type-A work-hard/play-hard women who were striving to have it “all.” The message was intense and, as an audience, we listened intently.
One of the things the speaker stated was that she starts every morning, not with a focused meditation per se, but rather with a conscious mental conversation reviewing the things for which she is grateful in her life. She does this before she even gets out of bed. She said that some people may call this a prayer. Others may make a more formal attempt at recording this mental conversation and keep a gratitude journal. She chooses to simply review in her mind the things in her life that make her happy, that bring a smile to her face, and that she believes she needs to give thanks for.
I was intrigued by this because I do the same thing. Most mornings, I spend a “snooze” worth of time mentally reviewing the things for which I am grateful, those things which I need to work on, my plans for the day, my worries, my concerns, my goals. This sounds like it might take a while, but in reality, it takes less than the 9 minutes before my alarm sounds again. Given that I have a strong faith, this turns out to be part prayer, part reflection, part mental to-do list.
I find those mornings where I am rushing out of bed and don’t take those extra few minutes to reflect are the days when something seems a bit out of sync in my life. I need that time to pause … to be still … and to be thoughtful and thankful. And, when the Medical Doctor who was speaking shared all the health benefits of taking those few extra moments to reflect, I was even more grateful that I have developed this habit in my life.
Too many people focus on the negative things going on in their lives, to the detriment of recognizing all the positive things for which they should be grateful. It’s the proverbial half-glass-full vs. glass-half-empty perspective. Why focus on the negative side of something when you can focus on the positive side … simply by just shifting your perspective slightly?
Going through a divorce is one of those times when many people have a hard time focusing on the positive. The anger, fear, and loneliness can at times present a situation where even the most optimistic of individuals has a hard time seeing those things for which he or she can be grateful. I suggest that there are always things to focus on, and I’m a big proponent of using humor when all else fails.
One woman I spoke with recently was really down in the dumps about her pending divorce. Like many women, she was scared, unsure of what the future would bring, and her self-esteem and self-image had been knocked pretty hard. She was having a hard time being optimistic about anything, and was pretty blunt about letting me know that she wasn’t an optimistic person in a good year, let alone in a year like the one she was living through at that moment. I smiled, and told her that no matter how small, we would be able to find something about her pending divorce for which she could be grateful. I encouraged her to come up with something … anything!
I got her to crack a smile. She told me she was grateful that she was no longer sharing a bed with a man who farted in his sleep! Perfect! Score 1 for the optimistic and grateful side; 0 for the negative side! She smiled again and told me she was grateful that she would no longer be finding his toe-nail clippings on the floor next to the toilet! Score 2 to 0! You can see where we were headed! She was able to find something positive to occupy her thoughts for a moment. Granted, these weren’t earth-shattering positive thoughts, but they were thoughts, they were things for which she was grateful, and they did bring a smile to her face! Success!
What about you? Do you take time each day to pause, reflect and be grateful? If not, why? Start small, and go from there!
Here’s my latest post for eHarmony.com … “Dating to Fall in Mutual Weirdness” … what do you think?? Weird Dating
“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss
I love Dr. Seuss. Always have. Always will! And, I love this quote about finding someone whose weirdness is compatible with our own level of weirdness. I don’t claim to be a dating expert. After all, I married the first guy I dated after my divorce, but I do think there is something to being compatible with the person you fall in love with.
There are two sides to that equation and they can be counter-intuitive and confusing. What are we to believe? Is it “opposites attract” or “two peas in a pod?”
Let’s start with personality traits. Many times, successful relationships are found where the couple balances each other out. One is a planner; the other a bit more spontaneous. One likes to save; the other encourages a bit of spending now and them. One is a neat-freak; the other brings a bit of organized chaos. How boring would it be if both people were stringent savers? You might never go out to eat, or go on vacation. How boring would it be if both people were neat-freaks? You might spend all of your free time cleaning up and organizing to the detriment of enjoying a beautiful day outside. How boring would it be if both people are planners? You might find yourself so overly planned that all joy is lost in experiencing the moment.
Some couples find these differences cute and appealing when they first meet. They are willing to overlook these potential “irritating” behaviors, and instead find them cute or acceptable – or part of dating and relationships. Perhaps they foolishly believe, “I can change this person” and then they get frustrated when they are not able to do so. Suddenly the “cute” trait becomes a monster issue within their marriage! As one friend recently said to me, “I heard all about how important it was to share common values, a religious faith, and a solid foundation of love when I first started getting serious with my girlfiend – now wife – but no one told me how many fights we would have over the fact that she doesn’t understand what silverware caddies are for (all the silverware goes in any slot!), or that she doesn’t believe in using hangers (because all of her clothes are on the floor).”
I’ve seen successful couples understand these differences and embrace them. “Sure, it’s annoying that he is as thrifty as he is and we haven’t gone out to dinner in five years, but I’m also thankful that he is such a good saver and we have college tuition and our retirement well-planned.” These couples recognize that their personality traits or style differences have the potential to build a wedge between them, and instead choose to embrace those differences and value them.
What about compatibility around hobbies or activities? Does the saying, “the couple who plays together, stays together” hold true? Yes! I truly believe that it does. I believe that in the short-term, couples can survive despite not having any mutual interests but longer-term, this can lead to problems. If both people are gone every night of the week and every weekend pursuing their own interests, they begin to drift apart. That’s a dangerous place to be. Before you know it, they are vacationing on their own (he’s golfing at Hilton Head, while she is at the Bead Show in Asheville).
I’m not saying that every couple needs to share the exact same hobbies. I am saying that having mutual interests, activities and/or hobbies is important. That’s what being a part of a relationship is all about – spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and enjoying doing things together.
