Friday, December 2, 2011

Do you want a life partner or a soul mate?

I heard a very interesting podcast lately about the difference between a life partner and a soul mate. According to David Steele (relationship coach, author of the book Conscious Dating, and founder of the Relationship Coaching Institute)and his 3rd wife and soul mate Darlene, a life partner is someone who is limited in his/her ability to meet your emotional needs. You get along fine, but you feel as if something is missing. This person may love you and have some things in common with you, but he/she doesn't really "get" you.

A soul mate, on the other hand, is so tuned into you that he/she really DOES get you. A soul mate is someone with whom you have a deep emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical connection...a person you feel truly safe with and accepted by. With your soul mate, you feel that nothing is missing: you have 100% of what you desire in a partner and can be totally authentic with that person all the time. Plus, there is such a synergy between you that you bring out the very best in each other.

I love this quote from David on the topic of finding a mate with whom you have a soulful connection: "Be willing to drive people away by being authentically yourself." In other words, never pretend to be anything you're not in order to impress someone you're dating; instead, be prepared to see the people who aren't really meant for you fall by the wayside. He says that the process needed to find a true soul mate involves "screening out" everyone who isn't perfect for you. Don't settle, he says. Figure out what's most likely to cause you to settle for 2nd best...and stop doing that.

Sounds easy, right? But, in my experience and that of my clients, I've discovered there are a million reasons why we DO settle...especially if we're older, divorced, and thinking that "all the good ones are taken." I often hear people say "I'm not getting any younger. Maybe my chances of finding someone really in synch with me are slim, so I guess I'll be OK with someone who's 'good enough'." I too have thought like this. Nobody's perfect, so it follows that there's no "perfect" partner. In fact, I've often told clients that, after age 50 or so, most potential partners have so much "baggage" accumulated from the past that we're fortunate if we can get 80% of what we want in a partner, and the other 20% we'll have to compromise on.

It seems like a practical, realistic approach--one that makes it possible to have more dating prospects by giving everyone a chance. However, after hearing David and Darlene tell it, I'm beginning to change my mind. He said that, after 2 marriages and a 5-year live-in relationship that didn't work out, he decided "I'd rather be single than settle." So he took some time to regroup, work on himself, and develop his "Manifesto for a successful relationship" -- a list of 7 things he absolutely would NOT compromise on. He got VERY clear on what he passionately desired in a partner and went on a quest to find her. And, within 4 months of writing that list, he met Darlene. It's a beautiful story, and you can hear it here (Using Conscious Dating to Find Your Soul Mate):

How about you? Do you believe there is a soul mate out there for you? Are you willing to keep looking until you find that person? And are you also willing to stay single rather than settle if you don't happen to find him or her? That's the mind-set that David had to get comfortable with before he started searching. And I believe it's that determination that finally resulted in his finding the woman he describes as "the female version of me."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why people over 55 are better at dating online

Did you know that people over 55 are the #1 age group visiting American online dating sites? And singles 45-54 are the #2 group? Maybe that's because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 37% of people 50 and older are unmarried...and the divorce rate among people that age is high.

It also turns out that singles over 50 may also be better at finding love through Internet dating sites than their younger counterparts. There are 2 reasons for this:
1) Singles 18-34 are moving away from online dating and using social networking sites like Facebook instead.
2) While 20- and 30-something singles are focused on marriage and starting a family, older singles (especially those who've been married before) take a more relaxed approach to dating and are careful to choose people who share their interests.

According to Gian Gonzaga, senior director of R&D for eHarmony labs, baby boomers are better equipped than younger singles to find a perfect match. That's because they have a deep comprehension about what's important in a relationship. One older couple who met in their 60s (interviewed for an article on this topic in The New York Times), thinks this is because the more things you can do and enjoy together, the better able you'll be to hang in there during tough times.

So, which dating sites are the best for over-50 singles to try? Well, the president of Spark Networks (which owns SilverSingles, JDate,, BlackSingles, and ChristianMingle) says that Spark sites had a 93% increase in new members 50 and older across all its sites in the first 8 months of 2011, compared with the same time period in 2010. So there are a lot of baby boomers on those sites. It's also worth considering sites like SeniorPeopleMeet, LavaLifePrime, and SeniorFriendFinder.

I hear stories all the time about seniors trying online dating for the first time at the urging of their 40-something kids, many of whom know folks who've met their spouses online. It's definitely a good idea for one other big reason: it's convenient. When you're older and your eyesight isn't as good, driving at night to attend singles events isn't as easy to do. And there are far less events for the over-55 group anyways. So the Internet is the perfect solution.

If you don't know where to begin in choosing sites and writing a profile, I can help. That's my specialty. I've assisted hundreds of seniors in getting set up with online dating, and they now have thousands (even millions) of people to choose from on a variety of sites--all from the comfort of home. If the statistics quoted above are correct, your chances of success finding love online are even better than those of young people. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do politics and online dating mix?

How willing are you to mention your political leanings when dating online? Well, if you're like most of the online daters interviewed for a recent University of Miami study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, you're not very willing at all. In fact, in that study, only 14% of online daters even indicated their politics in their profiles. And, of those who did, 57% listed themselves as "middle of the road".

Even more interesting to me is this fact: that 14% is less than the 17% who admit to being heavyset, stocky, or carrying "a few extra pounds". Hmmmm... Why would more people be willing to actually say they're overweight than to define their political beliefs? Aren't most single people afraid they'll be negatively judged (and maybe even rejected) more because of their body type than anything else? I certainly hear that a lot from my dating coaching clients, especially the women.

