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Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman, MSW is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach with over 20 years of experience helping singles and couples achieve their relationship goals. As a recognized expert, Toni has been quoted in many local and national publications including: The Chicago Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel newspapers and Family Circle, Woman's Day, Cosmo Style, Star, and Nirvana magazines. She has been featured on ABC News (abcnews.com); Discovery Health Channel (discovery.com); AOL Online (aolnews.com); Global Internet radio (planetearthradio.com); and (The Larry Elder show) (larryelder.warnerbros.com.) As a weekly contributing commentator on the KTRS Radio Morning Show, (St. Louis, MO), Toni offers dating tips and relationship advice in response to listener feedback.

Going solo on Valentine’s day – Advice for singles

The stores are decorated in candy hearts, flowers and bears. Every TV or radio commercial reminds you that it’s time to remember your sweetheart on this special day for lovers. Your feelings range from sadness, to revulsion to anger. What’s a single person to do? The following suggestions are designed to both answer that question and to help you have a good day after all, while working to make it your last solo one.

1. Celebrate the day by planning an activity that is meaningful and enjoyable to you

Choose something that provides you with a special treat. Go to a day spa for “the works”, plan an intimate dinner for 3 or 4, go ice-skating or to the movies with a fun friend, or go out to dinner and a movie with a group of other singles. Focus on what you enjoy and make a conscious decision about how to mark the day. Un-Valentines Day parties are very popular and can be a lot of silly fun. You can attend one or throw one of your own.

2. Design a relationship-building plan for 2003

Let the holiday provide you with the motivation to take risks, try new ideas and gain the knowledge that will enable you to find and create a lasting, intimate relationship.

  • Sit down at the computer or with pen and paper in hand and get your plan written down.
  • Begin by making a list of resources that can be used to help you meet available singles. These can include: on-line dating sites, singles groups, volunteer activities, or participation in sports or other activities that you enjoy.
  • Decide when and how often you will participate in any activity you have chosen. *Make a budget for both time and available funds for this purpose.
  • Do your homework and research each resource so the information will be available when you need it.

3. Review those resolutions you made, or make some if you haven’t yet

Think about what is really important to you. Remind yourself that implementing and sticking to these will help ensure that you are really ready for that special relationship. Being the kind of person you want to be with is the first step. Begin with concrete goals. For example: stick with a healthy diet, exercise three times a week, plan one organizational task per week, etc. Taking care of yourself and living well, will optimize your chances for relationship success. Start today.

4. Work to eliminate negative thinking

When a negative thought comes into your mind, take a moment to think about what is beneath it. Then, tell yourself that thinking this way is not good for you. Make a decision to drop the thought and try to think of something (anything) that is positive. It can be as simple as focusing on what a beautiful day it is outside, to feeling grateful that you survived the current wave of lay-offs in your company. Use this technique for situations as well. Ask yourself how you can view the situation differently. Try to find one positive angle or outcome that could result from an otherwise bad situation. For example, you are being laid off from your job. You have been unhappy for a long time, but could not motivate yourself to do anything about it. Now, you have the motivation to look for a new job, or perhaps change careers. Think of all the possibilities that could open up for you.

Negative thinking is a downward spiral that leads to negative behavior and possibly depression. Consciously choose to challenge these thoughts, and empower yourself with a more positive outlook and approach to life.

Hopefully these tips will assist you in having a better “solo” Valentine’s Day than you might have been headed for. Enjoy the day by doing something fun. Then focus on your relationship plan and empower yourself to build the healthy, lasting relationship of your dreams.

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!

Women and Bad Boys – What is the attraction?

“Bad Boys”.

If you’re a woman, you may be saying “hmmm” as you hear these words. You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t help yourself.

There is just SOMETHING about these guys that draws you in, even as your head tells you to “beware”! So, what exactly is the attraction? It’s not necessarily that they are more physically attractive or smarter or more successful than the “nice guys”. In fact, they can have fewer of these qualities, yet be harder to resist.

So what is it? Let’s begin by defining these guys. This term is generally applied to males who treat women poorly. Do these behaviors ring a bell?

  • calling at 8:30 on a Saturday night to ask if you want to get together
  • not showing up for a date- followed by no phone call or apology
  • never having any money when you are out
  • forgetting or ignoring your birthday and other important dates
  • flirting openly with other women when you are together
  • hitting on your good friend(s)
  • making booty calls at 1am, after they’ve had a night out with others
  • is doing time for a serious felony

Instead of asking “what is it about these guys”; let’s instead examine what it is about the women who can’t resist them. The following are actual statements from women who have a history of attraction to these guys. See if any of these sound familiar.

  • “It’s never BORING with him. He’s unpredictable and exciting.”
  • “He’s strong, aggressive and self-assured; I feel safe with him.”
  • “It’s not his fault; he’s trying to get his life together.”
  • “I haven’t met anyone else that makes me feel the way he does.”
  • “He’s so charming and passionate.”
  • “He tells me how much he likes me, so he must really feel something for me.”
  • “He needs me.”
  • “He doesn’t come across as needy and desperate.”
  • “I can’t believe I’ve attracted someone like him.”

Now, on the face of these, they seem pretty benign. We all seek at least some of these traits in the men we choose. So, where’s the problem?

