My latest for Huffington Post … How Dare You!
“Never lie to someone who trusts you. Never trust someone who lies to you.”
I ran into an acquaintance the other day. Last time I saw her, nearly 10 months ago, she was bursting at the seams with joy. After surviving an ugly divorce, and slugging through the ups and down of the dating pool, she had finally met “Mr. Wonderful.” She took it slowly, careful to protect her heart as so many of us do after going through a divorce. She was cautious, but she was also falling in love, and soon she let her heart take over.
Mr. Wonderful had been divorced for two years. His ex-wife and their three kids lived in another state. He had relocated after the divorce for his job. He frequently had my friend over to his condo in town. It was nicely decorated and filled with photos of his children. He spoke about his ex-wife and about his love for his kids. He talked about how difficult the divorce had been on his teen girls. He talked about watching expenses as he now paid child support and alimony. He flew back to his home state once a month to see his kids. He seemed like a good guy who cared for his kids and who worried about the effects of the divorce on them. Seems pretty natural to me. Nothing seemed amiss.
He wouldn’t accept her friend request on Facebook as he said his teenagers were watching his account carefully and would be freaked out if they knew their dad was dating. I can buy this. He took her away for the weekend to the wedding of one of his best friends from high school and she met all of his friends and their wives. Seems like a big step if you ask me!
My friend went from testing the water with her big toe to jumping in head first! After several months of quietly dating and getting to know Mr. Wonderful, she made the assessment that she could trust him. She let her guard down and introduced him to her two kids. The four of them began to hang out regularly.
He came over and they cooked dinner together in her kitchen. He joined she and her kids on hikes at the state park. They went to the movies together. Her son really took to Mr. Wonderful. His own dad hadn’t been a really strong role model and had made some poor decisions, and my friend was pleased to see her son connecting so well.
My friend’s daughter, however, was a bit more suspicious. Perhaps she had been impacted more than she realized by the circumstances surrounding her mom and dad’s divorce. It had left her a bit angry and suspicious. Without anything other than an intuition that something was “off,” she began to do some research. These young people today are quite quick and clever at Internet research and finding puzzle pieces from site to site to develop the full picture.
It nearly broke her heart when she had to go tell her mom that this guy, “Mr . Wonderful,” was a fraud. He wasn’t divorced at all. In fact, he was still married. He still lived in his home out of state with his wife and three kids, and only happened to be living in the condo because he was on a long-term project with his company.
Needless to say, my friend was absolutely devastated. Yes, her heart was broken, but more devastating than that was the fact that she had become a party to a lie and had allowed her two precious children to become a party to a lie. She is one of these women who would never, ever have an affair with a married man. This is not even conceivable to her. She is one of these moms who would never, ever do anything to hurt her children. To allow a fraud to enter their lives and hurt her children made her blood boil.
That’s what really got her! Forget that she’s been hurt. She is a strong, caring, beautiful woman and will recover. But, don’t mess with her kids! How dare he enter their lives, begin to entwine himself into their lives, while leading a double-life. Her son trusted him. He viewed him as a role model … and now this? How do you explain it?
I’m not naïve enough to think that people aren’t going to lie and that people aren’t going to cheat. That’s been going on since the beginning of mankind. But, is it too much to ask that when you choose to lie and cheat that you think about the ripple effect you are creating — especially with the kids who are involved? This man loved his own biological kids dearly and would do anything to protect them from harm (put aside the fact that he was harming them by cheating on their mom). Yet, he didn’t appear to given any consideration to the implications of his actions on my friend’s children. There is a ripple effect, and it’s a big one.
Why share this story? Frankly, this isn’t the first friend to whom this has happened. These women aren’t stupid. They aren’t blind. They are trusting. We all want to love and be loved. We tend to ignore little signs and our intuition. And, there are some really good liars out there. If I can help one person to just be a bit more aware, not distrusting, but just a bit more cognizant of all the circumstances, then it’s worth it.
I don’t think much of people who cheat. I hold cheaters who knowingly hurt children as part of their web of lies and deceit in even lower regard. People – think about your actions. Get over your ego. Work on your marriage. Don’t hurt others. Get a life.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A lie cannot live.” Sooner or later, you will be caught, and you will drag down a lot of innocent people with you. MLK, Jr. also said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In spite of being hurt, I encouraged my friend to stick with love and trust.