Another dating coach who weighed in on this thinks that, because those interviewed for the study were using a free dating site, they'd be less likely to post their political preferences because they're often just dabbling in dating, not yet interested in a serious relationship, and thus not as apt to fill out the entire questionnaire for their profile. And I'm sure that's part of it.

But, why is it that only 43% of those who DID list their politics (a mere 7.3% of the total people surveyed) actually defined themselves as liberal or conservative? The same coach thinks it's because it could limit a person's dating pool if they define themselves too specifically. She's got a point there. If you say you're at a certain end of the political spectrum, you might only attract those at the same end, and you'd never have a chance with those in the middle or at the other end. So, if you're conservative, only other conservatives would contact you. But, is that a bad thing? Wouldn't you be more compatible with a like-minded person? And isn't it better to know up front the types of beliefs a prospect holds rather than to be sadly surprised on date 2 or 3? Isn't it a waste of your time and energy to be meeting a bunch of people who ultimately don't have that much in common with you and instead to zero in on those who do?

This, of course, all depends on how important you think a person's politics are in terms of compatibility. There are certainly people on both ends of the spectrum who wouldn't feel at all comfortable hanging out with their polar political opposite--for fear they'd argue about things in the early months of dating and maybe even disagree about values, lifestyles, ways to raise children, etc. in the later stages. Certainly, for young daters looking for a spouse, this makes sense. It's easier to envision a long-term partnership or marriage with a person who shares your world view than with someone who doesn't. Why set yourself up for fights and failure?

A separate study at another university supports this assertion. It found that political attitudes were the strongest shared trait among spouses--even higher than good looks or personality. In other words, when people are looking for marriage partners, they're drawn to those with the same political attitudes...which suggests that couples most likely to commit long term actually share the same political views at the start of the relationship as opposed to growing closer politically over the course of time. Knowing that, then, wouldn't it be smart for those seeking an LTR or marriage who have specific political beliefs to indicate that in their profiles in order to attract someone they're more likely to click with...and to "weed out" those they're more likely to argue with?

What do you think? Are similar politics important to you? Do you feel uncomfortable with someone with dissimilar political or world views? If you're a liberal, would you be unlikely to reply to or write to someone who checked the "conservative" box on his or her profile? How about the "middle of the road" box? Also... have you ever had a relationship where political disagreement was one of the major reasons for breaking up? I did myself in the first 2 years I was dating after divorce, but he didn't reveal his views for almost 9 months...I guess for fear that it'd drive me away (which it did). Obviously, in that case, his pretending to be OK with the views I'd been voicing since Day 1 backfired in the end...and what he feared actually came true anyways. I'd love to hear your take on this. Drop me a line!

Postscript: One other interesting finding from the University of Miami study: older online daters and those with higher education levels were more willing to express a definitive political preference (perhaps, in my opinion, because they're more comfortable with who they are and thus less concerned about others judging them and also because life has taught them that it's easier to get along with like-minded people and that it takes too much energy to deal with those with conflicting viewpoints). Certainly, when I got married the 2nd time at age 51, I expressed my political preference and wrote only to like-minded men. If you're an older dater, I'd love to hear your take on this.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why don't men attend singles events?

In my 8+ years in the post-divorce dating world and my 6 years as a dating coach after my 2nd marriage, I've either attended or hosted hundreds of singles events. And I've noticed something undeniable: at least 70% of the attendees are women. Why is this?

Well, from surveying men about why they didn't sign up to attend the various events I hosted in the past, I found out there were 4 main reasons:
1) It was too far away from home & they didn't feel like driving
2) They didn't want to have to get dressed up
3) Their fear about being one of a minority of guys in a roomful of women deterred them
4) If there wasn't an "activity" as the focus of the event, they felt awkward just mingling with strangers

It's unfortunate that these things keep men from taking advantage of a great opportunity to meet dozens of high-quality women. But I guess I can understand some of the hesitance on the guys' part. It takes a lot of confidence and someone pretty outgoing to feel comfortable meeting strangers for the first time. And men have had to put up with rejection from women for years in the dating world, and they'd rather not set themselves up for more of it.

One type of singles event I found got a pretty good turnout from men was a potluck dinner party held at my home. It was casual and informal and easier to talk to people in a home atmosphere. They could always chat about the food item they brought or the array of edibles other people brought as they lingered around the serving table. And they could chat with me during awkward moments and ask me about a certain woman who caught their eye and even get an assist with an introduction to her if they wanted.

What do you think, guys? Is a potluck dinner type of event something you'd be more likely to attend rather than a dance, outing to a music venue, or singles outdoor or sporting event? What kinds of venues and activities do you like best? I and all the single ladies who continue to try new events in hopes there will be some guys there would LOVE to know! Drop me a note and share your thoughts. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Texting vs. Calling in the Pre-Dating Stage

In my role as a dating coach, I've been getting a lot of feedback recently from single women in their 40s and 50s about my newsletter article "Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Courtship" -- especially regarding the fact that more men these days seem to use text messages rather than phone calls to correspond with women they've "met" online...before they've actually meet in person.

It's not that the women are against texting per se. Their complaint is that the guys seem to just want to text for days or weeks without asking for a phone number so they can set up an in-person meeting for coffee and conversation (and to find out if they have chemistry). Naturally, the women get the feeling the men aren't interested in meeting them at all. And, sadly, that turns out to be true in most of the cases I'm hearing about.

What's the reason for this? Are the guys truly NOT interested? Are they for some reason hesitant to talk on the phone or to meet? Or is this just the new way of doing things in the 21st century dating world? Well, I did some research and heard various explanations from both male and female dating coaches and also from single men themselves. Here are some of the points they made:
1) Texting is a very casual type of communication, and a lot of men get into the habit of texting because it's easier (requires less effort) than having a phone conversation. It's an easy way to flirt without taking it any further.
2) Many guys (especially shy ones) prefer texting because it allows them to think about the wording of what they want to say vs. having to think on the fly in a live conversation. (Of course, the same can be said for e-mailing.)
3) Men think that women will be more likely to respond to a text and it's easier to get a fast reply any time of the day or night because most women have their cell phones with them all day, including at work.