Essentially it’s in his inability to meet the woman’s fundamental needs. She is the one doing all (or most) of the giving. The question then lies in; “what’s in it for her?”

The answer can be found by exploring three basic issues:

  • level of self-esteem
  • capacity for intimacy
  • roles that she has been in throughout her life

If a woman feels good about herself, she chooses a mate who communicates both verbally and non-verbally to her that she is valued and respected. She won’t allow this other person to undermine her positive self-worth. She believes in her ability to participate in a healthy, reciprocal relationship.

If she doesn’t feel good about herself, she chooses someone who reinforces her negative self-beliefs.

If a woman is capable of true intimacy, she is open to the true availability of the other person. She wants him to be a full and active participant in the relationship. She can allow herself to be open, vulnerable and able to take as well as to receive all that true intimacy offers.

If intimacy is difficult, she choose someone who is distant, hard to connect with and not emotionally and/or physically available.

If a woman has had a healthy role in her relationships since childhood, she will choose someone with whom she can continue this healthy interaction.

If a woman has been too long in the role of rescuer, caregiver or the one who sacrifices for the good of others, this will probably be the role she will seek out in her relationships.

Fortunately, most women fall somewhere in between on these issues. So the task is to evaluate yourself in each area and decide on a course of action that will help you to choose a “nice guy”, who stirs your senses and meets your needs while being truly available for a real relationship.

Begin with an assessment of what you value most in life and cannot live without. Once you know what is most important to you and believe that you are worthy of achieving it, you will have taken a giant step towards finding the right partner for you.

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!

Ten tips for setting (and keeping) life changing resolutions

It’s time for that annual ritual of making (and breaking) our New Year’s resolutions. There is something about the idea of being able to start over that motivates us to pause (at least briefly) and reflect on our lives as they are, as well as how we would like them to be. Yet how many times have you thought back to last year’s goals and found that many or most of them were abandoned or just forgotten after a few weeks or months into the year?

Many of us have difficulty following through on our resolutions due to factors such as choosing unrealistic goals, not making them challenging enough and/or lacking the necessary motivation to stick with them.

The following tips should help put you on the right course and assist you in staying committed to your most important goals for 2003.

  1. Start with a life vision
    If you don’t know what you want your future to look like, how can you decide what areas of your life need to be worked on? Spend some quiet time TODAY reflecting on (and writing down) what is good, bad or incomplete. Then try to “see” your life if all of these areas were addressed and had become satisfactory to you.
  2. Get organized
    Clear away clutter. Go through paperwork, files, old bills and receipts, closets, drawers and storage containers. Decide what you need and will use and either throw out or give away all the rest. Put aside some time each week for this purpose. After you have cleaned out you can think about your existing systems for management and storage and see if these need reworking or just some fine-tuning. Keep ONE calendar to record all appointments, events, etc. Write down everything- don’t rely on memory.
  3. Expand your horizons and make a commitment to learning something new.
    Challenging yourself will infuse you with greater energy and sense of purpose. It will help build your self-esteem to realize you really are capable of more than you had previously believed. This new learning can also give you additional resources to assist you in your career, personal or love life.
  4. Set challenging but realistic resolutions
    Choose goals that stretch your ability muscles, yet are realistic and therefore less vulnerable to failure. Don’t respond to that negative inner voice that says; “oh, I’m not capable of that”. Instead, focus on what you truly desire for your life and relationships and let this be your guide.
  5. Write down your resolutions
    Write them down and stick them on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, your car dashboard, your desk or wherever you know will be a good place for you to see them. You can also show them to a good friend, family member, your coach or anyone who could provide support and encouragement.
  6. Create action steps for each resolution; write them down, and keep an accounting of your progress for each.
    A resolution without planned action is doomed to failure. Break each goal down into small action steps or objectives. Putting a date for completion will help ensure you follow through. Come up with an accountability system that will work for you. Make sure you check off each accomplishment as you go and be flexible and willing to make adjustments in your action steps in order to achieve your desired end results.
  7. Take care of yourself; eat well. Exercise regularly and learn to control and eliminate unhealthy stress.
    I know this is an obvious one, so why is it often ignored or overlooked when we are attempting to make important life changes? How many times have you said, “I don’t have the time” to eat right, exercise, sleep adequately, etc? Not caring for yourself will guarantee failure. So, why not make this your first and most important resolution for 2003?
  8. Work to eliminate bad habits
    Including this as a New Year’s resolution would put you on the road to good follow-through. Bad habits will sabotage your efforts and use up your limited resources of time, energy and focus. For each bad habit you decide to eliminate, have a good habit in mind to replace it with.
  9. Set appropriate and healthy limits in all areas of your life
    Knowing your limits and enforcing them with yourself and others is a prerequisite to a healthy life and relationship. Learn to say “no” and “enough” and be firm in your resolve that this is a good thing to do. Otherwise, you will also be undermining your resolution to take care of yourself.
  10. Work to be the kind of person you want to be with
    Bringing out the best qualities in yourself will help to ensure that you attract people of good quality into your life. You wouldn’t want to compromise on the standards you have set for a potential mate. Therefore, it’s important to understand that this also holds true for other people in search of relationships.

Now begin this year with the resolve to be the person you know you have the potential to be. You’ll be pleased with the wonderful changes that await you!

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!

Are you (or are you with) a commitment-phobe?

