Tag Archives: relationship advice

are you available? or attached?

Long ago, I wrote a post entitled “are you available?” Back then, I was musing about whether or not the people I was meeting and encountering were truly available to be in a relationship with me.

I’ve recently learned of a new way of viewing this idea… You see, I had the opportunity to indulge in a free audiobook called “Attachment:  The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. While I’m not all the way through yet, I’m already planning to buy the book in print, so that I can take the assessments and use it as a workbook or manual. In addition to quizzes of sorts, I’ve already found a great deal of useful advice, as well as enormously useful insights that would likely have prevented most — if not all — of my worst relationship debacles, including the latest disaster.

(Downton Abbey helps, too, I find…if I’d known how to manage men as Lady Mary does, I’d probably be better situated at present.)

The book focuses on three degrees or styles of attachment:  the secure and two types of insecure, anxious and avoidant. It’s been fun to listen to the audio as I recall past relationships and how my or my partner’s behaviors have fit into these types or dynamics. I already feel infinitely wiser as I embark on my search… in fact, now I know what I’ve typically been drawn to and how to recognize right away those who are clearly avoidant, or unable to meet my emotional needs.

Let me know if you’ve read it and what you learned.


masculine feminine narcissist

A girlfriend just lent me one of those dating / relationship books she called “life changing.” I’d tell you the title and author if I weren’t too lazy to get up from my sofa, where I’m snuggled cozily under a soft blanket. So far, here’s the gist:

A relationship needs masculine and feminine energy. Men typically provide the masculine; women typically provide the feminine. Roles can certainly be reversed, as we’ve all seen, but it rarely works for a couple to switch back and forth between roles. Even those of us with a healthy balance of masculine and feminine energy tend to have one that feels more natural more of the time. (And, by the way, all of us are masculine all the time in our professional roles…well, I mean, those of us with office jobs.)

The feminine role is to respect and admire the masculine; the masculine role is to cherish the feminine.

In case you were wondering, there’s even a 15-question quiz you can do to determine whether you prefer to provide the masculine or feminine energy. I took it. When I looked at the answer key, I had to laugh. Most answers were categorized as masculine, feminine or narcissist. True confession:  of my answers, 11 were feminine, two were masculine and two were narcissist.

What I ultimately realized from this is YES! I prefer to be the girl in any relationship, which explains why my healthiest long-term relationships have been with very masculine men. And also that my ex (husband) wanted to be both respected and cherished, which would put him in the narcissist category.

I contend that I have a balance of masculine and feminine energy and that I am most drawn to men who also have some balance. I also prefer to be in a relationship with a man who expresses his masculinity by taking charge (as my more recent lover does in the bedroom).

Still, this book is super old school, and I can’t help but think that we’ve evolved in the two or three decades since this book was written. Certainly texting and social media have at least changed the ways in which we communicate…haven’t they?

What do you think?

More on this later…


staying strong

I wrote the other day that I’ve been working on letting go of expectations, living in the moment and enjoying the present. This means being vulnerable and open, letting go, as well, of ego.

Of course it’s difficult to do all this consistently. I have to regularly remind myself what I’ve gotten into — the terms I set or, shall I say, what I asked of this man who is now a lover. I said that I wanted to experiment, and I’ve maintained that I’m not ready for a relationship…yet it would be a lie to deny that I feel my relationship buttons being pushed while in his presence.

Even while I’m trying to live in the moment, be strong and live my own life, I find myself occasionally wondering what he thinks or how he feels about me — plucking the petals off the proverbial daisy.

How do I stay strong? And how do I know how much I’ve grown?

