fight

We fight, a lot. Are we doomed?

I dated my college boyfriend for 10 years and then dove into marriage with him for the next 7.  We rarely fought; we were best friends.  Yet, in the end, we divorced.  What happened?  Reading about the research on what makes marriages work, we probably should have been fighting more.

There was too much unsaid in our relationship. Our not-fighting was a sign of not sharing our feelings rather than of contentedness.  John Gottman, my favorite relationship researcher, points out that not fighting is a predictor of divorce!

Is marriage just about resolving conflicts?  No, most marital arguments can’t be fully resolved (69% of them aren’t resolved according to Gottman).   So it isn’t useful to cross your arms until things change.  He simply won’t always be on time and she simply can’t help but need the bedroom to be spotless.  We are generally so ingrained in our patterns, that while short-term changes may be possible, we are more likely to fall back into our patterns over the long term.

So if we can’t change each other or force the other person to be ‘perfect’ in our eyes, what can we do?  We can “manage” the conflict instead of trying to resolve it.  Here are a couple steps for you:

Fight better.  Research shows it is not whether couples argue but how they argue that makes the difference.  Focus your energy on learning more about what triggers you (what makes you really mad!).  Find ways of staying calm so you can effectively communicate.  You might want to practice breathing deeper or asking for a break when overwhelmed.  Practice effectively communicating your needs.  Two tips: (1) find ways of starting a conversation that doesn’t trigger your partner (e.g., make them defensive, or make them shut-down) and (2) research “non-violent communication” practices.

Accept him/her.  Find a couple things about your partner that you are willing to accept just as they are.  Maybe he is messy and maybe you just leave that alone.  Maybe she isn’t great at making small talk at a party and maybe you just learn to live with that and be the “small-talker” of the couple.  For each characteristic of your partner that you can “accept”, you just got rid of one cause of your fights!

Get curious.  Another way to reduce fighting is to gain a greater understanding of your partner.  Start asking (non-threatening) questions.  “I would really like to understand you better.  I noticed you don’t talk a lot at parties.  Do you enjoy the parties?”  Fights can easily arise when you start making assumptions about why your partner is like they are.  A greater understanding of your partner can lead to greater empathy and less fighting.

Shift yourself.  A huge key to shifting away from fighting with your partner is to understand yourself better.   Each fight is caused by the dynamic between the two people.  You are half of that dynamic and the problem is that you can’t control your partner’s behavior (as much as you would like to!).  But, you can control how you behave.  It is rather amazing but you can see big shifts in your dynamic by simply shifting yourself.  This may look like changing the language you use to communicate, finding better times to communicate when both partners are calm, or even integrating yoga or meditation into your world.  Yoga and meditation enable you to be less reactive to stressful situations.  When I go to yoga regularly, I am a much better partner as I am calmer and kinder.

Make up!  Most couples fight.  What is critical for the long-term health of a relationship is the recovery after a fight.  No recovery can lead to resentment and further anger.  Develop a way of coming down and connecting after a fight.  This can be a ritual of apologizing (“Wow, I am really sorry about how I acted.”) or maybe a ritual of appreciation (“I was really angry.  I am calmer now and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you coming back together to talk with me.”) or maybe a ritual of affection “I am sorry. <<hug>>”  Of course, offering regular affection, kindnesses, and positive statements about the relationship and each other forms the foundation that allows a couple to come down and connect following a fight.  85% of those who learn to effectively repair fights stay happily married.

So, no, your relationship isn’t doomed if you fight.  But if you fight nasty, it might be.  Learn to fight better, apologize sooner and make up sweetly.

 

Erin Oldham, Ph.D. is a researcher and relationship & divorce coach. Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships. She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world. Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child well-being and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years. She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective. She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Email her here.

Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.

yoga

A mean yoga teacher taught me a ton about relationships in the midst of my post-divorce confusion

I might have been looking for a little punishment in retrospect. I entered the way too hot room, looking down and intermittently around, to see what I should be doing. You see, I am a rule follower. Give me a rule, and I will stick within the lines. It appeared I should be lying down, preparing for what was about to happen, probably not a good sign. I unfurled my mat gently with nary a noise and laid my weary body down.

50% of us have been through it, but somehow the journey through your divorce is incredibly lonely. I was in the midst of experiencing new loneliness and confusion with all that surrounded me. I was less lonely in this place where I had to follow the rules and could do nothing but focus on the sweat beads dripping down my forearms as I stretched them out ahead and behind me in Warrior One stance. In times of trouble, we all become seekers and I was seeking redemption or clarity or suffering or something when I entered that studio.

The laser focus of the teacher seemed to land on me each time, offering corrections and adjustments, not in the gentle whispering way of some teachers, but in the bark your name with a stern admonishment manner. Apparently, although I was innately, supremely flexible, I couldn’t even do half-pigeon correctly. No matter how close I thought I was getting to getting it, there was always some minute adjustment I could have, should have incorporated.

