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Janice D. Bennett

Janice D. Bennett

I am a psychologist and personal coach living in New York City, although I was born, raised and professionally trained in Los Angeles. After a long-distance courtship, I married my husband, Richard, 23 years ago, and we have 3 children.

Avoiding online pseudo intimacy

If you had initially met someone in person prior to becoming geographically separated, then you would have some foundation from which to build your relationship by staying in contact virtually. However, if you instead met someone online first, then you need to be aware of the potential that dating virtually, i.e., via the internet and telephone only, can lead to the creation of a “pseudo-intimacy.” So here are a few tips to help you get the most out of virtual dating prior to meeting in person.

After exchanging a few emails to determine if you want to pursue the relationship, I suggest that you graduate to talking on the telephone pretty quickly. Once you feel the relationship is progressing, it’s important that you discuss when you’re going to meet in person.

If meeting in person isn’t possible for a number of weeks or months, then I suggest that you make a schedule as to when, and for how long, you’ll talk on the phone. You can supplement your phone calls with email or instant messaging, as well as with snail (postal) mail. Attempt to discuss current events, rather than “what it’ll be like when we’re together,” or bemoaning your separate geographical fate. Creating and maintaining this type of structure over your virtual contact should help you to feel more in control and comfortable in a situation where there really is no structure.

Now I can better explain what I mean when I say that dating virtually can lead to a “pseudo-intimacy.” If you haven’t met in person, it’s difficult to know if the chemistry you feel over the phone has any basis in reality. After all, you really only have a picture and voice to go on! Unfortunately, the internet and the telephone lend themselves to create environments where it is easier to let down your defenses, and say things without knowing how your message “lands” on another person.

My advice to singles who meet virtually is to ALWAYS do whatever it takes to meet in person, and as soon as possible. This way, you give your feelings a chance to “check in” with your dating partner in the real world, which is where you’re going to live together eventually anyway, right?!

Dating online? The most important thing you need to know…

Having a great photo is the single most important thing you can do when dating online, so visit LookBetterOnline and find out why more than 98% of our customers get better dates, and see how we can help make your online dating experience successful and more fun than you thought possible!

The inside & outside of male-female friendships

Relationships with the opposite sex these days can be extremely complicated. How do you determine if someone is genuinely interested in you? Can a man and a woman be “just friends?” I’ve attempted to provide information and guidance to help relationship-oriented singles navigate their way around the opposite sex, as demonstrated by my answers to these questions.

Q. I just broke up with a guy I had been dating for nine months. We got along well on many levels, but realized that we couldn’t be “life partners.” So much of the relationship was good, but the arguing made it bad. While I’m willing to give up the sex and the hope for a future together, I don’t want to give up our friendship. We enjoy many of the same things and I would miss sharing them with him. Can’t we be “just friends” while I search for the guy who will be “Mr. Right?” Allyson

A. Maintaining a platonic relationship with someone you used to date is frequently the source of confusion and frustration. So much of your energy had been invested in this person, which makes severing only some of it very tricky. But if you really want to create a life partner relationship with someone who meets all of your needs, then I suggest it is best NOT to be friends with your “ex.”

Trying to maintain a friendship with someone with whom you had been physically intimate is especially challenging. That’s because sex is like “superglue” – it’s easy to get stuck, but extremely difficult to get unstuck.

Couples who have expressed their physical feelings with one another can easily succumb to the emotional triggers that sparked the intimacy to start with.

I suggest that you sever yourself from this failed relationship completely. Doing so will free up all of your energies – emotional, physical and intellectual – and allow you to explore a new relationship’s potential. Avoiding a “friendship” with your ex will prevent him (and your residual feelings for him) from distracting you from attaining your goal of attaining as gratifying relationship with Mr. Right.

