My latest for eHarmony: Dating Deal-Breakers!
f your date has more issues than a magazine, it’s time to cancel the subscription!
On my first date with the guy who is now my husband, I recall asking him if he had ever cheated while in a relationship before. That was important to me. Really important. “Deal breaker” important. If he had said “Yes,” there wouldn’t have been a second date. Fortunately, his answer was a resounding, “No, never.” There was indeed a second date, and a third, and a fourth … and a wedding!
I had coffee with a friend recently who is back in the dating scene. I asked her what her “deal breakers” were. She wasn’t sure what I meant. “You know,” I said, “those things that are absolutely non-negotiable on your part … things about which you aren’t willing to compromise.” I suggested that you have to be clear on these things before you start to date or you might be willing to compromise on things that are really important to you as you find other characteristics really attractive. Ultimately, that means you may lower your standards.
She asked some great questions.
“Can’t people make mistakes,” she asked? “You are all about the power of forgiveness … don’t you believe that some people make mistakes and shouldn’t be penalized for them going forward?” She’s right. I am a huge proponent of the power of forgiveness, but there is a difference between forgiving someone for something they have done in the past, and compromising on your own values and deciding that it isn’t important to you moving forward. I believe in forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences or accountability for actions. In my example, I could absolutely see forgiving someone who made a mistake and cheated in a prior relationship, but to me the consequence would have meant no second date with me. Maybe I would have lost out. On the other hand, maybe I would have saved myself some potential heartache. It’s truly a personal decision and one that each person needs to make independently. We each have to set our own standards. My deal breakers may be different than your deal breakers, and vice versa.
“What if you ultimately decide that your deal breaker isn’t really a deal breaker after all?” She said that initially she thought one of her deal breakers would be if a guy was a smoker. She was just starting to date a guy and discovered that while he wasn’t a chain smoker, he did smoke cigars occasionally – usually when he was out with the guys playing cards. She said she would never have considered dating a smoker, but that this didn’t seem like such a big deal. I think we have to be really clear on the parameters of our deal breakers ahead of time so that when we are confronted with them we know where we stand. In this case, her deal breaker of never dating a smoker should have been articulated more clearly. What she really meant was never getting involved with a chain-smoking, cigarette-puffing, nicotine addict. Sure, we can adjust our deal breakers as we go along, but it might be more effective to have them more clearly identified in the beginning!
“What if I fall for a guy even if he has one of my no-doubt-about-it deal breakers?” Well, we are all human, and you have to live with the consequences of your change of heart. If you decide that a deal breaker really isn’t one after all, then fine; just be confident that it honestly and truly isn’t going to resurface as an issue in the future. I’ve seen too many people decide that they are going to “ignore” an issue in the short-term because they are sure they can “change him” in the future. A word to the wise … that doesn’t always work! I haven’t seen too many people succeed when they held out hope in “changing” someone for the better.
If we know in advance what things are our dating deal makers, and which things are our dating deal breakers, it can make the dating process that much more simple. Goodness knows there are too many other things to think about when dating!
What about you? Do you know your dating deal breakers? What are they?
Here’s my latest for eHarmony: Girlfriends!
“Reminder: your girlfriends will probably outlive your husband. So find good ones.”
My sides still hurt from laughing so hard! I just returned from spending a long weekend with five friends who I have known since elementary and middle school. The six of us met between 4th and 7th grades. We’ve known each other over 30 years. It’s been four years since we have all been together. That’s an entire college experience (I’ve told my kids that college is a four-year gig, and not to expect any sort of five-year plan, but I digress!). In spite of it being nearly 1500 days since we had last seen each other, we picked up right where we left off.
Between us, we have shared marriages and divorces, births and deaths, laughter and grief, celebrations and failures. If we go way back, we’ve shared electric blue eyeliner, curling irons, Sassoon jeans, and lilac prom dresses. We know each other. We accept each other. We love each other.
Even though we don’t experience the day-to-day with each other like we do with our friends who are in proximity to us, we seem to have a stronger bond. I sometimes wonder if many friendships aren’t born, and sustained, out of proximity and ease. Those are the friendships that don’t survive change. One person may move away, or the kids no longer play on the same sports teams, or the person switches jobs, and suddenly those people who were our closest friends, the ones we saw weekly, if not daily, who knew what we did day-in and day-out, are no longer a part of our lives. Real friendships endure all of those changes, and more!