Her voice was severe as it cut through the thick, heavy air. She actually broke into a screaming rant one day, losing her cool in the steamy room. My friends were electing to leave the studio, appalled by the intensity of our ‘yogic’ sessions. They were dropping like little sweaty flies. But something in her straightforward, no BS manner appealed to me. The angry, redundant thoughts swirling in my divorce-addled head were exhausting. I needed someone to inject some clear messages.

1. ‘Don’t leave the studio!’Translation: Stay in the discomfort.

This was the dictate for us, the new-bies who were unused to the sickly, suffocating heat of the room. The rumors of judgmental teachers following you into the bathroom if you dared leave the room kept us in check. This seemed cruel at first but over time this was one of the most powerful messages for me in my journey. I just had to translate it into “stay in your discomfort.” We run from the discomfort, of relationships, of friendships, of comments, of political issues, all the time.  Staying in the discomfort, learning to breathe through our anxieties, into how we want to be, is a good first step.

2. ‘Lower!’ Translation: Soften to strengthen yourself.

Chair pose, the dreaded chair pose. It strikes me in two ways every time I hear the teacher announce it’s name. I get excited that my thighs are about to be challenged and I cringe at the thought of the pain. My way throughout my first four decades was to throw up layers of steel in response to a challenge. I would make myself impenetrable, impervious to pain. In a challenging pose, with my breath jagged, my initial approach was to steel myself against the pose, muscling my way through it. A couple months in, her words directing me to soften into the pose finally broke through my preconceived notions of the best way forward. I relaxed my leg and arm muscles, unclenched my fingers and tried another way.  Amazingly, the poses became easier as I stopped fighting against them.

3. ‘Eyes open!’ Translation: Be aware

40 minutes into the hour long session, she led us to the ground. The ground rose up to catch us as we unfolded our bodies, vertebrae by vertebrae until our arms and legs flopped to the floor. Bridge pose, our next endeavor. This was the exact point when we were all dying to check out, assuming the ground would be our friend. Breathing heavily, my eyelids shuttered. ‘Eyes open!’ As she rattled off various counts from 6 to 12, never letting us know when the final bridge would fall, reminders to keep our eyes open were thrown at us. Annoying at the time, now I see where she was coming from. It is so easy to check out and ignore our discomfort or dull it with various food and beverages. Keeping our eyes open is one way to stay aware, of what we are feeling and what we are learning about ourselves.

Why did she feel the need to teach through yelling?

What I could see and hear clearly in the end, once I was no longer so enmeshed in my own pain, was the pain she was walking through. Her yelling was meant to pierce through me into herself.

Sometimes our guide to the other side is different than we imagined. Sometimes she is yelling, directly, in our ear, trying to get us to finally hear what she is saying. She didn’t teach me compassion but ironically, she taught me that the path to strength is through softness and vulnerability. She opened me to the skills I would need to enter into a healthy relationship.

Allow the guides in your life to be unexpected and unorthodox. Your guide may not resonate with anyone else but they may be just the perfect person at the perfect time for you.

I still yoga regularly, although at a different studio. I enjoy the quiet and pause it brings to my life. But I can still hear the mean teacher yelling in my head at times and I continue to appreciate the messages from her.

 

Erin Oldham, Ph.D. is a researcher and relationship & divorce coach. Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships. She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world. Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child well-being and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years. She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective. She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Email her here.

Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.

 

ponder

Will you have sex tonight?

Mathematical predictors of your sex life.

I love this guy, John Gottman.  I mean he comes up with mathematical formulas to figure out how often you are going to have sex this year.  He measures his approach to your bedroom with game theory.  The basic idea of game theory is that the decisions people make relate to the the payoffs they will receive as a result of that decision.   I generally find his books really easy to read but when he goes into explanations of game theory, he enters serious geek land.  He actually has sentences like this in the chapter:

EP for Ianamy agrees = 5 σagree + (-1)(1- σagree)

So I am here to translate his formulas for your pleasure, or future pleasures.  He postulates that most bedrooms are pretty darn quiet according to research.   Just a quarter of adults over 45 are having sex weekly and another 40% are having sex at least monthly which means that about 35% of adults are having sex less than once a month (AARP, 2010).  Another recent study found a relationship between having sex about once a week and levels of happiness, regardless of age, gender or how long the relationship had been going on (Muise, 2016).  So many couples are probably having sex less than they want to and less often than is related to happiness.  Maybe the woman has been rebuffed in their sexual advances one too many times, and she has each stopped asking.  Or, the man isn’t sure when the right time is to ask and has stopped as well.

Gottman suggests that the key factor in determining how often you have sex is how you react when your partner says “not tonight” to you.  If you react with any kind of rejecting behavior – sulking, sighing, complaining, criticizing, frustration or anger, you just set in motion a cascade of negative emotions that will lead to less sex.

