Category Archives: Relationship

Dating Advice For First Date

My single friends and I often joke about the advice we’re constantly given by our parents, our coupled-up friends and basically, anyone who hears yes, we’re ‘still single’ and yes, ‘still looking.’ The words of wisdom are never delivered with any malicious intent and really, are meant to raise our spirits and ensure we don’t adopt a mostly-bitter attitude toward finding our life partner. But the kicker that’s humorous – especially if you’ve been dating for quite some time, like I have – is that all advice seems to contradict itself. You have to put yourself out there, but not try too hard. You should try online dating, but don’t rely on it completely. You should play hard to get, but don’t be too unavailable or you’ll come across as unapproachable…

…and the list goes on.

As an effort to approach the New Year with a refined attitude toward love and to transition our mindset in a healthy direction, it’s time to let go of some of these tired, old fashioned ways of looking at love. Therapists who are trained to help their clients work through difficult times and take long, hard looks at themselves are better equipped to offer meaningful tips for dating that could actually benefit you in the long run, instead of, well, confusing you.

That’s why, they’ve decided to officially give you permission to stop following these bad pieces of dating advice. And best of all: offer you a different solution instead.

‘Don’t get your hopes up.’

It’s frankly a mantra I repeat in my head over-and-over before any date I have. Since going into date number one, I rarely know much more than the basics, I tend to remind myself to not get too excited. Licensed family and marriage therapist Dr. Wendy O’Connor says instead of being negative, I should actually be positive. “Quit being a downer and negative! Stay positive, motivated, ambitious. If the dating style gets old, boring or just plain bad, find inspiration. Find new interests, new groups. Inspire yourself and others will quickly follow. You will see your luck shift into positive outcomes. Positive thoughts become positive actions,” she explains.

‘You have to research your date and partner, so you’re not blindsided.’

As talented as you might be at identifying someone’s full name by piecemealing the information you know about them via a dating app, therapist Dr. Nikki Martinez, LCPC says to resist the temptation. You may think that you’re setting yourself up to not be shocked when you meet this person, or discover their unruly past, but in reality, you’re taking a lot of the magic of dating discovery out of your experience. “It is not healthy, it is taking you away from doing productive things, and it keeps you stuck in a time and place that is not good for you,” she explains. The same goes for once you’re in a relationship (or about to make things official) and decide to take a joyride through their personal phone. “This is a violation of trust, and a huge question mark to your relationship. If you can not trust this person, you either have some personal work to do, or you are with someone you can not trust. Neither makes for a healthy relationship right now, so address it ASAP,” she notes.

‘Just join all of the dating apps, they’re all the same.’

Just like you wouldn’t go to a Chinese restaurant looking for Mexican food, Dr. Martinez says being strategic about the apps that you invest your energy, heart, and time into is important. Online dating can produce a relationship, but if you’re only swiping in an app that’s intent is based around casual encounters, you’re likely going to be feel disappointed. “There are many sites, and they are pretty clear what their purpose is. So, match your purpose. If you want to have fun, there is nothing wrong with that, but if you are looking for something serious and long term, don’t set yourself up for hurt and failure,” she explains.

Ways to Keep the Fires Burning

Being married for any length of time is truly an accomplishment these days. Just last week a woman asked how long I had been married and when I said forty years this July, her eyes got huge and she said, “To the same person? How is that possible?”

When we got married, people were taking bets on how long our union would last. The average bet was between two weeks and two years because of our age difference and personalities. Let’s just say, my husband is calm, wise, and conservative and I am the exact opposite. I do remember feeling really shaky when I said my vows … “for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part.” Now that’s a huge promise! Could I really do this?

Flash forward forty years. We are still married, happy and love each other, although it hasn’t been an easy road and our relationship has been tested on many occasions, and I’m sure more will come as we navigate through our senior years.

Someone once said, “I married you for better or worse, but not for breakfast and lunch.” I never really understood that until now. Obviously, when couples first get married, it is exciting, challenging, romantic, and fun. And then if children come along, the marriage gets even more interesting and challenging as people try to raise their kids together. But after the kids are gone, and retirement looms, people start to feel displaced as their roles in life change. Who are we without our careers and kids? What do we have to talk about? And why do we keep bumping into each other in the kitchen?

