Tag Archives: local flames

datewiselywithkids

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… divorce and dating.

How do I date wisely after divorce when I have kids?

The first thing we have to deal with as divorced people is… how to set up the perfect online dating profile.  This is written a bit facetiously.  But honestly, the major thing on the minds of the recently split is how to find someone new, and better.  Drafting your first dating profile usually happens about two weeks to two months before the divorce is finalized.  Not too long after that we are dealing with the question of when to introduce our new dating partner to our kids.  This happens anywhere from one week (not recommended!) to one month to six months after we meet someone.  And way too soon after that, we are deciding how to merge our family with another in, yikes, the same house!

All of this can happen during the time of ‘unreason’, that time when we are post-divorced and pre-sane.  During this period the concept of time is elusive and the hormones from meeting and touching someone new are in serious overdrive.  We believe we can see the future! And it involves lots of sex!  Once you take a breath, you start to realize that the relationship before you is a relationship just like any other, where we make mistakes, missteps, and misfires. Now however, there are lots of other people involved in our mistakes, namely our children.  So take a breath, and think about these three suggestions as you date post-divorce.

1. Have the conversation with your kids.  

Ideally, a newly-dating adult has prepared their children prior to getting online and dating.  (See “What can I say to my children?” for ideas.)  That is what the experts, including myself, recommend.  From much experience, however, I know most of us start dating before having this conversation.  That’s okay.  Just have it as soon as possible.

2. Be prepared to answer hard questions. 

Your kids are concerned about their experience.  They want to know what is going to happen to them.  You may be thinking about what to wear on your hiking date to look cool and casual, yet fit and vivacious, but your 5 year-old is thinking about whether he will have a new dad, new brothers and sisters, and whether he will have to move from his favorite bedroom.  Your 15 year-old is wondering if you are having sex with other people and whether she will have a nasty new step parent.  Children are the ultimate pragmatists and a bit egotistical in their perspective, and they have every right to be.   If there are any questions that you don’t expect, give yourself the time to think through your answer by saying, “Let me think about that”, or “I am going to talk to your mom about that one and get back to you.”

3. Observe yourself as you date.  

Don’t do things you wouldn’t advise for your kids when they start dating.  You are now a serious role model for your children.  You were before too, but now you are going to show them what it is like to meet people, date, build relationships, and sustain those relationships.  And you are doing it during a time when emotions and challenging situations are circling around you.  Be easy on yourself, be honest with yourself, and be honest with your children.

What are my children concerned about?

These are the questions spinning around in your child’s head.

      – Will my dad still be my dad? Do I have to have a new mom?

      – Will I have to move? Will I have to go to a new school?

      – Will I have new brothers and sisters? Will my mom/dad love them better than me?

      – What is going to happen to me? Are things going to change?

What can I say to my children? 

Keep it simple, straightforward and honest.  Keep their developmental level in mind.  What words and concepts will make sense to them?  Don’t bring the hurt and the pain, or your feelings about your ex into it.  Have the talk at a time when you can be calm and measured.  These are some refrains you can use.

- As your dad and I form new lives, we will both be meeting and dating new people. It is nice to go through life with someone and that is why I will be meeting new people.

- You will not be expected to be a part of it unless you want to be.

- It is natural for adults to want to live their lives with other people.

- It takes time to really get to know people, so I may date a couple people before I find a person I want to date over the long term.

- No one will ever replace your dad (or mom). I will always be your mom. Your dad will always be your dad. We will always be your parents.

- You all come first and I will make decisions about my dating life with you in my mind. I will look for someone who is good for me and who is good for you all too.

- There won’t be any big changes in your life that you don’t know about. I will let you know ahead of time about anything that impacts your life.

- Do you have any questions?

Do I have to tell them?? 

Yes, you do.  This is one of those hard moments as a parent where you would love not to have adult responsibilities.  It may seem easier to just keep on keeping on, or to think that you are protecting your children by keeping them in the dark, or that they are too young to be in the know.  Let me clue you in… kids know whether you tell them or not.  They see you texting, they hear your phone pinging with the latest OkCupid notification, they notice you laughing more, and going out more.  If you don’t tell them, they will come up with a story and the story will be much more dramatic, dire, and fanciful than reality.  So suck it up, sit down, breath, and be honest with your children about what life is like for you in this new reality.

The last word…

This is a hard time.  You are finding someone new while finding yourself at the same time.  The best you can do is to be aware of the choices you are making and to give yourself permission to begin each day anew.  We all make mistakes during this time.  Apologize, be honest with yourself and your children, and start again.