If you react negatively to her refusal of sex … you get less sex in the future

Using game theory, Gottman estimates that sex gets as low as 15 times a year when both partners react negatively to a refusal of sex.  However, if the man, for instance, reacts positively when his partner says “not tonight” with understanding, kind words or affection, her payoff increases (she got treated nicely) and his payoff increases (she is more likely to feel positive feelings towards him for understanding and is more likely to say yes in the future).   Using mathematical formulas, Gottman suggests you could be getting it up to four times a week (233 days a year!) if you start rewarding your partner when she refuses sex.

If you react positively when she refuses sex … you get more sex in the future

A client recently lamented that he wasn’t having sex with his wife very often and wanted to know how to increase the frequency of sex.  I asked him about his thoughts on strengthening the relationship but he wanted to know how to increase the frequency of sex first, as that would make him feel satisfied enough to continue to work on the relationship.  I explained the following to him:

For men, sex leads to intimacy and for woman, intimacy leads to sex.

And thus, for both parties to want sex, there has to be intimacy.

If you work on your relationship by building intimacy, trust and ease, you will surely move towards intimate, trusting (read: fun) sex that has a sense of ease to it.   Bringing intimacy into your relationship comes from sharing secrets, small kindnesses, little kisses, frequent caresses, quick fixes around the house, loving words and so many other wise moves.

These small kindnesses are not done for the purpose of “getting some”, but for the purpose of expressing your appreciation.  By expressing your appreciation without expectation or coercion, you are building a foundation of intimacy from which intimate, satisfying sex will flourish.

p.s. Another recent study explicated that men are more likely to want to have sex in the morning and women are more likely to want to have sex at night.  This research makes all those refusals make more sense.  We don’t necessarily want less sex, we just want it at a different time than you!

For more on this topic, come to my workshop starting on April 4th.   The Secrets to Making Love Last is a four-part series focused on how to build and maintain a healthy, fun relationship.  You can come to one session or all four.  We will work through predictors of happy relationships and divorce, building trust, dealing with betrayals, understanding your patterns and enhancing your communication skills.  More information at localflamesmaine.com.  Register Here.

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works withpeople as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching how children and adults form healthy relationships for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  This is an excerpt from her forthcoming book.  Contact her at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  She facilitates fun, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Localflamesmaine.com

For more from John Gottman, I recommend his book, “What Makes Love Last”.

 

 

 

wherehouse

It took an earthquake to shake me into ending my relationship. What about you?

I have a hard time ending relationships.  I wait until big, insanely obvious events occur; I need someone to literally or figuratively hit me over the head.  In 1994, it took an earthquake with the ‘fastest ground velocity’ ever recorded to wake me up.   My bed, shaking so hard I couldn’t get off of it, was six miles from the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake in southern California.  Once the violent shaking gave us a reprieve, I did the only thing I knew to do in an earthquake: run for the door.  I placed myself between the frame, kowtowing to the ludicrous notion that a sloppily constructed building could ever support us.  He trailed after me, shoving himself in the doorframe, taking up my precious space.  Beeping car alarms and screaming neighbors permeated the thin stucco walls of the garden-style one-bedroom apartment we had moved in to rather recently after a rather short get-to-know-you phase.

Four months earlier, I had crossed the country with my dedicated medical school-bound boyfriend of five years.  A couple months later, I shacked up with the law student next door, trading in one honorable profession for another.  And then the trembling started again.  The earth lost its bearing and began to tear apart at the seams, destroying everything resting upon it.  These aftershocks were the most disturbing to me.  No one told me about that part.  I knew earthquakes happened in this part of the country and I knew books would fall off the shelves and picture frames from the walls, but I didn’t know the earth would keep reminding us, at random times over the next couple of weeks, that the solid ground beneath us was an illusion.

This jolt made me take action with the man taking up space in the doorway.  I met him when we were both swimming laps in the pool outside our UCLA-appointed apartments in West LA. He was a southern California surfing law student and I was a Washington D.C. fish out of water.  We moved in together shortly after we met for the most practical of reasons: saving rent money.  Of course, by the time we found our lemon and lime tree framed apartment in the valley, we had spent more money than we intended.  And, in the downgrade to the valley, we lost the pool that had brought us together.

Now that we were living together, I was actually getting to know him.  He was a military brat, his parents still living close to the base in San Diego. He was passionate and spoke with his hands cutting through the air as he explained that there was only one cause.  He believed that if you cared about one thing, you had to care about everything: there could be no deviation or nuanced beliefs.  I have never met anyone before or after him with such black and white thinking, which seems an odd ideology to take into law school.  He was also a “cutter” with inscriptions of pain lining his forearms.  I was obsessed with my abnormal psychology classes, which perhaps kept me intrigued with him, but I didn’t recognize the cutting for what it was because my textbooks were silent on the subject.  He was suffocating me with his pain; while lying in the bed we shared, he would hold up his hand up above his face and stare at it with tears streaming onto the pillow beneath him murmuring something about ‘small hands’.