There does need to be that level of mutual weirdness that drives compatibility. Maybe your significant other thinks your passion for rustic backpacking through the Grand Canyon is crazy. After all, to him, roughing it is staying at the Holiday Inn. And, the idea of you spending six hours on a Saturday walking slowly across an overly manicured lawn hitting small balls with a skinny stick is enough to make you want to pull your fingernails out. Go your own way – absolutely! Have at it. But, also focus on what you enjoy doing together. Are you foodies? Try that newest Thai restaurant – together. Do you like to garden? Plant all the stuff you need to make that great salsa – together. Do you like to exercise? Train for that 10k – together.
I spoke with a woman last week who has been married for 42 years … to the same man! To say they each lead busy, active lives would be an understatement. They both have a lot going on and differing interests. More importantly, they come together over a couple of shared hobbies about which they are both really passionate (some might say fanatical!). She said, “We love our busy lives, we love our friends, but really, at the end of the day, he is my best friend and we are most comfortable hanging out with each other.” Major compatibility!
Returning to Dr. Seuss, what are you doing to find someone whose weirdness is compatible with yours? Are you willing to try something new in order to spend time with someone? Are you passionate about sharing your hobbies with someone else in hopes that he or she will eventually share your enthusiasm? Are you open to learning and embracing new things?
I am thrilled to be writing for eHarmony.com. Here is my first post for them talking about dating risks! What is your dating risk??
“I’m not cynical about marriage or romance. I enjoyed being married. And although being single was fun for a while, there was always the risk of dating someone who’d owned a lunch box with my picture on it.” Shaun Cassidy
I saw this quote, and I laughed out loud. I think it hit too close to home. While I never owned a Shaun Cassidy lunch box (my mom made me carry my lunch in those little brown bags!), I did have posters of him hanging all over my room. His album was the first one I ever bought! The year was 1977. I paid $4.97, and I thought “Da Doo Ron Ron” was the best song ever! What was I thinking?
Dating someone who used to own a lunch box with your picture on it is something that most of us can’t relate to. That’s a 1970’s Shaun Cassidy, BeeGees, or Osmond brother kind of problem. The rest of us never have to worry about dating someone who carried their PB&J’s and Hostess Twinkies to school each day in a metal box bearing our likeness. But, that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have other risks associated with dating!
As I was flying back from Miami a few weeks ago, I got into a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. As the conversation progressed, I mentioned that I had been divorced, and was now remarried. That opened the floodgates of conversation. She immediately opened up and started talking a mile a minute. Like me, she was also divorced (and had been for nearly 5 years). She was in her mid-40’s, and she was incredibly frustrated with the dating scene and never finding “Mr. Right.”
As she and I began to talk, I got an earful of not only how bad so many of her previous dates had been, but also how horrible her ex-husband was. I got a play-by-play of negativity and sarcasm. It seemed nobody could do anything right, and yet she seemed genuinely surprised when she told me that she wasn’t frequently asked to go out on a second date or third date. Seriously?
This presented a dilemma for me. Did I call her out and suggest that perhaps she wasn’t asked out again because it wasn’t fun to be surrounded by all that negativity on a first date (or a second or third)? Or, was this an instance where I should keep my mouth shut? Aw heck … I was never going to see her again, and perhaps it was destiny that we had come to sit next to each other on this flight. I broached the subject … very carefully!
I asked her how long ago it had been since her divorce. She reminded me that it had been nearly five years. I knew that … I just wanted her to hear it again. Five years! Half a decade! And yet, she was still angry at her ex-husband and still full of negativity. When she spoke about him, you could feel the hatred radiate from her.
If I was feeling this much negativity in just our short conversation on our flight, I wondered how much her dates were picking up from her when they went out. I asked her what she found most attractive in a man, and she provided me with a litany of great traits – funny, kind, good to his mom, had to make her laugh, healthy (she said good looking was a bonus!). Never once did she say negative, sarcastic, or pessimistic. I asked her why, and she seemed surprised. “Why would I want to date someone who was negative?” she asked.
I carefully suggested that perhaps it was time to lose her own anger and the negativity over her ex-husband, and time to make a commitment that he would not be mentioned on future dates, no matter how interested or willing the other person was to discuss what had happened. It really can’t be any fun to date someone who is continuing to bash her ex. It also would make me wonder if there is still too much emotion tied up there, leaving her less emotionally available for someone else. It also comes off as pretty ugly behavior to not be able to let go of the past – especially on a date.
Once I got home, I asked one of my good friends for his take on this subject. He’s in the dating pool, and he said if anyone he dates dominates the conversation bad-mouthing an ex, he tends to end the date relatively quickly, and there is no second date to be had. His rule was this: First dates should be for getting to know each other. Sure, maybe a history of a past relationship will come out later (and if it was negative and hurtful, that is part of the story, and may/should come out), but save that for after the first date, and even then, discuss it, then move on. Don’t harp on it. I thought that was pretty good advice. He added this point: “Even the most attractive woman – in both looks and personality — can turn ugly if all she does is use our date to complain about other men.”
It became clear to me. This negativity was her “risk,” or rather, this was the “risk” that men were taking when asking her out on a date. Shaun Cassidy risked dating women who had his photo on their lunchbox. My flight-mate risked turning off the very men she wanted to get to know better by focusing too much on negativity in relationships from her past. I think she intellectually understood this paradox when we spoke, and she agreed to try to work on it.
What about you? What are your dating risks? Do you exude positive energy towards others, or do you sap their energy with your complaints?