Monday, October 13, 2014

Being Alone Doesn't Have to Mean Being Lonely

I'm an extrovert--somebody who draws her energy from other people and has for 60 years preferred togetherness over solitude. In all these years, I've only lived completely alone for 2 years--from age 23 to 25 when I had my own 1-bedroom apartment before marrying my first husband. Otherwise, I lived with:
- My parents and 4 siblings
- Roommates in college and grad school
- Husbands and kids

Now, everything has changed. My second marriage ended in March, 2012, my last child left the nest in June, 2014, and I parted ways with the man I'd been dating for 2 years and saw every weekend during that time. I've been by myself in this house for over 3 months--both living and working (since I'm self-employed working from home).

You'd think I'd be lonely...yearning for companionship, hungry for people contact. And, yes, I have my moments like that occasionally. I'm still adjusting to being an empty nester and definitely do miss my daughter. So, for the last couple months, I've been filling my social needs with Meetup group and hobby activities, lunches or dinners with friends, hosting parties, etc.

But this past week, something strange happened. I decided NOT to go to 2 get-togethers I'd put on my calendar. The reason in both cases: Even though the activities were fun things I'd usually love to do, I felt more like staying home by myself. And I couldn't figure out why, because I'd been home alone all day working, hadn't had any clients in, and had very little interaction with people on the phone, Facebook, or email.

This was really surprising. This was a new me...someone who preferred her own company and the simple things I enjoy doing on my own rather than going out to socialize and try new things. Certainly not behavior characteristic of an extrovert!

And what, you may ask, are the "simple things" I opted to do with me, myself, and I? Here are some examples:
- sipping some wine with dinner while reading a favorite magazine
- watching a couple of my favorite comedy TV shows
- going to a local park, town, or college to take photos
- walking around my neighborhood or into town to browse around in the shops
- perusing books at the library
- immersing myself in a book I just picked up.
- attending a meeting of my local photography club
- going to a poetry reading group to listen to some local poets
- checking out the newest indie film at my local theater

One dating coach I admire said "If you're looking for the love of your life, STOP. He will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love." Well, I guess that's what I've been doing. And it feels good. Sure, a great guy to do some of these things with would be wonderful. But, until we cross paths, I'm content and enjoying hanging out with me.

How about you? Do you enjoy your alone time? Are you good at making your own fun and enjoying your own company? If so, the experts say you're more of a natural attractor for love. Tell me your story!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Am I Ready to Date Again?

"How do I know when I'm over my wife's death and ready to date again?" was the question from the 70-something man at my recent "Dating in Midlife" seminar. My answer: "You'll know when you're ready because it won't feel strange to think about being emotionally intimate with someone new. And you will have completed all 5 stages of the grieving process."

Those are the stages outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, written to help terminally ill patients and their loved ones cope emotionally with their prognosis (more info on the stages is at: Over the ensuing 40+ years, the book has been used by therapists and grief counselors worldwide to help people move on after widowhood, divorce, relationship breakup, and even job layoff. Yet many grieving individuals are unaware of the 5 stages and/or have skipped one or more. Their head says they're over the loss, but their heart is still healing. 

As anyone who's gone through a heartbreak can attest, the heart takes much longer to heal than the head does. I know...because I've experienced the struggle of trying to stop thinking about a man I still loved even though I broke up with him. The head knew he wasn't right for me, but the heart wanted to hold on. I've also seen this with widowed friends. Two years after her husband's death from cancer, unstoppable tears are still triggered on his birthday or their anniversary. Nine years after his wife's sudden death, he still has everything in the house just as it was the day she died.

The elderly man at my seminar (just 9 months after the loss of his wife of 44 years) was possibly ready to meet some new people and date casually, but he probably wasn't yet ready to pledge his heart and soul to another woman. As dating coach Roy Biancanala of says, a person is ready for commitment when he's "not attached to someone else in any emotional, physical, legal, or logistical way." And, according to Biancanala, there are 3 signs a person is definitely not ready to commit:
1. He is not yet officially divorced.
2. He was divorced or widowed (or experienced a major breakup of a long-term relationship) less than a year ago.
3. He is still bitter, angry, or in drama with an ex-partner.

How about you? Are you struggling to finish grieving a relationship loss? Or are you truly ready to move forward and start fresh with someone new? If you think you might benefit from help from a grief counselor, I can refer you to one. Only when we clear out the past are we able we make way for the new.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We Must Heal From Past Love to Open to New Love

In my experience with both coaching and dating, I've found that one of the most-common reasons people can't attract healthy new relationships is that they haven't yet healed from an old one.

While navigating the 5 stages of grieving the loss of my last relationship, I've been soul-searching and struggling for ways to make the process easier and faster, even though I know I can't rush it. I have to take the time to sit with the feelings and gradually release the love I had for that my heart will be completely open to somebody new.