I encouraged her to not let this experience make her distrustful of everyone who enters into her life and the lives of her children. Be more diligent? Yes. Ask more questions? Yes. Pause a bit longer before you leap? Yes. But, at the end of the day, life is for living. Learn from your past, but don’t get stuck in the past. Move forward with joy in your heart!
My latest for “Always New You!” … High Road and Being Brave!
I just read a “divorce” book that I have to write about. In fact, I think every single woman should read it. If you are a widow, if you have been through a divorce, if you have friends who are widowed or divorced, then this book is for you. Do I sound cliché if I say, “I laughed, I cried … ?”
Written by Sue Magnum, “Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self” is the story of six newly single moms who write about the worst event in their lives. Three of the six women found themselves widowed, and the other three found themselves confronting divorce.
This isn’t just six sad and tragic stories of six different women. The substance of the book comes from a year’s worth of emails that were exchanged amongst the women as they looked to create a safe space in which to grieve. They called themselves, “Single Moms After Loss: Talking Advising Healing Laughing Crying” or SMAL TAHLC (small talk!) for short. Nothing was off limits – which led many of the tears that I shed, and the laughter that I shared – as I related to things with which they were dealing. The stories are crafted together in a brilliant roller-coaster of a ride.
No subject was off limits. These women address the questions that I know went through my mind, and so many other women with whom I speak. Things like: “Will I ever have sex again? (heck, I even have a whole chapter in my first book “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” about this one!), “I thought I was religious, but is there really a God?,” “When should I tell my children that I’m dating?,” and “Wow…I’m happy…is that allowed?”
You know my mantra is “taking the high road” and doing what is right by your kids in the face of whatever life brings you. Going through a divorce is certainly one of those things that can rock your world, and it’s often difficult to stay on that high road! If you are looking for a quick read, and an inspiring story, then this book is for you. I bonded with the women in the pages of this book, and loved it when each ultimately accepted her new reality, and in several cases, discovered what Life 2.0 had in store for her. Yes, happiness is allowed, and you will find it again!
My latest for the Divorce Support Center! Other Side of Me
“In nearly every religion I am aware of, there is a variation of the golden rule. And even for the non-religious, it is a tenet of people who believe in humanistic principles.” ~ Hillary Clinton
I was on a flight last week that was delayed due to weather. This led to our circling over Atlanta for more than an hour. Of course, we started to run low on fuel (typical summer afternoon flying into Atlanta.) We were diverted to Birmingham, Alabama to refuel then flew back to Atlanta, ultimately arriving 4 ½ hours late. To add insult to injury, once we landed, we had to sit on the runway for 30 minutes before we were able to get a gate to deplane.
As you can imagine, tension began to run high and some of the passengers got a bit rude and inconsiderate (to put it mildly.) Had these passengers asked themselves, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure they would have liked the answer.
The following day, I had a meeting scheduled with someone of whom I had never met before. He had reached out to me asking if I would spend some time with him to share ideas on career next steps. I agreed to meet with him and fit him into an already tight schedule. I hustled to get things done that morning (remember, I hadn’t even gotten home until 1:30AM due to my travel delays), drove the 43 minutes to where we had agreed to meet and, you guessed it, he didn’t show up. I checked my email and he had sent me a message 11 minutes prior to when we were supposed to meet saying he couldn’t make it. Seriously? No more advance notice than that? Had he asked himself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure he would have liked the answer.
Later that afternoon, I was speaking with a woman in Denver. She is divorced and has been dating a guy for the past 15 months. Interestingly, she and her ex (who also has a steady girlfriend) are beginning to think they still have feelings for each other and they are starting to “date” again. Both are now dating each other (again) and their new partners (who, of course, don’t know about this) simultaneously. If they ask themselves, “What is it like to be on the other side of me right now?,” I’m not sure they would really like the answer.
Late last year, one of the ministers at our church presented a message entitled, ”What it’s like to be on the other side of me?” It was a great message, and it really made you think about your behavior and actions. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” Have you ever taken the time to really think about how others see you, perceive you, and experience you? Would you want to be waiting on you in a restaurant?