So in order to keep a relationship going all the way to the end, here are six rules of engagement to keep the fires burning.

Stay Vibrant and Interesting! Continue to learn and try new experiences. You can do this as a couple or individual. No one likes to get stuck in a boring routine or a mundane life, so make sure you keep reinventing both yourself and you as a couple.

Have Date Night at Least Twice a Month. It’s important to have something to look forward to and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just carving out a special time together is meaningful, thoughtful, and fun!

Make Sure You Don’t “Let Yourself Go.” Even though our partners have probably seen us at our most unattractive, we need to continue to make an effort to look appealing to our spouse. Try to stay fit, have good hygiene, and take good care of you. Doing so is imperative if we want to keep the intimacy going in the marriage. No one likes to sleep with a slob.

Listen! We have Two Ears and One Mouth for a Reason. Communication is essential for long-term relationships. To have someone who actually listens to you is one of the best gifts you can get from your marriage and give to your partner.

Never Go to Bed Mad at Your Partner. A friend once told me that when he and his wife have an argument that can’t be resolved, they “fight naked.” He said that it is impossible to keep arguing when you are in bed close to the one you love. My husband and I haven’t tried this one yet, but we won’t count it out.

Never Take Your Partner for Granted. Always show appreciation, even for small acts of kindness and help. And don’t forget to say those magic three words, at least once a day: I LOVE YOU!

These rules seem simple, but how many couples do you know who don’t abide by any of them? Are they happy? Are they fun to be around?  I saw an older couple at a restaurant the other day and they just sat there, ate their food, and never spoke or even looked at each other. It was sad!

Guide for Online Dating

Can mindfulness and online dating coexist?

Let’s be honest – browsing the wilderness of online dating can feel like sending your ego straight into a land mine field. Not only does online dating encourage a judgmental attitude – it requires it. We find ourselves making snap decisions based on superficial criteria, and ourselves being evaluated by the snap decisions of others. We are at once too good and not good enough. With every profile “like” and unreturned message, the ego experiences a subtle roller coaster of pride and devastation.

And the actual dates? They require the emotional balance of a tight rope walker. It’s no secret that the average person in real life bears little resemblance to their best photo, which happens to be their profile head shot. Is dinner too much pressure for a first date? (Yes.) Is it disrespectful to date more than more person at a time? (No.) When is the right time for sex? (Depends.) In our world of feedback loops and curated reality, intentions and values vary from person to person as widely as the millions of channels on YouTube. Every person is a universe unto themselves, an algorithm of preferred music genres and sex positions. The options for today’s single person have never been more diverse or readily available. Meanwhile, true love is nowhere to be found.

If you are the type of person who values mindfulness and meaningful connection, this routine can be more than a little frustrating. But in truth this is nothing new. Each generation rewrites the dating rules in their own image. Our technological advances have given us a power of connectivity that, while spectacular, is still an experiment. Mindful online dating is possible; we just need to decide how it’s done. Below are 10 guidelines that I created after years of trial and error.

1) Show your true nature in your profile

You don’t have to tell your life story (please don’t), but avoid overly obvious information (“I like to travel”) in favor of more revealing anecdotes (“A book that taught me a lot is…”). This will help filter deeper connections from superficial attractions from the start. One approach I take is listing my Instagram to show women my thoughts and beliefs.

2) Know what you are looking for

Without a game plan, online dating can become a frustrating maze of aimless swiping and dead end conversations. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a long term partner, new friends, or a fun hookup. But it does matter that your intentions are clear. If you want to stay sane, it’s important to know which two or three things, and types of people, you are looking for.

3) Avoid app addiction

Don’t be that guy/girl who obsessively checks their messages in social situations despite having checked them 15 minutes ago. Those sweet nothings will be waiting in your inbox tonight. Set aside two times per day to read and send messages, and practice app abstinence the rest of the day.

4) Be genuinely curious

It’s easy to forget that the person on the other side of the screen is a living, breathing human being. Instead of thinking “what can I get from this interaction?” you will have a better chance of making interesting connections if you slow down, forget about yourself, and actually pay attention to the other person.

