Category Archives: Relationship

How to Celebrite Valentines Day With Someone

Even though I’ve been unwillingly single for most of mine, I’ve never hated Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure it’s because my birthday is the next week, and I’ve never tried to reverse the childhood idea that all of the flowers, balloons, and chocolates are to celebrate me. But as I got older, I realized that most single people found Valentine’s Day annoying, or depressing. The day, and the marketing leading up to it, were reminders of what they didn’t have, and what many of them wanted.

A few years ago, I was getting ready for a trip overseas, and I needed to do a couple of errands downtown. On Valentine’s Day. Though I’d never have said it out loud, the engagement ring commercials I seemed to see every time I turned around were wearing on me. I was ready for Valentine’s Day to be over, even if we skipped straight to Easter baskets. My palms began to sweat just thinking about finding a parking place and dealing with crowds of couples. I might not hate Valentine’s Day, but I also don’t make dinner reservations, or try to see a movie that night. That evening, I thought, is for the couples. I’d never ventured inside.

I found a spot in the crowded parking garage and went about my business. I’d worn my red high heels to celebrate the day, and they clicked purposefully on the sidewalk. When I left my car, I’d vowed to get my errands done as quickly as I could so that I could get home and relax, far from romantic expectations or the question: “Why is a nice girl like you single?” But once I was walking through the balmy air, warmer than usual for February, the sun filtering through the trees, I slowed my steps. Couples walked down the street, hand in hand, and I smiled at them, feeling that I belonged here, too, downtown, on Valentine’s Day.

One of my stops was to buy some yoga pants, the kind that would make me actually want to go to yoga. I braced myself for a crowd of last minute shoppers, this place always seemed to be hopping, but the store was empty. It was just me and several employees, looking bored. They perked up as I walked in.

“What can I help you find?” The saleswoman looked so eager to please, I was tempted to ask her if she had a Valentine’s date somewhere in the back. Instead, she walked me through all the different types of athletic pants, why they had been designed, what they were made of. She brought me piles of colors and patterns to try on, and when I mumbled about my muffin top, she said, “It’s winter, give yourself a break. I think you look great.” When I tried on a pair of pants that made me feel strong and sexy, I thought this might count as the best date I’d ever been on.

This feeling connected with the work I’d been doing in therapy lately, mingled with Brene Brown’s words from her TED Talk about vulnerability and shame (which I’d watched countless times) echoing in my ears, reminding me that I was “worthy of love and belonging.” How could I forget, as I was feeling healthy and ready for a relationship with a wonderful person, that I was already in one with myself?

The 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!

How to Try and Get Him Back

Dear Sara: About a month ago, my boyfriend of two years broke up with me (I’m 30 and he is 31). It came as a heartbreaking surprise. I’ve been in several serious relationships, and this one seemed like a wonderful fit—loving, easy, drama-free. He took most of the steps to advance the relationship in the first year or so, and we had continued to deepen our bond since then.

He couldn’t really give a satisfying explanation for ending things, and seemed confused himself. We were living in a temporary apartment together (he recently moved to my city after finishing grad school) and were about to get a more permanent place, but he said that [he] was having doubts about the city we live in, the job he has, or what kind of lifestyle he wants, and that he needed some time on his own (single) to figure things out—which I suppose means he had doubts about the relationship, too. He’s also going to start therapy to try to work through some of these issues.

Your writing has helped me to understand that our breakup doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me, and that looking for answers as to why it ended is probably futile (thank you!). I know I should probably wait to find someone who is truly excited to be my partner and have me as theirs. But I really love him and cherished our relationship, and I wonder if (after some time) I should ask him if he’d be open to trying again? Is there ever a time when it makes sense to “fight for it”? — H

Dear H: It might be true that your ex is just at a funny place in his life and will come back to you.

The problem is, I don’t think there is any way for you to know if that’s the case. More important, I don’t think there is much you can do to make that happen.

He has told you he needs time to sort things out, and that he needs to do that alone. So I don’t think there is any way for you to be part of that process.

But you can let him know the door is still open. I would do this in a very quiet way—liking something he posted on Facebook, or sending him a quick birthday message. You want to let him know that things are still friendly, that you aren’t holding a grudge. But you don’t want to put him on the spot. If he’s still working through all of this, he might not be ready to answer a direct question about trying again.

After that, I suggest doing what you can to move on. You’re still grieving this relationship, so it’s natural that at times you’re going to daydream and plot about getting back together. You don’t have to stop thinking about him cold turkey, but see if you can wean yourself off these thoughts. For example, if you find yourself fantasizing about your reunion, stop, take a breath and say to yourself “I’ll think about this later.” You can even set a time. “At 5 pm, after I’ve finished all my work, I’m going to think about him for fifteen minutes.”

Dating Advice to Quit Now

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.

A Mindfulness Survival Guide

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.