I didn’t understand him or what he was experiencing but I did recognize that I couldn’t help him.  With the adrenaline fueled energy of our young relationship, we had cruised through the first couple of months with nary a purposeful or reflective thought.  I had lost that loving feeling and needed to figure a way to break my lease and break his hold over me.  I had been contemplating my path out when the earthquake struck.  While kneeling down to pick up hundreds of female folk artist CDs scattered across the living room floor, I looked up at him and said what the earthquake knocked out of me, “You need to find another apartment.  I’ll give you a month.”

thats what she said

That’s What She Said… About Online Dating

In the fall, I held a workshop at Local Flames on online dating.  It drew about 20 people, men and women, who wanted to know more about how it all works. Here is some insight from the crowd that may help you as you journey online.

1. How long do you wait to email back?

“I write back whenever it feels right”.  The crowd felt it was fine to email back within the hour or whenever you have time.  Only one person waited a day or two to respond.

My advice: Email back when you have a break in your day and time to really think about what you are writing.  It is really easy to get a bit ‘addicted’ to the sight of a new email arriving in your inbox.  Your best emails will come out when you are relaxed and present.

2. What are the rules of the game?

“Don’t be too eager or aloof.  Don’t go “all in” too quick.  Take it slow.”

“Be respectful”

“Don’t exchange numbers.  Meet in a public place.  Give a friend the details of your date.”

“Be positive, truthful, and careful”

My advice: Keep it simple.  Use online dating as a tool to meet people.  So in that vein, there is little reason to engage in long overly intimate emails.  Within the first couple of emails, or even in the first one, arrange to meet in person.

4. For the Men… What catches your attention?

“The photos pulls me in… The smile does it!  Passion makes me stay”

“A good smile, common interests”

“Good pictures – not flowers and dogs and sunsets”

My advice: Get a good picture of yourself that shows you face and smile.  Ask an honest friend if it is a good likeness of you.  Even though none of the men were overly focused on the profile, I would suggest a medium length profile (3 paragraphs) focusing on things you love to do and what you are looking for in a partner.  This gives the guy something to ask you about and hopefully will dissuade inappropriate men from contacting you (although probably not).

5. For the Women… What catches your attention?

“Humor in the profile and a nice smile in pictures.”

“Nice up-to-date photo.  I like when it looks like effort was put into the profile.  Funny is good.”

“Photo and a well-written profile”

“More than 2 good photos.  Smiles with teeth.  No spelling mistakes”

“Good writing. Articulate. Some self-expression”

My advice: Include a good photo but also pay attention to what you write.  Women will be reading your profile closely.  They want to see ‘you’ in there and don’t want to see spelling mistakes.  Write at least two paragraphs talking about what is important to you in life.

6. What do you leave out or “lie” about in your profile?

“I leave out Past relationship stuff”

“If anything, I’m too honest”

“Situation with my daughter”

“I don’t lie”

“Nothing; it will burn you in the long run”

“I have used overly flattering photos to hide my weight”

7. What have you been lied to about?

“Old pictures; height”

“Level of activity; 10 year old picture”

“Body type; smoking”

“The way they look; their living situation; drug use; financial situation”

“Age; smoking; job status; intent; divorced”

 

What can make online dating fun and successful?

1. Use the settings.  Check out the settings on the online sites.  On some sites, you can feature your profile which may get you more attention (the “top spot”).  On other sites, you can pay to look at other people’s profiles without them knowing.  This may come in handy if you don’t want certain people to know you are perusing their information.

2. Don’t take it personally or too seriously.  View online dating sites as a tool to meet people.  Understand that everyone is looking and trying to find someone.  Also understand that we all have different tastes.  You may find someone attractive who doesn’t not find you attractive (things have not changed much since middle school).  Try approaching different people.  If you see it just as a way to meet interesting people, and not necessarily the love of your life, it becomes much more fun.  People recoil from desperation or neediness.

3. Be active. Online dating can work best when you take an active approach.   Approach a variety of men/women.  Invite people to have a quick 20 minute tea or coffee pre-date just to see if either of you wants to go on a date.

4. Be compassionate.  Have some set lines to communicate with those online.

Have some polite responses ready…  

“Thank you so much for contacting me.  I don’t think our interests line up so I am going to say no at this time.  Good luck in your search.’

“Thank you so much for the date.  I don’t see us as a match but good luck in your search.”

“It has been great getting to know you over the last three dates.  I don’t see things coming together for us but I wish you well on your search.”

5. Own it/be yourself.  It is tempting to write a profile to try and please the reader.  However, if your intention is a healthy long term relationship, it is best to stick with a more honest approach.  Presenting a couple paragraphs about your interests with a good photo is the key.

And…some other mantras from the group…

Be positive   …   Be patient   …   Meet early   …   Use it as a tool   …   Be forgiving   …   Be compassionate   …   Use it as a way to increase your self awareness   …   Keep an open mind   …   Think outside the box   …   Meet for common interests   …   Be open   …   Just meet   …   See it as a community   …   See it as a practice   …   Get a friend to do it with you.

