What Makes A Great Date?

ExerciesMy recent advice on relationships has been all about what it takes to get back out there. Now that you are ready you may be wondering, what makes a great date?

For Guys
I always think that I would make a great heterosexual guy … because I understand women. And you can too!

Women are looking for men who make them feel special. Gestures like opening the car door (swoon), giving a sincere compliment (sigh), helping her on or off with her jacket (I love you!) communicates that you are attuned to her needs and want to make her happy.

Careful planning of romantic dates is another critical part of the formula. Let me tell you about a great date that I am still thinking about …

Dave planned a special evening the night before I was going away for a week’s vacation to see my family. He asked if I enjoyed the music of a well-known band who were in town and celebrating their 25th anniversary. As tickets were sold out he called his underground sales representative (e.g. scalper) and made a trip downtown to pick up tickets earlier in the day. Special efforts are not lost on the ladies. His car was in the shop, so I picked him up. He got into my car with the band’s CD and we listened to their music on the way to the concert hall. Sweet!

We pulled into a parking lot and of course Dave as the perfect gentleman, got out of the car to pay for parking. He told me that the audience usually meets in the cellar of the hall for a drink before show time. When we got to the crowded bar he helped me off with my coat, and immediately noticed that I had dressed up. Dave doesn’t miss an opportunity to tell me that I look beautiful.

It was a stellar concert and there were times when we were actually singing along (maybe that’s not good advice, but it was fun.) We then went out for a drink so we could talk – girls like to talk – and spend some quiet time together.

We drove home, kissed good night, and this guy has my attention. NB fellas – that’s a great date!

For Princesses
That’s right, I said princesses. Think of yourself as the special one and allow your man to attend to your needs. That is what makes him feel like a man.

Where a man goes out of his way to make you feel special, graciously accept his offer and let him know that you are having a wonderful time. Go out of your way to be feminine: wear the dress, bring on the hair and makeup, and when was the last time you used body mist? This is what girls do. I honestly find that when I show up with my feminine halo, my guy naturally steps into being a better man.

So what’s the best advice on relationships when it comes to great dates? I’d like to ask you. Please send me your thoughts and stories.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

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How to Heal Your Broken Heart – Part Two

Grieving a loss means remembering your former partner and your relationship.

My last advice on relationships was on taking time to heal your broken heart.  There is more to say on what you need to do with that time.

When your heart is broken, it is not enough to assume that you will get over it.  Without an understanding of the healing process it is possible, even likely, that you will unknowingly obstruct or interfere with healing.  It is important to recognize and appreciate the three essential steps to letting your broken heart heal.

Step One:  Asking for Help

This is not the time for a stiff upper lip, or pushing away your feelings of hurt and loss.  Sharing your feelings and spending time with people who know what you are going through is not only comforting but essential to the healing process.  Reading books (or even blogs) is a beginning yet does not replace your need for support from people who have been there.  During a crisis you will also be more open to workshops, support groups and counselling.

The bad news is that there is no immediate way to take away the pain.  The good news is that accepting help can make it bearable and with time, release your pain and heal your heart completely.

Step Two:  Grieving the Loss

I don’t believe that anyone just “gets over it” without grieving.  For men and women who have experienced divorce or the death of a spouse, grieving means remembering your former partner and your relationship.

Feelings of rejection, betrayal, anger will interfere with the ability to let go.  Resetting the heart requires finding forgiveness … for the one who rejected or abandoned you when you still needed them in your life.  You must seek to appreciate what was good and to forgive the mistakes.  This process sets you free to move on with an open heart and the ability to find love again.

It is not possible to open your heart to someone new when it is closed to someone in your past.  Until the healing process is complete, men tend to stop caring as much and women have problems with trusting again.  As a result, men may get involved right away, but have trouble committing.  And women will tend to avoid getting hurt again by not getting involved at all.

I once dated a man for a short time who had been widowed for four years.  Jay insisted that he was over his late wife and ready for a relationship, although he had begun seriously dating a woman 6 months after his loss, living together one year after that (18 months after his wife’s passing) and parted ways with his girlfriend one year later.  My instinct told me that Jay was busy replacing his wife and hadn’t really given the time or energy to reflecting on his loss and what their relationship meant to him.  Going against what my heart knew to be true I found myself in a relationship with a man who was not open to me.  These days one of my criteria for starting up with a new guy is that he has grieved his losses.