Would you want to be ringing up your sale at a store?
Would you want to be your friend?
Would you want to be the flight attendant or gate agent assisting you?
Would you want to be your own customer?
Would you want to be dating you?
Would you want to be married to you?
Why or why not?
We are frequently able to rationalize our own behavior and come up with really great excuses for why we act certain ways or do certain things. BUT, if we are really (really) honest with ourselves and look at things through the lens of the person across from us, I think we often find those excuses and rationalizations backfire. We know that we wouldn’t want to be treated that way. This isn’t a new concept at all! While world religions tend to differ greatly in their beliefs and practices, they all tend to share a common idea around “doing unto others what you would like them to do to you.” This “Golden Rule” can be found in Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, to name but a few. It’s a staple amongst the world’s greatest philosophical minds. It’s a basic tenet of human behavior.
What about you? Who are you putting out there? What have you learned about yourself throughout the process of divorce? Do you like the road you have taken, or are you unhappy with who you have become? Do you get a different answer if you ask yourself, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” If your answer isn’t one that makes you feel good or makes you proud, you may want to rethink how you are coming across, how you are presenting yourself, and how you are treating others. At the end of the day, our goal should be to be able to look in the mirror at that person on the other side of me and like who you see! Smile!
Here’s my latest for eHarmony … Fairy Tale
Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t a fairy tale or a storybook, and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. Love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every second of it was worth it because you did it together.
I did it again last week. We were out of town and stopped for a cold drink after walking around for a few hours. The only open seats were at a table for 4 that had a couple seated at it. They motioned us over to join them (which was so nice!). After a quick moment to assess them, my gut told me they were dating so I dove right in! My husband rolled his eyes and smiled as if to say, “Here she goes again!”
“Can I ask you both a few questions …” I began, and the conversation rolled from there.
This couple was clearly dating. They were cute together. Laughing! Talking! Engaged (meaning engaged in conversation, not engaged to be married). They clearly had life experience. In other words, they weren’t 20-somethings, but rather more like 40-somethings! I wanted to know more about how they met, how long they had been dating, etc.
I love watching and listening to people talk about how they met. It’s always fun to see how they bounce the story back and forth between them, and present the “he said/she said” sides of their relationship. They were finishing each other’s sentences, laughing and smiling as they remembered different points in the story, and feeling good about reliving the start of their relationship.
As their story unfolded, Lisa mentioned a prior relationship in which she was involved, and how different it was to what she found when she met Dave. I asked her what she meant. Her answer was profound. I immediately grabbed a napkin off the table and wrote it down. Lisa said, “I want and need a real relationship, not a fairy tale. He wanted a fairy tale, and that won’t last.”
Lisa went on to say that many people would have considered her last relationship to be “perfect.” That was the problem. It was “too perfect.” He insisted on sending her hand-written cards and fresh flowers weekly. He bought her presents. He liked her to dress and look a certain way. He took her to the best restaurants where it was good to be seen.
What starts off as amazing, romantic, and loving can quickly become overwhelming, controlling and suffocating. When you can’t be as comfortable with each other hanging out in your old pajama bottoms watching a movie as you are getting all gussied up and eating at the best table in the best restaurant, there’s a problem! At least Lisa thought so, and so she called off the relationship. She said, “That kind of fairy tale – wanting things to be perfect all of the time – can’t be maintained forever. At some point, you have to do life with all of its imperfections, and people who want to control perfection can’t deal with that.”
Her comment reminded me of a song I love by John Legend,. The chorus starts like this: Cause all of me, loves all of you; Love your curves and all your edges, All your perfect imperfections.
Isn’t that a great mental image? When we are truly in harmony with someone, we do love their perfect imperfections. Things which might bother or annoy us in others become tolerable. We are willing to forgive or overlook these “imperfections” because their “perfections,” the good they bring to us, and the good they bring out in us, are so much more powerful.
Some people might have been surprised when Lisa ended the relationship. Others knew she absolutely made the right decision. People want real. They don’t want perfect. There is a difference.
What about you? Are you looking for perfect, or striving for real?
My latest for Huffington Post … May 2014 … Lose a Woman!
How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes?