My roots as a writer date back to 1965 when, at age 12, I wrote my first poem. Since then, I've written poetry at times when I had deep emotions I needed to express. It was always a helpful, therapeutic release. This poem is what came out when I sat down this afternoon to express my feelings about the relationship I ended 3 months ago today:

Spirits from our past who won't move on
Thinking it comforts us to have them near

Lovers from our past we can't let go
Wishing we'd forget them yet paralyzed by fear

Attachments of the heart...stronger than time
Keep spirits trapped on earth, lovers drowned in tears

Your head said you'd grieved the sudden loss of your wife
But your heart won't release her and open to new love in your life

So she stayed by your side and pushed others away
You tried to love again but could not find a way

Then, not just your heart was broken; mine was too 
But I've now forgiven you for what you didn't intend to do

Perhaps one day she'll move forward and into the "Light"
But I am long gone, exhausted from that fight

We each had our ghosts we hoped to leave behind
so we could attract the love we'd been yearning to find

Peace to you, old friend, may your heart soon be free
of the spirit whose embrace kept you from loving me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Do Baby Boomer Men Resist Dating Older Women?

Just about every woman over 45 who hires me for dating coaching asks the same question: "Why won't men consider dating women around their age? They all seem to want women 10-15 years younger." And my reply is always the same: "If a man is attracted to you, your age isn't the #1 concern. Post a great photo of yourself on your profile and write to men you think are compatible with you. You'll be surprised at how many will write back, even if you're a few years older."

This has been true in my dating life. Of the 17 men I've had relationships with in the 41 years since my first love at age 19, 53% (9) have been younger, 23% (4) have been the same age, and 23% (4) have been older. My second husband was 43 when I met him at age 50, but there was a lot of commonality because we'd been divorced about the same length of time, our kids were similar ages, and we shared several hobbies. He told me age wasn't an issue for him; he just wanted to date someone he was attracted to and felt comfortable with.

I think this is generally true of most people in the dating world. When you meet in person rather than online, people don't know your age. So they chat with you if they feel attracted in some way...period. So why do midlife daters fixate so much on age?

Well, there are many reasons women tell me about. A common one is a preference for healthy men who won't need someone to take care of them; and they figure younger men are more likely to be healthy and energetic enough to want to go out and do things, travel, and enjoy life. The reasons men tell me they care about a woman's age is that younger women are prettier/sexier and more likely to look up to them and help them feel needed and important. These are generalities, of course. But some 2014 research seems to concur:

A recent article in Etc. Magazine cited OKCupid statistics that showed that 40-year-old men are most attracted to 21-year-old women, while 40-year-old women are most attracted to 38-year-old men. Quite an age gap! The website's studies showed that men in their mid-40s rarely messaged women over 30, and many of them continually date women 10 years younger. However, the data also showed that, eventually, their tactics started to fail, since the younger women they messaged rejected them by not writing back.

The result, the article said, is "a lot of 40-year-old men and women who find it hard to get a date." Sad, in my opinion, to let age be such an important factor in choosing dates. After all, it's really just a number. You're as young as you feel and act. I know a lot of women my age (60) who are in great shape, very active, sexy, healthy, fascinating, and fun. And I also know active men my age who are in good shape, dynamic, interesting, and on the go.

I'll admit that I shy away from men more than a year or two older than me because I've found over the years that men older than me were more likely to be sedentary and less interested in trying new things. However, the 4 men I did date who were older didn't fit that stereotype, so I now try to be more open minded about age. 

How about you? How has the age factor played out for you in the dating world? I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Biggest Mistakes Women Make When Dating

Women often blame themselves when things don't work out in the dating world--often to a fault. In such cases, I tell them to stop beating themselves up and sometimes even refer them to therapy for self-esteem building. On the other hand, sometimes it's true that women could have been smarter about dating. 

Steve Harvey, comedian, author, TV personality, and one of my favorite male writers on the topic of relationships (because he presents the man's perspective in a clear, easy-to-understand, lighthearted way), gets it right in my opinion on the biggest mistakes women make when dating:
1) They don't ask the right questions early on to find out if their date is compatible with them. Harvey says, that by date #3, a woman should have learned these 5 things about the man she's seeing:
- his short-term goals
- his long-term goals
- his views on relationships
- what he thinks about her
- what he feels about her 
2) They don't have clear standards and requirements in terms of what they want and need from men. Harvey says it's critical that a man know what it'll take to win a particular woman over, and she needs to tell him this directly. If she doesn't, she may allow herself to be disrespected, and no man is interested in a long-term partnership with a woman who doesn't respect herself.
3) Staying more than 6 months with a man who doesn't yet refer to her as his "girlfriend". According to Harvey, it takes far less time than that for a man to know if he sees himself with you long term. If, after 6 months, he's still introducing you to others as his "friend," he doesn't envision a future with you.
4) Getting intimate with a man before you know if he's right for you. As Harvey explains, if you sleep with a man too early, he won't respect you from then on because he believes you don't respect yourself and will let him get away with anything he wants. In other words, you have no dignity or confidence.
5) Letting him set the pace of the relationship instead of you. Harvey says a man who really likes you wants to please you and doesn't want you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. So it's important that you say no to anything he suggests that doesn't feel right for you. 
6) Not allowing him to provide for you and protect you. Letting him pay for the date, open doors, pull out chairs, and help you in whatever way he can are things men want to do for women...and that make them feel more like men. Today's independent woman needs to let a man be a man.
7) Ignoring warning signs that show he's not really into you. Harvey advises a woman to move onto someone else if the man she's dating:
- doesn't pay attention to her feelings
- lies to her repeatedly
- cheats on her or has cheated on others in the past
- doesn't show an interest in listening closely to what she's saying
8) Expecting her love to be returned in exactly the same way she gives it out. Harvey says that men show their love in different ways than women, mostly through actions rather than words.