We hear it all the time. “He just won’t make a commitment.” “She just wants some space right now.” “I’m not sure if I’m ready for a serious relationship.”

What does having a fear of commitment really mean? Actually, it means basically what it says. For SOME reason you, or someone you are involved with, isn’t ready to take this relationship (or any relationship) to the next step.

So how do we know if we or our (hoped for) partner are truly afraid of commitment? How do we know that it’s not something else? Is there any real difference between these two anyway?

Do these excuses sound familiar? “I’m just under a lot of stress right now.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I can’t focus on a relationship right now because of my overloaded schedule.”

Very often, we want to accept these reasons because we fear the real truth. Other times, we are just very confused by our feelings and the often mixed messages from the other person.

So, how do we evaluate our ability to make a long-term commitment? How do we know if he/she is really ready or willing?

There are only two real issues here to examine.

The first issue involves looking at a true fear of commitment itself. If this is the problem it’s important for the person with this fear to ask themselves a few key questions.

  • Are you concerned about the idea of forever?
  • Do you fear you could make a mistake in who you choose?
  • Do you fear a loss of your freedom/autonomy?
  • Are you afraid of a bad marriage–like your parents for instance
  • Do you fear you would be a bad mate?

If you answered yes to any of these, it would be a good idea to begin working to understand where these feelings come from. Once you understand them better, you can choose to address them. Perhaps you need more time or emotional growth before you consider making a long-term commitment. Greater self-knowledge will help you to overcome this block to building a lasting and satisfying relationship.

The second issue is the inability to make a commitment to a PARTICULAR relationship. This may not be the right one. Perhaps there is a sense of this but it is written off to being a “commitment-phobe” in general.

Focus on the true level of involvement with each other. Is there a genuine connection? Or is there a vague feeling of something missing? Evaluate the quality of your intimate relating. This does not mean how often (or even how good) the sex is. This is about how open, sharing and real you are in your interactions with each other.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • It seems like we are only killing time?
  • He/she doesn’t seem to want what I want.
  • We seem to be off and on in our level of contact/affection.
  • I/they are still not over a past relationship.
  • I/they just don’t seem to know what I/they want.

Remember to focus on the involvement or lack thereof between you. If either person is disengaged in any way, it’s time to address the real issue of; “Is this the right relationship for us?”

Exploring your ability to make a lasting commitment should be a first step in your plan for building a healthy and lasting 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!

Happiness and the single person – Changing myth into reality

Does the expression “single and happy” sound like an oxymoron to you? Are you weary of others (especially other singles) reinforcing the belief that singles can’t be happy? Do you find yourself always planning for the future or putting things off until you “are married and settled? Do you often have a sense that the intense feelings of happiness and joy can’t really be experienced unless you “have someone to share it with?” Do you just feel there is not enough time and other necessary resources available to the single person to pursue experiences that can bring true happiness?

If the above resonates in your gut, don’t despair. The following tips will offer ways to help you experience your present reality differently through changing behavior that is based on those negative (false) beliefs. Essentially, these tips will offer advice on how to live a joyful, fulfilling and balanced single life, which will also assist you in achieving a healthy, long-term, intimate relationship.

Seek self-fulfillment as an individual

Place emphasis on being truly alive and experiencing the things that bring you true pleasure. Don’t let the feelings of peace and wonder slip from your life as you wait to share (beautiful sunsets) and other gifts of life with a future partner.

Don’t place your focus on “getting there”

Instead, learn to experience the journey of life. If you can only see the goal of a relationship – marriage, home, children, etc., you will not enjoy the experiences along life’s way. A good analogy for this is that of a person who bikes and sets (ie), a 40-mile goal for the day. They plan and prepare and off they go. The trip consists of thoughts about getting there, watching for problems in the road ahead, measuring the distance and looking forward to the sense of relief and accomplishment when the goal is met.

What about the sensory experiences missed along the way? This biker will not see the way the sun is reflecting on the river. They won’t hear the sounds of the birds and other wildlife in the parallel world around them. The smells of fresh vegetation, moist soil and spring-drenched air will not reach their awareness. It’s doubtful their mind will trip and play with thoughts of other (perhaps childhood) days like this. In other words, they won’t be IN the experience, just racing through it, and missing the magic available all around them.

Don’t put off important life decisions while waiting for that special someone

If your desire is to own your own home, work towards achieving this now. Yes, it may be smaller than if you had a partner to share it with. Your list of must-haves with this first home may be different (as yours alone) than they would be if you were looking for a family.When that time comes, you can make the decision to remain there for a time, or sell/rent out your first place. In the meantime, you will have an investment that you can make into something that meets your needs now for comfortable and secure living. It will add stability and be a wonderful help at tax time. If you are thinking about making a career change or going back to school for a degree, there is no better time than now. Yes, this may involve re-working priorities, moving, giving up some income, etc. If this is something you have decided you want for your life, delaying it until you are settled in a relationship may make it impossible to achieve. Make that move now. Don’t let this time in your life be placed on hold as you wait for things to happen in your life, instead of working to make them become reality.

Pamper yourself

Do nice things for yourself now that you have been putting off until… Go ahead and take that trip to the exotic place you have always wanted to visit. You can return there someday with your special someone.

Make it a habit to set the table for your dinner (for one). Use nice china and candles. Treat yourself as deserving of the things couples routinely provide to themselves as a unit. Ask yourself, am I less deserving because I’m single?