  • While I appreciate the attention from a specific man, and express my appreciation and gratitude, I’m not focusing all my energy only on him. Instead, I’m looking inside myself. I notice how I’m feeling and telling the universe:  “Yes! I love how I’m feeling right now. I’m grateful to sense my mind, body and soul engaged — I want more of this!” It keeps me from obsessing or hanging my hopes on a single bloke and focused on what I ultimately want:  a long-term, life-affirming, fulfilling, healthy and companionable relationship.
  • I’m noticing my own wants and needs in all of this and asking for what’s reasonable. When I get frazzled, I remind myself that I’m responsible for this, whether it’s my job, my relationships, whatever. I’m here because of the choices I made. I said specifically that I didn’t want a relationship so, when I start feeling like I want a relationship, I look inside myself for answers. Turns out, at times I really just want a little more communication…so I’ve asked for and received it.
  • I’m not attaching meaning to things said or unsaid, actions taken or not taken. I’m catching myself when I’m not in the moment, and bringing myself back to the present, so that I can truly live, appreciate and respond authentically.
  • Even while I’ve decided not to seek out other potential matches online right now, I’m still noticing and appreciating the masculine attention I get from around me. The fellow I’ve been bedding being quite remarkable is far from proof positive that he’ll ultimately become the love of my life.
  • I’m staying focused on the person I need to be to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship. There’s plenty of work for me to do to be the kind of woman and partner I aim to be. Rather than waiting for someone else to come round and validate me, I’m doing the work I need to do to remove whatever beliefs or other obstacles might stand in the way of my having a rewarding partnership.

Perhaps the biggest sign of all that I’ve grown much healthier is that these things, for the most part, are happening naturally.


perceptions

When he first met me, my former guy thought I was proper, “prissy” and materialistic. While he recently mentioned that he still thinks I’m prissy (what on earth does that even mean, prissy? and are there girls who aren’t?), I think he ultimately saw beyond his other misperceptions to a woman whose heart and values are in the right place.

A work colleague recently confessed that her now husband thought she was repulsive and obnoxious the first time they met…and now look!

One guy I dated pressed me about my first impressions about him until I finally confessed, “man boobs.” I said this while we were in bed. We both had a good laugh and, the next day, he started doing push ups.

My point is that perceptions are regularly skewed, our snap judgements are often just plain wrong, and it’s often more rewarding to keep our hearts and minds open and allow the magic of the universe to unfold.

I mean, what if it was all part of the cosmic plan for the hung-over ball player to be so put off by the gregarious, fun-loving woman from work, just so that he noticed her? Where would life have led them if he hadn’t?

What have you missed out on because you judged too quickly or harshly?

What beauty or bliss have you experienced because you led with your heart?


relationship article round-up

I’ve noticed a lot of interesting stuff out there on the inter webs. I don’t have a ton of time for commentary so, for now, I’ll just direct your attention to a few:

Imagine my surprise when I saw this article on trends website PSFK. Evidently anonymous blog The Plankton, which discusses dating from the perspective of a woman as “a plankton on the food chain of sexuality,” has attracted worldwide interest for its unique point of view. As a 40-year-old woman, I can’t say that I consider myself to be at the bottom of the sexual food chain. I have, however, experienced some disinterest that — and this is a gut feeling only — might be attributed to the difficulty in dating a nearly full-time single mother…and that bums me out a little.

This headline on HuffPost Divorce popped out at me the other day:  On Second Thought, Don’t Get Married by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. For those of you who don’t know, the author is the dude who founded eHarmony.com. Americans believe, in large numbers, that marriage is becoming obsolete. Yet millions of couples still marry, and millions more want to, but are not allowed to in most states. I absolutely see both sides of this issue, as I’ve lived it. And I agree with Clark Warren that we don’t focus enough on learning how to choose a mate, build successful relationships and resolve conflict.

Finally, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage and all the work he’s done to share frank, open discussions about sexuality and sexual ethics (not to mention the amazing It Gets Better project and his political activism). In this NYT Magazine piece, Savage talks about covering off on sexual expectations before commitment — think of it like having the financial pre-nup discussion, but about fidelity. It’s actually kind of ground-breaking thinking and while, as a monogamist, it’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around it, it certainly bears discussing — e.g. If one of us cheats, does that mean the relationship is over? Could we forgive, work it out and move on? What might it mean? etc. Good discussions to have before taking the plunge, right?


redefining responsibility

I was a solid step parent. I loved my wasband’s children, who were into their late teens and early adulthood during our relationship. Both of their parents were conflict and difficult topic averse, so I had many of the “difficult conversations” with them — we talked about sex, drugs, relationships and more. But where I really excelled in this role was not getting sucked into the shit and actually seeing and pointing out the dysfunction in my ex’s family.