Q. I recently met a guy at the gym. We both have been going for over a year, but only just *found* each other and began talking about two weeks ago. First just a minute of small talk, which expanded to on and off small talk each time we’d see each other (sometimes 2-3 times during the course of a workout). During the second week, we began to talk a lot more, usually between sets. He is always looking at me, and when I catch him, he looks away quickly, which makes me think that he likes me. One night we walked out together and talked for about 20 minutes by the locker rooms. The conversation seemed to go really well, but when there was a meaningful lull, I said, “Okay, well, I better go now” and he said, “If I don’t see you tomorrow, have a good weekend.” I know he was going away for the weekend, but still, I cannot imagine why he didn’t ask me out or for my phone number. I have made it clear that I like him, touching him when we talk, smiling, looking at him, etc. A mutual friend told me he’s not a player and takes it slowly with women because he’s a bit nervous. I can’t tell if he’s interested in me as more than a friend, and don’t know if I should ask him out. Can you help me with this? Tilly

A. I wish that I could tell you that this man is interested in you as more than a friend, but I can’t. All I have to go on is what you told me, and it does seem “promising.” However, if this guy does indeed have fears, then you risk making it worse by being direct and asking him out. And truthfully, I believe that the “laws of nature” dictate that men need to pursue women (which I wrote about previously). So, rather than asking him out yourself, you should instead find ways to make it easier for him to get to know you outside of the gym, and see that you’d be responsive to being pursued.

One time-tested idea is to invite him to a small party at your apartment with other, perhaps mutual, friends. Since you share an interest in being physically active, perhaps you could suggest some other exercise or sports-related activities that are done with a group, such as hiking, running or biking events that your gym, or other groups, might organize.

I also suggest that you consider utilizing your mutual friend to find out what his interest and intentions are. I believe that a third party can be a valuable resource and ally. She can subtlety let him know of your interest, and find out if it is mutual.

It may turn out that this man is not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with you and would prefer to be “just friends.” This is when you can model what that would look like. For example, you could say “Since my goal is to find a long-term, committed relationship, then I guess we’ll only be seeing each other at the gym.” And then you’ll need to make sure that your conversations between sets are brief so that don’t get distracted from attaining your goal of a fit body, and a committed relationship. Good luck!

Dating online? The most important thing you need to know…

Having a great photo is the single most important thing you can do when dating online, so visit LookBetterOnline and find out why more than 98% of our customers get better dates, and see how we can help make your online dating experience successful and more fun than you thought possible!

Your “Dating Road Map”

As a dating and relationship coach, I’ve provided solutions to singles’ dating problems as well as ways to think about your dating behaviors. Mostly, I’ve had you focus on the people you’re dating, giving you guidance and tools for determining if someone has the potential to be your “soulmate,” or life partner.

But it looks like this hasn’t been enough, because I still receive questions like: “Why can’t I meet the kind of women I want to date?” and “What’s wrong with me that I end up  dating men who don’t care about the same things I do?”

These types of questions are indicative of a problem in what is called the “attraction” phase of dating – making sure that once you are “ready” to date, you will attract the kind of people who can meet your needs and requirements in a relationship. Understanding what it takes to attract the kind of people you want to date will require creating what I call a “dating road map.”

What is a “dating road map?” It’s exactly that – a “map” or a plan for describing, finding and attracting the person you want for a life partner. Having a dating road map helps to guide you and to keep focused on your ultimate destination of attaining the relationship you want. The alternative? Well, you could choose to simply wait for Prince or Princess Charming to drop magically into your life.

Creating your dating road map starts with describing your “ideal mate.”  Your ideal mate will have a combination of qualities and characteristics that fit into one of two categories. The first of these categories consists of the enduring qualities — honesty, kindness, generosity, loyalty, trustworthiness and integrity. Included in this category are the interpersonal skills necessary to making and sustaining a committed relationship. These qualities are considered non-negotiable and mandatory.

The second category consists of your personal preferences: looks/beauty, intelligence, professional interests or occupation, financial stability or level of success, family background and involvement, hobbies, degree of religious involvement. These qualities can be more flexible and negotiable.

The next step in creating your dating road map is to describe yourself. Think about and ask yourself these questions: What are my strengths? What are my limitations? What do I have to give in a relationship? Think also about your goals in life– What is important to me? What is my life path? Knowing who you are and where you’re headed in life influences how you use your dating road map to search for, and especially attract, suitable candidates to date.

When your dating road map is ready – it has your vision of what you’re looking for, as well as an understanding of who you are and what’s important to you — your next goal is to reach your map’s destination. In other words — go out and find him or her! Unfortunately, this sounds easier said than done.

