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Ask Sarah – Dating at the Graveside

Dear Sarah,
     I’ve recently encountered a situation that requires the advice of a love expert like yourself. Here’s a brief background story: In the fall of 2012 one of my dear and most loyal friends died of a self inflicted gunshot.  I ran into his ex-girlfriend various times over the next couple months and the poor girl was obviously a wreck, …and then we didn’t see each other for quite a while.
     Several weeks ago I ran into her again at a gig I was playing and we caught up – it was great seeing her. I immediately asked her how she was, and I guess by the look in my eyes, she knew what I meant and said she was doing better. She looked better, she looked great. So after an hour or so passed, while we spoke, and while more booze was consumed, I started to notice that she was getting a little flirty. And when I say a little flirty I mean it, nothing blatant, just a couple of the eye movements, and brief contact with knees. Keep in mind she is a very attractive person and normally it wouldn’t take much to win me over. The difference is that she is an ex of a deceased friend of mine. Not just a friend but a loyal man who would have given his life for me. He told me several times “Anybody who messes with you’s gotta mess with me first!! I’m serious, Bobby.”
      So the question is: Is it ok to sleep with, date, or pursue an ex of a deceased friend?
My philosophy is that you cannot do any of the above with the ex of a friend, associate, or anyone you know or respect. If you don’t care about the person, then fine, go for it, otherwise stay away a**hole!! What do you think? Also is she considered an ex since she was dating him at the time of his death? They weren’t married so she can’t be his widow.
Anyway Sarah I’m lost about this matter. Please give me any advice you can know of.
Thank you,
Your fan,
Bobby

Bobby,
Let me ask a few questions first.
1.  Does she understand the difference between “your” and “you’re?”  EVEN when texting?
2.  Has she stopped using hearts for punctuation?
3.  Does she own fewer than 5 cats?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then what’s the problem??
I want to tell you a different story and you tell me how you react.
There was a sweet couple – Jean and Hank – high school sweethearts – married 40 years when Jean was diagnosed with cancer.  As they battled the disease over the course of 4 more long years, they hired a live-in nurse, named Maria, to assist with medical issues and offer support.  The family became very close with Maria: it was clear she cared about all of them and she became more than a nurse… she was a friend.  As Jean slipped into her last weeks of life, Maria was there around the clock, tending to her, but also offering a listening ear or holding Hank’s hand as he grieved for his wife.  The day finally arrived and Jean passed away.  Maria was there for every moment of the mourning process – helping with the Memorial service details, talking with some family members, crying with others, sitting silently with some.  And as the weeks and months after Jean’s death passed, and life slowly started getting back to normal, Maria stayed in contact with Hank and his children, coming to family dinners from time to time, meeting for coffee to check in on them, etc.  She and Hank had developed such a strong friendship over the next year or so, that no one was surprised when one day, he announced that he and Maria were dating… and a year after that, they married.
How does that hit you?  Does it sound scandalous or wrong?  Does it break the bro code?
I have a feeling it sounds normal… sweet even.
Is that so different from your situation?  The only real difference is the age.  They’re old.  You’re young.  But why is it wrong simply because of youth?
Bottom line is that I absolutely disagree with you.
Who BETTER than those who were close with (read: possibly shared similar values and character traits as) the deceased, to take care of, and love, those left behind?
Now – if your question is, “can we have sex?” then my answer is different.
But if your question is, “can I start a relationship with this person and see where it goes?” I give my unequivocal two thumbs up!
Think of it this way – if he really loved you as much as he says, if you could go back and time and ask him, in a serious moment, “Dude… if something every happened to you, what kind of guy would you want to end up with your girlfriend?” – I bet he’d respond with something like, “Oh man, I’d want her to end up with someone like you.
What’s the alternative?  I’m guessing she’s not going to be celibate and alone the rest of her life.  So, if she’s going to date and eventually marry SOMEone, why not someone who loved the man she loved?  Makes sense to me.
The only sticky wickets in this king of situation would be:
– entering into a romantic relationship too soon after someone has passed away.  People need time to mourn.
– turning it into a purely physical relationship where, in the end, she’ll just feel used by someone she trusted
I find it interesting that you stated it this way:
“My philosophy is that you cannot [be in a relationship] with the ex of a friend, associate, or anyone you know or respect. If you don’t care about the person, then fine, go for it, otherwise stay away…”
Seems backwards to me.  “If you DON’T care about the person, then fine?”
So, let me see if I have this straight:
Date people you don’t care about… and stay away from those you do?  Hrmmmm…
If you care about someone who passes away, you’re supposed to remove yourself from his loved ones’ lives?
I sure hope if I were married and my husband died, that my friends wouldn’t adopt such a policy.  I want them to stay close – for comfort, friendship, support, and ultimately – healing.
So, there you have it – my permission to date this girl (if that’s what she wants too!).
And I’ll be curious to hear how it goes!

Ask Sarah – Soulmate vs. CatLady

photo 2I’ve received two letters through the “Ask Sarah” tab/form that were so similar, I decided to combine them into one post.

The first one is the latter half of the letter I addressed a couple weeks ago in Ask Sarah – Damaged Goods.
He asked the question:
I guess the crux of my point is this: Is the idea of finding your true soulmate too hard, in this instant age of Facebook, Twitter, eHarmony, and all the others?

The next letter came from a woman:
How do you endure such crappy dates and dissapointments and not give up on dating all together?
Every time I’m reminded again how dissapointing my choices are, I run away. I suspend my online accounts and vow to become an old cat lady.
How do you endure the dismal dates and continue forward with optimism?


I love how the automatic corollary to finding the love of your life is always to “become an old cat lady.”  Really?  That’s the exclusive alternative?  That’s the spectrum?  Love on one end, running a feline menagerie on the other?
(Ever notice how Cat “Woman” is sexy and powerful, but Cat “Lady” is old and pathetic?  I digress.)

The questions above seem to be not only- why keep believing in the efficacy of online dating,… but how to stay optimistic at ALL.

But, really, I think the issue is less about optimism and more about HOPE.

Ok – full disclosure… I’ve typed and retyped this post several times now.  And in the spirit of authenticity, I should tell you – I’m really struggling with answering this question!

It’s not because I can’t think of a “cool” way to say it…it’s because, until now, I don’t think I’ve given much thought to the question of – how DO I keep up hope?  And is it the same as being optimistic?  Or… is it something more?
Is it just my cheery personality?  Am I just wired to be hopeful?  Or maybe it’s something else…

Part of me wants to say:

The difference between optimism and hope is this–  Optimism says, “It’s all gonna end up fine, no matter how the evidence suggests otherwise.  The reality of this world is that there’s a lot of suffering.

But, hope – unlike just thinking that the glass always half-full – hope has an ace in the hole.  Hope has the (and yes…this is going to sound uber cheesy, but just hang with me for a few minutes)… Hope has the power of the human heart.  Oh gag… wow…even knowing where I’m going with this, that sounds way too blindly inspirational to stomach.

So, ok — it has to be something other than simply the “power of the human heart.”  Because, while in moments of national tragedy, when I see people behave with unbelievable kindness and sacrifice… I also know that a day or two later, those same people are privy to the same crankiness and despair that plagues us all.  The same human spirit that prevails over heartache, also yells at their children days later, or tells a lie to save face, or…any other transgression that misses the mark of true goodness.  Goodness exists – but right along with our heart’s natural tendency toward selfishness and rebellion.

No…hope can’t JUST be a product of the strength of the human heart…

So then another part of me wants to say:

I have hope because I believe God has someone for me.  And surely he wouldn’t have created me with such big love in my heart only to let it stagnate with only a handful of cats to be the final recipients of my affection.  Right?

But that argument breaks down really quickly …after all, he allowed me to be divorced, and that sucked pretty hard.  And there are lots of lonely people out there – people HE created – who don’t ever find the love story they so desire.  And then you get into the whole problem of evil …God doesn’t save millions of people from starvation and illness … how could I believe that I have some kind of relationship insurance just because he loves me?

No…there’s something more to hope.  (Plus, I really don’t want to get into a theological debate in today’s post).

 


 

I dare say we are CREATED to be hopeful people.  That doesn’t mean that it always works out the way we want.  But, maybe HAVING hope IS the good thing.  Getting what you want is just icing on the cake.  Maybe the very virtue of being hopeful keeps us alive… I mean really alive.

And maybe all we’re ‘supposed’ to do – is ‘keep the faith’…that is, make  choices for love, rather than out of fear?

Ultimately my answer may not satisfy some, but here it is:

photo 1

I have hope because I HAVE to have hope.

For me… there really is no other option.  Those Friday nights where I’m sitting alone on my couch and I feel those lonely thoughts creep in… the “I sure would like to have someone special here to snuggle up with me” thoughts…
should I just resign myself to that?  Is that the answer?
If it comes down to surrendering to a life of loneliness or holding out hope that there’s someone out there for me… someone that can push past the insanely picky parameters I’ve set…then I have to choose hope every time.

So – yes – it’s a tautology…but that’s the best I can come up with – for ME, that is.  I am a hopeful romantic.  Hopeful because…I choose to be.  I have to be.  I’m not ready to succumb to a life of cats JUST yet.  (Don’t get me wrong…I like cats… I just like the idea of a handsome man a bit more…)

 

And that brings us back to – can it be found online?  And…what about all the bad dates?

Well – I don’t know if online is the answer…I just know it provides a filter that you can’t find anywhere else.
I’m still open to other things…
like friends setting me up.  Ahem…
*clears throat*
FRIENDS SETTING ME UP!  hint…hint…
…as well as just meeting someone organically – at a bar, at church, at the DMV…. ha!  Kidding…just seeing if you’re paying attention.  Do NOT go out with anyone you meet at the DMV…..lawsa mercy…

So – let’s just say that the online option is just that – AN option…that’s all.  It’s one of many avenues to potentially finding the one.

And as for the bad dates…well….THIS is why I blog.  It’s a great outlet to vent my frustration and once I verbally vomit my misfortune all over all of YOU…. I can move on to being the hopeFUL romantic I naturally am.  And hey – for every few bad dates, there’s a good one.  May not be THE one… but good nonetheless.

I guess, in the end – bad dates, abysmal online profiles and photos, and all other manner of dating discouragement – are not enough to dissuade me from the necessary hope I have.

And here’s hoping it continues long enough for me to find a couch-snuggler of my own.

 

 


Ask Sarah – Damaged Goods

damaged goodsDear Sarah,

What is it about dating today that feels so awkward?  Sure, I spent more than half my life with one woman who, comes to find out, was nothing more than a cheat and a liar. But why does that seem to automatically place me in the “Damaged Goods” bin?

Are damaged goods defined as a man who placed his wife and their children first? A man that made every decision, both personally and professionally, with them at the forefront? Who today is bouncing back as a single dad with a terrific son in college and a precious daughter in high school who lights up my life with her smile…is he really “damaged goods?”

As my daughter and I like to say to one another, “We didn’t choose this life, this life chose us,” and we are making the best out of our situation. This is our new normal and now my daughter has pushed me back into the dating waters because she wants to learn from me a lesson on regaining happiness.  Unfortunately, she seems to have lost faith in happiness and true love after the hell we suffered through.

I know there is a special woman who waits for me and I pray I can find her sooner rather than later. This woman needs to have a smile that can brighten my day, a laugh that can shake a room, and a heart that beats in sync with mine. She can’t be afraid to be who she is, because I seek a woman who can challenge me to be better.  A woman who can think for herself and share with me what she wants and accept it when I offer ideas so we can help one another get to where we want to be; who isn’t afraid to show me her true emotional self, and can embrace that from me, because I’m an emotional man. I guess the crux of my point is this: Is the idea of finding your true soulmate too hard to find anymore in this instant age of Facebook, Twitter, eHarmony, and all the others?

 


Dear “damaged goods,”

First of all, it seems to me like you’re asking two questions here:

  1.  Am I automatically seen as ‘damaged goods’ simply by virtue of the fact that I’m divorced?
  2. Is it even possible to find the love of your life these days and in this place in life?

I’ll tackle the first one today.  …watch for the next one next week

 

To answer your first question…..…. We are ALL damaged goods!
I think it’s just a matter of HOW damaged you are, if you know it, and how you deal with your own damage.  Let me unpack that.

Everyone is imperfect.  We all have ‘issues,’ fears, insecurities, …broken places.
Does that make us ‘damaged?’  Perhaps.
But, if so, then we have an equal playing field full of broken people.  The better question isn’t “am I ‘damaged goods,’ but, how am I dealing with my personal damage/baggage/hurt.

If you’re still wallowing in bitterness, resentment and anger about your divorce, then – yeah – probably not your time for the dating world.
Because all you will do is cling to the first person who shows you something remotely close to love, whether s/he is the right person or not, and project your broken places onto him or her.

But, if you’ve taken the time and emotional energy to work on yourself – to acknowledge the places where you bring some baggage with you – then you can (hopefully) own your own junk.  You’ll also be better at communicating your wants and needs with a potential partner, including letting him/her know in which areas you’re more sensitive/fragile.
As someone with a background in counseling, this is one of those places where I think EVERYONE could benefit from a session or 12 😉 with a licensed therapist.  Yes, your BFF is totes amaze… but a neutral party and professional, who is used to dealing with post-divorce emotions, is an invaluable asset to those of us who have gone through the pain of divorce.

damaged goods 2

So, no – being divorced does not automatically make you less-than or unworthy – it is simply part of your story.  A really sad part.