Put care and love into how you decorate your home. It does not have to cost a lot of money or become another chore to accomplish this. Make it a comfortable nest and retreat from the world. You and your future mate can decide together what to keep, change or add to.

Make a plan, not excuses

Make time for the things that matter. Don’t let your job or other responsibilities take over your life. Set those priorities. Set limits on work and other functional tasks. We often cite work as our best excuse for not attending to our other needs and wants. This may mean making less money or not moving up as fast in the organization. Without balance, there will be deficits in the emotional, spiritual, and social and leisure areas of your life.

Write down your must haves

Take time out each day for unwinding and relaxation. Keep a weekly inventory of how you are doing and make adjustments as necessary. Learn how to productively “waste time”. Turn off the blackberry and TV. Spend time alone with your thoughts. Reflect on your feelings and your life.

This is the season for new beginnings. Let this spring be your time for learning how to be truly happy and at peace within yourself. Immerse your senses in the many joys that the world around you has to offer. Don’t shut out the beauty and happiness that is available to everyone, regardless of their relationship status.

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!

What went wrong? When relationships go from hot to cold

Everything was great. We had been dating for 6 months. We shared the same interests, felt very at ease together, had (often) discussed future plans and had even spent some of the holidays together. Our relationship seemed right on track and just right in general. Then, without warning, he said he “needs some time to think and figure things out.” He stopped calling and rarely returned my calls. When he did, I was often met with silence on the other end of the line. When I asked “what happened”, I just got a verbal run around of excuses about how busy he is and/or how much stress he is under right now. What happened? What did I do? I don’t know what to think.

Does the above scenario sound at all familiar? If so, you can relate to being confused and stunned over the sudden change in a boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s behavior. Now think about this – What if your relationship wasn’t what you thought it was? What if unspoken issues had existed all along? What if there were signs you chose to ignore or just didn’t see? Are any of these possible? Probably.

This sudden change in a couple’s relationship is reported quite a bit by individuals who have just broken up with a significant other. Unfortunately, it leaves the person who has been “dumped” with feelings of low self-esteem, regret, inadequacy and anger. There is often no real closure, as the couple is never able (willing) to talk through what went wrong or was never right with their relationship.

So, how can you know what the problem was and hope to avoid a repeat of this hurtful experience? You can do this by examining your failed relationship and gaining insight and understanding about what just wasn’t right between you. In order to assist you with this; I am providing a basic framework of the relationship stages a couple must pass through TOGETHER in order to get to a place of shared intimacy and commitment. If either person’s feelings change before, during or after one of these stages; it is not necessarily the “fault” of the other individual. It is simply a statement about the individuals’ rightness (or not) for each other. It is also a reflection of each individual’s relationship readiness and ability to handle long-term, committed intimacy.

How an individual handles their changing feelings and resultant behavior toward the other is a subject for another article. Relationships have stages. We have all read articles and books by authors who have come up with their own unique number or names for these. I will try to take a very basic approach to this and keep it simple and as universal as possible.

Attraction

This is the first stage. It is physical, intellectual and emotional – on a very surface level. Girl sees boy and vice versa. They flirt, talk and get a very basic sense of the other. They are usually responding to a physical pull. He/she is cute, funny, charming, interesting to talk to, etc. Without attraction, first dates wouldn’t happen. It can therefore be assumed that the other person finds us attractive if we have gotten to a first date.

In a way, this is the easy one. We are unknowns to each other. Things progress from this point or they do not. Hurt feelings are minimal. We usually chalk up rejection to; “I’m not his type”. There is no need to analyze or wonder what went wrong.

If both people feel a strong enough level of attraction continues to exist after a few dates, they usually move along to stage two. However, if one finds the other has unattractive characteristics or behaviors, this can lead to an abrupt change in the relationship. Remember, these behaviors or characteristics would be ones that would manifest in the very early stage of dating. Some examples: frequently late, never offers to pay, dresses or grooms sloppily, rude to waitress, etc.

Romantic Relating

In this second stage, couples begin to test out the idea of themselves as a unit. Dating is no longer brand new. It is more comfortable and predictable. Sharing romantic dinners and exciting special interests are typical dates during this new and fun time in a growing relationship. During this stage, flowers are given for no special reason and loving cards are slipped back and forth with words like “thinking of you”. It’s a happy carefree time, when lovers tend to idealize, romanticize and overlook that which can be right in front of them. The relationship seems effortless and spontaneous. Affection is shared openly and frequently. One’s partner seems perfect. There is rarely conflict during this period. The partners often share the unrealistic belief that their relationship is so special and unique that it will always stay this way.

This stage can last from three or four months up to more than a year. It is actually the shortest stage that any long-term relationship goes through. It is also the one we wish we could hold on to forever and long for when it is gone. This is the stage that love poems speak about. It is also believed (falsely) by many that this is what long-term committed love will always be like. Many relationships begin to stumble at the end of this period. For that is when reality begins to set in. As partners begin to experience some disagreement, conflict and/or shared challenges- the relationship shifts as do the dynamics between the partners.