At first look, all of these seem to be logical reasons for texting rather than calling. And they seem perfectly OK to do with someone you know well or have been dating for a while. The problem for the women I've talked to is that they think it's inappropriate in the early days or weeks of getting to know someone (before you're actually dating) because:
1) It's too informal for asking a woman out on a first or second date. Most women say they prefer a phone call, so they know the man actually wants to hear their voice, have a conversation, and get to know them better. Using a cell phone screen and 140 characters per message doesn't allow for that. They say they can tell SO much more about the person through voice tone and inflection, conversation and listening style, etc. during a phone call.
2) It gives an implied sense of intimacy that isn't there yet. When a woman answers every text a man (who's still a stranger) sends her, he gets the message "You seem to be OK with letting me follow you around all day with short, inconsequential messages via cell phone, even though you haven't even met me." And so he continues to do that without taking it to the next level and initiating a phone call, meeting, or date.
3) It gives the man less of a reason to need to take a woman out on a date. By his way of thinking: Why would he need to go out with you when you talk to him all the time anyway?

What do think, this accurate? And guys: what's your take on this issue? Do you text a lot more than you talk with new women you've contacted via online dating sites? If so, why? If you really want to get to know a woman, are you more likely to have an urge to talk with her on the phone or in person rather than via text messages? How do you ask a woman out nowadays? I'd enjoy hearing any and all comments. Thanks!
P.S. I love this quote from one female dating coach: "Conversations are for dates, not for cell phone screens." Just think of all the body language you're missing when you're texting rather than talking in person (since communication experts tell us that at least 70% of what we say is nonverbal)!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What we look for in a spouse

How have men and women's requirements for a spouse changed over the last 70 years? Well, a 2010 study of this recently came to my attention, and its results are fascinating AND helpful for those seeking a mate.

The study of 3 generations of college-age singles was conducted by Dr. Christine B. Whelan at the University of Pittsburgh and Christie Boxer at the University of Iowa. Here are some highlights:
o Men rank a woman's intelligence #4 out of 10 top qualities they look for in a potential wife, above looks (#8). Women rank intelligence at #5.
o Both men and women highly value maturity and dependability, ranking it #3 on the list of desirable traits.
o Both sexes list sociability as #6 on their lists (showing that we all want a partner who'll actively participate in our social lives).
o Men seek women who are accomplished, interesting, supportive, and loving.
o Women seek men who are good partners, meaning they aspire to have a home and family and an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities.
o While men rank "a pleasing disposition" as #5 on their list, women rank it #7, indicating that women are more willing to deal with a spouse whose personality can be challenging at times (maybe they really DO love "bad boys"?)
o Both men and women agree that the most important reason to marry is for love.

I find this all very intriguing...certainly helpful information to pass onto singles in the dating world. would YOU rank these traits on YOUR list for a potential mate? Here are some of the traits the study participants ranked:
- Desire to have a home & raise children
- True love
- Emotional maturity/dependability
- Sociability
- Good looks/strong attraction
- Good health
- Good financial provider
- Ambition/industriousness
- Pleasing disposition
- Intelligence

If you're looking for love the 2nd time around, I'd love to hear how the traits you desire in a mate have changed in 20 or 30 years.

Another interesting point made in the article I read about this study: Though both men and women say they desire deep, passionate love, they're not sure how to make love last over the long term. The article's authors who teach a "Marriage Prep 101" workshop, say "We teach people that love is not just a feeling; it's also an action. Staying in love requires both partners to be intentional and proactive within their relationship."

This is definitely what I've experienced in my marriage. Occasionally, those passionate loving feelings are not as strong, and at those times I need to CHOOSE to love my husband. I need to DO things that will keep our connection strong and our feelings alive (such as "Mystery Dates", a focus on our commonalities, special words, loving cards, a backrub, or time carved out just for him). We need to take actions that make the other person feel loved, appreciated, and treasured each day. And we need to be totally present with each other...not just "two ships passing in the night" in the midst of our busy lives.

Most of all, we need to choose each other first, make special times together a priority, and not take our relationship for granted. Yes, it's a conscious effort every single day. But, because our marriage is the central, anchoring relationship in our lives, we think it's worth it. :-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This is the last in a series of posts I started on this topic on April 15. To see them all in order, click on "April" in the right column. Enjoy! (And I'd love to hear your feedback...thanks!)

My dad (from heaven): I’ll finish with the most heart-felt and life-changing lesson of all...the one I learned from my Dad after he’d already passed away. I was Dad’s first-born child and the “apple of his eye” according to my Mom. As she tells it, he would come home from work every day excited to see me and loved to play with me when I was a baby. Soon, though, within the next 6 years, four more babies were born, and Dad had other obligations and distractions. And, because he worked the 4 pm to midnight shift, I didn’t get to see him much. He was busy with one of five things every weekday and weekend: working, sleeping, taking Mom to the grocery, doing yard work or home improvements, or pursuing hobbies with his buddies. We only went on one family vacation I can remember.

During my grammar school and high school years, Dad was supportive enough and interested in seeing my report cards, but I don’t remember him praising me about my accomplishments or telling me that he loved me. Then, when it was time for me to apply to college, he was ambivalent. He had never attended college himself, and he didn’t have the money for higher education for all five kids, so he thought it best if just the two boys went to college. “The girls are just gonna get married anyways,” he said. There was no need to send my two sisters and me.