[Side note:  Divorce is never a good thing.  Please don’t hear me saying that.  It is a natural product of a broken world where people are self-serving rather than sacrificial; and chase after momentary pleasures rather than see marriage as a marathon of hard work and surrender.  So – yes – being divorced is – by virtue of the fact that it means the end of promises made to love someone for life – bad.  I don’t ever want my words to sound like I think divorce is just another option in a large sea of life choices… neutral and without consequence.  I think it’s sometimes a necessary evil, but evil nonetheless.]

So, I guess the real issue here isn’t whether you’re “damaged goods” because you have a failed relationship in your past… don’t we all have one or two of those?  The better issue for examination is – WHERE is my damage/pain and what am I doing to work on that so I can be a better partner to the next person I love?


Ask Sarah – Bad Sex

Dear Sarah,

I’ve recently started dating again and was trying a “new MO.”  I confess that I watch The Millionaire Matchmaker and she has a rule of ” no sex before monogmamy.”  So, I thought I’d give this a try.  So, I dated this guy several  times, liked him a lot, had lots in common etc. After we had a discussion about seeing other people, we decide to make the whoopee.

Bad bad bad.

It was so bad on so many levels that I’m embarrassed to go there again. Here’s my dilemma…in the old days, it was an easy fix.
But since I’ve gone out so many times and I genuinely like him as a person, how do you ditch someone over bad sex (not to mention unfortunate anatomy issues)?

Thanks for your wisdom and advice.


 

bad sex 1

Dear Disappointed in bed,

First – let me just applaud you for making the bold and counter-cultural decision to wait on having sex.  I know this couldn’t have been an easy choice when the temptation is so strong!

And the issue of when to take intimacy all the way is a touchy one (no pun intended) because I know I have readers on every part of the continuum from no-rules to no-sex-before-marriage and everything in-between.  So – let me make this caveat that my answer to this question isn’t a commentary on when people should enter into a sexual relationship, but rather, thoughts on how a less-than-desirable sexual partnership can be turned around.

Ok – so – are you sure you want to end it?  Have you come to that conclusion?  Or is part of you wondering if this is salvageable?  Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts on this.

I don’t think bad sex is insurmountable.  Now – please don’t hear me say that I think people need to settle for less than everything they want in the bedroom… I think it’s great to aim for an amazing sex life.  BUT – I think the factors that make the sex bad – can be fixed.  Hear me out.

If you find a good man (and that’s a big if, I’ll admit), then you can turn bad sex into hot sex.

If the problem isn’t the sex, but the person behind it, then…yeah …it may be time to end it.

But, if the person you’re with WANTS you – that is, he wants you physically AND he wants to know you and love you, then you have all the tools you need to have great sex…with a little help.

 

My dad used to tell us (yes – my pastor father …dispensing sexual wisdom to his children…it’s true!) – that the most important sex organ is the mind.  Not the “bathing suit parts.”   If you devote yourself to another person, make their wants/needs as or more important than your own, learn about them and care for them in this way, you can have the hottest sex life.  It’s true.
But, it also requires the scary step – communication.  And communicating about sex is one of the most terrifying subjects, especially when you’re not on the same page.  Talk about vulnerability!  Talking to someone about how they are when they’re at their MOST exposed (literally naked) is the trickiest conversation to have.

THIS is why many people save sex for when they’ve reached the point in the relationship where they feel emotionally safe enough to talk about anything.  Where they feel loved and cared for so much that they have the FREEDOM to speak up about any issue.  This might also be why first date sex isn’t always as sizzling hot as you’d hoped… because you aren’t in a place where you can let your desires be known.

Reader – if this man seems like a catch in other ways, (and…heck…if you’re ready to, as you say, “ditch” him, then you really have nothing to lose), why not talk about this in a gracious way?  You might be surprised that he WANTS to have this talk because he’s eager to please you in this arena.  Now, obviously, this is an area in which to tread softly and use non-judgmental language.  But, I’ll bet if you broach it tenderly, maybe over a glass of wine, and using phrases like, “I really like you and I’m excited about making this thing great.  Would it be ok with you if we try a couple things differently next time we’re in the bedroom?  I really like it when…”

I know what some of you are thinking… “some people just aren’t sexually compatible.”  And I call BS.  If you have the right parts, you’re sexually compatible.  That’s just physics.  A plug and an outlet will always WORK, unless something else is wrong.  What most people mean when they say that, is that they’re not compatible in other ways – communication, intimacy, levels of desire, the ways you express passion, etc.  But all of those things are areas that CAN be changed or modified if you care about someone enough to truly learn them and they you.

That whole joke/phrase that women say and men scoff at:  “size doesn’t matter… it’s how you use it,” ….well, I think there’s some real truth to that.  I’m not saying that body types don’t enter into this discussion at all – but at the core of great sex – is desire, care, understanding, ….love.

So – I say, don’t go down without fighting.  You don’t have anything to lose.  If you try to talk about things and his ego can’t handle it…then you’ve just gained more information about him and he’s perhaps not the catch you thought he was.  And then, breaking things off becomes easier too – because you have more reasons than just bad sex – you have the much greater dealbreaker of his unwillingness to do the work to make the relationship great.

But, maybe you’ll be surprised that he likes you enough to endure a little conversational discomfort for the sake of compatibility – in every room of the house.


Ask Sarah – Supermarket Serendipity – pt. II

Dear Sarah,

Over the years I’ve kind of developed this theory that what pornography does to men destructively, the cute romantic comedy and romance literature, and Disney movies do to women (obviously they’re not the same in terms of decency). I mean that it creates a false sense of the norm, generates unrealistic expectations, and encourages dangerous unhealthy behavior. That said, there’s a fine line between romantic and creepy. Things on the silver screen which can take your breath away positively, would negatively take your breath away in real life, and possibly end with mace. Wild romantic gestures, whether in a relationship or to initiate one, wreak of creepy more than cute in real life.

I think about this often. One of the recurring themes is the “supermarket serendipity”. Women often dream of meeting their guy at the grocery store. When I’m grocery shopping I notice women, but it certainly seems like the most inappropriate place to hit on girls. If you strike up a conversation over things in the buggy, that’s weird. If you look like you’re hanging out there to pick up chicks it’s pathetic.

When I go to the grocery store I leave the kids at home; it’s a mini vacation, and my grocery bill is lower. I love the idea of randomly bumping into someone and meeting, but it definitely seems like poor timing. We’ve all got ice cream in our carts, and making a date is next to impossible.

Oh well, I’ll quit blabbering, but I’m curious what you think.


Well, we talked about the idea of women’s unrealistic romantic fantasies/expectations in Part 1, but today, I’m going to tackle the way more fun topic of the ACTUAL supermarket serendipity.

Yes – many women have this fantasy in their mind – that while at some public forum, a dashing single man will notice them and initiate conversation…ending in a kismet moment that they’ll look back on 3 kids and 10 happily married years later, and smile.

Is that too much to ask??    (kidding…    no, but seriously.      ok, ok – kidding.)

 

Before we launch in – let me say that YES – this can flop.  Yes, these moments can be disastrous.  I’ve heard several accounts of this going awry – women who are all-but-stalked in a grocery store where some guy follows them and then hits them up with an unbidden conversation dripping with an alarmingly high creepy factor and a suspiciously multi-level-marketing-ish tone.

That’s NOT what I’m talking about.  Those are men who are ‘hunting,’ not just noticing/looking.  A man on the prowl is different from a man who notices you’re getting a bottle of wine he loves and uses that as a springboard for authentic conversation.

What I AM talking about is a man (or woman!) being bold enough to acknowledge someone who strikes his fancy – and reading his audience so he doesn’t creep her out, but initiates a conversation that they can continue later if they’re both interested.

I carry cards with me that have my name, website and phone number on them, so that if something like this ever happens and I’m intrigued, I can give a guy one of my cards, flash him my winning smile and tell him with my equal-parts-seductive-and-genuinely-friendly eyes that I’d look forward to hearing from him.  Boom.

The problem with these public conversation start-ups is that people feel more exposed and vulnerable than they do in more culturally acceptable venues.  Men will easily sidle up to you at a bar or a club and tell your their life story, but ask a man about a ripe avocado and watch the fear take over his face.  Geez…  why is it BETTER to be ‘picked up’ at a bar than at Whole Foods?  I dare say that I’m more my true self while checking out with my quinoa, kale, and ice cream (see …if you get enough health foods, you can sneak in the junk and NO one will notice…) than 2 craft beers in at my local watering hole.  I’m the real life me – not the dolled up, tipsy version.  Plus – think of all the fuel for conversation!  At least once every couple of weeks, I’ll remark on what someone ahead of me or behind me is purchasing – man OR woman.  If I see steaks, veggies, wine and cheese, I’ll often joke, “So!  What time shall I be there for dinner?”  People always chuckle and it usually opens us up to a brief conversation.  Or I’ll ask someone who’s buying something I’ve never tried, if it’s good.  What do you have to lose?

Tell you what – here are some simple tips for lighting the match of a potential match – in the grocery store (these can be adapted for WalMart/Target, home improvement stores, boutiques, jiffy lubes, and on and on the list goes):

– DO smile and be yourself, even if that means a little stuttering or tripping over your words.  We find that way more endearing than the slurred speech you’ll give us a few hours later while ordering your stout.
– Do NOT follow a woman through the aisles.  Speak or don’t.  But, don’t stalk her until you get up your nerve.  Having a ‘tail’ isn’t romantic, it’s cause for a restraining order.
– DO start the conversation with something relevant (about what you’re buying, etc.  I’ve had men give me tips on which wines are good when they see me surveying the options.  I’d be happy for them to follow that up with, “You know… I know a great wine bar not too far from here… if you’d ever want to go grab a drink?”)
– Do NOT use a ‘line’ like you might at a bar.  “So…you come here often?” doesn’t really dazzle the way you think it will at Kroger/Jewel/Publix.  Of course we come here often.  We eat.
– DO make friendly eye-contact.  It’s the first bait you can put out to see if she’ll bite.  Does she look back and smile?  Bam!  That’s your invitation to strike up a friendly conversation.  If she rolls her eyes, well – you have your answer.
– DO read your audience.  If she’s racing through the store in a near panic, she does NOT have the time to be hit on.  If she’s exasperated with 6 children nipping at her heels…she’s not feeling sexy.  If she’s buying tampons, ice cream, St. John’s wort and the latest Cosmo…well, I’ll let that speak for itself.  But, if she’s shopping leisurely and seems in good spirits, I say you go for it.
– DO go for it!  What’s the worst that will happen?  She’ll dismiss you and move on?  Ok – well, you didn’t know her before, so you’ve lost nothing.  And perhaps you’ve gained a bit of bravery?!

 

I talk with people all the time – men and women – who don’t want to do the online dating thing because they want their love story to start off “more organically.”  But, what does that MEAN?  If online dating is too contrived, I can understand that – but, then what?  Does that mean you don’t ever take the initiative to make contact with someone in public?  Are bars ok, but Lowe’s isn’t?  Is Friday night salsa dancing acceptable, but forget saying hello at church on Sunday morning?  Or are you ONLY waiting for someone to introduce you?  You might be waiting a long time.

Women like to be wanted.  And we like when men take a risk.  If you start up conversation while waiting in line for your Diet Coke at Burger King, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Instead of waiting for life to plop someone in your lap, why not look around at who life has plopped within 30 feet!?  That way you can have it your way – right away.


Ask Sarah – Supermarket Serendipity – pt. I

Dear Sarah,

Over the years I’ve kind of developed this theory that what pornography does to men destructively, the cute romantic comedy and romance literature, and Disney movies do to women (obviously they’re not the same in terms of decency). I mean that it creates a false sense of the norm, generates unrealistic expectations, and encourages dangerous unhealthy behavior. That said, there’s a fine line between romantic and creepy. Things on the silver screen which can take your breath away positively, would negatively take your breath away in real life, and possibly end with mace. Wild romantic gestures, whether in a relationship or to initiate one, wreak of creepy more than cute in real life.

I think about this often. One of the recurring themes is the “supermarket serendipity”. Women often dream of meeting their guy at the grocery store. When I’m grocery shopping I notice women, but it certainly seems like the most inappropriate place to hit on girls. If you strike up a conversation over things in the buggy, that’s weird. If you look like you’re hanging out there to pick up chicks it/s pathetic.

When I go to the grocery store I leave the kids at home; it’s a mini vacation, and my grocery bill is lower. I love the idea of randomly bumping into someone and meeting, but it definitely seems like poor timing. We’ve all got ice cream in our carts, and making a date is next to impossible.

Oh well, I’ll quit blabbering, but I’m curious what you think.

 


 

Dear lonely shopper,

There are two big questions here.  The first is – have romantic comedies set an impossible expectation for men to live up to, and the second is – is there any realistically good way to navigate the supermarket meet-up?

I think I’ll cover this in two posts because there’s so much good food for thought here.