The six of us weren’t always BFF’s. Back in elementary school, middle school, high school and college, we drifted in and out of each other’s lives, but we were always there for each other. In fact, even today, we don’t all talk regularly. Life gets busy. We are wives. We are mothers. We work. Life happens. We don’t know the daily inner workings of what is going on with each of us, but rather we get together every three or four years, and suddenly time and distance disappear in a nanosecond. We don’t need to know what happens in the day-to-day to understand where each other is coming from in her life, and that is what truly matters.
Last Saturday night, the firepot was lit, the wine was poured, and as we sat on the back porch talking, we realized that 5 of the 6 of us have already lost our fathers, yet all of our mothers are still alive. The experience we have had with our parents supports the claim that women tend to outlive men. It was a sobering thought.
At this point, we have known each other longer than we have known our husbands. Heck, these girlfriends outlasted my first husband, saw me through my divorce, were there as I started dating and married my second husband, and are still by my side. There is a good chance that we may outlive our husbands (as our moms have outlived our dads).
My point is this! Our boyfriends and our husbands are important, but so are our girlfriends! They both play a different role (in spite of so many people who say they are married to their ‘best friend’ – I get that, but it’s different! You know it is!). Yes, date, search for the perfect person to partner with in your life, perhaps even find a ‘best friend’ to marry, but don’t lose sight of the importance of your girlfriends in all of this. And men, you want your girlfriend or wife to have a good support team of girlfriends. Trust me! It’s an outlet you want to encourage!
I brought a photo to show the girls last weekend. It was of the 6 of us sitting on the back porch at my parent’s house. The year was 1984. We took another photo last weekend of the 6 of us sitting on my back porch. 2014! Thirty years later! I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if 30 years from now we are taking another photo sitting on someone’s back porch … or maybe it will be of us sitting in white rocking chairs on the front porch of the retirement home!
What do you think? Life is busy! Dating takes time! How do you cultivate and maintain your friendships?
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 eHarmony … Laughing Without Fear of the Future!
Proverbs 31:25 says the Godly woman “is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.”
I don’t know about you, but during the midst of my own divorce several years ago, there were many days, weeks, and months when I didn’t feel like I had the strength I needed to make it through. There were times when I felt my dignity was being put to the test. After all, I was “never” going to be divorced. And, having someone you love decide he no longer wants to be married to you can be a huge hit to your personal sense of dignity. I certainly wasn’t laughing without fear of the future because I had no idea what my future would hold. I was scared of the future. Suddenly the dreams and plans I had made for our family were completely discarded, and I had to create a new reality.
Nope. Looking back, I would say I was sorely lacking strength, dignity, and fearlessness.
Since that time, I have come to know this Bible verse. In fact, it’s one of those verses that I now lean on. It makes me smile! To remain faithful to God, to know that He does indeed have a plan, and to know that He doesn’t make mistakes, brings me incredible comfort. In fact, I actually have this verse hand-stamped onto a necklace that I frequently wear (as in almost every day!).
To believe that I am a Godly woman means I am clothed in strength and dignity! Feeling clothed in strength and dignity is pretty cool. It feels like a cloak of armor. Perhaps that is too medieval of a reference. Perhaps it’s more contemporary to say it feels like being snug and secure in your Spanx!
To believe that I am a Godly woman means that I am able to laugh without fear of the future. That feels amazing. Being able to laugh confidently at something which is unknown, simply because you know you will be able to figure it out, is pretty cool. This isn’t nervous laughter. It’s not a slight chuckle as you look around to see if everyone else got the joke and you’re trying not to let on that you didn’t get it. This kind of laughter is real. It’s contagious. It’s addicting! This is the kind of laughter that says, “I am confident.” Bring. It. On.
Many of the people I meet who are going through their own divorce story are exactly where I was many years ago. They don’t feel strong. They don’t feel as if they have their dignity. They certainly aren’t laughing without fear, but rather are scared and crying because their lives are now one big unknown mass of change and confusion.
I try not to be too Pollyanna’ish and tritely tell them, “It will get better.” It will, but no one wants to hear that, especially in the midst of their drama. Instead, I try to inspire them to take the high road and keep their head up with their eyes focused on the future. As time passes, their strength is restored, their dignity returns, and they do learn to laugh without fear of their future. Time and time again, I have seen men and women discover a whole new life waiting for them which they would never have known existed had it not been for the divorce. New homes. New careers. New hobbies. New relationships. I’m a testament to that. I’ve discovered new careers, new hobbies and new relationships since my own divorce! It’s been a learning experience, and a load of fun, often leaving me reflecting that “this is how it’s supposed to be!”
One of my greatest joys is when these same men and women circle back to me years later and are full of strength and dignity, and fear is not in the house! Instead, they are filled with joy and laughter because the future they were once scared of is turning out not to be so bad after all!