That’s why the next step involves comparing your two lists — the one describing your ideal mate, and the one describing yourself. Looking at the description of your ideal mate, begin to imagine what he or she would be looking for in a partner. Taking the perspective of the partner you want, ask yourself – “What would the person that I’m looking for, be looking for?”

I consider this a process of “qualifying” yourself for who you want to attract, and is an opportunity to “be who you want.” That’s because people frequently don’t realize that our relationships tend to mirror who we are on the inside. Regardless of what we say we want, we will generally attract a partner reflecting who we are and where we’re at in our lives.

This means that attracting the partner you want requires “qualifying” yourself by developing yourself and living the kind of life that you want now. While I agree that you may not be able to live your ideal life without a partner, you should still live your life to the fullest as a way of preparing to meet your eventual life partner.

So, knowing that who you are and where you’re at influences who you attract, the next question is obvious — what do you need to change, improve, or work on, in order to qualify to be the partner for the ideal mate you desire? Here are some examples of areas ripe for improvement:

Are you hoping for a spouse to rescue you from your boring and unstimulating job? Take a course now to help you find a more rewarding and gratifying career.

Eating junk food and take-out all of the time, saying that you’re waiting for a partner to cook healthy, gourmet meals for, or with, you? Enroll in a cooking class now to learn how to shop and cook yourself.

Feeling down because you’re not getting responses to the emails you’ve sent to profiles you’ve seen online? Combat those feelings now by joining and working out at a gym. You’ll feel better about yourself physically, and psychologically.

Following the part of your dating road map that’s more about you stops you from looking at others to change or be different to suit you. It also prevents you from blaming your misery on your single status. While the three examples I gave above were designed to empower you to grow and change, they were also ways to possibly meet others with similar goals — such as learning, cooking healthy, and exercising. By focusing on yourself and determining how to improve your chances of attracting the people you want to attract, you are preparing yourself, i.e., “qualifying” yourself, for the partner and relationship you want.

Dating can be filled with frustrating and ungratifying experiences. Creating a dating road map can be just the strategy you need to clarify your vision, and to help you feel more in control as you pursue a loving and fulfilling life partner relationship.

Dating online? The most important thing you need to know…

Having a great photo is the single most important thing you can do when dating online, so visit LookBetterOnline and find out why more than 98% of our customers get better dates, and see how we can help make your online dating experience successful and more fun than you thought possible!

© Copyright 2005 Janice D. Bennett, Ph.D.

Looking for love?

The complaint is well known: women meet men who want to have sex right away, even on the first date. How can a woman get a man to wait until she knows him better?

There are a few ways that this issue can be addressed, so I will be making two points: one will pertain to how a woman presents herself and behaves on a date, which is addressed specifically to women. In the second point I will address the sex and dating issue directly, which will be of benefit to women as well as men.

When I hear women complain that the only thing that men are interested in is sex, I try to get them to look at themselves first before casting all of the blame on men. For example, if you are dating online, what is the message that your profile conveys about you? Let’s start with your pictures: do you look smartly attractive in a variety of poses, or do your pictures instead exude sex with a “come hither” look? In your profile, how do you describe yourself, the men who interest you, and your ideal date? If it contains too many references to romance, this can be confused with wanting sex.

Before - After

Before – After

So be sure that your profile makes you sound appealing while simultaneously showing you as a woman of substance who is looking for a solid guy.

How do you behave while on the first date? It’s important that you act in a friendly, but not too flirtatious manner. Make sure that you are wearing attractive (but not too sexy) clothes and that your shade of lipstick doesn’t shout out “kiss me!” A man will respond to your lead if you start to touch him, so make sure that your gestures are meant to be friendly, not ones that would convey an interest in being grabbed and hotly pursued.

Even if a woman passes her own assessment of the cues and clues that she communicates, it’s important to remember just how powerful sex hormones can be. Since there is a natural biological basis to chemistry and attraction, it will call out to be gratified. Instead of going for instant gratification, I suggest that singles channel their experience of chemistry to concentrate on learning more about their dating partner-to determine if you share a similar life path, and see if s/he has the necessary enduring qualities essential for a creating a committed relationship. This kind of learning is best accomplished when you spend your time together asking questions, listening to answers, and paying attention to behaviors.