To the issue of women’s “porn”…romance

Yes.  I think there’s definitely some “danger” in the over-the-top gestures and language used in (and made to seem normal and “findable” in real life) many movies and shows that women enjoy.  (These are mostly written by women… so it’s a fantasy world BY us, FOR us.)

But, like any good story – the onus is on the viewer/participant to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  An emotionally healthy adult can watch the Bourne Identity and not feel the need to sneak up behind their boss the next day with a knife to his neck because he’s ‘probably’ an enemy spy.  In like manner, a normal well-adjusted person isn’t going to start trying to breed an especially powerful species of orcs after enjoying the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  So, one can assume that, while you may willingly suspend disbelief DURING a movie (to enter into the story for maximum enjoyment), you un-suspend that disbelief when you return to reality – for the sake of your own sanity.

The thing that’s different from action movies or sci-fi/fantasy and the movies you’re describing is in RECOGNIZING the fantasy.  We women WANT the dramatic displays of love in real life.  We WANT men to speak with us in terms of emotion and affection.  We WANT them to be thoughtful.  So, when it’s in front of us on the silver screen, it doesn’t always register as fantasy… but as potential reality.  In other words, we DON’T suspend disbelief.

When Mr. Big grabs Carrie and pushes her up against a wall and kisses her passionately, I don’t think to myself, “that’s fiction.”  I think to myself – “see?  There ARE men out there who do that… and I want one.”

And the good news and bad news is this:  these movies represent a small percentage of men who actually ARE incredibly romantic and enjoy going to great lengths to show a woman they love her.  I’ve dated a couple – and I’m not gonna lie – it’s pretty awesome.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie - one piece at a time - for her to put together.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie – one piece at a time – for her to put together.

I keep up loosely with my high school friend, Brad, on Facebook.  Brad met a woman who he’s now madly in love with and is constantly talking about how lucky he is to have her, and surprising her with little gifts/notes, and being thoughtful and creative in expressing his love for her on special days AND just-because-days.  And this isn’t just the beginning/honeymoon stages of love – it’s been going on for quite some time.  I watch her page as well, even though I’ve never met this woman, just to enjoy how much she gushes in response to his love.  It’s not fake.  It’s real-world fantasy.  HE is the real-life version of Matthew McConaughey.  So – it DOES exist.  But, it’s rare.  Probably about as rare as your boss being a high-level Soviet mole.

So, what are we to do?  Women know there are the Brads and Mr. Bigs out there.  So… we wait and hope that we land with one of the 5% of those guys, much like many men must hope they land a real-life version of a porn star.  (In the same way that 100% of on-screen heartthrobs represent about 5% of true romantics in the pool of men, 100% of women in the pornography industry represent about 5% of that female body type/figure in reality).

But, odds are that I am going to end up with a guy who, while passionate and caring, isn’t going to dedicate the entirety of his days to the sole purpose of showering me in his affection and romantic gestures.  And if I’m waiting for THAT…I fear I’ll be waiting myself right into a house full of cats with a subcription to “Spinster Life.”

But I CAN wait for the real-life version… as long as I have a healthy understanding that the real life version doesn’t have a Hollywood budget – and is subject to things like:  fatigue, cricks in the neck, bad traffic, work stress and other real-life romance-killers.  Romance isn’t about perfection – but about thoughtfulness and sacrifice.  Holding out for those is a good thing, as long as I’m not waiting for Harry’s end-of-movie-speech to Sally (though… if I found a man who talked to me that way, I’d lock that junk down, just to be clear).

I guess I’d say the trick is to be honest with ourselves about reality and fantasy.
Love – the good, big love that is actually out there – DOES have an element of fantasy in it… or it should… combined with other qualities like commitment, hard work, communication and sacrifice.
And a good story – instills hope, renews our faith in relationships, and if taken in the reasonable and realistic light of its place in life (that is – that it is JUST a story), lets us enjoy an exaggerated version of something fun – and MAYBE even spur us on to love others in our lives just a little better.  Just like watching Frodo endure to the end to destroy the ring of evil – watching Bradley Cooper or (my personal fave) Jason Bateman, give an empassioned speech of their enduring love for fill-in-the-blank-because-I’m-not-really-interested-in-the-woman-anyway – lets us crawl into the “other” (a story outside of ourselves) for an hour and 20 minutes.  And that’s not so bad – as long as we can take our minds back to reality when the credits roll.

If a woman waits around expecting George Clooney and is constantly disappointed by the Joe Smiths she goes out within real life, she’s missed the point of the story.

But, hey – more Joe Smiths for me.

 


Next time… finding love in the produce aisle…?


Ask Sarah – Money, Money, Money

Dear Sarah,

At what point in the course of dating is it fitting to start talking finances, i.e. income, net worth, assets, debts, etc?  This is a part of reality that can’t be ignored. But it also isn’t appropriate for a new relationship. So the question is, where between date one and engagement would you slot this convo?


money 5I had a professor in graduate school say that the majority of all conflict between couples has to do with one of two topics:  Sex and Money.

So, it stands to reason that there’s quite a lot to consider in the course of relationship about both of these areas.  And for today’s purposes, I’m going to suggest that we view them in the SAME light – and that’s this:

Both sex and money-talk, should happen/progress commensurate to the level of intimacy in the relationship.

For instance… in the same way that it is healthy to pace yourself sexually to match the level of emotional closeness, I think you should parcel out your financial situation discussion AS you feel emotionally safe to do so.  What do I mean by emotionally ‘safe?’  You can see the longer version of that here.  But, in essence, it’s where both people feel loved, known/understood and valued by the other person, so much so that they feel comfortable being vulnerable, knowing that they will be cared for.Money 3

Most people would agree (even if they’ve broken their own rule) that sex on the first date is damaging to the long-term goal of a good relationship.  Why?  Because the physical intimacy is WAY ahead of some other basics that should be in place for the sexual relationship to really blossom – love, trust, care, emotional safety, committment, etc.  So, the relationship is off balance… which makes it vulnerable to misunderstanding, hurt, frustration and ultimately failure.  This is not to say that every time a relationship begins in an unbalanced way, that it’s unsalvageable, but that it makes it difficult to get back to a place of safety and love.

In that same way – talking about finances before you’ve established some intimacy/safety, can be just as damaging.  Especially when the two people are in different places, financially.  This is all much easier if you sense (and you will) that you’re in a similar situation as your partner.  People will make jokes about being poor (I know this from personal experience), or you’ll be able to tell by someone’s spending, that s/he is financially comfortable… so if you’re equally matched up, this conversation can happen sooner and probably more easily.  Two people steeped in debt can empathize with each other on how difficult it is to climb out.  Similarly, two people doing well for themselves can celebrate each others’ situation and enjoy the equity that brings to the growing relationship.
But, when one has money and the other doesn’t (QUITE often the case), talking it out can be really scary…

 

Let me back up for a moment.money 4

SOME financial talk is inevitable at the beginning of a relationship.  Heck – whether it’s spoken or unspoken, there is “talk” of finances on Date #1 when the check comes.  Who pays?  Is there an assumption?  Do both offer to pay and then there’s a short transaction of terms?  Money is always a present factor, whether we dive in fully or not.  But, there’s a difference between dealing with the immediate financial situation, and delving into the deeper waters of net worth, savings, debt, etc.

Side note:  Men… while there ARE women out there who don’t fit this rule, the quality single women out there value GENEROSITY much much more than WEALTH.  Now, a wealthy person has much more opportunity for generosity, so wealth itself isn’t bad or wrong, but when a man tries to show a woman JUST how well-off he is, it’s off-putting.  A man who insists on paying for dinner in a kind and gentlemanly way is FAR sexier than a man who brags about his cars, watch, 401k, etc. 

I’ve been on dates with men where they show me photos of their cars or shove their watches in my face expecting a reaction of awe… except that I know NOTHING about watches, so I can’t tell if it’s from a plastic box from WalMart or the felt-lined displays at Patek Phillipe.  So, it only serves to make me feel silly/awkward for not knowing how to respond.  Do I go with a “OOoooh, how nice!”  or “I like a man who can bargain shop!” (note…do not use this one unless you’re certain it’s a reasonably priced watch.  I’m just sayin’…. it doesn’t end well.  I ought to know.)

But a man who pays for the date without complaining about menu prices – that’s ‘money.’  (<—yes…I’m using that as an adjective.  Meaning… it’s good.)

Alright – back to the issue at hand.

money 6Part of the advantage of waiting for this talk until you know the person better… is that you’ll learn the character of the person BEFORE hearing the financial situation.  You’ll start to see whether the person is greedy, kind, impulsive, overly-cautious, free-spirited, calculating, etc.  So, when the conversation finally does happen, you’ll be able to weigh the cold hard facts against what you know to be true about the person.  That’s no small thing.  Think about it this way, you would have a grossly different reaction to finding out that your potential partner has major medical debt that s/he’s still fighting, if you know the history:
Option 1 – she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that took a few years to figure out, treat, and come up with a maintenance plan for.
Option 2 – after a car accident, she became addicted to prescription pain-killers and struggles with substance abuse.

Neither is insurmountable, but they’re awfully different, right?  And KNOWING the person will shed light on the financial situation.

I’ll tell my own sad tale as a way of proving my point… (prepare for disillusion) — I am a divorced single mom with 3 jobs.  I don’t have any fancy 401k’s or money sunk into the stock market.  I have student loan debt (how do you think I got THIS smart?), and other annoying financial burrs in my side.  As much as I like to think I’m wise with my money (not using credit, saving, etc.), there just never seems to be enough…   So, for someone like me, there’s no way I’m going to feel comfortable putting all the details of my grim financial situation out there for someone until I know I’m loved, cared about and there’s a level of commitment that’s NOT conditional on my financial standing.  Once I feel safe with someone, I will start to give him pieces of the overall picture.
With an ex-boyfriend, we were almost a year into our relationship when we finally started putting actual NUMBERS out there.

money 2

So, unfortunately, there’s no clear timeline answer on this.   YES, you have to talk about it as you become increasingly closer and more commited to each other, but NO, you should talk about it until there’s a layer of safety and understanding/love there to protect that conversation.

Building the relationship should be the number one focus of your energy, and as you grow in trust/love, and as intimacy increases, so will physical connection, as well as openness about topics like money.


Ask Sarah – Uncomfortable Silences

 Dear Sarah,

Ok, you meet someone online.  There’s a bit of a spark.  You chat, then move to text.  You set up a date but due to scheduling issues the date gets pushed out.  Text conversation is simmering down to “hey” and “what’s up.”  What can you talk about to keep that interest going?  Need ideas!

Seriously….I’m down to stuff like “I like the color purple.  No, not the actual color, the movie.” 

Help o loquacious one….


uncomfortable silences

First of all, I think I’m going to add “Loquacious One” to my growing list of nicknames.  Love.

Next…  I’ve been on the OTHER end of this…where I begin to lose interest before we ever meet…so communications naturally taper off… and here are the reasons why:
  1. It’s SO hard to find a time to meet that I start thinking I wouldn’t want to date this guy anyway if he’s THAT busy.  I really value availability in relationships.
  2. I’ve gone back and looked at his profile again and noticed something I didn’t see before (he’s shorter than I am, he listed ‘religion’ differently than I go for, he lives outside the loop (ok, ok…I’ll make exceptions for this one..but let’s not get crazy, League City…), he’s got a total body tattoo that didn’t jump off the page the first time I looked…you know – that sorta thing).
  3. As we’ve been texting, it’s become obvious that he’s not as smart or witty as I’d hoped…so why would I want to get together with him?
  4. While I was waiting to meet him, someone else came along who grabbed my attention more.
If any of these things were going on, I’d probably just let communication die down naturally.  After all, we haven’t yet met, so I don’t feel like I owe him an explanation.
BUT… if a guy ever asks – and they have – I’ll tell ’em what’s up.
Example: 
          Tatooed, un-funny, Jesus-hating Dallas-dweller:   “Hey ….did you lose interest?”
           Me:  “I’m sorry I’ve been MIA.  To be honest… the more I think about it, the more I just don’t think we’re a good match.”
Boom.  Just like that.
So – to YOUR question – and what you can do.

First of all, there IS just a chance that she got busy with her job, family, etc. and it has nothing to do with you.  For me, that’s almost never the case because I give a LOT of priority to relationships…even budding ones.  And if I really like a guy, I’ll keep the text momentum going even IF I’m busy.  BUT, not all women are like me.  Some are much more career-focused and can zone out of one facet of life to devote themselves to work issues/demands.  I have girlfriends who will go dark for a while and then come back to life on the weekends.

 

So – she may be genuinely busy.

 

But, if it’s NOT that… all you can do is be yourself, use your wit to keep her laughing, and get that face-to-face on the calendar as SOON as possible.  Because, honestly, so many people are more attractive once you’ve met them, than they EVER are over texting.  (Sadly, the opposite is also true…but that’s a discussion for another day).
I think you could even ADDRESS the situation with a sense of humor.  You could say, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been texting as much…is it my breath?”  Or something equally silly.  That way, she can respond to the issue if she wants, or she can avoid it with an LOL and leave you as clueless as you are now, but… still engaged.
Lastly,… one of my pet peeves is when guys text ONLY about themselves or only closed-ended topics.
Throw out a text that demands a response!  I don’t mean that you need to ask her her thoughts on the conflict in the middle east, but engage her about HER.
For instance – I love the silliness of the “color purple” bit… use that line and then ask her what movies she likes!?
If she still isn’t responsive, it might be time to just fish or cut bait…see if she’s still willing to meet up, and make a solid commitment to a time/place. 
If she hedges, cut her loose. 
You don’t need to beg.