I was very upset when Mom told me this. I pleaded with her to help Dad see that I had worked hard to qualify for college and had career aspirations that made college necessary. Finally, to her credit, she convinced him to let me go...but only if I could get a scholarship. I did get a scholarship, earned a B.A., and got a good job. But none of this ever seemed to be all that impressive to Dad (probably because, growing up, there was no emphasis on college in his family). I know he was at my high school graduation, but I don’t remember him sounding particularly proud. And he died 3 months before my college graduation. So I have no idea how he would have reacted to that...or my completion of graduate school 2 years after that and starting my own business at age 30.

So, imagine my surprise when, many years later during a meeting with a clairvoyant and medium whose book I was editing, I was told that my dad (dead for over 20 years at that point) was standing near me waiting to give me a “message.” It seems he knew this female medium could relay communications from him to me, and he wanted to pass something along. I’ll never forget what she said: “Your father wants you to know how proud he is that you’re going to write that book.” At that time, the book I eventually wrote was just an aspiration in the back of my head, a dream on the back burner. “And he says he’s sorry he wasn’t really there for you when you were going through school. He loves you and is very proud of you.”

Wow…I was in shock! These positive validations from a father who’d been only minimally involved in my life for 21 years before he died and who had never really affirmed his pride in me before…this was amazing! Plus, he “knew” I was planning to write a book...absolutely remarkable! These words of pride and encouragement were EXACTLY what I had been longing to hear from my father all my life. I immediately broke down into tears of happiness about this gift of an unexpected miracle. For the entire 30-minute car ride home, I couldn’t stop sobbing. I felt my father’s caring and affection on a very deep level, and I felt more fully alive, loved, and cherished than I had in all my 42 years.

This expression of love from the first and most important man in my life came at a low point in my post-divorce dating life and my self-esteem, when I was working very hard to connect with men in a way I never had with my Dad. I desperately wanted a deep connection with a man that helped me value and love myself just the way I was.

So, Dad’s timing was perfect...and the lesson he taught me was this: You are loved even if the other person doesn’t say it in words and even if it takes many years to be felt. Even more wonderful: love has no boundaries. It can come to you from “the other side,” and it can come when you least expect it but need it most.

From that moment on, the “father wound” that had, for years, sabotaged my relationships with men, was healed. After that day, I felt worthy of love and truly lovable. And that has profoundly changed—-for the better—-every relationship I’ve had with men to this day.

I am deeply grateful to all 12 of these men for the transformational lessons they brought me. And I invite you to think about the many teachers and mentors in your life and what their insights have meant to you.

Monday, April 25, 2011


This is the 10th in a series of posts started on April 15. Feel free to scroll down to see the other 9 parts.

My son Ross:
My oldest child, Ross, who was born in early 1986, is now a 25-year-old man… on his own, sharing a place with his girlfriend in L.A., working in the film industry as a production assistant and script reader, and even finding time to make music with his band and to make movies with some film friends from grad school. He’s doing what he loves, managing his money well, and saving for his future dreams. I couldn’t be prouder of him, and we get along great.

But there were moments during his teenage years when I had to get on his case about remembering to pay back money he owed me, organize his bedroom, stick to the curfews I gave him, and be more responsible about cleaning up messes from parties he didn’t have permission to throw with friends who drank too much. More than once, Ross reacted to my rules and supervision by saying “Mom, I wish you’d just trust me.” I found it hard to do that, because I tended to focus on the times he didn’t follow through on a promise he made to me or the occasions when he was immature and forgetful.

After a while, though, as he got into his later college years, matured, and became responsible for paying rent and cleaning his own apartment, I noticed that he was getting a lot better about all the things I’d been trying to teach him all those years. And I realized that I could back off and honor Ross’s request to trust him to make the right decisions, based on the guidance his dad and I had given him. He taught me a very important lesson: trust your kids to do the right thing, and they will.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


This is the 9th in a series of posts started on April 15. Feel free to scroll down to read the other 8.

My current husband Jim:
After 8+ years of post-divorce dating, I began using a new tool to connect with potential partners—Internet dating sites. I spent about a year online and met dozens of men within an hour of my house before I wrote to a very nice person who lived just 20 minutes away. Jim had two children near my kids’ ages, a shared passion for outdoor activities, a happy and stable life, and a great sense of humor. He was also fit, active, slender, and attractive. By the time we had that first meeting for a walk at the park, I’d stopped having any expectations about each “prospect” potentially being “the one.” I just knew he had most of the qualities I sought in a partner, was funny and interesting in his e-mails to me, and sounded easygoing and nice on the phone. So I approached our meeting with a laid-back, whatever-happens-happens attitude. And, because I had no particular expectations, I didn’t set myself up for disappointment. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I felt with Jim right from the start and how smoothly things flowed every time we got together. Within 7 months, we were engaged, and we married almost a year to the day we met.

Ironically, the new “It is what it is” approach I took at our very first meeting would be the #1 lesson I’d learn from Jim in our dating life…and that I continue to learn in our married life. He never judged me during the year we dated, even though I was different from him in many ways and must have taken some getting used to. He has never criticized me in the 6+ years I’ve known him, even though I’ve criticized him at times. His philosophy is: “Everybody’s unique. I have no idea how their background affected their opinions, so who am I to judge?” Luckily, that attitude is beginning to rub off on me—something I’m very happy about, because I’ve been struggling to be less judgmental for many years. Living with Jim, I’m learning to be more accepting and tolerant—of others and of myself. And that certainly is a more peaceful, stress-free way to live life.