When I was dating my husband, I recall telling him (and this was before he met my children), “I am falling in love with you, but if my kids don’t like you, we’re going to have a problem.” Harsh? Yes. But true!
As much as I was falling for this amazing man, my first allegiance was to my children who had already survived the divorce between their dad and me. Since my kids were still in elementary school, I didn’t want any issues between anyone I was dating and my kids, and certainly not with anyone I was going to marry.
Dating someone who has children (especially if you don’t!) can be very tough. I can only speak from the mom angle. Don’t mess with Mama Bear! We can be very protective of our children. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that you are taking second seat, as opposed to being her first priority. You have to be OK with that. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that she is choosing them, over choosing you. You have to be okay with that. Dating a single mom may mean that your wishes, interests or needs are sometimes put in the back of the line behind the wishes, interests or needs of her kids. And, you have to be okay with that! It’s not that single moms want to put their kids on a pedestal and idolize them, but rather that most moms are going to be protective of their kids and attentive to their needs. That’s just a fact of life! That’s Mama Bear 101. Speaking as a single mom who was dating, and is now married, I can honestly say I still sometimes feel as if I am being pulled between my kids and my husband. It’s the normal push and pull of all relationships. Am I doing enough here? Should I be giving more there?
But the quickest way to lose a woman is to have an issue with her kids. Guys, you want a quick way to get out of a relationship with someone you are dating who has kids? Say something rude about her kids. Disrespect her kids. Act jealous of her kids. Don’t show tolerance of her kids. That will get you kicked out of the relationship faster than almost anything else. It’s an easy way out if you are looking for one.
My two dogs have this uncanny ability to be sleeping quietly on the floor at my feet until I get on a phone call for work, and then they immediately become needy and whiny, scratching at my chair, barking, wanting to go outside, etc. One friend shared that her boyfriend acted the same way. He would be as sweet as could be and laid back/low-key, but as soon as her kids needed her for something like help with their homework, or to drive them to an event, he would suddenly become needy and demand her attention. It began to drive her crazy. She didn’t have the time or energy to deal with this kind of jealousy, so she said adios to him.
Here are five tips for dating a woman with kids:
1. Accept that you may come in second place. It’s pretty easy to pick up on this, and only the most confident of men can deal with this successfully. No one wants to feel as if they are being trumped by others, but the reality is that when the babysitter doesn’t show up or the baseball team makes it to the playoffs (on the night of your planned special date), you are just going to have to go with the flow. If your response is positive… and something to the effect of “I can’t wait to watch Junior play outfield in the playoff game,” you will win lots of extra points!
2. Be patient. It may take longer than you are accustomed to before she invites you to her home or to meet her kids. Taking this step will make her feel vulnerable, and it also exposes you to her kids. Chances are she is the kind of mom who doesn’t want her kids to see a revolving door of men so she will be very choosy about who gets to come in. I dated my boyfriend/now husband for several months before finally inviting him to meet my kids.
3. Learn that spontaneity is not always an option! Moms with kids have to plan things out. Not only is she managing her schedule, but also that of her kids. Someone always needs to be somewhere! And, if the kids are young, mom is not going anywhere without someone to watch the kids. You can’t always count on finding a spontaneous babysitter. From personal experience, I can tell you that once my need for a babysitter passed, then my need to be available to play chauffeur increased exponentially!
4. Be comfortable with direct and assertive! Many single moms have taken the time to look in the mirror post divorce and have dissected what worked and didn’t work in their past relationship. They become really good and figuring out what they want “next time around” and become even better at articulating this. They aren’t necessarily going to spend the time “hoping he will change” this time around. They know better. I became very comfortable articulating what I wanted and didn’t want in my relationship.
5. If you think her kids are brats, if you think they lack manners, if you think they are spoiled, if you think they are little terrors who need to be sent to military school, leave now! They very well may be all of those things, but the reality is that they aren’t going anywhere. Your differing opinion on the subject of her children will lead to ongoing frustration and heartache.