Ask Sarah – Girls in Cars

Dear Sarah,

Why do women take so many photos in their cars?  Are they trying to prove that they know how to drive?  Big woo…


Ahhh…the classic car selfie shot.  I know it well.

Here’s the deal, fellas…car selfie

When we women get ready to go out – we do it right.  Assuming we have the luxury of time in the dolling up process, there’s a multi-step system to full beautification.

Let’s say I’m going out with some friends to dinner and dancing on a Friday night – I’m going to give myself enough time to shower, use all the expensive skin and hair products, take the time to blow dry my hair JUST right, curl it JUST right, pick out JUST the right outfit…

(which often means that my bed becomes a graveyard of rejected outfits – THIS shirt with THAT pair of jeans, …no – THAT pair only works with THIS sort of top… no, how about a dress and boots?  No…leggings and heels?  Wait…what about the first shirt with the leggings and THIS necklace.  No wait, …hard to dance with a necklace flying everywhere… maybe the heels at dinner and change INTO the boots?  What about if it’s cold?  ….the internal dialogue is dizzying, truly.)

Then, you put on your makeup the way you only can on a weekend night – where you take the time to actually put it on NOT while driving or taming children or propping the phone between your ear and shoulder to talk to your friend who’s going through a rough time…   No, this is the sort of makeup application where you start with a bold red lip so that you can feel that confidence coursing through your veins while you put on the rest… and taking the time to put that tiny bit of frosted powder in the corners of your eyes or on your cheekbones to contour your face JUST right…

And if it’s me, all the while I’m jamming to some fun music (I keep my speakers in my bathroom for just this reason, actually), which is building the anticipation for the night ahead.

So – when the time finally comes to hop in the car… and I see myself in the rear view mirror… I’m seeing what I think is the best version of me – all primped and polished and ready to go – before the evening adds its patina of wear and tear to my look – before the humidity or well-intending hugging friends undo my curls or sipping my yummy drink removes my lipgloss – just the way I want the world to see me.  So, it’s the time to snap a photo to show me at my best!

Add to that – not only do I feel my prettiest, but I’m also full to the brim with excitement about the evening ahead and confident in my ‘look,’ so my mood is great.

Is there a more perfect storm for the self-taken photo?  Lookin’ good and feelin’ great?

So – we snap away.

It has nothing to do with the car or with driving – just in the stars aligning in such a way that we feel picture-worthy.

And often there’s no one around in those moments to TAKE the picture.  I mean – if you’re single and on your way to hang out with friends – you’re usually getting ready and leaving the house alone.  So – you take the photo yourself.

And THAT is the story of how the car-selfie was created, boys and girls.

 

Hope that helps shed some light on the female way.


Ask Sarah – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Dear Sarah,

I’m curious, have you ever written anything regarding facial hair on men? I’ve sprouted some recently and I’m always interested in how differently girls respond to me when I have it. Someone even told me it made me look sinister…ha! Thoughts?  I don’t really look sinister, do I?

I’ve included pictures of me you can use in your analysis if you like. 😉  Also just so you know, I’m not really looking for advice on whether I should keep the beard or not.  I have it because I like it, and I’ll shave it when I decide I don’t like it any more.  I am interested in hearing what women’s reactions to the two different looks are though.

 Ask Sarah - Facial Hair(This reader gave me permission to post these, as long as I was clear to the women in my readership
that he is single and available.
(His profile)

A man after my own heart.  Ladies… form a line.)


Dear Sinisterly Furry,

First of all, before weighing in on your personal situation, let me speak to the more general questions this brings up.

Turns out I actually have lots of thoughts on all things coiffure. (more…)


Ask Sarah – Rebounding

Dear Sarah,

How can you avoid becoming someone’s rebound?


Well, let’s define our terms first.  Because when most people use the term “rebound,” they don’t just mean the person someone dates right after coming out of a long-term relationship.  There’s a connotation that the rebound relationship is NOT going to work out to be long-term or meaningful… that it’s just a stop along the way of the wounded person’s healing process.

And, everybody should want to avoid THAT.

But I DO believe there are people who are healthy enough to do the required work after a breakup, so that their next relationship CAN be healthy and long-term.  So – while you may technically be their “rebound,” it might have potential to be great.  I dare say there are a fair share of marriages out there that began as “rebounders.”

And it wouldn’t be fair to discount someone as a potential partner JUST because this would be their first relationship after a failed one!

So, I think a better question would be

How do I assess someone’s true ‘readiness’ for a relationship?”

 

Obviously, there’s no foolproof method for this, or else multitudes of broken hearts around the world wouldn’t happen at the hands of ill-prepared men and women entering relationships they’re not ready for.  I have fallen victim to this myself, getting involved with someone who, by his own admission a year and a half later, wasn’t ready.  Sigh…

But… I do think there are some tools we can use to better the odds.

1.  Does she have a happy life, aside from being single?

I’ve talked about this before – that you can know there’s something missing in your life – even long for it, while still creating a life you enjoy around you.
When you meet someone, he should seem satisfied with his life, not like he’s moping until he finds you.  If you come into an unhappy life, he or she will be expecting YOU to be their EVERYthing and that’s a lot of (too much) pressure.  That’s a recipe for co-dependence.

Rather – look for someone who has friends, hobbies, who seems pretty content with things.

This also includes looking for moodiness.  Now, everyone has a bad day.  Everyone has natural ups and downs, but I’m talking about something more dramatic.  Someone who’s consistently moody (high highs and low lows… and you don’t know what you’re going to encounter when you call/text/meet up) may be either still hung up on a past relationship (meaning that they’re still in the healing phase), or may even have a mental disorder that needs to be addressed.

True happiness/contentment should look like this – she’s generally in a good mood, has people and activities in her life that make her happy, seems content with the way things are… and YOU would be the icing on the cake that would take her from good to GREAT.  You don’t want to have to be someone’s savior.

2.  Does there seem to be an overemphasis on the physical?

When people aren’t healthy enough to do what’s required for a relationship, you can often tell because they’ll be very into the physical stuff (touching, snuggling, kissing, etc.) and neglect the emotional/intellectual connection required to really know each other.

After a breakup, one of the things we all crave and miss – is that physical connection and attention we used to get all the time, that’s been suddenly taken away.  It leaves a lonely hole that we yearn to fill.  And it’s so easy to go after it in someone else before really mourning the first relationship’s end and coming back to a good personal place.  I’ve heard several people lately talk about how much they miss just having someone in the bed with them – not even sex, necessarily – just another person next to them while they sleep.  I get that – I DO!  But, don’t go into a relationship JUST to get that.  Or don’t be the one in a relationship that’s giving JUST that.

Do not confuse physical intimacy for a complete picture of closeness.  When two people fall in the love the RIGHT way, the level of intimacy always matches the level of connectedness.  It doesn’t precede it.  As you know each other better, affection naturally increases.  If the two are out of balance… it’s a red flag.

So, if you find yourself with someone who always wants a little less talk and a lot more action, you might ask yourself if s/he’s only in it for the temporary ego-boost/healing balm that mugging down can give you when you’re not really ready for the whole enchilada.

3.  Did he come right out and TELL you he wasn’t ready?

Sadly, I’ve fallen into this trap a few times.  Someone’s literally told me – point blank – that he wasn’t ready for a relationship… he just wanted to get out there and have some fun.  But, I was so attracted to him that I tricked myself into thinking that if he got to really know me, he wouldn’t be able to help falling madly in love.  Ha!

If he SAYS he isn’t ready – believe ‘im.  Because, hey – what’s the alternative?  That he’s wrong – which makes him either REALLY not self-aware, or a liar… neither of which do you want to date.

4.  Is she selfish?

I know this sounds obvious – ‘don’t date someone who’s self-absorbed.’  Duh.  But, it’s not always so simple.  Selfishness can often be disguised beneath false kindness/sacrifice.  You know that girl who bakes you cookies and leaves you sweet notes?  That’s all well and good… but doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s still not thinking only of herself.  Listen to the language… is the “me monster” showing up in every conversation? (shout out to Brian Regan there…)  Do you know all about her preferences/hobbies/ideas, but she hasn’t asked about yours or engaged with you about your life?  Sweet notes with her lip prints doesn’t count toward truly knowing each other and being partners on a team.

This is a dangerous one because – at the beginning of a relationship, it can feel like the other person is meeting all your needs, when in reality it’s just fulfulling something in her and isn’t about loving/serving you at all.

5.  Does he talk about his ex too much?

Another one that seems obvious… but it can be masked in the tantalizing sweetness of comparison.  How nice is it to have a guy say, “You are so much more [fill-in-the-blank good quality] than my ex was.”  The natural competitor in all of us wants to “win” by being the BEST boyfriend or girlfriend someone’s ever had.  Heck, I find myself falling into this trap even with friends!  If I find out I do something better than another friend, I get a swollen sense of pride.

But, here’s the deal – you don’t really want to aim for “better than the ex.”  You want to aim for “great.  all on your own.”

Being a notch or two above the one who ended up getting ditched isn’t exactly a lofty goal.  We should all be targeting an amazing connection that moves beyond the bounds of exes and is incredible all on its own – free from the ghosts of our past relationships.

If you keep hearing stories of the ex, comparisons to the ex, or complaining (that’s the worst) about the ex… it may be a sign that he’s not really over her.

Talking about a past love with pain in his voice is a sure-fire clue that if she were to come back into the picture, he’d turn away from you and into her arms in a heartbeat.  And that’s not the man you want.  You want a man who has a whole heart’s worth of room for you.

 

 

There are other signs, of course.  But these are some that you can be on the lookout for, to avoid being the bad kind of rebound lover.  But, remember, sometimes – the relationship that comes right after an unhealthy one has ended… can be good – as long as the dumpee has done the work needed to be ready.

Listen to your gut.  Watch for red flags and pay attention to them.  We are built with an intrinsic sense of right/wrong and being able to sniff out falseness.  If you can hone that ability by paying attention to the things that aren’t being said – you can probably avoid a fair share of heartache.

But, in the end… love is still a risk.  And even the best of the best get duped, swept up, fooled or disappointed.  Welcome to the grandest gamble of all.  When you lose, it hurts like a mother-dumper.  But when you win… it’s the most exhilarating feeling in the world.

 



Ask Sarah – Pumping the Brakes

Sarah,

I’m currently dating while separated with a pending divorce.  My profile is honest about this fact.  I’m also up front about the fact I’m just looking for new friends and expanding my social circles.  Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a person who has been single for the past 6 years.  After a week of flirty banter on text we made time to meet for dinner and drinks. I had the distinct feeling this person might be investing more emotion into the meeting than I was based on her single past and some of the banter we had so I was trying to be cautious not to lead her on too much.  Dinner went great and that lead to a venue switch over to the local bar with darts, drinks and eventually holding hands, brushing hair behind her ear and at the very end of the night after closing time very heavy petting.  I’m worried this person might get too attached too soon.  I obviously enjoyed her company but I want to take things slow and meet more than just one person right now.  Is there a tactful way to slow things down and let her know I’m still going to be meeting other people?
Sincerely,
Mr. Temptation