Friday, April 22, 2011


This is the 8th in a series of posts on this topic, started on April 15. You can scroll down to see the first 7 parts. This is about the 4th of 4 men I dated after my divorce who taught me valuable lessons...

4. Matt: My next teacher in the post-divorce dating world was a man named Matt—a fellow Libra who was a couple years younger and similar to me in his health-mindedness and extroversion. He also shared several of my interests and had a great sense of humor. We got along fine for a while, but after a few weeks, I noticed that he wasn’t usually willing to drive the 40 minutes to my house—or even meet me halfway—for our dates. He often expected me to shuffle my hectic schedule with my two kids and drive to his house at his convenience. The clincher came when he got terribly drunk at a formal affair he took me to and expected me to drive him home and take care of him after he got sick in the bathtub of his apartment.

Finally, after feeling taken advantage of for 5 weeks, I said “You don’t respect me at all!” to which he replied “That’s because you don’t respect yourself.” At first, I was angry and hurt. How dare he!

But, after calming down and thinking about it, I realized he was right. I didn’t respect myself if I constantly let him take advantage of me and if I kept kowtowing to please him rather than standing up for myself and setting healthy boundaries related to my schedule and my children. Though what Matt said felt like a slap in the face at the time, in hindsight I saw it as the wake-up call I needed to help me finally, once and for all, change my behavior so I could ask for and get what I wanted and deserved in a relationship. This is a lesson that ultimately helped me fortify my self-respect and self-esteem in a big way...and made future relationships and life in general much easier and more fulfilling.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


This is the 7th post in a series I began on April 15. Feel free to scroll down to see the other 6 parts. This is about the 3rd of 4 men who taught me important lessons during my post-divorce dating years...

3. Rich: A few weeks after the breakup with John, I was exploring various ways to become more centered, self-aware, and at peace with myself. So I was thinking seriously about learning to meditate. And, at a singles event I had organized, I ran into a man named Rich who I knew was a facilitator for men’s personal growth groups and a meditator himself. We chatted a bit about his meditation practice, and I emailed him a couple days later to ask if we could get together for coffee so I could pick his brain about it. Part of me was also attracted to him and thinking that perhaps he’d be someone I’d like to date, but I wasn’t sure I was healed from the breakup with John.

Nonetheless, after that first meeting went well, one thing led to another, and I found myself dating Rich. He was a few years older than me, intelligent and well read, interesting to talk to, high energy like me, and into some of the same hobbies, including travel, hiking, and eating healthy. So we had enough in common to make the first few months of dating fun. But soon it became obvious to me that we were very different in terms of sense of humor, personality, temperament, outlook on life, and desire to socialize outside the house. And not long after that, I noticed the fatal flaw in our relationship: we were both controlling individuals who didn’t like being told what to do, and we both had some unrevealed, deep-seated anger and shame that needed to be released before either of us was ready for a healthy partnership.

Because Rich was an experienced facilitator who’d helped many men uncover and release pent-up anger, I believe my psyche attracted me to him so I could do the inner work I still needed to do to get over the pain of breaking up with John and to come to terms with negative feelings toward men from my past. With his help, both intentionally and then as a result of the many arguments we had, he made it possible for me to detoxify my heart and soul by exposing and eliminating years of self-hate, shame, guilt, and rage. It was cleansing and life-changing, but it was also the death knell for the relationship. Again, I’d set up a teacher-student dynamic that killed the joy and passion. However, I learned an invaluable lesson: Buried anger and shame will sabotage any relationship and must be released.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This is the 6th post in a series I began on April 15. Feel free to scroll down to see the other 5 parts. This is about the 2nd of 4 men who taught me important lessons during my post-divorce dating years...

2. John: For nearly a year between 2001 and 2002, I dated another older man—his name was John. He lived an hour away and had a very demanding job that made it nearly impossible for him to schedule dates with me during the week or more than once on the weekend. And, since I was in a “needy” place emotionally and wanted more togetherness, I volunteered to drive to his place on the weekends when my kids were at their dad’s house…and soon wound up staying most of the weekend.
This worked out fine at first since he was willing to carve out time for me in the first 6 months of the relationship. But soon he was working more and/or tied up with other people or obligations, and I found myself bending over backwards to grab time with him, often at the expense of my own life (meaning I put my own friends and my two businesses, caretaking for my house, and my own personal interests on the back burner). However, because we were both committed to mutual personal and spiritual growth and had many helpful in-depth phone conversations on such topics, I learned a lot about how to co-create a “healing partnership” that benefits both people and so felt OK about the dynamic in the relationship during most of the time we were together. In fact, because of the richness of that experience with John, I now highly recommend that my clients sometimes seek such a healing partnership to help them prepare for healthier dating down the road.

Unfortunately, John didn’t feel as OK about the dynamic in our relationship as I did. When he saw me sacrificing my own life and sense of identity for him, he said “You don’t need to earn love…you ARE love.” From a spiritual perspective, he was telling me that we’re all born with the “divine light” of love as our essence. But, from a practical perspective, he was telling me that it’s not a healthy relationship if one of the people is doing more giving than the other and trying to “earn” his love by catering to him rather than growing to be his equal. And he didn’t enjoy and felt very uncomfortable being in a relationship like that.

So, at the end of our 11 months together, here’s what became clear to me: a partnership where one person feels inferior to the other or looks up to the other as a teacher is an unequal partnership. And inequality kills joy and passion. John, in the teacher role, looked at me more like a student or a child than a self-actualized woman who could be his true partner emotionally and psychologically. He told me he loved me but wasn’t “in love” with me. He loved my spirit and could make love to me physically, but he couldn’t connect with me on a deeper level or envision committing to me long term. That really hurt, and the pain I felt after he broke up with me was deep. But the truth I learned was invaluable: I can’t gain someone else’s love and respect until I love and respect myself…a lesson that helped me avoid such heartache in my future dating experiences.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This is the 5th part of a series I started on April 15. Please feel free to scroll down to see the first 4 posts.