But what happens if you and your dating partner end up in “lip lock” and are headed towards the bedroom? Sure, you might “learn” a lot about each other, but not with the same objectivity had you kept your clothes on. So it’s important that you and your dating partner have the same answer to this question– what are you looking for in a relationship? Are you looking for love, or are you looking for sex?

If you are a man or a woman honestly searching for a life partner relationship, then this should not be a difficult question to answer. Many psychological and sociological studies have found that when people experience instant chemistry, and then act on it quickly by engaging in sex, there is a higher chance that the relationship will “crash & burn,” instead of becoming a lasting and loving partnership.

Relationships that last might have a strong chemical component in the beginning, and this can be a good thing! However, it’s not necessarily the only essential ingredient for creating a long-term relationship. Growing together has to “take root” in something more than chemistry since attraction, being biochemically based, can wax and wane. And experiencing chemistry with someone does not guarantee anything whatsoever in the future. Look instead to develop a friendship based in similar interests, values, priorities and life goals. These are the qualities that will contribute to creating a loving relationship that lasts.

“I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for love in too many faces. Searching their eyes, looking for traces of what I’m dreaming of. Hoping to find a friend and a lover, I’ll bless the day I discover another heart, looking for love.” “Looking for Love,” song lyrics by Johnny Lee.

Dating online? The most important thing you need to know…

Having a great photo is the single most important thing you can do when dating online, so visit LookBetterOnline and find out why more than 98% of our customers get better dates, and see how we can help make your online dating experience successful and more fun than you thought possible!

It’s history

Over the years, singles have asked me if they should disclose their relationship history with their dating partners. While some of this information may be important for a potential partner to know, there are a few guidelines that I recommend before deciding to “bare all.”

Dear Dr. Love Coach, I am about to propose to a woman I’ve known for 15 years. We were friends in college, married other people, but now both of us are divorced. What I’m wondering is this — Is it proper for me to ask about her past relationships and/or sex life ? If so, what types of questions are okay? George

Dear George, I’m a little surprised that you’re asking for permission to inquire into your girlfriend’s relationship history this late in the game. My question to you is this — What difference would it make if you had this information? My hope is that the answer would be “not much.” So is it “proper” for you to ask about her past relationships and/or sex life? At this point, I’d have to say “no,” yet with a caveat.

Before you propose, you can ask her if there is anything in her relationship history, or something that she learned in a previous relationship, that she thinks would be important for you to know. An example might be, “Well, my previous husband refused to help around the house which was a big source of arguments between us. So I need you to know that making the effort to keep things tidy is very important to me.”

Basically, the focus needs to be on sharing historical information that would have potential relevance in your current relationship. I get concerned when I hear about singles engaging in long conversations with a potential dating partner about what led to the destruction of their previous relationships. And sometimes they haven’t even met yet!

When singles talk about their past relationship failures, they shift the focus off of building a present, and possibily even a future, with another person. Instead, the focus can shift to seeing your dating partner as someone who is inherently rejectable. In a previous article, “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions,” I stressed the importance of remaining vigilant while dating to NOT talk about past relationship failures.

But if you do feel the need to disclose aspects of your relationship history, then you should do so by emphasizing what you learned, not just about yourself, but about the kind of relationship you ultimately want.

Asking for a sexual history though is a bit more complicated. I think it’s best to be sure that both of you get tested not just for any sexually transmitted diseases, but for genetically transmitted diseases as well. The results should provide you with enough relevant information to spark a conversation about moving the relationship forward, or not.

If you have been dating “consciously” all along, then you probably have already listened carefully to what your dating partner has said, and paid close attention to her many behaviors, to have determined that she is a good candidate for your life partner. Remember though, people do grow and change over time. The decision to propose should ideally be based on the knowledge that you’ve accumulated while in an exclusive relationship. Giving more credence to historical information will not necessarily move you forward — it will just keep you in the past.

Dating online? The most important thing you need to know…

Having a great photo is the single most important thing you can do when dating online, so visit LookBetterOnline and find out why more than 98% of our customers get better dates, and see how we can help make your online dating experience successful and more fun than you thought possible!