Though many relationships move past this stage, a number do not. Why? There are many reasons. These can include:

  • lack of readiness for the challenges of the next stage
  • issues with commitment and fidelity
  • immature beliefs about what relationships should be
  • being stuck on an idealized, romanticized notion of love

If one of the partners is not ready for a less than perfect and more demanding stage of love, they will exhibit this in their behavior, language and overall level of openness and availability towards the other. This is when the couple begins to think more seriously of a future with each other. The focus tends to be; how well do we get along, do we share similar interests and do I want to date this person exclusively?

Growth Through Negotiation

This is a very challenging and growing time in all relationship building. Reality comes into play as the couple settles into the comfort and predictability of their togetherness. Little issues can become blown-up into large conflicts. The individuals begin to compete for their share of control and their place in this growing union. Differences can become highlighted instead of minimized. This is often the period when couples experience their first fight. Hurt feelings can occur as that once loving and completely accepting other person airs a criticism or voices annoyance or concern. Often, the individuals believe it is the other person who needs to change.

This is where the need for (or lack of) communication, problem-solving and negotiating skills becomes apparent. For without an adequate measure of these, disagreements can break down into screaming matches where insults and recriminations are fired like missiles. If the individuals can listen, be supportive of each other’s feelings, compromise and not lay blame, they have a good chance of working through this stage and achieving a true intimacy. This does not mean they will share all the same beliefs and opinions or that they will necessarily even like the other’s view. However, having and showing respect is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

Not only will relationships fail without these relationship-building strengths, they can also abruptly end if one of the partners decides that they don’t feel the same way about this person in their less than idealized state. The reality may not be to their liking or just something they are not ready for in general. Either way, they will pull back, present differently or disappear without warning. How they handle their changing feelings is further information about their level of relationship readiness and maturity in general.

Intimacy

Intimacy is the reward that is gained when a couple has successfully worked through the difficult last stage of negotiation. It is almost like a new coming together with much greater self (and other) awareness. This new information can work to solidify the union or give one of both individuals enough new information about the other to require a reassessment of their desire to remain together. Each person looks at the other in their (naked) state and asks; “Is this the person I want to be with?” Here their individual differences are highlighted. The early romantic haze has cleared. What they have to offer to each other and to a future life together comes into play.

This is a time when couples often begin to contemplate each other’s attributes in a more practical way. They look at the other’s strengths and weaknesses. They evaluate each other’s potential as a future spouse, parent, provider, caregiver, partner, etc.

Relationships can be tested more during this time. Infidelity is one dysfunctional way that some individuals do this. Often, this leads to the end of the relationship.

When differences can be seen, aired and accepted, the couple has a good chance of moving on together from this place. Essentially, they have decided they want to be with the other, warts and all. When the behavior of one or both partners change, it is generally because they have made a conscious or unconscious decision regarding the wrongness of the other for them or for the type of relationship they seek.

Commitment

This is the final stage of relationship building. Once individuals have reached this place, they are ready to cement their bond. While much growth and work will lay ahead in a future life together, they are ready to begin this life soon.

New challenges arise during each stage, and will happen here as well. However, if the couple has successfully worked through the previous stages, they should have many of the tools they need. The external problems and pressures that come with life will test their resolve and commitment over the years. They may need to reassess, re-negotiate and renew their feelings and commitment. Fortunately, they will be in possession of the basic tools required. If they choose well to begin with, they should be successful.

As you evaluate your failed relationship, note the stage you were in when the change occurred. Chances are that the necessary level of readiness and maturity was not present in one or both of you. Perhaps one of you decided that this is not the kind of partner or relationship I am seeking. This new information and insight should help you to choose a future partner who is better suited to you and desirous of the same kind of relationship that you are.

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!

Why not averange Joe? Exploring Melana’s Choice

Admit it. You snickered, rolled your eyes and laughed out loud as the group of “Average Joes” filed out of their bus to meet Melana that first night. You probably thought “no way” as you settled in for a soap about a beautiful girl’s rejection of the geeks. Indeed, Melana herself stated, “Someone is messing with my head”, as the next “average” guy stepped down to meet her.

However, in the episodes that followed, there was bonding, friendship and attraction between Melana and a number of the guys. It actually began to look as though she was falling for at least one or two of them. Then came the twist. The “gorgeous” guys were sent in to challenge the Joes and test Melana’s ability to see past the surface and choose based on what each man had to offer as a total package.

At that point, what were you thinking? Who was your front-runner? Did you think it possible that the bonds that had been formed would be strong enough to hold Melana’s attention- and heart? I’m guessing that many people did. I know a lot of people were routing for Adam or Zack.

So, what happened? In the days that followed the final episode, virtually all of the commentary centered on a very basic and “simple” explanation of Melana’s choice. They all said it was about “looks”.

While I agree that physical attraction played a significant role, I believe Melana’s choice involved more than this. How we choose has to do with many things. These include:

  • physical attraction
  • shared interests
  • social compatibility and friendship
  • intellectual compatibility
  • ability to communicate
  • basic values
  • level of self-knowledge
  • level of maturity and dating experience
  • personal and family goals

I am going to do a brief examination of how these played a role in Melana’s final decision. Follow along with me and think about how these factors come into play in your meeting and dating life. Perhaps Melana’s public struggle with these can provide some valuable insights into how you choose potential partners and assist you in your desire to make the best (and healthiest) choice for you.