Step Three:  Becoming Whole Again

Becoming whole again means healing our neediness and developing a strong sense of self.  Developing your social network and enjoying the experience of being single is a sign that you are going in the right direction. The best time to get involved again is when you feel as if you don’t really have to.

So what’s the best advice on relationships when it comes to the process of healing your broken heart?  It’s not just about time passing, but what you do with that time that counts.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

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How to Heal Your Broken Heart – Part One

What does it take to get back out there after the loss of a long term relationship?

It is my belief that some of us move through the healing process well and eventually reach a clarity of mind and an open heart that allows us to love again. However many more of us talk the talk of having moved on, yet have not done the work that healing requires.  Just because you can say out loud that you are ready to meet someone new, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.  Statistics on divorce from second marriages is even higher than first marriages.

My advice on relationships is that unless you make the time and effort to heal a broken heart, you will be unable to completely open your heart to a future relationship.  This will not be clear in the first stages of dating when your pulse is a little faster and your libido is running your show.  But as the months and years progress, an inability to feel close to your partner, to be in the moment, to build emotional intimacy may result in some painful questions and eventually undermine your relationship.

May I paint a picture?

Elsie and her second husband, Aaron, married a couple of years after Elsie’s acrimonious divorce.  In fact, 10 years after her first marriage ended she is still in court battles with her ex-husband.  Her three, now older, children who live with her often defend their dad against their mother and have never accepted her new partner.

Today Elsie is newly separated.  Aaron says that the stress of their marriage, caused by unresolved issues with her ex-husband, is not sustainable.  Elsie says that Aaron never really shared how this affected him.  He claims, “There’s been too much water under the bridge.”  She responds, “I didn’t know it was raining.” Sadly, unresolved pain eventually lands in our next intimate relationship.

This couple holds the hope that they will be able to reconcile.  In order to do that they will both have to back way, way up to resolve issues that could have been raised when they were first courting.  Do your work in healing your broken heart today or do it tomorrow when things are even more complicated.  This is your choice.

So what’s the best advice on relationships when it comes to healing a broken heart before launching onto the dating scene and beyond?  It takes time, baby, it takes time.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

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Ixnay on the Ex

Who hasn’t been out on a first date and heard more about the ex than about the person who is actually with you?  My, perhaps harsh, advice on relationships, is that talking about your ex is terminally unwelcome in the first stages of dating.

May I paint a picture?

I recently met a man in a social situation who made an effort to sit beside me and start a conversation.  So far, so good … until he shared, with no prompting, the circumstances of his former marriage that led to divorce.  Once he got on that track, the conversation left me with the feeling of being on the other side of the counselling couch.  And that’s not sexy.  When he asked for my number, I politely declined.

And just for good measure in the same period of time, I met a man on a blind date who insisted on reviewing, not only his first marriage but, all his intimate relationships hence including his last girl friend’s sexual dysfunction. I tried to interrupt with, “Should we be talking about this?” which he misinterpreted as “Please, don’t stop talking.”  He didn’t and I couldn’t wait never to see him again.

For both men and women pre-mature sharing of your losses and grievances is rushing emotional intimacy.  It is likely to be translated into any / all of the following:

  1. Not ready to date
  2. Deeply flawed
  3. Has mistaken me for a mental health professional
  4. Insensitive
  5. Again, not sexy

So what is the best advice on relationships when telling your sad story about why you are single now?  Leave it out until you have gotten to know and appreciate each other, are exclusive and building a committed relationship.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

 

 

 

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Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Sometimes the fear of being alone is worse than the experience.

There are many nights when single people, who wish they were part of a couple, feel lonely.  My advice on relationships, is that the language for understanding loneliness is more poetry than psychology.

So let’s do two things at once: Offer poetic quotes on the subject, with a practical approach to dealing with lonely times based on four questions:

  1. Is it possible to be OK with not being OK?  Relaxing with loneliness is a worthy occupation that prepares you to be in a relationship. Control that part of your mind that extrapolates low feelings today into the rest of your life. This isn’t forever.  Can you stop trying to escape from being alone with yourself and have some compassion and respect for how you feel today?