The 8-year post-divorce dating period was, for me, a time rich with life lessons—things to which my eyes were opened, things that made every future relationship with men (and the relationship with myself) better and easier. There were four men who were particularly influential.
1. Kyle: Kyle was a man 3 years older than me whom I dated for about 6 months. He was very athletic, funny, and smart. But, because he’d never been married or in a long-term relationship, he was very self-focused, inconsiderate, and uncaring. He was also highly opinionated, arrogant, and competitive (both in sports and relationships). Every time we’d have a disagreement, he’d say “You want to win, don’t you? You want me to give in.” He wasn’t able to have a debate of any kind without seeing it as a competition. Because he was naturally competitive, he easily saw that trait in me. When he told me I too was competitive, I balked at first. I’d never been into competitive sports. What he meant, however, was that I wanted to win every argument and always thought I was right.

Again, a man noticed a shortcoming of mine that I hadn’t been able to see. And the lesson that came from that interaction was invaluable. Kyle taught me the deeper meaning of the age-old question: “Would you rather be right or happy?” After breaking it off with him, I realized I attracted competitive men because I too was competitive. And I needed to tone that down if I ever expected to have a smooth-flowing, healthy partnership. That insight helped me in every dating relationship I had after that and is still helping me today in my second marriage.

Monday, April 18, 2011


This is the 4th in a series I began on April 15. Feel free to scroll down to find those other 3 posts (as background for this one).

IN MARRIAGE #1 (1979-1995)
My first husband Pete:
In the 15 years I was married to my grad school sweetheart, I learned a lot about men, myself, and relationships. Being married, of course, I learned a lot about what love and commitment really mean. But, the most-valuable lesson Pete taught me was this: I have what it takes to be my own boss and run my own company. As with the grad school experience, being self-employed was something I’d never considered. I’d worked in two corporate jobs after school and saw myself as a “team player”—not an entrepreneur.

But, when Pete left his corporate job a year into our marriage to open his own audio-visual production company, I got a firsthand look at how to start and run a business, do the marketing needed to attract clients, and handle the accounting, tax, and financial aspects involved with being an independent contractor. And he had enough faith in my abilities to ask me to be his business partner—a huge self-esteem boost, I must say, at age 30. I assisted him with many of the above-mentioned tasks as part of the company we ran together and learned the ins and outs of operating a small company. Even more valuable, though, was what I learned about surviving the inevitable ups and downs and ebbs and flows of being an entrepreneur in fluctuating economic times.

Since I’m still an entrepreneur (now running two businesses), what I learned from Pete serves me very well today too. But it was truly life-saving back in 1995 when I left our marriage and became a single income earner again. When you’re self-employed and don’t know when your next paycheck will come, you learn to be not just flexible but also innovative, patient, and resilient. The most important things I learned were to NOT worry about cash flow and to always have a backup plan. Everything would eventually work out if I just kept networking, working hard for my current clients, contacting potential clients, and maintaining a positive outlook. And, if things didn’t work out, I’d find a full-time job.
P.S. I never had to look for a full-time job. For 16 years, things have worked out just fine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Two college professors: Speaking of self-esteem, two self-esteem-building lessons came from different male professors in my senior year of college. Within a week of each other, a professor who’d had me in several English lit classes and a prof who’d taught my film history and criticism classes told me they thought I should go to graduate school. This was something I’d never considered. Perhaps I thought I didn’t have what it took to get through grad school. After all, I was the first person in my family to even go to college. In any event, with the vote of confidence from two men I really admired, I felt confident and empowered enough to explore grad programs and ultimately earned an M.S. in Radio-TV-Film. From them, I learned that others notice your potential and your natural talents when sometimes you don’t. And it pays to take what they say to heart.
P.S. Graduate school led me to meeting my first husband AND landing my first job as a promotional writer. So I’ll be ever-indebted to those two wonderful, caring instructors who took the time to mentor me, so I could stretch myself in new directions and, ultimately, create more success than I ever envisioned personally and professionally.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My first boyfriend John: When I was a sophomore in college at age 19, I met my first love—a man named John. We had a ton of fun together (again, with a lot of affectionate yet sarcastic banter), and I learned about sexual love from him (and will always be grateful for what a gentle, patient teacher he was at that milestone moment in a young woman’s life!) I also learned how to cope and get stronger emotionally in a long-distance relationship (during summers away from college when the one-hour distance between our family homes limited our dates to once a week). Expressing our thoughts and feelings on the phone and in letters made this easier…and helped prepare me for another long-distance relationship I’d have 5 years later when I met my first husband.

What I remember more than anything else, though, is the two-fold lesson John taught me about selflessness and self-righteousness during our first Christmas together. I had taken quite a bit of time to carefully choose a few little gifts that I was anxious for him to open. I gave them to him that cozy winter evening with childlike glee, figuring he too would be excited about giving me whatever he’d picked out. But, when he saw my gifts, he simply said “I’m sorry; I didn’t get you anything.” I immediately teared up and felt crest-fallen. I said something about how I couldn’t believe he forgot to get me a Christmas gift, and that’s when he said “Oh, Gayle, I was only joking; of course, I got you something.” Though we’d always had a playful relationship, for some reason it didn’t cross my mind that he was kidding around, and I didn’t find this particular joke funny. In addition, I was embarrassed because he made me feel guilty for sounding selfish.

So, the lesson was this: Christmas is a time for giving; it’s not about receiving. And, from that moment on, I made a conscious effort to remember that. Ever since then, I’ve taken FAR more joy from buying or making things for others and hardly ever think about what I might receive.