Here’s what would happen:  someone from the outside, maybe a distant cousin, would attack my then partner. His children would then launch into two behaviors:

  • Protect their mother
  • Defend their father

Let me comment on these:  No child is ever responsible for protecting or defending either of their parents. I don’t care whether my stepchildren were already late teens or in early adulthood. The only time this behavior may be necessary is when the parents are compromised or infirm, through age, disease or mental disorders. But children often carve out roles in the family based on birth order, socialization or other circumstances, and end up contributing to the dysfunction rather than mitigating it. And then they carry these dysfunctional responses with them into adulthood, as many of us have.

The truly important thing here, and one that many of us overlook, is the way we respond to attacks or bad behavior:

Think of the word “responsible”  — it’s true meaning is “ability to respond.” So what are we responding to? The words or the behavior? Sometimes the ability to respond means knowing which of these to respond to. Often, rather than jumping in to a frenzy of verbal warfare (responding to the words), it’s best to simply say, “That was mean. I don’t appreciate you attacking my family. It’s none of your business” or “Ouch; that hurt!” (responding to the behavior).

Years after my own parents’ divorce, my father used to call me and, during every conversation, he would bring up my mother with some snide or sarcastic remark like, “Your mother called to tell you she loves you.” However true it may have been that my mother was, at this time, reserved and relatively inattentive, I eventually had to ask my father to stop bringing her up in conversation and that I would have my own relationship with my mother, thank you very much.

My mother, for her part, called and visited frequently while going through her own divorce. Again, I listened and empathized…but, after I’d heard her repeating the same feelings and questions (e.g. “why?”) several times, I reflected back to her that she was allowing her mind to dwell in these thoughts — much like a broken record skips back and plays the same part of a song over and over (for those of you who remember turntables and vinyl, anyway). I suggested she talk to a therapist and, while I didn’t hear from her again for a few weeks immediately following my pointed recommendation, our relationship is now more open than ever.

So today I ask you to think about the relationships in your life and what type of responsibility you have in them. How able are you to respond? Are you responding to words or behaviors? How well do you navigate which to use when?

I’d love to hear your thoughts or stories.


my eyes are on the prize

The theme for the past week or so is keeping my eyes on the prize. It’s popped up in dialogue with friends, in horoscopes, on the radio…

So what is the prize?

Well…it’s not any of the men I’ve written about here, regardless of how much I’m intrigued by or adore them. It’s not my current day job.

The prize is enjoying life now.

The prize is spending quality time with my children.

The prize is good health.

The prize is a healthy, loving relationship.

The prize is fulfilling work that shares something positive with the world.


women, men and sex

Who was it who so astutely observed that men can’t think straight until they have sex, while women think straight until they have sex?

You’ve seen the scenario play out, likely from either angle:

  • A man chases a woman, acting a fool, his crazy behavior driven by her complete indifference to his overtures. If he finally does achieve his goal of “nailing her,” he’s either immediately over it or caught up in a lifetime of misery.
  • Conversely, a woman who goes home with a complete stranger for a hot fix may well find herself having white picket fence fantasies about him and their future together the next day. (Many of us will deny we do this, but we do. And, yes, most of us are aware that it’s entirely irrational.)

The behavior in these two rather extreme examples is neither logical nor reasoned, but instead based on evolutionary survival mechanisms called instinct. Men, regardless of evolution, have a bit of needing the chase in them. This drive allowed them to survive and provide for their families and communities thousands of years ago. Women, on the other hand, are driven by a hormone called oxytocin, which is released simply through touch (and, of course, orgasm) and causes feelings of warmth, intimacy and concern. The result of these effects was women who nursed, bonded with and protected their babies — again, a basic function of survival.

So where does this leave us? Well…I’ve recently been envisioning a scenario that might look something like this:

A woman and man occasionally hang out. They are not dating, as far as they know. They enjoy each other’s company and are intrigued enough to go back for more, but neither has made an attempt to wrap any sort of meaning or parameters or definition around it. Still, more and more, they find themselves touching each other and kissing good night at the end of the evenings they spend together… Let’s imagine they find themselves becoming physically involved…they are now in the throes of a naked, steamy moment.