I am sorry to disappoint, but I gotta throw down with you on this.
To me…the problem in this situation… is you.
(ack! I know… not a great way to keep a faithful reader, but humor me for a minute).
First of all, you say that you’re up front about the fact that you’re “just looking for new friends,” but it’s obvious that that’s not true.  You wouldn’t engage in flirty banter, hold hands, brush her hair behind her ear or mug down with someone if you were honestly just looking for friends.  I mean – if that’s what friends do, then I’ve been SERIOUSLY missing out with my circle of friends…
I’ll globalize this for a minute – because I don’t think you’re the only person who does this…I think this is a huge disparity in the world of dating – the chasm between those of us who are shopping for a keeper and those who are JUST “having fun.”  To be clear – I have fun.  I have a TON of fun.  I, too, like to flirt, touch, kiss… but I’m searching for love.  And it is SO – SOOOOOoooo disappointing when you find someone you think may qualify to go on the short list of potential partners… and then, boom – s/he tells you s/he’s only “having fun” right now… and not looking to settle down.  I call BS.  I say, if you’re not looking for a relationship, then you shouldn’t engage in any activity which sends a message otherwise.  It’s not fair to the girl whose hair is being gingerly placed behind her ear.  It’s just not.
My guess is that, either:
a.  You are looking for love too, but don’t want to admit it because it’ll somehow look bad since you’re technically still married, or
b.  You really DO just want the fun of flirting/dating without the responsibility of hearts getting involved… and that’s pretty selfish/short-sided.
c.  You don’t really know yet (haven’t admitted it to yourself, even) WHAT it is that you truly want
In any case, the first step isn’t to figure out what to do with MissyMiss from the other night.  The first step is to search yourself, be really honest with yourself, and determine what it is you are TRULY looking for.  Honesty isn’t just something to be doled out to others… it starts by being honest with your own intentions/desires, so that you know yourself and can be REALLY honest with others.
If you REALLY are just looking for friends, get a group of people together and hang out that way.  Or meet up somewhere fun/playful and keep your boundaries in place.  Joking around is fine, holding hands – not fine.  Pick one or the other, because if you walk the in-between line, you just create confusion.
Secondly, I think it’s pretty crappy that you DID send a certain message and now are upset that she seems attached.  Dude!  If I went out with a guy who brushed my hair back and then smooched like that, I’d think there was something there too.
And phrasing it the way you did, …that you’re concerned she may get “too attached”…puts the onus on her when in fact, the responsibility for that (in this case, at least) falls on you.
You have to be clear.  That’s the second step.  First – honesty.  Second – clarity.
Know yourself, and then communicate your true intention.
Look, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m fine with the dating multiple people thing… until you find someone worthy of canceling your other dates.
But, you have to be careful about the message you’re sending in the meantime.
At this point, I don’t think you owe this girl any sort of explanation about dating multiple people.  I think that’s the standard fare and people don’t assume exclusivity until it’s talked about, or at LEAST until a few more dates in.  I say YES to going out with her again, but NO to sending any message that makes it seem like you’re in full pursuit of monogamy.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
– when talking about cool places in your city to eat/hear music/do fun stuff, don’t make comments about how the two of you will go there or see that or do that thing… talking about the future so easily makes it seem like you’re looking forward to an exclusive relationship – one that will still be going months from now.  Don’t say that unless you mean it.
– looking intently and intimately into her eyes – holding prolonged eye-contact.  This may sound silly, but we communicate this way and when you do that… it tells someone they are special.  Save that for once you’ve decided to hunker down with one person.
In the end, you and I may differ on what we think the purpose of dating is… and that’s ok.  You can be wrong.  😉
But, I think every man and every woman wants and deserves the truth.  If I’m going out with a guy who isn’t really looking for anything more than a night of fun with a possible make-out session at the end, and there’s NO chance it’ll turn into anything more, I need to know that.  So I can say no.  (which is difficult, given my love of the smooch).  I just know I want more.  And I’m worth more.
Honesty.
Clarity.
And keep reading the blog even though I didn’t take your side…  ?
That’s my advice.  🙂

Ask Sarah – Kind Rejection?

Dear Sarah,
As I am thinking more about dating in the future (my divorce is finalized in April) the thought of having to tell guys I’m not interested in them terrifies me. I know you have done it while maintaining friendships. How do you do that? What if a friend asks you out but you already know you’re not a good match? How do you turn him down without damaging the friendship? What if the reason isn’t an easy one like a difference of faith, but instead an attraction one? OR what if you discover a man is a terrible kisser? How to you get out of that with the least pain?
I think I need a template with fill in the blank options. Help a girl out!

 

Dear Spare-the-Feelings,

Be honest and be quick.  This is the best advice I can give you and I know it works because I’ve seen it in action!
Let’s start with the basics… NO one wants to be rejected.  It blows.
No matter how you slice it, rejection hurts.  BUT… it hurts LESS if it’s done with integrity and thoughtfulness.  Recently a guy used these words with me, “I wasn’t sure how to tell you, but like all things I realized it was best to be honest but gentle.”  So perfect.
Imagine if you were dating a guy and it was, say, date #4 and you could magically read his mind and you found out he wasn’t attracted to you  – at all.  Wouldn’t you feel stupid?  Wouldn’t you feel like you were wasting your time AND like he was a jerk for continuing to see you despite not being into you?  Ugh…that would suck.  So – if the situation is reversed, do the kind thing and let him go before it gets to date #4.
But, HOW?
In our postmodern society, we’ve been let off the hook of having to do things the hard way, oftentimes by technology.  Luckily, this includes the world of dating.  If things haven’t gotten serious yet, I say you can do this by e-mail, text or FB message.  Yes, I’m being serious.  And here’s why – it spares both people.  It gives the receiver of the bad news TIME to process things without having to respond right away (which also increases your chances of him agreeing to friendship), and it gives YOU the freedom to say what you really mean without having to hem and haw out of nervousness.
Example:
Mark – I’ve had such a fun time hanging out with you.  But, to be honest, the more I think about us, the more I just don’t think we’re a good match, romantically.”
If you LIKE him and want to keep being friends, you tag on:
But, I really enjoy spending time with you.  Seriously – you’re great!  And if you’d be up for it, I’d really like to try to be friends.  What do you think?”
If you DON’T want to be friends, you end it with:
I wish you the best of luck as you keep searching.”
DONE.
Now, if he writes back and continues the dialogue, you just stick to your guns and keep being honest.
I know what you’re thinking… worst case scenario stuff… what if he asks me WHY… and the reason really is something superficial or embarrassing?  Well then, you e-mail “ask Sarah.”  Hahaha… no, …there are ways to get out of this.  Here are a few routes:
  1. Uber-honesty.  If he asks why and it’s something, like you said, other than faith or life goals, etc. that most people can understand, you can answer, “Oh, Mark… If you REALLY want to know, I’ll be honest with you.  But, I’d rather just keep it at ‘we’re not a good match.'”  If he insists, you tell him.  Yup… if someone asks and asks again, then he WANTS to know!  So, you tell him.  “As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t think the chemistry is there.  I don’t find myself as attracted to you physically as I’d hoped.”
    Ouch.  I know.  But, guess what – the thought was already running through his head anyway, and at least this way he doesn’t think he acted like a jerk… you know?
  2. Pleading the 5th.  Just SAY that you don’t want to SAY!  Something like, “I don’t want to get into the ins and outs of it all.  Just trust me that it’s not going to work.  I’m sorry.”
  3. Political talk.  Use ambiguous terms and circle around the truth, gently.  “I don’t know that I can put my finger on it.  It’s just that…I’m looking for that certain ‘something’ – that spark – and I wasn’t sensing it.  I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.”
To answer your question, specifically, about the bad kisser… you can scoot around it by talking about having different “styles of communication or intimacy.”  I’ve actually said this to one guy who pressed.  I texted back, “I just think we’re different…even in our smooching styles.”  He was so gracious in his response.  Many people are…I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find.
Now, to the issue of remaining friends.  I think, as grown-ups, this is very possible.  I have several guy friends now who I dated briefly and are now sweet but platonic friends.  When I began this post with the advice to be honest and quick, the “quick” was in reference to the initial dating.  If you’re dating someone who you KNOW isn’t a good match – end it sooner rather than later if you want to keep him as a friend.  The longer you dabble in dating intimacy, the more tricky it becomes to backpedal to no-smoochy-land.  But, it’s possible.
The way to do is to just SAY WHAT YOU MEAN.  Don’t speak in flowery language, just – out with it!
Hey – I’m so sorry, but I just don’t think we’re a good romantic match.  But, I think you’re SO cool that I really do want to keep being friends, if you’d be up for that!?”
Then, if he is, you have to do something as platonic as possible the first couple of times coming out of the ‘break-up.’  Group stuff is best.  If you don’t have mutual friends, go somewhere crowded and playful – a hopping pool hall, bowling alley, outdoor plaza (in Houston, CityCentre on a Friday night would be perfect).  Talk, play, laugh and enjoy each other without putting yourself in an ambiguous or confusing environment (at your house, a quiet restaurant, a dark movie theater, etc.).
And honestly – having a sense of humor about the ‘not working out’ thing is so helpful.  When “Raul” and I decided we weren’t right for each other, we were talking it out at a restaurant.  When the waitress came, I said, “excuse me, we’re TRYING to break UP here!”  and winked/smiled.  Later when she asked if there was anything she could bring us, I replied, “Maybe an eligible bachelor or bachelorette?”  hahaha.  Raul laughed, she laughed and it took some of the potential pressure/awkwardness of the moment off.
I have another friend who I dated, but because of differences of faith, we didn’t work as a romantic match.  The other day, we were hanging out and he was introducing me to another friend who asked how we met.  He said, “online dating!”  She looked puzzled and said…”but you’re not still dating?” to which he replied, “No….it didn’t work out…she (me) had another man she loved more.  Jesus.”  🙂
Lightening the mood with humor is EVERYTHING.
Every situation is a little different, but there are some things that remain – no one likes being rejected, but everyone would rather be let go quickly than held onto longer than you’re genuinely interested. So – take a deep breath and go for it.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Ask Sarah – Emotional Safety

Dear Sarah,

What does it MEAN to feel “safe?”
A lot of women use that phrase, but I’m never quite sure what they mean?


Fantastic question!  Talking about this kind of stuff is my jam – I love it.
I’d love to teach mini-classes on this kind of thing…with games, object lessons, etc… but I digress.

First, a quick caveat – Emotional safety has very little to do with physical safety.  Although – especially as it concerns sexual intimacy, there DOES need to be a baseline of love and CARE so that anything rough or agressive is viewed through that lens and is only received as passionate, not angry or sadistic.

But, if we ASSUME that both people in a relationship TRUST the other one with their physical safety and care – that the other person has no desire to harm or shame them… then we can move on from the physical piece and move to the greater element of emotional safety.

This – the idea of emotional “Safety” – has (unfortunately) become a trendy term in therapeutic circles and so it’s overused…  like – way overused.
Sort of like the word “co-dependent” that people throw around – half the time, incorrectly.  Ugh…
But the core idea of emotional/relational safety is so good and so beautiful, that despite the overuse of the phrase, it’s essential to dig into and understand if you’re going to be a great partner.
To be “safe” involves three things:
1.  safety is being loved,
2.  safety is being known (vulnerable) and accepted, and
3.  safety is believing that your partner perceives you as his/her only ‘object of affection’ – aka ‘belonging’

I’ll work my way backwards through the pieces of safety, from my way of thinking (and that’s all this is…Sarah’s thoughts…).

Beliefs / Belonging:
A woman wants to feel like she is the ONLY person being shown affection/attention by her lover.  If a man DOES only love/desire one woman – that’s half the battle…,  the secondary piece is her actually BELIEVING that.  Sometimes a man can do everything in his power to convince a woman that she’s the only one, but because of her own insecurities and doubts (ultimately based in fear), she can’t let herself believe she’s worthy of that love.
But, if a woman is relationally healthy and believes a man wants only her – that belief gives her the freedom to rest in her worthiness of love and affection – and enjoy it.

(and yes…this goes both ways…same for men as it is for women).(side note here… I think that ultimately, the greatest obstacle in man/woman relationships isn’t ‘lack of communication’ or ‘unwillingness to compromise,’ but is all about WHAT WE BELIEVE about ourselves and what we BELIEVE about the other person.  Perception is everything.  If I perceive that a man truly loves me – for me – flaws and fat and all – then I  have NO room for fear or other damaging forces.)Known & Accepted:
This is huge.  Not everyone wants this, when you get right down to it.  But, those of us who search for GREAT love – we don’t just want to be accepted – we want the double-edged-amazing sword of knowing/loving.
I want to be KNOWN – understood, “gotten”… and this is more than just knowing my story or my information (Sarah was “Student of the Year” in 3rd grade and has had 6 pets…blah blah blah…) – that stuff is important as you get to know someone, but truly knowing me means understanding the way I work – my strengths, my way of processing things, my areas of woudedness, the totality of me.  And when someone KNOWS me….and STILL decides that I’m worthy of full acceptance?  Well, that’s everything.  That’s what sets the great love stories apart from the sea of mediocrity.
To be known – is to be laid open.

Naked.

Exposed.

Stripped down and shown for who you are – metaphorical stretch marks and all.

 

And if people will live their lives as vulnerable creatures – being AUTHENTIC instead of numbing the painful parts of their lives (which in turn, numbs the joy and elation of things like big love), they’ll get the overwhelming gift of being known and accepted.  They’ll also get the excruciating pain from those who DON’T accept them.  So – it’s a huge risk …for a huge reward.  But aren’t those the very best kinds of rewards?
For me personally, I’ve decided to live my life in a somewhat counter-cultural authenticity – that means I’m transparent, open, honest, genuine…   I’m me.
But, I open myself up to a LOT of judgment, and…the pain of when people DON’T like what they see.
Still……it’s worth it for when people see the TRUE SARAH…and decide I’m worthy of their love.
This is a cool video on vulnerability…I REALLY encourage you to take a couple minutes to watch it.
From around 9:20 all the way to the end…she gets into stuff that I feel like screaming “AMEN!” to…in my own life.  It’s GOOD stuff…seriously.  I love this excerpt.

Loved:

Being loved in that REAL way – the way where someone has deemed you SO worthy of his love, that he’s made the conscious CHOICE and COMMITMENT to die to himself and put you in a place of greater importance (and of course, this works best when it’s mutual…she dies to herself and puts you above her) – is the ultimate sweet spot of safety.

True love is a DECISION for SACRIFICE.  If someone chooses to sacrifice his own pride or comfort to love you… that’s the real deal.

A couple important take-aways:
1.  When emotional safety is NOT present, you breed an environment of distrust.  This begins by not giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but evolves into a deep-seated resentment and cynicism.
example:  Guy says something careless to his wife, trying to make a joke, but accidentally hurting her feelings.

If there’s emotional safety, she has the space to say, “ouch!  I know you didn’t mean it, but that hit a nerve babe.”