Offline! At the end of the session, a number of people were even more convinced they didn’t want to go online.  Here are some ways to meet people offline. There are two good ways to meet people in real time, in-person.

  1. Meet Up Groups

A Touch of Grey Meet-Up: http://www.meetup.com/A-ray-a-group-for-babyboomers/  For people born between 1946 and 1964.

Why Am I Single Meet-Up: http://www.meetup.com/Why-Am-I-Single-Portland/  For 30-50’s.

Find True Love Meet-Up: http://www.meetup.com/Find-True-Love-Meetup/ “For all people desiring to be in a loving relationship. Singles and Couples welcomed.”

  1. Singles Groups

Single Hearts in Maine. Single adults ages 45 – 70 in Midcoast Maine looking to spend time with others.  https://www.facebook.com/singleheartsinmaine?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

My Single Friends.  A group for 45 – 65 in Portland.  Email mysinglefriends15@gmail.com for details.

 

Good luck on your search.  Contact me if you have additional questions at erin@localflamesmaine.com.  See other blogs on online dating here.

http://blog.localflamesmaine.com/dating-as-adults/dating-world-later-6-important-questions-online/

http://blog.localflamesmaine.com/dating-as-adults/time-get-online-dating/

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

time to go online

It’s Time to Get Online

Yes, we all wish there was a better way but this is what we’ve got.  The ideal of meeting someone in a picturesque in-person way is simply against the odds in Maine, in part due to our lack of populace and in bigger part due to our tendency to look away from people as they walk towards us.  At this point, online dating is a relatively refined sport. Basically everyone ends up online at some point and usually at multiple points.  I was featured on the ‘necessary evil’ websites after each of my divorces and then again after a number of the break-ups from my post-divorce ramblings.  Hell, my ex was on there about 15 minutes after I asked for a divorce.  Take away #1: Online dating is super convenient!    Here are some facts and three simple tips that make it a more palatable experience.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

There are four major online dating sites in play.  I have chronicled the cost, number of unique visitors per month (across the country!) and the split of female to men on the sites.  Visit this site for more info: http://dating-websites.findthedata.com/

Match.com       $19.99/mo      4.29 mil unique visitors/mo                51% female/49% male

Plenty of Fish $12.75/mo      2.54 mil unique visitors/mo                45% female/55% male

Zoosk                 $12.49/mo      1.82 mil unique visitors/mo               66% female/34% male

OkCupid            $9.95/mo         2.88 mil unique visitors/mo                44% female/56% male

Where are the men?

Clients ask me whether I think there are intelligent, attractive men out there for them.  (My men clients are more assured of the availability of women.)  I believe there are, however, I also caution that we do happen to live in Maine where there are simply fewer people.  It will surely take patience and time to find a good man or woman.  It took me 8 years and one delusional rebound marriage.

Looking on Match.com this morning, this is who I found.  Now, I searched without logging on and had to catch the numbers before a pop-up popped-up trying to get me to sign up, so correct these numbers if I mis-read them.

Within 20 miles of 04101, there were the following number of men and women (who had photos):

Age 35 to 45                  287 men           235 women

Age 45 to 55                  215 men           215 women

Age 55 to 65                  127 men           156 women

Age 65 to 75                  46 men              47 women

Some Tantalizing Tips

It takes 10 to get 1.  If you are willing to accept most anyone, you can find a date tonight, easy.  If you are looking for substance, it is a numbers game.  You have to be willing to meet a good number of people to find someone you want to see a second or third time around.  Perhaps if you go in with realistic expectations, you will end up pleasantly surprised rather than frustrated.

Put your best foot forward.  Your picture is where it’s at.  For better or worse, we are all visual creatures.  We are all picky (it’s not just you!).   Your picture is the most important part of your profile.  Make it one with a good look at your smiling face (emphasis on the smile!).  Men told us they don’t need to see pictures of animals or sunsets; they just want to see you.  If you aren’t getting much response to one photo, try another one and see how that works.

Manage your experience.  Online dating can be hurtful if you don’t realize how it all works.  More people will ignore you than pay you the favor of a reply.  People will cancel your date an hour before you step into the restaurant because their date last night went well.  Most people are dating multiple people at the same time until they narrow in on one. This is not a place to build your self-esteem.  It is more of a place to steel yourself, get ready and dive in.  Treat people how you want to be treated (men were so thankful when I emailed them to say ‘no, thank you’) but don’t be surprised with the rude online culture.

Good luck on your search.  Contact me with additional questions on online dating at erin@localflamesmaine.com.

 

See other blogs on online dating here.

http://blog.localflamesmaine.com/dating-as-adults/dating-world-later-6-important-questions-online/

http://blog.localflamesmaine.com/dating-as-adults/she-said-online-dating/

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

showandtell

Show and Tell: How much to share during those first encounters.