Beliefs That Ruin Your Dating Life

Cognitive distortion is the fancy term for a distorted belief, a belief that doesn’t make sense because it’s not rooted in reality. For example, a thin woman who truly feels that she’s overweight has a distorted belief. The idea is that this distorted belief is pervasive and has the effect of making this woman feel badly about herself. Another example: I may come up with a million reasons why a date might not like me, but the root problem could be that I have a distorted belief about myself that underlies everything I say and do: the belief that “I am not good enough” or that “Something is wrong with me.” Some therapists are called cognitive-behavioral therapists, and this type of therapist focuses on the beliefs you have about yourself and helps you uncover any distorted beliefs that might be holding you back in your life.

When it comes to dating, men and women fall prey to all sorts of distorted beliefs even though they probably don’t realize it. I’ll review some of the most common ones that make dating stressful and unpleasant, and odds are that you are probably guilty of having at least one or two of these beliefs. (All of us are fallible, including psychologists and therapists.) See which ones resonate the most with you. Once you identify the one or ones which you display, pat yourself on the back because becoming aware of these patterns is the first step to changing them.

Overgeneralization

With this distorted belief, we arrive at a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we convince ourselves that it will happen every time. For example, if your last date didn’t want to kiss you at the end of the evening, you overgeneralize the situation and tell yourself “No one is attracted to me.” The healthy way to frame the experience: “I don’t know why she didn’t like me, but people have liked me in the past, and someone will inevitably like me again in the future.”

Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions represents one of the most common mistakes men and women make in dating, falling prey to the belief that they have x-ray vision and can see what someone else thinks and feels. Without your date saying anything, you know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. The tendency to jump to conclusions and convince yourself that you know what the other person thinks or feels represents a distorted belief because you simply cannot know what someone new thinks or feels. Why? Because you hardly know that person! Plain and simple, you have a distorted belief.

First Date Tips

Somewhere between deciding that I want to go out with someone and our first date, there is a question that I dread. “So, what do you want to do?” Occasionally, I’ve gone out with guys who had it all planned, who invited me into a narrative they’d already created, but for the most part, the decision is collaborative.

Perhaps I’m a little more anxious than some might be about this, but it does feel like there is a lot riding on our first activity. I don’t want to lock myself into something that requires a couple of hours, for instance, unless I already know my date well enough that I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about. Whenever I need a reminder of why this is important, I remember one date which started with dinner and ended with two rounds of miniature golf. We didn’t have enough to talk about to get us through dinner. As we putted brightly colored balls, I watched a young couple, probably in high school, a hole or two in front of us. They were chatting and flirting, he was helping her set up her shots. They clapped for each other when each sunk the last putt. In other words, they were doing a mini golf date right. From inside my awkward and strained version, I vowed, never again.

But all rules are made to be broken, right? Once, I met a first date at a hockey game. It could have been disastrous, even though I love hockey. I worried that our interactions wouldn’t be as smooth as they had been so far, but I went anyway. I was nervous that day, and nervous driving over, but as soon as I connected with my date, I felt calm. We talked and laughed all through the game (I can’t even remember who won). That first date turned into a relationship.

Sometimes, I get hung up on money. It can be awkward to talk about who’s paying for what on a first meeting. I always try to pick places that I can afford, and I speak up if I’m worried about that. More and more, it’s a conversation I’m trying to have early, before emotions are entangled. That way, everyone is on the same page, and no one feels taken advantage of.

In the moment, sometimes I have difficulty remembering my favorite mid-priced places to eat, or the coffee shops I like in different parts of town. To combat this, I’ve made a list. Now, when someone asks me where I’d like to go, I can suggest crepes, craft cocktails, or well-brewed tea.

Familiarity is another perk I’ve discovered in developing relationships with my favorite first date places over the years. Often, I’ll go a little early and check in with a barista or bartender, letting them know I’m on a first date. More often than not, they offer to check on me, or to develop a signal, just in case I’m in distress. I still might be nervous, but it’s awfully nice to feel like I have some backup.

Unless I have a good reason, I try to stick to coffee for a first date. No one expects more than an hour from me, and I can graciously escape if I’m ready to be done, but an hour can also easily turn into two or three if things are going well. It’s not expensive, and there’s plenty of time and space to get to know each other without a server dipping in, or the distraction of a movie, a play, or a sporting event.