If there’s NOT emotional safety, she assumes his intentions were to wound her, and it doubley hurt – one by the comment and moreso (two) that he would de-value her enough to WANT to hurt her at some level.  (And honestly, if there’s not a foundation of safety, she might be right!)

And once you start assigning cruel motives…you’re on a slippery path to bitterness and ultimately, apathy.

 

2.  Unlike our modern Oprah culture of ‘make things happen on your own’ – you make your own universe….you create your own happiness….,
the idea of emotional safety is, by its very nature – relationally based.  It’s DEpendent on someone else.

YOUR safety DEPENDS on the other person’s willingness to offer it to you.

That’s where that vulnerability/risk come in.  If I open myself up – I lay myself bare for someone that I think I could love…and who I hope could love me… he may.  And he may not.  And if he accepts me, flaws and all – then I get to live in the great freedom and joy of that safety.  But, he might not…he might say – “I don’t like you naked”…and that’s the worst pain.  This is why rejection hurts the most when someone knows you the most…because they’re virtually saying, “I see the real you.  And I refuse to accept/love that.”

So – emotional safety is dependent on another person.  And post-modern Americans don’t like that.  We want to make things happen ourselves.  But, the nature of this is that we offer it to one another.  I can give YOU a place of emotional safety.  YOU can give ME the same.  And so on.

3.  How do you let someone KNOW that you know them and accept them and love them?  Well…..that’s the stuff of another post.  For now, suffice it to say that you have to tell/show them… but that can be fun.  🙂

So – for my part – I try my hardest to live in a way that is SO real that others around me feel welcome to be THEIR real selves… and be known and accepted.  This is really hard.  It’s hard because being vulnerable hurts.  It’s like exposing your naked body to the elements.

But, when it works……….oh, the unspeakable joy.

 

If you want to love BIG, you need a place where you can love in safety, which means you’ll have the freedom to love the BEST.

So… grab a banana nut muffin*, and think about letting people in – even more – to the real you… and in doing so, opening yourself up to great things.

* (that was a test to see if you watched the video).

 


Ask Sarah – Death March?

Sarah,

So, in my recent singleness, I fired up the old online dating profile(s) again. I’ve gotten a few bites, and a couple of pretty promising leads. 

With one girl who I particularly fancy, we went from conversing on the site (3-4 messages each) to texting (for about 5 days). 

I’ve also been in the middle of a move this week, along with her working and in grad school. I thought, “Hey, texting will be great. We’re both super busy people, and it’ll be low pressure until we can actually meet in person in a few days.”

THIS DID NOT GO AS PLANNED! So, we texted back and forth a couple of times during the day, everything’s peachy. Then, I get a text earlier this evening saying “I look foward to meeting you, but I don’t think that with my current knowledge of you I can continue as we have been for several days by texting, as flattered as I am.

I explained how that I thought with both our busy schedules, texting seemed like a good, low-pressure way to communicate until we could meet.

So, then I said “How about I concentrate on finishing up my move, and I’ll just call you the evening before we planned to meet?” She said that she thought that was a good idea.

Is this just a death march at this point? At what point do you move from text to phone? DO I ACTUALLY HAVE TO TALK TO GIRLS TO GET THEM TO DATE ME? WHAT ARE THOSE LOUD NOISES?

Seriously, though. Help a brotha out. How can I salvage this thing (or, not make this mistake on the next one)?


Dearest brotha,
This is definitely puzzling.  I have a few clarifying questions…
1.  I wish I could see the last couple texts leading up to that one.  Did you say something that seemed distancing?  Or…did you let more time pass after one of her texts that you had up to that point?  I just wonder what the catalyst was for her text.
2.  Did you make firm plans to hang out soon?  I got the impression you had something “on the books” for the coming week… is that the case?
But, based on just what you told me, and her response, my best guess is that she’s trying to determine if you’re one of those guys who texts indefinitely and never pulls the trigger.  And trust me…there are a LOT of those guys.  That’s why I asked if you had something firm ‘on the table,’ as it were.
My advice:
a.  It’s NEVER a death march!  In today’s dating world, there are always ways to pull it back around.  It’s one of the perks of the post-modern casual methods… sometimes I get texts from guys who stopped texting me MONTHS ago… they found me in their phone/ipad and decided to go for round 2.  Who knows…maybe they were concentrating on someone else and when she didn’t work out, they went back to old connections.  Whatever…the world of dating is open and unless she has point-blank rejected you – there is still room for hope.  🙂
b.  Be painfully honest with her.  Don’t try to put a flirty tone on things (especially since that’s so hard to convey via text).  Just say what you truly want.  For example:
Your text seemed to come out of the blue… I hope I didn’t upset you somehow?  I was trying to give us both some room this week because I thought we were busy with school/moving/etc.  But, I DO want to meet you.  And I’d love to talk on the phone before that happens.  You seem really cool and I’d love the chance to keep getting to know you better.“….etc.
c.  Talk to her!  You have nothing to lose.  Plus, you get to hear if she has a weird voice or talks with an annoying upspeak or something.  😉
If you’re not great on the phone, give yourself some helpers:
     – Begin by saying that you only have a few minutes because you’re meeting a friend for coffee or you have a meeting…blah blah… point is, you have a predetermined time limit, so you don’t have to hem and haw to get out of the conversation.  I do this sometimes because, despite my extroversion and ease of talking to people, I’m bad on the phone.  I can’t use all the nonverbals of body language to help navigate the conversation, and I get nervous.
     – Go old school junior high and have a list of topics handy next to you.  She never needs to know!  Hey – if it works for teenagers, why can’t it work for us?  Think of some funny thoughts based on your texts or shared interests or things going on in Houston or something interesting from your day…and see where it takes you.  Then, if you hit a lull, you move on to the next item on your cheat sheet.  Nothing wrong with being prepared!
I have a feeling if you are honest with her by text AND you chat with her on the phone AND if you put something on the calendar to meet (even if it’s just drinks after work one day…or coffee/lunch…something simple) – you’ll be golden.
She probably just needs to know that you’re serious about moving things along.
That’s my take based on the information you wrote…
I’ll be curious to hear what happens!

Post Script:  I followed up with this reader.  He DID make a phone call which went pretty well… and they put a date on the calendar.  I asked him after the date how everything went.  Apparently is was great – she even said, “let’s do this again!” but then when he asked for the second date, she declined.  Aaargh… why do we DO that?  A topic for another post.

I suppose it’s true that we win some and we lose some.  And if he lost this one after giving it all he had, then maybe he dodged a bullet.

 


Ask Sarah – V Day

Dear Sarah,

How can one navigate the tricky waters of Valentine’s day? I feel like it puts undue pressure on a new relationship and would rather skip all the hubbub.

I think Valentines is better for couples in established relationships. How do I bring this up without sounding like a killjoy? Or would most men be secretly relieved?

V Day 13

     Signed,
          N
ot a Valentine’s hater but enjoying a relaxed new relationship and wanting to avoid unnecessary pressure on said relationship…


 

Dear Non V-Day Hater,

V Day 5

First of all, I agree… Valentine’s Day DOES put undue pressure on a new relationship.  And it IS tricky.  Unfortunately – that’s just how it is… so the question becomes, how are we going to RESPOND to a situation that’s already in place?  You can’t undo Valentine’s Day.  So, … all you CAN do is buckle up, stock up on non-perishables and ride out the love-storm.

I know I’ll sound like a broken record, but…. I don’t think you can go wrong with being honest.  With your new guy AND with yourself.

Step 1:  Be honest with yourself about your own expectations.

V Day 2

I think for ANY person out there in any sort of relationship (new or established/defined), the first order of business when it comes to a day like Valentine’s Day, that celebrates relationship and romance, is to take an honest look inward and ask yourself what you truly want.
A lot of women claim that “Valentine’s Day isn’t a big deal,” but then if their guy does NOTHING to acknowledge the special day or them in a special way, they’re hurt.  Why is this?  Well, whether or not you agree with the way our culture has blown this day into a high-stakes game of “I love you more than THAT guy loves HIS girl,” the truth of the matter is that relationships are on display on this day.  You may not willingly participate, but unless you live in convent or a commune, you can’t help but be privvy to the barrage of red and pink and chocolate pressure accosting you at every turn.

V Day 6

Some people cheerfuly surrender to the cheesiness of it all, making and sending Valentine’s to the people they love, planning surprises for their special someone, baking heart-shaped cakes and searching for that perfect Star Wars box of chocolates for her 8-year old son… oh wait – that last one’s just me.  I digress. 
But, the point is – some people dig it.  I happen to be one of those goofballs.  So WHAT that it’s a “Hallmark Holiday?”  It’s an excuse to celebrate love!  And love is grand.  So, take THAT, grumpy people of the world!

*takes deep breath and composes herself…

V Day 1

But, others feel the societal pressure and are either paralyzed by the fear of ‘doing it wrong’ or annoyed at being culturally ‘forced’ into what feels like a contrived celebration.  They’d rather take a more organic approach to their relationship and acknowledge it outside of being told “Today!  Do it today!  And use stuffed animals, you fool!”

SO – really assess where you are.

Because if you get right down to it and realize that, while you don’t have any expectations of grand gestures and an endless fount of gifts, but you DO want SOME kind of acknowlegement or excitement- on a day that’s set aside to to so –  then you MUST own it.  And, by “own it,” I mean claim it, let it be known (in a kind way), and understand that if that expectation isn’t met, that part of the equation was what you wanted/expected, not the other person’s transgression, per se.

V-Day 3

Just knowing where you stand on the Valentine’s Day thing, will help you navigate your reactions to your significant others’ actions (or lack thereof), and will hopefully help you make known your desires.

 

Step 2:  Talk about it!

For rizzle, yo!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just putting it on the table.  You can certainly use humor to do so – to offset some of the pressure – but talk about it nonetheless.

Trust me – talking about it, IF YOU DO IT THOUGHTFULLY, will only take pressure OFF the situation.

V Day 12

Look – Valentine’s Day is in 3 days.  If your guy hasn’t already said anything about it, then I’m guessing (unless he’s planning some surprise…but I wouldn’t get your hopes up about that) that he’s not thrilled about it and is either planning on completely ignoring it and hoping that’s ok with you, or is sweatin’ it internally and would welcome you bringing up the pink and doily-ed elephant in the room.

Example:  “Hey… so, Valentine’s Day is coming up. 
I don’t know if you get into that holiday or not, but I was thinking maybe we could just rent a couple movies and hunker down with a bottle of wine…what do you think
?”

V Day 10

And remember step one here.  If this day is important to YOU, then take the reigns and make it special! 

Example:  “So… I know Valentine’s Day can be kinda awkward when you’re newly dating someone… but, would you mind if I put together a fun night for us?  No pressure… I just get into the cheesiness a bit (I know…I have a problem… but admission is the first step toward recovery, right?)  What do you say?”

Step 3:  Have fun!

Whether you’re in a relationship or not… Valentine’s Day can be a sweet opportunity to let people know you care about them and you’re glad they’re in your life.  It doesn’t just have to be for the person you’re smooching… use it to celebrate the love of your family, your friends, your children, your co-workers, or even strangers (how amazing would it be to bring a trunk load of Valentine’s gifts and presents to a shelter? 

V Day 4
Additionally, it’s a time when you can bless the people around you who are lonely or depressed because another Valentine’s day is coming where they are without a special someone.

V Day 9

And if you ARE in a burgeoning relationship, use the day to let that person know you’re excited about the possibilities ahead… even if you do it ironically and full of that sarcastic “this holiday is so stupidly American… blah blah blah” attitude.  Throw in a wink and some yummy snacks and call it a day.

 


Ask Sarah – Responding to Men

Sarah,

How do you handle getting tons of messages?
How many do you respond to?
Which do you ignore?
Is it jerky to just shut down your profile without responding to the last week’s worth of messages in your inbox?

message response

Dear “Jerky,”      😉

First of all, it is a universally known fact that women receive FAR more messages on dating sites than men do.  There have been multiple studies and statistics run on this, but one that I found entertaining (a reader sent me this link several months ago, actually) was Jon Millward’s not entirely scientific, but fascinating nonetheless, 4-month study of men and women’s messaging habits/numbers using OKCupid.  You can read the entire blog post here.  But, be forewarned that, while it is an interesting read, it does have some possibly offensive language in it for my more conservative readers.

The gist was this – women (attractive AND unattractive) receive FAR more messages than men (also of varying levels of physical attractiveness).  In fact,

  • The women as a group received over 20 times more messages than the men.
  • The two most attractive women received 83% of all messages.
  • The two most attractive women probably would have received several thousand more if their inboxes hadn’t have reached maximum capacity.
  • It took 2 months, 13 days for the most popular woman’s inbox to fill up. At the current rate it would take the most popular man 2.3 years to fill up his.
Millward Study 1

Chart of messages received from Millward’s fake profiles

 

And in my own experience, this has born out.
I have very attractive male friends who will get a few messages trickling in each week, while I have hundreds to sift through every few days.

And, OKCupid’s official stance/stat is:  “First messages sent by guys are only half as likely to get a reply as ones sent from women.”

All of that being said, I do not think you have ANY requirement to write back to anyone you don’t want to.