What is he thinking? “Awesome! This feels great! We’re having sex!”

What is she thinking? “Awesome! This feels great! He wants something deeper with me, too!” (Double entendre intended.)

These two could very well be on the same page and be thinking thoughts that ultimately end up being pretty close to each other’s meaning.

Or they could be worlds apart, with him feeling nothing more than a physical attraction to her…”friends with benefits,” as it’s commonly called (although I often prefer “sport f@%k” for its implied aggression).

So…will these two get physical? Will their intentions meet? Will they find themselves in awkward discussions before, during or after the act?

What do you think? What story line would you like to pursue? What are your views on the issue?


I admit it; I don’t know the rules

I’ve never been a Rules girl. Perhaps this has been the source of some of my relationships problems, perhaps I need to study up. But I am learning a thing or two.

Here’s where I’m at:

  • I’m not going to chase a man again. Ever. I’ll let him know I’m interested and let him take the lead. If he wants to see me, he’ll find a way.
  • This doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally reach out if I see something relevant to a conversation we had. I’m not an automaton.
  • I’m dating around, not falling easily into exclusivity. It’s already helped me gain more clarity. I expect the same from the men I date — they’d better be seeing other people! If he ultimately chooses me, I want it to have been an informed choice.
  • Meanwhile, I’m going to be absolutely clear about what I want. That way, if we’re not on the same page, he can opt out early and save us both some misery.
  • This clarity can have an added benefit:  he quickly learns how I expect to be treated.
Am I on the right track? Recommendations? Resources? I’d love to know what you think.

post-feminist dating

I was a staunch feminist in college and beyond. My serious papers took on sexist language and such things. I’ve been called a femi-nazi on more than one occasion. So let’s relate this to dating…

If I don’t come across as particularly adept at dating now, you can imagine what an idealistic (in all the wrong ways) fool about it I was in my twenties. One of my more memorable boyfriends lived hand-to-mouth. Much of the time he didn’t have a dime to his name — but when he did, he was sure to buy me gifts or treat me to an amazing night out. I went dutch with lots of guys, too. I remember reading an article that promoted the notion that couples should contribute equally to relationships, and should strive to date at the level that the lower-earner of the two can afford. But let’s get real:  very few couples are composed of equal earners or equally motivated partners.

Frankly,  I now wonder whether not allowing a man to buy dinner when dating could have landed me in a decade-long relationship in which I supported an entire family. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much self-sufficiency. And I’m through supporting a perfectly capable man!

Contrast my past approach with a sassy widow I know. She recently revealed that she asks men who ask her out to pay her sitter.

Damn, girl! The last time I was in the dating game, it was common to split the tab. It was only the older, wealthier men who you knew with confidence were buying dinner. Either that, or I was just too dumb or too feminist. (And, no, I don’t believe they are the same thing.)

At this point in my life, I’ve developed an appreciation for receiving male attention in many of its forms, including gifts, meals, etc. In other words, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to pull out my wallet on the first couple of dates. Still, I’m not sure how that conversation goes…

He:  “So, wanna go out for a drink sometime?”

She:  “Sure, if you’re willing to pay for my babysitter.”

Which brings me back to my point:  If we get what we expect, then I’m okay with expecting a lot. I’m a successful woman; I deserve a successful mate. But I have yet to master the language of high expectations — i.e. the language of asking or negotiating for something I know I can provide for myself.

My friend puts it this way:  “We pay for the manicure, pedicure, brow wax, facial, we get made up and do our hair — look at the investment of time and money we’ll put into looking and feeling good for a date! And all he’s gotta do is pay for dinner and a movie?! No. I let him know that if he wants to go out with me, this is part of it. Maybe on the second and third dates, I’ll split the cost of the sitter and, if I like the guy after that, I may leave my children with my mom or sister. But my reality is that I have children, and he might as well understand that now.”

This woman has set the bar high. I can respect that. There are some dating experts out there who might refer to this as “Degree of Difficulty,” as in, a woman should have a high DoD in order to attract a guy who is willing to work hard to make her happy.

In any case, if she can rock it, I’m gonna learn to rock it, too!