So, back to my initial query: How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes? Here’s how. A friend shared that her boyfriend proposed over a romantic walk at the beach one evening, following by a beautiful dinner outside watching the sunset. As you would expect, over dinner they began to talk about the proposal and plans for the wedding. During the course of the conversation, her fiancée gave her a card from each of his four grown children welcoming her to the family (“If you are reading this card, then we know you said yes! Congrats! Welcome!). Very sweet and thoughtful, right? But… she realized that her own three adult children hadn’t provided cards like his did. She asked about that. His response blew her away. Even though he knew her three kids, and saw them regularly, he said, “I never asked what they thought, or told them I was going to ask you. I didn’t think it mattered.” What she heard was, “I didn’t think they mattered.” Within 90 minutes of proposal, she called off the wedding saying, “You obviously don’t get me or know what’s important to me.” That is how you lose a woman in 90 minutes!
What about you? What other tips should be added for dating a woman with kids?
My latest for Huffington Post … (March 31, 2014):
“The most comfortable prison is still a lonely place.” Kenneth Kolb
“Should we go out to dinner and go dancing with the gang, or stay in, cook-out and watch a movie together?”
“Should we invite our neighborhood social group to join us on a hike, or should we disappear ourselves to wander in the mountains alone, holding hands, hiking, and sharing our adventure?”
“Should we organize a trip to Cancun for all the couples, or should we plan a romantic get-away for just the two of us?”
When faced with these kinds of questions which do you more often choose? The group activity, or time spent alone with your spouse? One answer is not all right or all wrong, but when your time as a couple is constantly spent with others, warning bells should start to go off.
As I speak with couples, and I ask about how they spend their “free time,” I’m no longer surprised by the number of people who say they have a very active social life together. They get along great! They have a fabulous time. They have tons of friends always ready to go somewhere with them.
But, when we start to peel back the layers of the onion, it’s always interesting to see how frequently this great social life — robust, active, talkative, fun, adventurous — is really hiding that fact that these couples don’t want to spend any time alone together. The conversation ceases, the laughter ceases, the fun ceases and the adventures ceases. Frankly, it becomes very lonely. When forced to be a couple, without any outside interaction, these couples find it difficult. They would rather not confront their loneliness. Two isn’t supposed to be a lonely number.
What’s going on here? I see this in couples who have simply grown apart. It’s not that one or the other is having an affair (yet!) or engaging in some other marriage-destroying behavior, but rather simply that these couples drifted apart in their marriage. In most cases, the intimacy is all but gone. One or the other may simply be satisfied “living as roommates.” Often times divorce isn’t considered a viable option for any one of several reasons. Either they really are completely OK being roommates, and not lovers. They don’t want to suffer the financial hit that a divorce inevitably brings. They want to stay married “for the kids.” And, they do have a great life together … as friends in a larger friend circle.
Ask these same couples what happens when the party is over and they are driving home, and they will tell you that it gets really quiet. The energy that fueled such a fun night has dissipated. Instead of talking all the way home about what they did, and flirting about what’s to come, they instead sit quietly in the car, get home, and climb into their respective sides of the bed, turn over, and go to sleep.
Ultimately, many of these couples do inevitably call it quits and bring in the divorce lawyers. At some point, the idea of living the rest of your life as roommates leaves you wondering if there isn’t something more to life. I hear, “I’m not sure I can do this for the second half of my life.” I hear, “It’s not like I’m going to be lonely by myself … I’m already lonely and by myself in my marriage,” or they say, “I’d rather feel lonely than feel alone when I’m with somebody.”
It’s these same couples, who if they ultimately decide to call it quits on their marriage, are the ones whose friends exclaim in surprise, “But why? You guys get along so well? We have so much fun together!”
If as a couple, you are okay with this “social relationship,” then no one should judge you. If however, you long for a relationship where two isn’t a lonely number, and if you truly do want to stay away from considering divorce as an option, then perhaps you should start to focus on how to rebuild your lives and your schedules such that you are okay being alone with just each other.
In fact, couples in really healthy marriages crave that together time. The idea of spending time “just the two of us” gives them incentive to frequently turn down social invitations. No one says you need to become an asocial hermit, but you do become aware of whether time spent in groups is trumping time spent as a couple.
Is being along the worst thing in life? Or is being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone the worst? What do you think?
My latest for HuffPost!
“No kids tonight … Is it wrong that we high-fived in the kitchen this morning?” - Facebook post
“Absolutely not,” I wanted to scream at my laptop, “Enjoy your night – just the two of you — alone! No guilt!”