What about you? Are you cloaked in strength and dignity, and laughing without fear of the future? What’s holding you back?
My latest for Huff Post — a fun look at how I survived my own divorce!!
If there’s ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it’s during the divorce process. That’s why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we’ll show you what things — books, movies, recipes — helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well, too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @HuffPost Divorce
Writer Monique Honaman did what we’d all like to do during divorce: She took the high road with her ex and not only survived the separation, but came out stronger because of it. Below, Honaman, the author of The High Road Has Less Traffic: Honest Advice On The Path Through Love And Divorce, shares what got her through the hardest days of her split and tells us about the sweet way she pays it forward to other women experiencing divorce today.
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!
My latest for Huff Post! Parasite!
ap·pre·ci·a·tion (from Dictionary.com)
1. The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.
Synonyms: valuing, treasuring, admiration, respect, regard, esteem
2. Gratitude for something.
Synonyms: gratitude, thanks, gratefulness, thankfulness, recognition,
Appreciation. This word keeps smacking me in the face. It has come up several times over the last few months as I’m speaking with women. These women aren’t telling me how wonderful their husbands are and how much they feel appreciated in their marriages. They aren’t telling me that they feel treasured and valued. They aren’t telling me that they feel recognized for all the day-to-day things they do for their husbands and their children. Instead, they are feeling incredibly frustrated, and many are near melt-down point, because they aren’t feeling appreciated.
This should be an easy one to fix, right? These marriages aren’t falling apart (yet!) because one person is having an affair, or because one person has an addiction which is tearing the family apart. These marriages are failing because one person feels as if she is being taken for granted. The women I spoke with are losing faith in their marriages and beginning to consider an exit strategy. The common sentiment is that they would rather be single, and have no expectations of wanting to be appreciated by someone else, than to have those expectations, and to have those expectations constantly missed.
A friend once said to me, “If he doesn’t appreciate my presence, then I will make him appreciate my absence.” Drastic? Perhaps. But true. She was so frustrated with feeling unappreciated. She told me that was tired of living, as she phrased it, as a parasite. Time-warp! I immediately regressed to my high school biology class. I get it! Parasites are when two organisms enter into a relationship that benefits one at the expense of another.
My friend felt like her husband was taking from her, and that she wasn’t getting anything out of the marriage. She worked full-time, and brought in an equal share of their income. In spite of both working full-time, she was the one who managed most of the responsibilities for their three kids They were able to afford a house-keeper, so they didn’t squabble over “chores,” but she did pay all the bills and manage the “house.” When she and I spoke, she had reached her saturation point. She was done – “I don’t mind doing all of this, I just wish I felt appreciated.” To her credit, she tried articulating this need to her husband. To his credit, he tried to understand, but old habits are hard to break. He told her that he did appreciate her. She heard him, but she just didn’t feel it. She filed for divorce a year later.
Her husband didn’t want the divorce, but he never quite fully grasped the impact of her feeling unappreciated. She’s a single mom now and living a hectic schedule. She recently said, “I never realized the weight I was carrying around every day. I thought I was happy then, but I am so much happier now. I’m not waiting, hoping, and getting frustrated by not feeling appreciated. There are no longer any mixed expectations.”
Her husband confided in me that he thinks he messed up, saying, “Perhaps I didn’t give her enough credit for all she did for us.” It reminded me of the Bruno Mars’ hit song, “When I was your Man”…
“I hope he buys you flowers
I hope he holds your hand
Give you all his hours
When he has the chance
Take you to every party
‘Cause I remember how much you loved to dance
Do all the things I should have done
When I was your man”
Regret is such a sad thing, especially when we regret something that could have been avoided. Appreciation is incredibly easy. It’s a simple “thank you.” It’s a kind word. It’s a little foot massage after a long day. It’s a cup of coffee brought to you while you are getting ready in the morning before a big day. It’s a little love note left by your toothbrush just to say “I love you.”
Maybe articulating it this way is a gender thing. For every five women who I hear articulate a need to feel appreciated, I perhaps hear one man articulate a similar need. I don’t believe for an instant that men don’t want to feel appreciated. I believe it simply means that they don’t articulate it in the same way. In fact, I think men articulate it on the opposite side of the coin. They get frustrated when women nag. Nagging makes them feel unappreciated, but that’s the subject for another post!
Appreciation. Such a simple thing to do. We can start with saying “please” and “thank you” and take it from there! Margaret Cousins said, “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”
What about you? What are you doing to show your appreciation to others?
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?