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“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

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  1. Have you ever been lonely when you were in a relationship? This is not uncommon. Consider, then, that loneliness may not just be associated with being single.  Loneliness is a state of mind and occurs in or out of couple-dom.

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“The loneliness you feel with another person, the wrong person, is the loneliest of all.” Deb Caletti, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye

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  1. Are there others in your life or community who are lonely?  So, I guess you’re not the only one? Would it surprise you to know that loneliness comes from an over-focus on yourself alone?  An immediate antidote is to approach others with a warm heart and offer the feeling of being close.

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“What should young people do with their lives today? … the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Kurt Vonnegut

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  1. Can you reach out from your loneliness and call, listen to, cook for, garden with, hug, visit, someone who may also be lonelyThe best way to quit focusing on yourself is to focus on others.

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“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being, not just with my hands, but with my heart.Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

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So what is the best advice on relationships when you are lonely?  Sometimes the fear of being alone is worse than the experience. Calm down, remind yourself that loneliness is a state of mind that will pass and a poignant part of the human condition.  One more quote that I can’t resist:

“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” ― Henry Rollins

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

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Three Steps to Building a New Relationship

Beware of the overwhelm, see it, then say it, and build the friendship

The most popular post on my advice on relationships is, The 2nd Stage of Dating: Uncertainty.  Readers regularly ask for more related to this subject. For this reason, and because uncertainty usually happens early in a relationship, I would like to offer 3 steps towards successfully building a new relationship.

They are:

  1. Beware of the overwhelm
  2. See it, then say it
  3. Build the friendship

Beware of the Overwhelm

You know what I’m talking about.  At the start-up of most relationships there is a tendency for, and I’m quoting Elvis here, “fools (to) rush in.”  The intensity, the heat, the sheer relief of finding someone special is overwhelming. And yet, being overwhelmed in the first throes of romance can be compared to a mental illness. Lovers are irrational in their expectations; assume they know everything about someone who they have just met; imagine qualities in their partner that they have never, in fact, seen demonstrated, and; generally lose their hold on reality.

Being aware of the overwhelm means recognizing this state for what it is: a fantasy.  It requires you to think with your brain, as well as your heart, and take a measured approach to getting to know each other.  There is no replacement for putting in the time.

A man I was interested in once introduced me to his entire extended family, with my consent, on our second date.  Hey, we’ve all been there …

See it, then say it

Early in the relationship you are setting the stage for how it will be between you.  What behaviours are acceptable? What patterns of communication are preferred?  Even with stars in your eyes, you see things that may not be satisfactory to you.  You are aware that he/she is not dependable, is always late, makes promises s/he can’t keep, doesn’t show interest in your thoughts, doesn’t consider your feelings, fill in the blank ____________. Oh the bad behaviour I have seen! And put up with!!

There is no time like the present to raise a concern or set a boundary of what is and is not acceptable to you.   Since women are the gatekeepers in most relationships, this falls to us ladies.  How many times have you looked the other way in the interest of playing nice?  That is not what a man wants or needs from you.

A man respects a woman who sets high standards for herself and her man – not someone who accepts or tolerates substandard behaviour.  When you hold yourself in high esteem, your man senses that he must continue to measure up if he is to have you in his life.  And that is the path to happiness for any guy.

Build the Friendship

You know it is my unpopular opinion that couples don’t spend enough time focusing on friendship at the beginning of their time together.  Hanging out, reading with their toes touching, cooking together (I know, high risk), everyday activities are how friends get to know and love each other.

Friendship is the foundation of an intimate relationship. Although romantic dates make memories for a lifetime; the ability to spend quiet time together lasts a lifetime. Although enjoying each other in the bedroom is the icing on the cake; an emotional bond is the cake.

So what is the best advice on relationships when you are beginning a romance?  Think with your head as well as your heart, speak up in the interest of getting on track
from the start, and take it slow.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

 

 

 

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Core Relationship Skill #2: How to Give Forgiveness

The techniques associated with apology and forgiveness can be practiced at any time throughout the five stages of dating, but definitely should be worked on as a prerequisite for marriage.  As potential issues and conflicts increase, it is vital to know how to find resolution and compromise. As they say, if you can’t make up, you may eventually break up.