Let me begin by stating an obvious point that we are all aware of. The circumstances and setting of the meeting and dating that takes place on a “reality” show have little resemblance to the real world of dating. Dates are chosen, as is the person who will be doing the choosing. They are sequestered in a beautiful, romantic place where all their physical needs are attended to and everyone can present themselves in their best light. The real world of money, time, energy and the need for making dating plans are all handled by professionals who go “all out”. Even though the contestants spend weeks together, they are not confronted with the real life issues that singles in the dating world must deal with. Therefore, the circumstances are idyllic. This has pros and cons. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what these are. The major plus is that everyone can present himself or herself “equally”. The major drawback is that each relationship is limited to this fantasy existence, and there is no opportunity to see each other deal with the day-to-day challenges of real life.

Stepping back into the episodes prior to the inclusion of the “hunks”, can you recall the great dates that Melana had with the guys? The group dates were full of laughs and bonding on a friendship level. We all enjoyed watching Dennis get to the top and see the support and caring that were shown towards him. With each week, Melana discussed and demonstrated the attractions she was forming with different guys on different levels. A few rose to the front of the line as she eliminated based on not just looks, but on the “connection” she felt with each. Indeed, she used this word a lot. This connection was formed by the elements of:

  • social compatibility and friendship
  • ability to relate
  • comfort level
  • basic attraction

Just prior to the twist episode, Adam and Zack seemed to be the front-runners. In their individual dates, they were able to get to a deeper level of communication. Personality issues arose. There was discussion centering on likes, dislikes, attitudes and some of their own personal and family history. They began to get a sense of each other’s basic values and goals. Their ability to relate verbally and intellectually started to come into play.

At this point, Adam seemed a strong front-runner. Do you remember what qualities Melana highlighted as she discussed her feelings about him? “He’s funny, down-to-earth, smart, liked by everyone, and just a great guy.” Do you remember their first “passionate” kiss, and how surprised Melana was at what a great kisser Adam is? We have to wonder why she was so surprised. Perhaps because he didn’t look like the type? But he clearly was. It appeared that Melana was forming a strong bond with him that included all of the elements that love requires- including physical attraction.

So what happened?

Enter the hunks. Do you remember Melana’s face as they were brought into the room? Pleased would be a good description. Her physical attraction to them was obvious and strong. She used words like “handsome, great body, too pretty”, to describe them. Still, she was drawn to Adam.

As the show went on, Melana had individual dates. She decided to go out with the new guys to give them a chance. She eliminated Zack, to whom she had admitted having a strong physical attraction for, while being unsure about his other attributes.

Towards the end, it was Adam vs Jason. Who would she choose and why? Clearly, the way Jason looked was a major factor in his staying on. However, Melana also talked about her comfort with him and the ease she felt in their ability to communicate. Melana also rated their physical intimacy as great. Indeed the scenes shown from their dates demonstrated a strong chemistry. Melana was very drawn to him. But what about Adam?

Do you remember how Melana showed mixed feelings on her second to last date with Adam? She expressed that she felt conflicted. Adam was hurt and said so. Even so, they were able to go on with the date and have a pretty good time. On their last date, there seemed to be a real bond. Melana got a lot more information about Adam. He is successful, hard working, has many close friends and healthy family relationships. Clearly, she was impressed and drawn to all of these traits. But not enough….

So why her final choice? Melana found friendship, good communication, compatibility, mutual respect, comfort and attraction with Adam. She also found these with Jason. In addition, there was a STRONGER physical attraction. Remember her words, “look at him, who could resist that face.”

The answer for her final decision? I can only speculate here. However I believe it had to do with her level of maturity and self-knowledge. Someone with greater self-awareness, a strong handle on their life goals and a level of maturity that teaches us that looks fade while other attributes become stronger over time; may very well have chosen Adam. Instead, Melana appeared to have succumbed to the immediate passions of the here and now, instead of looking ahead to who would be the best choice for husband, father and partner in the future and sometimes harrowing journey of commitment, marriage and family life.

I read with interest that Melana and Jason’s “relationship” appeared to be over after their return from their final fantasy date. I was not at all surprised. One can only guess what went on. I think a good guess is that they got to know each other better without the pressure and competition that had come before. Perhaps Melana began to see that along with his sweetness, Jason had a strong passivity towards life, whereas Adam strove for achievement through hard work and determination. Jason seemed to be in need of time and maturity before he would be able to move towards an intimate and committed relationship and the responsibilities and challenges that come with it.

No one but Jason and Melana will ever know for sure. I just can’t help but wonder if she will regret her decision and wish she had been older and wiser when she was asked to make it.

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and ideas regarding Melana and her choice of Jason. If you’d like to express them, please go to http://www.consum-mate.com to contact me.

Lonliness and the single, urban dweller

It’s Friday night. You arrive home late and exhausted from another week of demanding, stressful work and long hours that have left you no time for even thinking about the week-end, let alone planning for it. So, here you are, tired, alone and already anticipating the boredom, isolation and catch-up errands and housework that are to come. Sound familiar?

Unlike generations past, singles today are delaying marriage while pursuing advanced education and demanding careers, often in places far away from where they grew up. The 2002 census data tells us that the median age for first marriage has risen to 25.3 for women and 26.9 for men. This marriage delay has led to a long period of single years in which individuals who have often relocated for school and/or work must find new ways to meet their needs for familial intimacy and sharing.