An old friend (one of those people that you knew in high school, haven’t talked to in decades, and reconnected with on Facebook) posted the above status on her Facebook page last week. While we haven’t spoken in decades, it’s clear that we share a similar story. She married, she had children, she divorced, she fell in love again, she remarried, and now she is blissfully happy.
She and her new husband are the modern-day version of the Brady Bunch. They both brought kids to the marriage, and have a full house when they are all together. While they love their kids dearly, we can all relate to the excitement of having a “free” night to just enjoy each other. But, there is a bit of guilt that tends to creep in when we get a smile on our faces at the idea of a kid-free night. Enough of the guilt. No, it absolutely not wrong to high-five in the kitchen at the prospect of a kid-free night.
I love my kids with all my heart, and love being their mom with all the daily responsibilities that come along with being an engaged parent. And, I have learned to appreciate the times when they are at their dad’s house. I found it tough at first. I felt like something was missing. I didn’t appreciate the time away from them. I wasn’t sure what to do with that time. Boy, how things have changed!
I quickly realized that this time was a gift. When I was first married, I often wished for a quiet night (or weekend) to myself to do things that I needed to do, or wanted to do, just for me! Read a book and take a bath with a glass of wine – uninterrupted. Clean out my closet. Learn how to ballroom dance (OK – not really!). Restore old furniture. Go for really long walks. Have a “Breaking Bad” marathon – and watch an entire season in one sitting. Sleep in … ’til after noon. Go on a date … and another one after that. All things I had hoped to do, but never had the time when the kids were around. When they were little, I couldn’t leave them alone uninterrupted. As they got older, I needed to drive them to this or that sporting practice or extracurricular event. Sure, I could hire a babysitter, but that gets expensive.
After I remarried, I learned to relish the quiet time even more. Again, there was some guilt as I wanted to create new experiences as a family every weekend, not just every other weekend. We learned to adjust. We learned to schedule “adults only” social activities on the weekends when we didn’t have the kids, and keep weekends with the kids focused on doing activities as a family. And, we started to look forward to those “every-other-weekend-it’s-like-we-just-got-married-and-have-no-kids” weekends! You know what that means, right? When the cat’s away, the mice will play!
I have often said that I think more first marriages would survive if parents would continue to invest time in “their” relationship so that once the kids are grown and gone, they can enjoy spending time with each other vs. looking for a new partner.
Our lives are hectic and fast-paced – work and social activities overlap with kids’ school activities, community commitments, and more. We often feel pulled in different directions. Isn’t that true for most couples with active families? The nice thing is that we know that every other weekend we will be able to reconnect and focus on each other. We can have a romantic candle-lit dinner at home, we can make love in the middle of the day without worrying about anyone walking in, we can choose to go kayaking or antiquing all day, and not have to worry about getting home to shuttle anyone to an activity or prepare a meal. In fact, if it weren’t for our two dogs, we wouldn’t even need to go home!
To my Facebook friend in Michigan, I say, “Have fun! I hope you high-five your husband again next weekend too, and two weeks after that! Enjoy your time alone just as much as you enjoy your time with your kids. Give your full attention to both situations and learn to value and relish them for what they bring to you.”
What about you? Have you learned to get rid of the guilt and relish your kid-free time?
My latest for eHarmony … Feb 12, 2014
If this was ‘right,’ shouldn’t it be easier?”
I was asked that question the other day by a woman who has been dating a guy for several months now. During that time, they have had numerous “issues” and serious “discussions.”
“Shouldn’t this be easier,” she asked? “Yes, and no,” I replied.
Strong, good, productive, and successful relationships aren’t easy. They are hard work. They require constant nurturing and maintenance. They require a focus and a dedication. In that respect, relationships are not easy … at all! Anyone who thinks relationships are easy is in for a big surprise when life’s challenges appear. We all hit bumps in the road, and a strong foundation is necessary to navigate these potholes.