The second lesson came after I saw one of the two gifts John had selected for me. It was a beautiful little necklace with an owl on it, and he said with a sly grin “That’s because you think you know everything.” Again, I was crest-fallen. I knew his sarcastic comment was intended in a spirit of fun, but, underneath, I thought: “Maybe he’s trying to tell me I’m too opinionated and outspoken.” I did my best to look happy with the gift, but inside I was hurt (partly because, in those days, my self-esteem wasn’t very strong). I learned that night that sometimes people use off-handed ways to tell you things they can’t tell you directly (but really want you to know). And it was a turning point for me because it made me aware that I could sound like a “know-it-all”—and that didn’t endear me to other people. From then on, I tried to tone down my self-righteousness, something that continues to be a work in progress today.

Friday, April 15, 2011


This is the first of a series of pieces I'll post on this topic over the next week or so. I hope you enjoy them. I look forward to hearing your feedback...

Have you ever thought about the people from whom you learned the most in your life? And, if so, were most of your greatest teachers women or men? As I look back on my 57 years on the planet, the list of males who taught me life-transforming lessons is definitely longer than the list of females.

Maybe this is because we don’t think of our fellow women as teachers (even though the majority of grade-school instructors for Baby Boomers like me were females). In my case, I think I tend to take for granted the words of wisdom imparted by my mom, girlfriends, sisters, and female coworkers, colleagues, professors, and bosses because women tend to share these types of conversations amongst themselves all the time. We’re always learning valuable little tidbits from each other, but, as I’m writing this, not many things I’ve learned from women stand out as earth-shatteringly profound.

When it comes to men, however, I’ve noticed that many of the lessons I learned from them DO stand out and have made a deep impression. Interestingly, most of what they taught me was not from their words but, rather, from their actions, role-modeling, the experiences I shared with them, the support they gave me, or the outcomes of the interactions I had with them.

My brother Tony: In the early years, I think I learned the most from my brother Tony. He was 6½ years younger than me, so I was asked to play the role of “Mommy’s helper” for many years. From that experience, I learned not just the logistics of caretaking but the purity of love. I felt for him like most mothers feel about their children: protective, deeply connected, and very caring. But, because he looked up to me as his oldest sibling, I also learned what it felt like to be admired and respected.

Tony and I had a really special relationship based on laughing at the same goofy TV shows, a love of the outdoors, a sarcastic way of bantering back and forth and teasing each other, and an ability to call each other on the carpet for our idiosyncracies. We even wrote funny letters to each other when he was in college in the mid-70s. And he walked me down the aisle when I married the first time in 1979 (since my dad had died in 1975)—a bittersweet memory, since Tony himself died in a head-on car collision just 6 months later when he was barely 20.

Shortly after that, I learned another valuable lesson from Tony, when a teddy bear he had given me seemed to speak my name in his voice one rainy night while I sat reading in bed. The lesson: love is eternal; the soul lives on. Those who loved you will always be with you, even after passing away from the earth. Later, with the help of a medium, I got other messages from Tony—that he was alright, at peace, and wanted to help me any way he could. His enduring love—and just knowing he was there for me whenever I needed him—sustained me through many rough times in life after that (especially as I struggled during and after my separation). And I truly believe my prayers to Tony and my Dad (my angels on “the other side”) helped bring my second husband Jim into my life at age 50, after many frustrating years of post-divorce dating.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


You've probably heard the expression "BE who you want to attract" (based on the universal Law of Attraction, which says that like attracts like). The concept is that, in order to attract a fun, well-balanced, emotionally secure person, you need to be those 3 things. When you're in a positive place, you attract positive people and experiences; when you're in a negative place, you tend to find negative people and experiences coming into your life.

What I found in my dating years and continue to notice today is that "what I focus on expands." If I focus on what's going wrong or what I don't have in my life (by complaining or thinking too much about my problems or challenges), things continue to go wrong. I don't seem to get what I want.

Here's an example: As a dating coach, I ask clients to write down their "partner vision" -- the qualities and character traits they are most attracted to and feel compatible with in a partner. Sometimes, though, they haven't given this enough thought and send me instead a list of what they DON'T want (often based on the qualities of the partner from the last failed relationship they were in). It's a case of "I don't know what I want, but I definitely know what I don't want." The problem with this is that their thoughts and emotions are focused on those things they don't want, rather than on what they desire instead.

So, here's how to turn that around so you can focus on what you DO want (whether in a partner, a new job, your finances, your living situation, your free time, or whatever)and be more likely to draw that into your life:
Take that list of what you don't want and draw 2 columns; in the first, you'll put that list, and then, next to each item in the 2nd column, you'll write the opposite of that. Voila! You have a list of what you desire--what is more of a fit for you. Now, all you have to do is FOCUS on that list in the right column. Throw away the negative list and keep a copy of the positive list in a place you're likely to see it throughout the day. Read the entire list a couple times a day and envision each of those "best-case scenarios" actually happening in your life. Imagine them in complete detail and let yourself daydream about them as often as you can. Soon, they'll begin to feel real, believable, and achievable.

For some reason, we humans tend to imagine "worst-case scenarios" a lot more than best case. Why is this? Don't we feel worthy to have what we desire? Or do we just think we're being unrealistic dreamers? It doesn't really matter. The point is that we can stop this type of thinking, shift our focus, and begin to attract into our lives the things we focus on. We just need to make up our minds to make that shift and keep that promise to ourselves day after day, week after week.