This new lifestyle has been on the rise for over twenty years, as societal norms have shifted due to divorce, the new sexuality and a desire on the part of singles to marry after they have reached an age in which they know who they are and what they want out of life. Older singles, (late 30’s to early 50’s) were the pioneers in this new way of life. The role models available to them were primarily limited to early marriage after high school, some college or upon completion of a college degree. Marriage was the (expected) next step and the route that marriage-minded people felt they had to choose.

For those who didn’t marry early, the single life has not lived up to its promises. Yes, they have been successful in their careers and many singles own their own homes and have reached a certain level of financial stability and freedom, but the lifestyle issues can be huge. They believed the right person would happen along after they had met their educational and professional goals. Instead, many singles in this age group report that they struggle with a loneliness that has resulted from an imbalance in their lives. Time passed, friends married and moved away and their families of origin were no longer able to function as they once had due to aging or deceased parents. They often refer to themselves as workaholics who attempt to meet needs primarily through success in their careers, while neglecting their social and personal lives.

Younger singles- twenties to mid-thirties express similar issues, yet there are differences that are significant and worth taking a look at. These younger singles had somewhat different role models. Education and career were placed at the top of their lists from childhood. Many had working mothers, who raised their daughters (as well as their sons) to focus on becoming strong, independent adults who could “have it all” if they followed these rules for success. Putting off marriage was encouraged as a way to help them achieve their own personal goals first. Therefore, these singles embrace the belief that you shouldn’t marry until you know yourself first and have learned to meet your own needs.

How has this difference impacted the quality of the lives of these two groups of singles? Younger singles began their independent lives with the expectation of more single years ahead and an attitude that they must build a complete life for themselves and not DELAY (amongst other things), building strong peer support systems. This gave rise to the close-knit, family like groups that are now often referred to as Urban Tribes. A writer named Ethan Watters first used this term in 2001 in a magazine article he wrote about the “tribe” that he had belonged to for a number of years, and how it had nurtured and sustained its members with friendship, emotional support, financial help and family-like bonds.

These tribes were often started with a core group who went to school together, worked in their first jobs together and/or lived together in order to share expenses. As time went on, the bonds deepened and many “tribers” report that they have many of the advantages of family without the responsibility and commitment of marriage. Many have marriage as their goal but are living “full and satisfying” lives until that time.

How can the tribal experience benefit older singles who have found that many of their old friends have moved away or married? They can begin (wherever they are in their lives) to create communities that can meet their current needs and lifestyles. This of course, will be more challenging at this stage of life. So, where should they begin?

The following is a rough list of ideas:

  • friends from work
  • old friends who still share a similar lifestyle
  • new friends they meet through volunteer work, social groups, other friends, leisure time pursuits and church
  • internet searches for local singles

Every metropolitan area offers a wide range of groups for singles. These are hosted by for profit companies as well as singles groups/clubs that are affiliated with religious and other private organizations. You can find them on the Internet by typing in key words such as “singles activities” along with you specific region of residence. Then you can go through the listings, looking for activities and pursuits that you feel would attract singles with whom you would have things in common.

In order for a community like this to take hold, members must be willing to set limits on their work lives and make themselves available for “family style” dinners, nights out, shared leisure time and structured outings and/or vacations, and support as needed to individuals within the group. Just as everyone within a family has their defined role, so will these emerge in tribes. Some will be the organizers or leaders, others will handle the details, while the rest will contribute as needed and as their strengths and interests allow. Over time, friendships and bonds will grow. Individual members will be provided with the support, caring and security they need in order to live a happy single life, which is the foundation on which all healthy intimate relationships are built.

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

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Trick or treat – Is this Make-Believe or real thing?

“I’ll call you this week”. “Yes, I’d love to see you again”. “I had a great time”. “I’m not interested in dating anyone else”. “I think I’m falling in love with you.”

These are a few of the phrases passed between singles as they move through the stages of meeting and dating. At the time, they are uttered with what feels like true emotion and honesty. No wonder the person they are directed to is so confused when the call never comes, the person becomes unavailable, or it soon becomes evident that the speaker is dating or deeply involved with someone else. Can we ever believe what we see or hear? How can we be sure?

Dating is a process of getting to know someone. It begins with an attraction, which is formed by that first impression. Often, this first meeting occurs by chance at a social gathering, at work or in the course of one’s daily life. More and more, it happens through a response to a personal ad and the emailing and phone calls that follow. Both in-person and email or voice contact give us a sense of the other individual- but this is only a brief snapshot of who they may be. It takes real time together to create a larger and clearer picture of this other person and their rightness or wrongness for us. During this time we assess for friendship, attraction, shared interests and values, and a willingness and ability on the part of both individuals to move forward in a relationship.

Given that this is a process, it has stages. A first date helps the couple to learn more. It is a fact-finding experience, which involves not only the information the other provides, but our feelings and reactions to it and to them as a potential partner. We show our best selves and attempt to make an appropriate connection with someone we find desirable. In the best scenario, everything clicks for both people and conversation is natural and easy. More often, there may be questions, doubts, and/or mixed feelings. Seeing each other again is often suggested by one or both people and is a good way to learn more about each other and resolve any questions. But the doubts and negative feelings go unstated in a desire to either give the other person a chance or to let them down easily. It’s also an easy way out for someone who is uncomfortable with this level of emotional honesty.