It’s a conundrum.  As touted by Brene Brown, we are supposed to be in the new age of vulnerability.   Yet, if we share too much of our vulnerability too early, we may scare away the person we are trying to attract.  Every turn of phrase is being judged for adequacy on that first and second date.  So how much should we really share, and when?  In other words, what is the tipping point when a person moves from intrigued to uninterested?

In my dating days, I considered my three children (triplets no less!) and my two ex-husbands to be my biggest liabilities.  I mean, really, who in their right mind would choose to step into a world where three teenagers ruled?  And, that was just the liabilities on the surface.  What about my dirty car, my orange plaid pajamas, my ridiculous bed head and all the real secrets I harbor?  What do you share and what do you save for later?  Think of it like this.  Everyone likes a good story; you are going to tell a story over time, laying down one chapter at a time.  Lay down a chapter per date.

5 steps to sharing just the right amount on your date

1. Give a little.

A date without any of yourself is bound to be boring.  We all have intense stories of tragedies and triumphs.  So, be real.  Share lots of fun, upbeat stories and maybe one or two reality-check stories to give a sense of the full package.   Just, don’t dive too deep right away.

2. Listen and Relate. 

Stop for a moment.  Listen to what your date is sharing.  Is she sticking to work and family, or favorite vacations?  Or, is she going deeper into her life philosophy?  Match your date.  If she want to keep it light, keep it light.  There will be time enough for late night sharing if the relationship progresses.   People tend to be overly judgmental in that first date or two.  She is looking for red flags or anything off-putting.  Don’t give her a reason to jump ship.

3. Look on the bright side of life.

Stick to positive stories that emphasize your strengths.  When your date bids you adieu, he will take away, maybe, 50% of what you were laying down during the date.  And, many people walk away having heard more of the negative than the positive (triplets! 13 year old triplets!) so don’t give him any bait for doubt.

4. Know when to hold ‘em

An acquaintance I had for a brief while (read: misguided Match.com date) used to lay out his sexual history and STD status on the first date and then wonder why the girls ran.  He considered it his duty, his responsibility to inform them.  People are not usually sticking anything where the sun don’t shine for a couple hours into a date, so take it easy on the early disclosure.

5. Be aware of what is compelling you to share.

Are you an over-sharer?  Do you find yourself continually motoring your mouth when across the table from a potential partner?  Explore why that might be.  Are you trying to get out your whole story on the first date?  Do you talk too much when you are nervous?  Do you feel like you are trying to prove yourself?  From personal experience, when I am talking too much, I am trying to justify something in my life, something I feel some shame around (like, my second divorce).   I have also observed that I like to challenge others with my overt honesty.   I want to know upfront if someone likes me despite all my faults.  I want him to know the full me so he can make an informed decision about whether to jump in.   Once you are aware of why you are talking, you can make good choices about whether to continue the monologue.

The Take-Away

You know that saying – if it is meant to be, it will be.  And, in the adult world of dating, where we are all a little gun shy, you want to stay on the positive side to see if the simmering heats up to a boil.   Carefully lay one piece of your story down at a time so the listener can pick it up.   I make sure more of my charm is on the table than my ex-husbands or my many children.  I make light so they can make light.   I don’t treat my children like a burden so they won’t.  Share what you want them to know about you.

Think about the structure of a well written tale.   Desire to turn the page to ingest the next chapter comes from mystery and intrigue.   In the screen writing world, they say you want to reveal yourself like an intravenous drip – let little bits of you seep into their soul.  Tell your story one chapter at a time.  Leave your listener enraptured; leave a little mystery for next time.

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

self-esteem

Killer Self Esteem: 5 Steps to Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships

Killer abs and killer legs… people work hard to get them. Killer self-esteem, on the other hand, is not a desired trait, yet, incredibly prevalent in the dating world.  As an adult dater, our insecurities, gain clarity and sometimes, strength as we continue to date. We have seen love and loss and are aware of our foibles and faults. Awareness is good. And, verbalizing your discomforts is a smart strategy in a relationship. However, insecurities that seep into the cracks and crevices of our relationships may expand over time, causing riffs that wreak havoc. It is a slippery slope as they say, emanating from a seemingly innocent question that when repeated enough times has the exact opposite effect that we intend it to have.

“Do you like me?” This common refrain reflects our insecurities and is behind many of our actions in the early months of a relationship.  Check out what happens when you continually prod your partner for an answer.

The Needy Scenario

Take 1…“Do you like me?” “Of course!”
Take 2… “Do you like me?” “Yes”
Take 3… “Do you like me?” (eye-roll) “Yes”
Take 4… “Do you like me? Are you sure?” (Am I sure? Do I like him?) “Um, yes, of course”
Take 5… “Do you like me? Seriously?” (Do I? He really is a little much, sometimes) “Actually, I have been meaning to talk to you about something…”

The Jealousy Scenario

Jealousy is another way to quickly sabotage your relationship.  Jealousy emanates directly from insecurity and low self-esteem.  This is a conversation from a former relationship that started at the same time that I began to run Local Flames workshops on healthy relationship skills (irony times 10!).