An excellent book I'm using as the basis of a monthly motivational group I run is The Passion Test; it says that, in order to attract what you want, you need to set an INTENTION, put ATTENTION on it (the focus I've been talking about), and then come from a place of NO TENSION (without worrying about how it'll manifest in your life..but continuing to believe that it will), so it can flow naturally to you with the help of the Law of Attraction. I've done this in my life many times, and it really works!

How about you? Are you attracting what you want? Or are you focusing too much on what you don't have or don't want by complaining about your current situation (ie, feeling like a victim)? I'd love to hear your stories and/or your feedback.

Monday, March 21, 2011


The more you know about the opposite sex, the easier it will be to date. Seems obvious, right? Yet, many singles only know what they've learned from past relationships...and, unfortunately, a lot of that is based on negative experiences that leave a bad taste in their mouths. "Relationship Communication 101" wasn't part of their school curriculum.

You've heard it a million times: A key difference between men and women is communication style. And so it's not surprising that communication issues are one of the top reasons for breakups. Misunderstandings lead to defensiveness and anger. And yet how many of us take the time to examine the obstacles in the way of good communication, learn to communicate better, and then put what we learned into practice in dating and relating?

The bottom line: if we just took the time to understand each other's thought processes and motivations better, we could avoid the misunderstandings that drive a wedge between us and cause detachment and stalemate. How can we "talk things out" when we don't know how to talk to each other so we're heard and understood?

My husband and I are total opposites in the way we communicate: I'm the extreme extrovert who's comfortable opening up about every detail of my thoughts and feelings about our relationship. He's the extreme introvert who's very UNCOMFORTABLE verbalizing in general (much less about his thoughts and feelings), so discussing our relationship is torturous and difficult for him. The shorter such discussions are, the better, from his point of view. This, of course, is frustrating for me, because I feel pressured to express everything I want to say in 20 minutes or less, and that's hard for me (since I tend to be verbose).

What would make things easier? Well, relationship coaching for us and self-esteem-related therapy for me have given us the answer: I need to be quiet, listen, and give him the time to express himself and also refrain from correcting his choice of words or judging him in any way. He, in turn, needs to somehow (through the written word or physical touch) express his affection and show me that he's there for me so I'll feel secure. In short, we each have to understand and accept the other's emotional and psychological needs and modify our behaviors to reflect that.

Recently, we've done this and come to a new, healthier place in our relationship. I feel closer; he feels safer. And we're both happier.

What about you? Does this ring true for you in your relationships? I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The pitfalls of the online dating "fantasy world"

Often, when people first start dating online, they get caught up in fantasizing about someone they've seen on the Internet. They're atttracted to the person's photo, think they have a lot in common with each other, and begin picturing themselves in a relationship. This is a dangerous habit to get into.

Because the dating sites now let you monitor how many people have "browsed" your photo, you can get the false sense that dozens of people are actually into you as a person, rather than just your appearance. Then, if that person "winks" at you, you may jump to the conclusion they really do want to get to know you. Be careful about such assumptions. The truth is: a "wink" is a lazy person's way of flirting without having to take the time to write a full, personalized email. He or she is simply saying your photo grabbed his/her attention. No more than that.

It makes no sense (and can be very self-sabotaging) to become infatuated with someone who hasn't taken the time to write you an actual email that mentions something impressive or remarkable about you. In the sender's mind, you're likely to be one of 10 or 20 computer photos he/she winked at that day...not a real flesh-and-blood person with whom to start a relationship. The person is a "kid in a candy store" sending out feelers but not necessarily ready to keep the communication going if those receiving them write back and want to take things to the next level.

Sure, there are some sincere, down-to-earth people online looking for serious relationships. And you can find them if you screen prospects well on email and on the phone. I'm not saying you can't meet some wonderful people for dating. I did, and I married him more than 5 years ago.

What I AM saying is be aware. Know that the larger the dating site, the greater the percentage of possible "cruisers" there'll be (people who enjoy casually browsing nice photos with no intention of actually meeting those folks and very little interest in a long-term relationship). Don't get your hopes up about everyone who contacts you. It could turn out to be no more than a fantasy.

Instead, carefully read the profiles and write ONLY to the people who really wow you and have most of the character traits and values you prefer in a partner. Don't sit back and wait for others to write to you. Take charge and do the choosing yourself. That's what I did, and it worked out great!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to talk to strangers wherever you go

The #1 thing single people struggle with when they're out and about at both singles events and elsewhere is what to say to break the ice with a new person. Do you:
1) Ask a question?
2) Comment on something happening in the room at that time?
3) Give the person a compliment?
4) Or just walk up and introduce yourself?

The answer is YES--ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Any of these approaches will work. And none of them is all that awkward to try. The one that male dating experts advise women to use is #2--because it seems natural and friendly. Just say something lighthearted about whatever is going on nearby. For example, if you're both in line at a coffee shop and he's staring at the desserts, say "I can tell you'd love to try that muffin." Or, if you're at a party, ask "How do you know (name of host/hostess)? At a singles dance, mention that you noticed he/she hasn't danced yet.

When I was single, I used all four openers, and I got more comfortable the more I used them. To get my courage up, I asked myself: What's the worst that could happen? He could just ignore me and act like he didn't hear me. Or he could give me a weird look and walk away. In all my years of dating (nearly 9), neither of these things ever happened. Most people were polite and talked to me for a bit even if I could tell from their body language that they weren't interested.

The point is: you never know until you try. What have you got to lose? In most cases, you'll have a nice conversation. And maybe in one or two, you'll really hit if off with somebody. It's your choice: be brave...or stand around all night looking and feeling awkward.
P.S. For practice, try this first at non-singles gatherings like friends' parties or business networking events. It'll help you build courage and test out which openers get the best reception. Good luck & have fun! Today could be the day you meet a fascinating stranger! :-)