Our last post on my advice on relationships was How to Say You’re Sorry, for men. Just as it is important for a man to find the right words to apologize to his woman, it is equally important for a woman to express her forgiveness in a manner that works best for him. Just to say, “I forgive you” can be taken by some men as a put-down.  If you express a receptive attitude that accepts a man even though he made a mistake, he then feels truly forgiven.  Here are some examples of phrases that will keep your man coming home.

He Says

You Say

“I’m sorry you felt left out at the party … I was so inconsiderate.”  “It’s not a federal case but it feels good to know that you didn’t mean to do it.  I’m sure you’ll make it up to me” (said with a smile).
“I’m sorry about the things I said yesterday … I thought about it and realized that I was really over-reactive  “Apology accepted … it wasn’t so bad.  We were both upset.  I appreciate that you thought about it.”
 “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back sooner.  You’re right; I was really insensitive …”  “It’s fine. I just didn’t know what had happened.”  At this point she is open to his explanation.

When a woman expresses her forgiveness with any of the above phrases, it frees a man from becoming defensive and allows him to be more responsible and considerate of her needs. A woman’s forgiveness and acceptance motivate a man to continue trying
to do his best in their relationship. By minimizing his mistakes, she makes him take her feelings and sensitivities more seriously.

So what’s the best advice on relationships when it comes to giving forgiveness? Our highest purpose is to act, feel, and think from an open heart.  True forgiveness is a gift from your soul to his.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

 

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Core Relationship Skill #1: How to Say You’re Sorry

The ability to apologize and the ability to forgive are the two most important skills in a lasting relationship

The 5th and final stage of dating is preparing for married life. This isn’t the last you’ve heard on my advice on relationships, but let’s wind up this track with the two most important skills for staying together: the ability to apologize and the ability to forgive.

Weirdly, these two skills are interdependent.  When one partner is able to apologize, it is easier for the other to forgive and vice versa.  Also weirdly, skill development is required … and engagement before marriage is the perfect time to practice.

What a Man Needs to Know about Saying He is Sorry

One of the reasons men say they don’t apologize more in relationships is that it doesn’t work.  From his perspective when he says he is sorry, he is saying he made a mistake, now let’s all get back to living.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t scan with women.

For a woman, when you say you are sorry, the conversation is just starting.  After getting an apology from her man, a woman she will proceed to tell him in some detail why he should be remorseful.  He naturally becomes frustrated with her response and may make the mistake of explaining why she needn’t be so upset (e.g. talking her out of her feelings – BIG no-no.) Let’s look at some unfortunate examples of what he says and she hears.

He Says

She Hears

“Sorry I left you for a while at the party.  I didn’t think you would feel left out.  I was just catching up with some old friends.  I didn’t mean to hurt you …” “You don’t need to be so sensitive.  I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just talking with some old friends.”
“I’m sorry for what I said.  I was just offended by the way you spoke to me.  When you said …” “There was no reason for the way you spoke to me.  I said some things, but not any worse than you.  You were the one who started it.”
“Sorry I didn’t call you back.  There’s a lot of pressure at work right now and you wouldn’t believe the deadline they’ve given me. As a matter of face I’m not sure if … “ “You shouldn’t e upset with me, you should feel sorry for me.  I’m under so much pressure that you just aren’t a priority.”

The Art of Apologizing to a Woman

There are three steps:

1.  Say you are sorry

2.  Listen to her response (WARNING: This won’t feel good)

3.  Respond with a negative adjective (in place of a tedious explanation)

Try this at home …

You Say

She Feels

“I’m sorry you felt left out at the party … I was so inconsiderate.” “That’s right … that was inconsiderate.  In a way, he’s being considerate in understanding my feelings. I’m sure he didn’t mean to leave me alone.  I can let this go”
“I’m sorry about the things I said yesterday … I thought about it and realized that I was really over-reactive …” “I’m not arguing, he did over-react. I’m really impressed that he is being so responsible.  He actually thought about our conversation and respects my feelings. I can forgive him.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back sooner.  You’re right; I was really insensitive …” “He gets it. I guess he really isn’t as insensitive as I thought. Maybe he does care about me. I can forgive him.”