Take 1…

“Who was there tonight?” “Oh, it was a great crowd, really good people.”
“Any men in the room?” “Sure, this really nice guy Mark and another great guy, John”
“Were you attracted to them?” “Uh, I was running a workshop so it wasn’t really relevant.”

Now, repeat this conversation every week, sometimes multiple times a week, after each event.

“Who was there tonight?” “Lots of people”
“Any men in the room?” “Yes” (note the reduction in detail over time)
“Who?” “It is not relevant. I am not going to tell you because you continually accuse me of ridiculousness.”
“Were you attracted to them?” “Oh my god!! No!!”

If this were to keep going, if I hadn’t left him at the doorstep of his insecurity which I did, eventually my thoughts may have meandered down this road: “Fuck it. He has been accusing me of cheating on him for months. Maybe i’ll just try it out.   These other men look better and better every time he opens his mouth.” As I have seen with my clients, one person’s jealousy can contribute to another person cheating, which thereby reinforces the first person’s insecurity and belief that people cheat on him (or her)!

Why do we do this? We have beliefs about ourselves that we look to reinforce. We feel badly about ourselves from things our parents told us, from experiences we have had, or from shame related to something that happened to us.  Then, we behave in ways that reinforce that we are right to feel badly about ourselves. She may be looking for him to prove she is unlikable by continually asking if he likes her. Her low self-esteem is killing any potential the relationship had. I have seen this equally in men and women, whether in different or same gender relationships. People are usually not completely aware that they are causing their own downfall. It is easier to blame others for how we feel rather than to face ourselves and our faults head on.

5 Steps to Stop Sabotaging.

It takes courage to start believing in yourself by understanding that we all have faults, big and small. Here are five steps to stop sabotaging yourself and your relationships.

1: Catch yourself in the act. While it may be worthwhile to ask your insecurity question once or twice to check in, it is important to recognize when you are asking the same question of someone over and over.   Ponder why you are asking the question. Do you really need to know the answer? Is that because you didn’t believe the answer the first time, or has something happened that you feel you need to ask it again? Is it your anxiety/insecurity asking or are you asking?

2: Explain yourself. The best gift you can give your partner is a greater understanding of you. Tell them explicitly what makes you feel insecure and what you makes you feel loved. There is nothing wrong with having insecurities because we all have them.  Assuming your partner can read your mind and know what you need is a bad bet.  Communicate what you need from your partner to feel calm and good in the relationship. For example, “I tend to get sort of uptight and insecure in the beginning of a relationship. It helps me to know how you are feeling about the relationship.”

3: Recognize it in others. When someone is peppering you with questions that give you pause, consider what is really going on. It can be helpful to gently state your position clearly to reassure your partner of how you feel. “Yes, I truly like you and am enjoying our relationship. I will tell you if I have a problem.” “I enjoy doing workshops. I am not interested in seeing anyone but you.” Pay attention to whether you are doing anything that may be contributing to your partner’s discomfort and insecurities. For example, are you showing up late without explanation? Are you moody and you don’t tell your partner why?

4: Believe in yourself. This is hard. When you believe in yourself, your need for reassurance from others will reduce and you won’t feel the need to ask the insecurity questions as much. Maybe develop a mantra to say when you are feeling insecure: “I trust this relationship and that she will tell me if there is a problem.” Needy is not sexy.

5: Trust the other. Very often, our insecurities relate to a lack of trust in others. Think about whether your questions of, and behaviors towards, others relates to your lack of trust of them. Did the person actually do something to lose your trust or do you just have a hard time trusting others? Ask yourself what you can do to work on trusting the other person and then communicate that to your partner. For example, “It really helps me when you volunteer information about what you are doing at night” or “I really appreciate when you compliment me.”

As you walk through this world, you will determine your experience. The one common refrain that people repeat to me in relationship coaching sessions again and again is “I can’t stand needy men/women!” Needy is not sexy. Neediness is someone that needs to be reassured and who can’t stop asking those insecurity questions. Don’t let your self-esteem destroy the potential of your relationship. When you find yourself blaming someone else for your current state, I have a suggestion for you… stop, look inwards, and start there.

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

grower

Is he a Grower or a Shower? A case for slow dating

There are the guys who excel at first impressions and dates, and then there are the guys that may not shine at first glance, but who grow on you over time. These are the guys who slowly wow you with their opinions, tastes, and knowledge revealed with each passing encounter. The first group of men are the showers; the second group of men are the growers. Wait, what did you think I meant by growers and showers?

When we were in college we could encounter these types in equal measure as we strolled through night-long parties. You could choose the dance floor with the showers or saddle up to the guy on the couch for an awesomely awkward conversation about life. The showers kept you dancing all night long with their self-assuredness while the growers were the guys you confided in and gradually developed an attraction for as they revealed their depth.