I WISH there was a way to let the men of the online dating world KNOW how staggeringly different the numbers were, so that they wouldn’t get their feelings hurt when they don’t hear back from a woman… but that doesn’t mean that we owe them a one-to-one correspondence either.

Being on a dating site does not somehow obligate you to communicate with people who don’t pique your interest!
Think of it like a Craigslist ad.  You’ve posted a lovely mid-century chest of drawers…
do you HAVE to reply to every interested party?  No!
Do you HAVE to read each e-mail of interest?  No!
Will you possibly miss a great offer?  Yes.
Hey – if you want to risk not being able to sell the piece to a reasonable buyer…that’s your own gamble to take.
Same with online dating.

My personal philosoply on this is – read them all.
Only respond to the ones that merit a response… and for me, that includes men I could be interested in,
as well as men who – while I know we wouldn’t make a good match for some reason or another – made the effort to write a kind or witty or interesting message.
I feel like there should be some kind of simple reward for taking the time to be thoughtful in that way.
And an honest, nice answer from a woman is just that.

But, I don’t respond to ‘winks’ or ‘hey girl’s or ‘dang- you sexy’s  or messages full of typos… who has the time?

Still – when a guy takes the time to read my mini-novela of a profile and to write something thoughtful – I think it’s just common decency to write back.

If I’m not interested, depending on the reason, I’ll tell him.
If it’s something changeable or generally understood/expected, I’ll say so.  Examples:  not the same faith, lives too far away, is still technically married, is outside the age range I want, etc.

If I’m simply not ATTRACTED to him, I’ll send this message:

Thank you so much for the thoughtful message.  Really – it’s refreshing to find a guy who takes the time to read a woman’s profile!  Thank you for your kind words.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’d make a good match.  But I really do wish you the best of luck on your search.”

I know I run the risk of sounding like a college rejection letter, but if the guy really did read my profile, I’d hope he got the sense that I’m a genuine person, so I really DO mean that I wish him luck.  Hey – I want everyone to find love!  (but, me first.)

I guess the best answer to all of this, though trite,
is to exercise the golden rule.
Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

If you wrote a thoughtful message, wouldn’t it be nice to hear back from him, even if he wasn’t interested in dating you?  Would you ALSO want it said nicely?

I’ve gotten messages back from men saying that they don’t find me attractive… and, while I appreciate the honesty (and – you know – different strokes for different folks and all that), admittedly – it stings.  So, knowing that – I try to NOT be that girl with a guy.

 

And as far as closing down your account – close it whenever you want.  If a guy checks his mail, he’ll see that your account has been deactivated and he’ll assume you either found someone you’re putting all your energy into, or that you’ve had a psychotic episode and the nice people watching you at the asylum, baker-acted your profile.  Either way, he’ll know it was something external – and unrelated to him.  No harm, no foul.


 

Coming up tomorrow…the GOOD guys… They’re out there!


Ask Sarah – Messaging Protocol

Any woman (and possibly man?) who’s been on the dating scene for more than half an hour…has fallen victim to the less-than-sweep-you-off-your-feet messages.

Yesterday, I had an “Ask Sarah” message come through with this screenshot:

non sequitor message

And of course, the reader (Robyn) was at a loss as to what to respond back with!?

It’s not that it was mean or naughty, but…. what?

Where did that come from?

I mean – I understand more than most, how important it is to be a good kisser, and to find another good kisser.  And it’s one thing to say in your profile that it’s one of your skills… but to just bomb your message with that at random?  Weird.

I told her to reply:

I’m an excellent spelunker.
Thanks for the compliment.
You’re not too shabby yourself!

I don’t know if she will or not, but it got me thinking that maybe men (and women!) need a lesson in HOW to send a message online!

You’d think that, in a land of social networking and global communication, that we’d be able to manage sending a simple two sentence message,
but sadly…no.


 

Women receive a LOT of messages.  But, for every 100, there are maybe 5 that catch my eye.  Trust me – there are a lot of bad conversation starters out there…

These include, but are not limited to:

  • poor grammar/spelling
  • crass/creepy/inappropriate
  • confusing and downright weird
  • cheesy pick-up lines
  • one-word time wasters
  • critical, mean or lecture-y
  • multiple message harassment in the absence of any interest

So – a few tips when sending someone (especially a woman) a message:


1.  Do not quote Ne-Yo.  I’m gonna let that one stand on its own.

2.  Do NOT have a stock message you copy and paste to every woman.  We know these when we see them.  Honestly… I delete these right away.  If you can’t take the time to write ONE small thing that’s specific to me… then you’re not the kind of man I want to forge a relationship with.

But, also, it sends the clear message that you probably didn’t even read her profile…you just saw enough of the pictures to decide she was hot enough to click “paste” for.  Swoon…

This has "Cntrl-V" written all over it...

This has “Cntrl-V” written all over it…


3.  Say more than one word.  I know, I know…who has the time??  But, seriously.  A “hi” isn’t gon’ cut it, “TexasGuy69″…  I’m a woman.  I need WORDS!

message - hi

 

 

I understand being a man of few words… but…ONE?

And, good grief…I didn’t even get any punctuation!??

Sigh…


 

4.  Don’t be weird.

See below.

woodchucksA little bit of cheesy randomness can be cute, but know your limits.

Once is cute.  Twice is “I’m off my meds.”


pick-up line 15.  Don’t use a cheesy pick-up line, unless you’re doing it as a joke.  And if you are… you have to SAY so.  We don’t know you’re being ironic unless you say it.  A tacky pick-up line on its own is just stupid.


6.  Do NOT quote Ne-Yo.  What?  I cannot stress this enough.

It will not go well for you.


7.  Take a hint.

If you’ve messaged once and haven’t heard back…it’s because you didn’t make the cut.

Trust me on this…

There are TOO many messages to be able to write back to each one and say, “Thanks for the message, …I don’t think we’d be a good match, but best of luck” to every one who doesn’t spark interest.  I save those for the ones who are particularly thoughtful in their initial communication.

If you don’t hear back from me, or – especially if I SAY it’s gonna be a no-go…just cut your losses and move on.  MmmmK?

Here are a couple examples, so you all can see how pathetic it looks on the receiving end.
Seriously.
“No” means “go stalk someone else.”

take the hint

Did he actually use the term “indoor olympics?” sigh…

take the hint 2


So, what ARE you supposed to write?  It’s easy.  It doesn’t have to be long and flowery.  Simply introduce yourself or say hello and include ONE thing about the person or his/her profile.  Here’s one I got the other day.  Short, but sweet:

message - nice & simple

 

nice message 1This one is great because he obviously read enough of my profile to know that I value a man who has mastered the English language AND that I love playing ping pong.  Not only did he use humor, but he complimented me as well.
A+

 

nice message 2


This guy did the same thing with the grammar joke…(which is always a winner), and with 5 short sentences, he got a message back.  Easy, right?


 

So – let’s all pay it forward this year and send messages that don’t bring shame to our good names, shall we?

Meanwhile, Robyn in FL, …if you reach out with spelunking, I think we’d all like to hear what comes next.

Over and out, peeps.

 


New Dating Sweetheart on the Scene – eVow

Quick note:

Our handy, brilliant, friendly and ever-dashing Tyler Fake-Last-Name has fixed all but one of the issues we’ve had with the new site – YAY!  So – you can now subscribe to get e-mails whenever I publish.  Huzzah!!  Pass it on to your friends, co-workers, that weird guy who applies his chapstick slowly while staring at you at Starbucks and anyone else.

Alright – on to today’s post…


For any of you on Plenty of Fish, you may have seen the recent ads for their new partner site, eVow.

I was curious about this myself, and then when prodded by an AskSarah question from a reader (below), I decided to check it out.

Subject: Plenty of Fish isn’t for relationships?

‘Ask Sarah’  Message:
POF just sent me an email advertising for their other site eVow. It clearly states it is for people “looking for relationships”.
If that’s the case then what is Plenty of Fish meant for?

Good question!

I went ahead and signed up for an account… I figured, what better way to see what this new site is all about.

eVow touts itself as a site for people who are SERIOUS about entering into a long-term relationship with someone, as opposed to just casual dating or hook-ups.

Yet, on the very first page of questions, they offer an option for …well…. NOT that.  Check it out:

eVow 1

Uuuummm…..

Naturally, my eyebrows were raised in suspicion…
(metaphorically speaking, of course… I don’t wanna create unnecessary wrinkles!)

But, I soldiered on, partly for more answers, and partly because I really appreciated some of the questions they asked.

They posed the normal demographic questions, but they also asked about family history, in regard to long-term relationships, birth order info, how long your past relationships have lasted… and other points of reference for matching people up.

eVow 2

Kinda cool.  And different.

So – I filled out the entire profile (which means I basically copied and pasted my OKCupid profile in, made a few changes out of some sort of internal prompting to make it even better, I suppose), added some recent photos and spun the wheel.
(Again…this is proverbial.  There is no wheel.  But, how COOL would THAT be??)

The site is pretty much a slightly more appealing-to-the-eye version of PlentyOfFish.  Great.  So – why have a sister site at all?
At least…that’s what I thought.

I got an e-mail a few moments later that shed light on their “spin” on the dating profile – and I gotta admit, I dig it.

eVow 3

Aha!  So – that rogue choice on the first set of questions – the third one (“I am not looking to commit to a long-term relationship at the moment”) is there to WEED OUT people who are just into the casual/hook-up sorta dating.

How cool is THAT?  They don’t TELL you that up front, but ostensibly they reject those people who check that box, so that the people who post profiles are all ones who are serious about finding a partner to settle down with.

I decided to go searching and see if that was the case.  I just did a BASIC search, by age and zip code, and my options were pages and pages of men, ALL of whose profiles listed that they were looking for something serious.

eVow 4

After all that skepticism, I suppose I was wrong.  Which is a good thing.

Because I LIKE this idea!

Now, if we could JUST do something like this for matters of spirituality and levels of intelligence…

 

So, to answer my reader’s question, …No – I suppose PlentyOfFish is NOT a place to look for relationships.

I’ve joked for a long time that it’s the “under the bridge” of the common dating sites, but I’m more sure than ever.  And you know why?  Because even THEY know…

Plenty of Fish wouldn’t have had any reason to launch a new site with its angle on commitment, if the original site afforded its members that option.  They must’ve known what I know – that MOST of the people on that site are icky.  I mean…er…. looking for something different than what the Sarah Stones of the world want.

Now, I DO have friends who I met because of PoF…but don’t kid yourself – I tease them mercilessly about the fact that they’re WAY too good to be on that site.

(And if you’re scratching your head thinking – “wait…aren’t YOU on that site?  Do you think of YOURSELF as a loser?”  Well, of course not.  I’M on that site – for YOU!  For research.
And, admittedly, in the off chance that a gem is unearthed in the sea of PoF mud…I’ll be there like the relational archeologist I am, to dig him out of the mire and call him mine.)  🙂

So – PoF knows what we’ve all already deduced…. it’s basically a cyber street corner with a few anomolous good guys/girls left.  And in order to keep their ad revenue flowing in, they had to act.  Hence – the new website.

 

So, there you have it.

If you want a no-strings hook-up (and lots of ab photos) – PoF is your spot.

If you want the ease and price point of PoF, but you’re looking for a real relationship, check out eVow.  Tell ’em I sent you.

And as a finders fee……they can send me a man.

Whaaaat?


 

P.S.  After publishing this post, I decided that, to be thorough, I really ought to check and be sure that the site delivers on its promise the OTHER direction.

So, I tried to sign up for an account using almost identical demographic information (a different e-mail address and username, obviously)…same job type, same education level, same preferences on religion/drinking/smoking/body type, etc…. the only thing different was my goal as far as commitment.  I answered the questions about relationships along the lines of “I’m not ready for a long-term relationship,” and “I’m really just casually dating for now.”  After going through all their preliminary questions, I got this message:

eVow 5

All I can say is – I’m impressed.  They stick to their promise. 

Now, if only I could find a man who would too……..

 

😉

PostScript over.


Ask Sarah – Raul’s Take

As I said yesterday, I polled several friends on the question I received through my website.

And as he’s often wont to do, Raul wrote down some of his thoughts/reactions.  I appreciated them, so I thought I’d post ’em.

So, here we go again – Raul speaks.  …

“Sarah, what is your perspective on dating before the ink is dry on the divorce papers. It has been a year since the decision to divorce was made and I have been living on my own for five months now. I’m worried that answering “separated” on my dating profile will get me overlooked. Answering “married” will most likely come off like someone trying to cheat. However answering “single” might end up backfiring when you eventually have to tell your date it isn’t official yet. Am I just over-thinking this or should I just wait till I’m officially divorced before pursuing any new relationships?”

I think this question is a lot more than what, on the surface, seems like a commandment-against-adultery issue.  It is a broader moral question that goes right to the foundation stone of all relationships – trust.

One thing that absolutely infuriates people is when one person in a relationship, knowing that they are or soon will be exiting that relationship, begins to secretly build a second one before the first has ended.  Is the current scenario so far removed just because the two original parties to the relationship have decided to call it quits?  Or because they have initiated some formal legal process?  Or because they have moved out to separate homes for some length of time?  Even though the facts are different on the surface, I believe the heart of it is the same.  Why?  Because “separated” is a misnomer.  Marriage, like pregnancy, is a binary proposition – you either are or you are not.  So let’s be honest about what “separated” really is:  unhappily married.