By the same token, when I first met and started dating the man who is now my husband, I do recall saying, “This is so easy! I feel like I have known him forever.” In retrospect, there were a lot of things that needed to be worked through. We affectionately called these the “hurdles.” Would we have children together? Where were we going to live? Where would we go to church? What baggage were we bringing from our prior marriages? We knew we needed to work on some things – some pretty major things – and we did. Was it easy? Not really, so maybe “easy” isn’t the right word, but it was “smooth” and was defined by mutual respect and collaboration and a willingness by both of us to clear those hurdles successfully.
So, what’s the difference? I strongly believe that all new relationships require that “hurdles” be identified, discussed and cleared. New relationships require that some “hard” discussions take place. By hard, I mean open, honest, and inquisitive. So many new relationships focus more on the new romance and love, and less on the practical elements of life, so that when the romance part wears off a bit, and the practical stuff comes into focus, they find they don’t agree on things like spending vs. saving patterns, having kids or not, disciplining kids, going to church, etc.
And, these “hard” discussions, of which I am such an advocate, don’t have to be “difficult.” My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I enjoyed wrestling these points, and the back and forth dialogue, as we shared our viewpoints on so many important areas in our lives. We would regularly ask, “Where are we at with the hurdles?” We discussed what we were willing to change or flex on, and where we weren’t! Certain things were non-negotiable. Others were open for new learning and new experiences.
Any of those could have been deal-breakers, and might constitute a “hard” discussion to some people. Unfortunately, many people also equate “hard” with “let’s try to avoid it at all costs.” “Hard” can also mean difficult. It can mean embarrassing. It can mean having to show your own cracks. It can mean your aura of perfection might get a little fuzzy. It can mean revisiting your past. It can mean being vulnerable. Skipping “hard” discussions and insisting that things are better when “easy” is an error in judgment!
Wouldn’t you rather know how tough some of this was going to be, and have those “hurdle” discussions when you are dating, rather than after you have walked down the aisle and said “I do”? I certainly would!
My latest from Huffington Post!
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
We are a few weeks past the New Year! How are you doing on your resolutions? C’mon, be honest! We typically vow to “change” something, and have all good intentions, but change is hard, and so by now, we’ve all-too-often gone back to our old habits that we started the year wanting to change. Change requires energy, intention, patience, and we don’t often have the desire or the stamina to put in that effort to see the results we want.
The thing about change is that we can’t want things to be different, yet not do anything differently. Status quo does not equal change. Thinking you would like something to be different means nothing if you aren’t prepared to do something to affect that change.
I had coffee with a woman just a few weeks after the first of year as we entered 2013. I knew she had been struggling in her marriage for a few years. She and her husband were roommates. They hadn’t been intimate in years (yes, years). They had separate interests and led separate lives. She stated, “This is it! This has to change. Mark my words: we will either make this marriage healthy or be divorced by the end of the year. I won’t be sitting here having this same conversation next New Year’s.”
I met up with her again two weeks ago. It has been a year. We just ushered in 2014. Guess what? She is still in that marriage, and nothing has changed. Still no intimacy — yes, another 52 weeks have passed without she and her husband making love — not even once. Another 52 weeks have passed where she goes her way, and he goes his way every weekend. Another 52 weeks have passed where they haven’t had any of those really intimate conversations about their lives, their hopes, their goals and their dreams that so frequently bring couples racing right back to knowing why they married each other to begin with!
She was different this year. Less energetic, more complacent. She sighed and said she had resigned herself to the fact that nothing was going to change. Their marriage hadn’t improved, yet she seemed pleased that it hadn’t gotten “worse” either. She said that she was just going to accept it for what it was. Roommate status was fine. She has a great group of friends to go out with and activities to keep her busy. She has kids to raise. She doesn’t want to endure the financial hit and the lifestyle change that a divorce would bring. She doesn’t have the energy to continue marriage counseling when it hasn’t seem to have helped. “It’s fine, I’m fine,” she said. I reminded her that “fine is a 4-letter word that begins with F.” That’s what I think about “fine.”
I was frustrated for her, but it’s her decision. It’s her life. It’s her marriage. It’s her future. There wasn’t one thing I could do. If she wants change, she has to drive that change. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.
It’s human nature. We might want things to change, but until there is a compelling reason to make a change, it’s easier to let things go on the way they are.