As a 60-year-old woman who's twice divorced (as is Harvey), I find it helpful to hear dating tips from a guy who's learned from his mistakes and sincerely wants to spare women the pain of making similar ones themselves. And I have to admit I've made most of these mistakes in more than a few relationships. 

How about you? Do these 8 suggestions resonate with you? I'd love to hear your views!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Your Efforts to Understand the Opposite Sex Will Pay Off!

I just finished reading an excellent book called Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps: How we're different and what to do about it by Allan and Barbara Pease (published in 2000). What an eye opener!

The book describes the biological and evolutionary reasons for the differences between men and women in an entertaining, never clinical and boring, way. It goes far beyond the "cavemen were hunters; cavewomen were gatherers" thing we always hear. It calls men "lunch-chasers" and women "nest-defenders" and clearly explains that, because our modern brains are still wired that way, we differ in many essential ways we will never be able to change. 

Here are just a few of the hundreds of basic differences between men and women outlined in the book:

1) Men are stimulated through their eyes; women are stimulated through their ears.

2) Men want power, achievement, and sex; women want relationships, stability, and love.

3) A man's biological job is to find as many healthy females as possible and help them conceive to preserve the species; a woman's biological role is to bear children and find a partner who will stick around long enough to raise them. 

4) Men's sexual turn-ons are pornography, female nudity, sexual variety, lingerie, and the woman's availability; women's sexual turn-ons are romance, commitment, communication, intimacy, and nonsexual touching.

5) Men's private sexual fantasy is sex with a stranger; women's private sexual fantasy is sex in a public place.

6) Men solve their problems/handle their stress using internal talk and need peace and quiet to do that; women solve their problems/handle their stress using external talk and want others to talk with them. Unfortunately, both genders think the other is like them when, in truth, they are opposites.

Just by understanding these 6 biological facts and putting this knowledge into practice in their male-female relationships, I bet most of today's couples would find it a lot easier accept each other...and, as a result, would be a lot happier. What do you think?

P.S. I highly recommend picking up this book. You'll find it a fun & fascinating read that, I'm sure, will improve your relationships.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Chemistry" Is Much More Than Sexual Attraction

Ask single men or women the definition of "chemistry" and they'll usually say it's an instantaneous mutual physical attraction--feeling drawn to or warm toward someone. And they'll say it's mostly about that person's looks. Either the person is visually appealing to them or not.

I'm not so sure. My experience in over 40 years of dating and relationships, as well as studies done by social scientists, psychologists, and other experts I read, show that chemistry is about much more than a sexual "spark."

Webster's dictionary defines it as "a strong mutual attraction, attachment, or sympathy" (sympathy meaning an inclination to think or feel alike). Notice there's no mention of physical appearance. The true definition of chemistry involves two humans having similar thoughts and feelings, what I would call "a meeting of the minds and hearts." It's not just a physical reaction in your body or libido but about the impact that your heart and mind have on the body.

Think about this example: Haven't you, like me, had experiences where you weren't initially attracted to someone's body type but then noticed the flame of desire after he took your hand? Or you found yourself warming up to the person once you got talking? You agreed with his ideas and felt a kinship. He told you of his heartbreaks, and you empathized. He made you laugh, and you were compelled to hug him. He made great eye contact with you as you spoke, and you felt a really cool connection. It's hard to explain, but it happens naturally and organically and sometimes surprisingly as we share more conversation and laughter with other people...when we open up and reveal fears, insecurities, and other usually hidden truths.

You know how great it is, right? When you're invited and welcomed into someone's inner world and begin to feel a sense of belonging, like you're looking into a mirror and having your own thoughts and feelings reflected back? And soon you see that person (who initially wasn't your physical "type") with brand new eyes and in a whole new way.

They say the eyes are the "windows to the soul." So, if you're looking for a soulful connection with someone that's more than just skin deep, I recommend giving a fellow human the gift of eye contact. Listen with your heart. Notice the ways your minds mesh and the commonality of the wavelength you're each on. And then be open to the possibility of sparks flying. Don't overthink it or have any expectations. Let your heart lead the way.