So, how do we know what the other person is truly feeling? You have several options for getting this information.

  • You take them at their word and wait to see if they follow through with what they have said they would do. Nothing speaks louder than behavior. This option is the most common choice and can leave you in that all too familiar holding and wondering pattern.
  • You attempt to address the situation openly and candidly. This one requires a bit of courage and an ability to be vulnerable. State how you are feeling in a thoughtful but honest way. Ask them to do the same for you. Let them know that you want to hear their honest thoughts about how the date went and if they would like to get together again.
  • The third option should be used regardless of what you do with the other two. Pay attention to their non-verbal communication. How do they look at you? What quiet responses do you get after you have shared something about yourself? What do you see in their facial reaction, posture and eyes? Do you FEEL interest or just politeness? Are they really WITH you, or somewhere else? If you learn to listen to the non-verbal language, you will HEAR much more than what their words have to say.

Listening to the whole person applies throughout the stages of dating and relationships. It is also important during this time to pay attention to their behavior and note inconsistencies or mixed messages. Too often people don’t and are stunned when a relationship “suddenly” ends or they find out they are seeing someone who was not the person they thought they were. Trust your instincts and listen “with a third ear”.

Remember also that the responsibility for honesty is also on you. Don’t say what you think the other person wants to hear because you don’t want to be impolite or hurt their feelings. If you really think about it, it is more hurtful and in poor taste to be dishonest with someone who has a true interest and is trying to learn yours.

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

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Tips for becoming fluent in the non-verbal language of dating

We are all too familiar with the term “body language”. There have been books, workshops and endless discussions spawned by it. But do you really KNOW how to interpret the non-verbal messages that other people broadcast on a continual basis in their interactions with you? There are two levels of communication that occur in any interaction:

  • content
  • process

Content refers to what we SAY. Process refers to EVERYTHING ELSE that occurs.

Interactions can be wrought with mixed signals- saying one thing and non-verbally communicating another.

No wonder so many singles report confusion regarding what their date was really thinking or feeling. On the surface, understanding this language can seem very difficult, if not impossible. Not so, if you learn to speak the non-verbal language of process.

The following tips will be presented using examples of naturally (and commonly) reported dating scenarios experienced by singles.

1. Good eye contact/ poor eye contact

When you are sitting and talking with your date, do you notice how they look at you, when you or they are speaking? When their eye contact is good, this is a sign that they feel comfortable and interested in you. They are really involved in the interaction and want to be there. It also communicates honesty and sincerity. Conversely, when your date has difficulty making eye contact, this communicates discomfort; lack of interest or it could be extreme shyness. The last would be easy to know if they are a shy person in general.

2. Restlessness

Have you ever experienced the restless date? You know the one. He moves around in his chair, she looks at her watch, and his mind seems somewhere else. He may or may not offer an explanation. What appears to be going on is that her mind IS somewhere else. This behavior communicates a lack of interest or a preoccupation with someone or somewhere else.

3. Looking around at others a lot and not at you

Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of being out with someone who watches the crowd the whole time? Perhaps, they just glance furtively (and frequently) around the room? This, of course, signals lack of interest, possible discomfort and a desire to avoid interaction with you. It can also be a general sign of someone who is not trustworthy, or at the very least, hasn’t been completely honest/ candid with you.

4. Is noticeably quiet

Oh, how deafening is silence. It can speak volumes.

If your date has little to say to you what does this mean?

Maybe they are just not very interested in you.

Perhaps they don’t think you would care to hear what they have to say.

Maybe they think you wouldn’t appreciate hearing what they are really thinking.

Perhaps they are in an off or sour mood.

Only you can interpret this. Be careful not to quickly write it off to something you want it to be, as opposed to what it really is.

5. Stiffening or closed-in body posture

You know what YOU do in uncomfortable situations.

You fold your arms tightly across your chest.

You stiffen your spine.

You tightly cross your legs.

You turn your body at an angle away from the person you are facing.

You lean away from the person you are with.

Of course, the reverse is true when the interaction feels good.

You lean forward.

Your arms are relaxed or laying open to the person.

You face the other person directly.

Your posture is relaxed and at ease.

It’s fairly easy to interpret the closed-in posture.

The other person feels uncomfortable.

They aren’t open to the interaction with you.

They would rather not be there.

If this is a first date, it will probably be the last.

6. Physical Contact

Perhaps the easiest communication to read correctly is that of touch. If your date avoids taking your hand or putting his arm around you he may be uncomfortable or unsure. He may also be shy, but you would already know that.

If someone you have been dating for a while begins to exhibit changes in their level of eye contact, body posture, attention to you, availability and/or becomes restless or less communicative, pay attention. Their feelings have shifted. Be careful not to be too quick to explain it away. More than one occurrence should set off your silent alarm. Make sure that what they say matches what they don’t say.

Other (non-verbal) expressions that you should listen to that can suddenly occur during the course of a dating relationship are:

  • Calling less or not calling
  • Change in voice tone
  • Becoming busy and not having time to get together
  • Lateness
  • Missing dates without calling or having a plausible excuse
  • Moodiness- irritation/impatience/anger outbursts

If your date or boyfriend/girlfriend sends you any of the above (negative) signals, the best way to handle it is to comment in a direct (and gentle) way about it. Then watch for what he/she DOES while you listen to their response. This will give you all the information you need.

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!