When you begin a secret second relationship while you’re married, we call it cheating…but just because someone starts a second relationship openly, in the light of day, doesn’t mean that the original marriage vow doesn’t exist.  It’s still infidelity (from the Latin fidelis, meaning faithful, loyal).  That infidelity is both a betrayal of the spouse as well as being unfaithful to the seriousness of your own promise.  The only difference about doing it openly is that you’re more honest and forthright about your willingness to break the vow.  Think about what that says about you to other people.

Ask your reader to put the shoe on the other foot – would he be impressed by a girl that marked ‘single,’ then revealed on the first date (or sometime later) that well, she’s actually married?  Probably not.  Would he find someone trustworthy that marked ‘separated,’ knowing that she didn’t take her marriage vow seriously enough to keep from dating before it had been truly dissolved?  I hope not.  If he were single would he consider dating a girl who marked ‘married’?  Never!  So if he wouldn’t like those qualities in someone else, would the right potential girlfriend value those qualities in him?

Now let’s think about this shoe-on the-other-foot scenario another way:  What are we searching for in a life partner?  Someone good.  Good down to their bones, not just someone who starts off seeming like a good thing.  So let’s stipulate that a good person is someone who recognizes and does – or certainly tries to do – the right thing in any given situation.  And what do we know about doing the right thing?  That doing the right thing is not always doing the easy thing.  In fact, you can often tell the right path by the very fact that it is harder.  The right thing is getting divorced before you start to date someone else.  Is it harder? Of course it is.  But that only bolsters my conviction that it is, indeed, the right thing to do.  The kind of person she should want to start a new relationship with is not the kind of person that will want to start something with a [happily or unhappily] married person.  I hate to say it, but unless he does the right thing and divorces first, he will most likely attract people who: 1) do not truly, deeply take marriage vows (and the trust that those relationship commitments are based on) seriously, and 2) do not place a high priority on other peoples’ goodness – their willingness to try to recognize and do the right thing.  The best girls out there will want to date someone that is truly single, and who strives to do the right thing…Why? Because they don’t want someone that is all- too-easily tempted to do the wrong thing (Like cheat!  See how it all goes in a circle here?).

OK, we’ve identified the right thing – If you want to start a new relationship, you should be single first, and that means getting un-married.  If both parties are truly serious about divorce (as opposed to even entertaining the possibility of getting back together), it’s tempting to say something like, “Just get it done already.  People let these things drag on for so long, and to no purpose.  Get. It. Done.”  But divorce is a complicated, many-faceted thing, and it is beyond the scope of this reader’s question to go into how, why, and whether such matters can be expedited, or done less expensively, etc.  Suffice it to say that each divorce is different, and contains a great deal of emotional processing that takes place outside the confines of a contract to divvy up various assets.  In the worst-case scenario, one ends up in a messy, protracted divorce proceeding.  Some might argue that that in itself is reason to let yourself begin something new – who knows how long ending the first relationship might take?  But would you want to begin a relationship with someone embroiled in that drama?  Of course not.  And if you’re the person in that drama, do you honestly believe you’d be a good relationship partner for someone else?  The fact is, doing so would be a selfish act:  Although you might feel better by starting a new relationship with some nice guy, you ultimately do a disservice to that person by sucking them into the maelstrom of your divorce.

Too long?   Then here’s my summary (which, of course, is also long):

1)     The reader should not be on a dating site.  Period.  Full stop.  I know – it’s so harsh!  But don’t think about it through the lens of what you’re giving up (all those smokin’ hot women with kitten pics!), think of the rewards he gets, instead:  1) He rewards himself by not giving in to temptation breaking his original vows.  Once you break them, you can’t go back – even if you’re the only one who knows – so why tempt yourself?  2) He rewards himself by not putting the divorce negotiations in a precarious position (in a bitter dispute, the wife’s knowledge of the dating could be used as leverage to alter key points – money, property, and especially custody arrangements, etc. because the adultery here [real or potential] casts him in a questionable moral light). 3) By not dating yet, he rewards himself by avoiding the bad girls – those who don’t value trust – because whoever he dates now won’t care about the fact that he is [unhappily] married (however handsome/charming/etc. she might otherwise be).  4) He is doing himself a favor by creating an impetus to finalize the divorce.  The sooner that ink is dry, the sooner he can begin to search for something new – think of it as a reward for doing the right thing.  And he will be attracting better women because of it – another reward!  5) He will also have the quiet pride of knowing that he did things the right way, in the right order – and that has a value all its own.

2)     If the reader insists on dating-while-separated, then the reader MUST state on his profile that he is married or separated, because that is the truth and anything else is at best a lie, at worst a gross and willful misrepresentation of the facts.  He is still married in the eyes of God and Man, and even if some people don’t care about the former, the latter still has plenty of repercussions on its own.  There is a social stigma attached to dating outside of marriage it for a reason!  (ex:  Would he want his kids teased at school because of it if gossip got out?)

3)     There is nothing wrong with meeting new people, building friendships, and socializing.  That is not out-of-bounds.  But the intimacy of a relationship – particularly the physical intimacy of holding, touching, kissing, and loving someone – should be built upon a solid foundation.  If you’re still married (however much you’ve managed to diminish the value of that marriage in your own mind), you are definitely NOT building on a solid foundation.

Well, that’s what Raul thinks, anyhow.  🙂


Ask Sarah – Dating While Separated?

ask sarah

As some of you have already seen, there is a spot on the new website to “Ask Sarah.”  This is the spot to write in any question/musing from the quick “He just texted me this:  [write out his text], …what should I text him back?” to bigger questions about love, relationships, dating, etc.

Sometimes I’ll write back just to you, other times (like today), I’ll use the question as fodder for a post.  In fact, today’s question has inspired TWO posts!

So, thank you to the first reader who used this tool, and wrote THIS question:

“Sarah, what is your perspective on dating before the ink is dry on the divorce papers. It has been a year since the decision to divorce was made and I have been living on my own for five months now. I’m worried that answering “separated” on my dating profile will get me overlooked. Answering “married” will most likely come off like someone trying to cheat. However answering “single” might end up backfiring when you eventually have to tell your date it isn’t official yet. Am I just over-thinking this or should I just wait till I’m officially divorced before pursuing any new relationships?”

Dear Limbo-land,

Being in this situation stinks.  I know because I was in it once.

I’ll tell you MY answer… and then let you hear from some other ‘voices’ as well.

You see, I had varying thoughts and angles on answering this, and found myself feeling a bit torn, because I can see it from both sides… so, while I was formulating my own response, I decided to poll a few wise folks to see what they thought too – I asked a pastor, counselor, a couple friends on the dating scene, a couple who are happily ‘taken,’ and all different ages.  I got a variety of answers – all different angles, but usually hitting the same spot on the target:

Don’t do it.  But, if you do – be completely honest.

So – I’ll give you my response and then post some of theirs at the end.

I think, as hard as it is, you can’t go wrong by waiting.  There are so many good reasons to wait until the divorce is official to start dating.  That said, I also recognize that there are some sticky-wickets/exceptions.

For instance, I know a man – a good man – whose wife became a drug addict and disappeared from his and the life of their two daughters.  He was left holding the bag (working, full-time single parenting, and figuring out if the marriage could be restored).  She cheated, left town, and hasn’t shown any interest in seeing him OR her daughters since.  He was assigned full custody of the girls, but the divorce kept getting pushed back because the judge REALLY wanted her present.  To the tune of over two years.  OVER TWO YEARS.  After the initial grieving of the loss of the marriage (which had begun long before she took off, as you can imagine), is he supposed to wait too?  Tricky stuff.

I only say all that to get at this point – this must be a case-by-case decision.

But, for MOST situations, I think the best and right answer is to wait to date.

From my own experience, people who think they’re ready… often aren’t.  I dated someone who wasn’t “officially” divorced yet… it was stuck in legal-land for over a year before movement happened.  And, even though the marriage was over, and he thought he was ready to love someone else, he had work to do – internal work, that is – that came back to bite us.  And in the end, he (by his own admission), had no business putting himself online when he did.  We were unequally matched, not by legal terms, but in our emotional readiness.

So, waiting on the divorce forces you to have time to do the necessary self-awareness check to see where you are in your own heart/mind/soul.
There is a difference between being DONE with the marriage and being READY for someone new.

This is a really important distinction and I think it’s why who many counselors encourage such a long time of no-dating after divorce.

You see, depending on the way the marriage ended (anywhere from the shocking quick end (“I met someone else.  I don’t love you anymore.  I’m leaving.”  Boom.) to the long, slow death of years of fighting or resentment, finally brought to an end by someone filing for divorce), you have varying timetables for grieving/mourning the marriage.  Some people will have done so much of this work during the time of separation/divorce, that by the time the ink IS dry, they’ve really come to terms with the death of the marriage.  Others need more.

But, regardless of how long the grieving process takes, there is a whole OTHER step, which is re-evaluating yourself as a man/woman preparing to date, and eventually LOVE again.

I mean – depending on how LONG you were married… you may be a different person, with different priorities and desires for a partner now.  You may need to spend some time reminding yourself of who you are, so you’re confident enough to not be that needy/clingy partner to the first person who shows you affection.  You might need to do some internal work (and I highly encourage working with a therapist as well… I hear they are AMAZING people… 🙂 ) on any areas of fragility/damage caused by your ex or issues with your ex.  There is so much to do to prepare to be the kind of person who is not only attractive to the opposite sex, but has the character to be a GOOD partner.

All of this can be going on when the “ink is drying.”  And you have the sweet benefit of knowing, when it’s all said and done, that you did the right thing by waiting.

You didn’t force a potential new partner to wonder if this is the way you live your life…in slightly deceptive waters.

You didn’t potentially complicate/lengthen the divorce process by looking possibly unfaithful.

You didn’t give your heart or body to another while your vows were still technically bound up with another.  If you said “til death do us part,” the least you can do is honor that by waiting for the death/dissolution of the marriage.

I realize all this is SO much easier said than done.  I was in this boat a few years ago and struggled with it myself.  But, being on this side of things, I am more firm that I ever was, that this is a difficult time, but a rich time for growth.  Don’t rush the dating.

I dare say a few months of uncomfortable limbo, will pay off exponentially in a future relationship when you can say you waited, and used that time to prepare for your new life…
and new love.

So, those are my thoughts.  Let’s hear from some others:

I wouldn’t give a second look at the profile of someone who is married or separated. But if someone who selected single was honest with me at our first date, I’d have no problem! I mean…that person is single and unattached, so it I isn’t a lie.”  -JW

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He’s wise and mature, recognizing that he is already divorced mentally if not on paper.  He’s been on his own for awhile.  And wants to be honest.  [That being said,…]

I guess I wonder, what’s the rush!  What just happened <divorce!> was HUGE and while I know we are all eager to move on, it takes time – and waiting for the ink to dry might be an important emotional/mental milestone.

This is a case by case situation.

Having dated a divorced person, I can speak to one woman’s perspective.  We began dating 3 months after the ink was dry. He had a meltdown about six months in.  He wasn’t ready.  At the risk of sounding naïve or patronizing, I think divorced folks should do a year or counseling / grieving / mourning before dating.  Let all the holidays and milestones pass as a single person before making memories with a new person.”   -CS

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Until the paperwork is complete there shouldn’t be any online date browsing. I put great stock in official status. …No shopping for new love until the divorce is official. 

Suppose the issue wasn’t divorce but terminal illness. Suppose one’s spouse is in hospice. Is it okay to go on a date since the marriage will soon be over?  Odd analogy, I’ll admit but marriage, like pregnancy, is either fully in progress or fully complete. There is no almost.”  -RG

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“Look ahead to the kind of woman you want to find/date/marry/etc. Is she the kind of woman who might see this as a deception? Or possibly unsavory? Or a story she would be ashamed to tell her family or friends? I don’t think there is a clear wrong or right here, but I would err on the side of caution and just delete your profile (or pause it) until the ink is dry. You’ll enjoy your dates much more if you can go into them without having to explain yourself before or during the date itself.”   -LI

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“We’re adults and adult relationships, by their nature, are complex.  He should mark “single” on his profile, but be VERY clear in the body of his profile about what’s going on.  He has to be honest.”   -TD

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“I think it’s likely that “separated” would get someone overlooked on dating sites, and I think that’s probably the “icing on the cake” reason why waiting until the divorce is final is a good idea. I think that the fact that there is still a legal marriage in play should put the kibosh on dating, as frustrating as I’m sure that is. Once the divorce is final, I think there is an important and fundamental change that occurs, on a meta-level you could say.

There might be some room for exceptions to dating someone you already know, who knows your situation and is a good friend and all that, before the divorce is final, but I think generally a “no dating until I’m single” mantra is a good one.”   -LJ

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And the last answer I got – from “Raul” (who some of you may remember from earlier guest posts) – was so good and thorough, that I’ve decided to post it on its own tomorrow.

So, “Dating while Separated,” I hope this helps narrow things down for you.  I suspect (though I’m often wrong), that deep down, you’d already decided what the right answer was, but just wanted some feedback to help you as you carried that out…

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this topic tomorrow, when Raul returns.