Catching on?  So what’s my best advice on relationships when it comes to practicing the art of apologizing to your woman?  She will never tire of hearing a negative adjective after a sincere apology.  Feel free to use one or more words including inconsiderate, insensitive, selfish, mean, defensive, and over-reactive.  There. Now that feels better.

Stay tuned for my next blog on how to forgive a man. From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

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The 5th Stage of Dating: Commitment

The fifth and final stage of dating is preparing for marriage.

Here at my advice on relationships, we are full of surprises!  Although many mid-life adults do not see the need to marry after raising kids, weathering divorce or the death of a spouse, or having been single for most of their life – today I want to make the case for getting hitched.

Marriage is a lifetime commitment.  It is a declaration that you have found a soul connection and you want everyone to know about it.  I believe that without the formal ritual, the will to put a stake in the ground and announce, “She (he) is mine”, love will not continue to thrive.  Romantic love requires deep commitment in order to grow.  Settling for less will mean that you will have less.  Why be happy with eating crumbs when you can feast at the head of the table?

I don’t hear many people my age refer to marriage anymore as “just a piece of paper.” More people today appear to realize that it is a sacred promise that far surpasses the civil contract.  It is a meaningful ritual that marks a new stage of our lives and often, at this stage, emotional healing from past loves and losses.

The truth that only love prevails is reaffirmed by our participation in holy ritual.  A sacred
ceremony casts a spell on our hearts.  It reminds us of who we are, and releases us to become who we are capable of being.  Rituals such as marriage provide points of genuine connection with what is true.  The light we receive through them remains inside us.  While a big costly wedding does not guarantee marital bliss, a sacred marriage ceremony has the spiritual power to weave two hearts together.

So there it is.  My advice on relationships is that stage five of dating is not about moving in.  It is, very specifically, getting engaged and using the time before marriage to prepare for the trials of a loving and lasting relationship.  Stay tuned for my next blog on the two most important skills in preparing for marriage.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

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Spiritual Intimacy: The Mystery that is Love

Spiritual chemistry means opening your heart, overcoming judgements and doubt

It’s time for a slight detour from my advice on relationships on the 5 Stages of Dating to something a bit different.  In my blog on the Wisdom of Waiting, we talked about the four levels of intimacy. They are:

Physical – creating desire and arousal

Emotional – creating affection, caring and trust

Mental – creating interest and receptivity

Spiritual – opening our hearts, creating appreciation, respect; overcoming judgements and doubt

If you wish to attract, build and maintain a loving and lasting relationship, your soul comes into it. For this reason, I’d like to blog on something lovers don’t think about enough: Spiritual Intimacy.

My go-to for all things soulful is the awesome (literally!) author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson.  Her writing on the mystical power of intimate relationships is an important discussion of how to apply spiritual principles to romance.  Beyond the mortal mind is the realm of spirit, with a different story to tell from the drama that we call falling in love.  There are many principles, or truths, that we need to bring to our relationships.  Let’s start with a short list:

Avoid the temptation to judge and find fault in your loved one.

Love is based more on real acceptance than on just putting up with your partner. Having an open heart to him or her means accepting their limitations.  It is not your job to change a loved one.  Your hands are full just changing yourself.

Learn to live in the moment

It is the only time that you have.  One of my good friends has weathered the storm of being widowed twice.  He speaks of his late wives with affection and tells stories of so much laughter, joy, and living it up in the moment. He supported both women through difficult medical interventions and treatment.  His remarkable ability to heal is related to having few regrets.

We right the wrongs of the past through right, compassionate living in the present

We get a second chance to do better in our lives.  If your partner has left, then you will have the opportunity to learn the lessons offered from the school of relationships and put that learning into practice with someone else.

Respect the mystery that brings us together

I often hear of miraculous meetings.  The high school boyfriend who calls out of the blue; the chance meeting on the steps of the art gallery; the car salesman who marries his customer.  Take a closer look at who has been sent to you.

My best advice on relationships on the subject of spiritual intimacy is to look beyond your every day experience to what your heart knows to be true.

A special thank you to readers who have left comments for me.  Please continue to let me know your questions and thoughts.

From my advice on relationships to you …

Karen

 

 

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