In the online world, the growers fall behind. One date is all you get in a world where we administer judgment before someone even opens his mouth to say hello. You have a max of 1 hour and 15 minutes to impress her or you will be thrown to the curb for the next most qualified guy.  My experience with this was an encounter about 8 years ago with a lovely, quiet man that didn’t lead to a second date. I now know this gentleman as a friend, having spent many hours discussing, conversing and pondering the world. He is the real deal. I see many pass him up, not realizing what they are missing. How could they? There are too many people to choose from online and people rarely want to settle into actually getting to know someone the way we used to. It is wham, bam, his nose isn’t perfect and I don’t like his shoes, no thank you ma’am.

What to do?

1. Give love a chance

Slow it down, man. Love takes time to develop. The idea that in the first two seconds you know he is the one is short-sighted. This might be true if we were walking around truly open to all experiences with no pre-conceived notions borne of past relationships. However, because we are so influenced by our pasts as we search for our future, it is wise to give more than two seconds consideration.

2. Listen a little

When you stop talking, you can start taking in what she is saying. This allows you to notice her laugh, her level of vocabulary, and her views of the world. In listening, you learn.

3. Give a second date

Some people definitely rub you the wrong way, and they can be pushed to the wayside. However, if you are intrigued but unsure, give them a second chance. Growers warm up over time. You won’t get to see his true stuff until after 4 or 5 interactions.

4. Interact briefly

A strategy to get to really know someone is to date small. Break up that 4 hour, 3 martini date into 4 small dates instead. Take a walk, search BullMoose for cds, drink tea, and visit a wine tasting at MJ’s. These smaller, less intense interactions will allow you to ease into the knowing of her.

5. Try some offline options. Growers, introverts, and the more introspective are often easier to meet in small group settings. Try these offline options:

     Meetup.com (pick a topic, any topic). Get into writing or bird watching or skeet shooting. Try “Am I still single”, a group for single Mainers who want to meet people offline.

     Wine wise, a group that provides wine tours in and around Portland.

     Running or biking groups (check out meetup.com or bike shops to find them)

     Take Action Portland (TAP) is a volunteer-run organization that coordinates monthly commitment-free community action projects and is a fantastic way to meet people.

6. Pay attention to people in your real world. The ultimate offline experience is right around the corner, at Coffee by Design, Rising Tide Brewery, or the produce section of Trader Joes, for example.  Connect with the person standing next to you in line through a smile or a hello. Take a chance; make a connection. You never know what will happen.

Note: I addressed this article mainly to women because, in my experience, men are a bit better at this. In my dating phase, almost every single man I went on a date with was up for the second date. It was my choice to turn them on or turn them down.

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

gentleman

Dating a World Later: The 6 most important questions to ask when jumping online.

It’s been 25 years since you dated. The last “date” you remember was in high school or college. Maybe you were a child of the 50s or 60s when dating was less “dating” and more dancing, smoking, and listening to Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead. Or perhaps you were a child of the 70s when you weren’t quite as free but still retained some sweetness in double dates and seeing movies for the 10th time. Wherever you were, we now find ourselves in a rule-less world of online dating where clearly a lot has changed.  A mid-50s female relationship-coaching client asked me, “What do I need to know about online dating?” The advice I gave in response may prove helpful to you.

1. Men and women may be online for different reasons

There are lots of reasons to be online dating: to meet new people, to develop long-term relationships, or to have lots of sex.  Online dating provides some anonymity and allows people to market themselves in a particular way. It also allows one to hone in on what they want (activesingles.com; greensingles.com).  Be clear about why you are online.

Ask these 2 questions before you get in too far:

- Why did you decide to date online?

- What are you looking for from people you meet online?

2. You need to know the difference between dating and a relationship

The implication of “dating” is that you are trying things out and potentially dating multiple people. A relationship implies that only two people are involved and there is a presumption that there may be a future together. As a rule, men date and women relate.

Ask these questions once you have passed date #3.

- Are you more into dating or relationships?

- How many people do you like to date at once?

3. Sex is forefront in the mind of everyone (yes, everyone)

Most people coming out of divorce have had unsatisfying sex lives for quite some time and are looking to rectify the situation. The pleasure and risks of sex are much different today. The openness is fun; the STDs are not. Don’t be afraid to wait, always use a condom, get tested and ask questions.

Ask these questions cautiously and clearly.

- What are your thoughts on having sex with more than one person at a time?

- Is there anything I need to know about your sexual health before we have sex? (Basically, do you have any STDs I should be aware of?)  Have you been tested recently?

You need to know what you want. People may ask you the same questions. Be prepared.

Start by asking yourself all the questions above.  And, come to the workshop on online dating on May 20th at 7pm at Local Flames.  Register by clicking here.

 

Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  More information here.  localflamesmaine.com

Erin Oldham, Ph.D. Relationship Coach