It’s the classic case of the middle-aged person whose doctor tells him/her to exercise more and lose a few pounds before they face a health crisis. Sure, we try to change, but it’s hard, and there really isn’t a compelling reason to change… yet! Then, that compelling reason hits and we land in ER with a heart attack. As our life flashes in front of us, and we get the crap scared out of us, we realize what a compelling reason looks like, and suddenly our vow to get healthy takes on a new and realistic meaning. Change happens.
For the woman I had coffee with, “fine” will be all she needs until some sort of compelling reason makes her realize that “fine” isn’t OK anymore. That compelling reason may be she and/or her husband realizing that they want to reconnect emotionally and physically and proactively work on their marriage (after all, it does take two!). On the other hand, that compelling reason may be she or her husband deciding to find their physical and emotional intimacy outside of their marriage. I’m a fan of option 1; not so much of option 2.
Time will tell. Who knows if 2014 will bring a “plot twist” to her marriage and if that compelling reason will surface, or if 2014 will be the year of “fine” and we’ll be having the same conversation in January 2015.
What about you? What is “fine” in your life? Is there a compelling reason to make a change or are you fine with the status quo?
Here’s my latest post for eHarmony – Right Bait?!
I wrote a post for eHarmony back in August 2013 called How Dating’s Like Fishing: Hook, Line and Sinker. That post focused on the fact that if you always fish in the same pond, you are always going to be catching the same fish. It was about switching up your dating routine and finding new ways to meet new people.
I received a lot of great feedback from that article, and now feel compelled to take it one step further based on a conversation I had with a guy last week. This guy was pretty blunt, as he tends to be, in telling me, “There are no good women to date out there. All the good ones are married. All the single ones have issues, bring baggage, and have poor values.” I had to disagree! I started to tell him that he was wrong as I personally know many single women who I think are absolutely terrific. But then, I stopped myself! If I told him I knew all these great single women (women with great values, great personalities, great jobs, great morals, great energy, great looks) then he would want me to set him up with some of them. And, I had no interest in doing that whatsoever.
I had to think about that one. I love the idea of helping great men and women connect and find great friendship and/or true love! The fact that my first reaction to this guy was to keep my mouth shut about all my great single friends was clearly important. Why didn’t I want him to meet my friends? The truth is that I find him to be a bit smarmy and sleazy. He’s a bit too desperate. He’s a bit too arrogant. He’s a bit too rehearsed.
What does it say about a guy who is only looking for girlfriends at bars? Does he honestly expect to find the woman who meets his high standards hanging out at a bar every single Friday and Saturday night? He may find someone who appears interesting, but after a date or two, he said he would realize that she is not really what he is looking for. She didn’t “meet the spec.”
When he does meet someone he is interested in (he gave an example of a “perfect” woman he met at a work function and who was really centered, active in her church, and had a lot of great stuff going on in her life) he said they would go out on a few dates and then she would tend to back off and disappear. He said he would be brushed off and he wasn’t sure why. I had a few thoughts that I gently suggested. One, perhaps in his haste, eagerness, and delight at finding what he thought might be the “perfect” woman, had he come on too strong and scared her off? Two, perhaps while he was requiring a list of “values, morals, energy, looks” of his dates, they too had a list that he wasn’t measuring up to!?
Here’s the thing: looking for love requires you to know what you are looking for in someone else, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to know what you are projecting to other people! Would you want to date you? Are you the complete package? Would you want to bring you home to meet your friends and family?
That’s where my bait analogy comes in. What kind of bait are you using to attract the kind of dates you want? I’m not a fishing expert, but I do know that certain bait and certain kinds of lures are designed to attract certain kinds of fish. Know what kind of fish you are seeking, and use the right bait. Don’t think you are going to catch the perfect fish with a smelly, old worm! Don’t try to catch a bass with bait designed to catch a catfish. I have no idea if my fishing analogy makes sense to you, but it works for me!
At the end of the day, it’s not fair to make a blanket statement that “there are no good single women (or men) out there.” Perhaps instead of focusing on what we can’t control, we can turn the mirror around and take some personal accountability to look at what we are bringing as a potential date to a potential relationship.
What about you? Would you date you? If you met you, would you be impressed and want to learn more, or would you run for the hills as fast as you could? Would you set you up with your single friends?