 

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

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

womanhand

Three months in? Five Ways to get to Four

There is a classic story amongst dating adults. It was depicted in 9 ½ Weeks, with a little pizazz and lot of soft-core bondage. It is the story of the rapid rise and fall of the steamy adult relationship. It starts with a bang and fizzles out with one last confusing text.

January

Oh my god! I haven’t seen you in forever! I have to tell you about Josh. Holy shit, he is the best. No seriously, I think he’s the one. I mean, it’s just this feeling I get when I’m around him. It’s totally perfect. And you’ll never believe this. Our mothers have the same name. Seriously, and get this. He got married on the same date as my birthday. How weird is that! And wait for it… it is literally the best sex of my life!!

February

No… yeah, no, I mean it is going really well. We went to a really good concert last night. I met his kids last weekend; that was weird. A little reality check but I really, really like him. He lives in Yarmouth and wants to stay there. There is no way in hell I am moving out of Portland. But it’s way too early to think about all that, so no biggie.

Mid-February

I do, I really enjoy our time together. I don’t quite get why I need to hear about his ex so much but whatever.   I definitely don’t want to deal with another crazy ex. Get this, he left his toothbrush at my house. It just sits there staring at me in the morning. What’s up with that? What? No, definitely, the sex is still pretty good.

Early-March

We’re on a break, I mean, just a short one. We really like each other and really want this to work. It was just feeling like too much work. Should it be that much work? He was weirdly defensive the other day and I still don’t know what he was mad about. I felt like I was right back in my last relationship! I might have to get out of this.

Late-March

We broke up. No, this time for good. I miss him, but I love being alone.

48 hours later

Well, we’re trying it again. No really, I’m feeling good about it. We had a really good talk. Well, and a little sex too. He said everything I was waiting to hear. I’m really excited that we’re back.

April

Oh, right, we broke up a week ago. I meant to tell you. I mean, we tried as hard as we could but it just wasn’t working. I loved that first month we spent together. We just couldn’t get back there.

What’s up with that?

Month 3 is when the mask we wear is no longer comfortable and starts to break off. We have an innate knowledge that to feel truly safe in a relationship we must be known and be vulnerable. In trying to reach that place of safety, we have to go through the field of fear. Fear pushes us back to our core emotional patterns learned oh so long ago. Automatic pilot kicks in. If we are a runner, this is when we run. If we are a fighter, this is when we fight. So how do we get through the field, with the relationship, and ourselves, intact?

1. Learn your patterns.

Pay attention to yourself. What do you do when you feel backed against a wall? And, what puts you there? Is it the mere mention of commitment or a vacation together that gives you cold sweats?   Does talk of wanting to merge families put you on edge? And how do you react when you feel uncomfortable: do you turn off emotionally, back away from the relationship physically, return to former girlfriends, feel anxious, and/or begin to cling and text overly long sentiments? Does jealousy or anger creep in?

2. Learn to be vulnerable.

Your patterns are your defense. They keep you from having to feel real feelings, which emanate from that sense of vulnerability. Step 1 to being vulnerable is believing in yourself and understanding that we all, every single one of us, have (many!) beautiful imperfections. Being vulnerable takes an act of courage. It is believing in yourself, not clinging to past stories, past beliefs or things past partners said about you. Start by taking a breath and repeating “I’m okay, no, not just okay, but good. I’m good”.

3. Know that discomfort is a good thing.

You may have heard the suggestion to “lean into your discomfort”. Leaning in is a signal that you are open to doing things differently this time, that you know that learning new emotional patterns takes work. When you feel uncomfortable, it is a signal to your brain that you are on the precipice of learning something new. When you feel the discomfort in your body, stop, breathe, and stay with that discomfort. Do something differently. Instead of turning away from the person in front of you, turn towards her and say, out loud, “Wow, I am glad we got to this point. I feel uncomfortable. My usual tendency would be to back away from this relationship and start acting weird, but I am choosing not to. I am happy to be here with you.”

4. Stop trying to get back to the first month.

A long term relationship has a different feel to it than the early, dopamine-laden days of that first month. The trick to the longer term relationship is to aspire to feelings of attachment rather than the quick hit of cocaine (cocaine has the same impact on the brain that touch, love, and sex have during that first month). Attachment, the feeling in a longer term relationship, feels like a comfortable blanket wrapping around you while you sit in front of a fire with your favorite book. You don’t have to give up the quick rush when you are striving for a longer relationship. Picture sex on the couch before you grab your book!  But know that aspiring only for the quick rush will not result in sustained joy or a sustainable relationship.

5. Or just break up.

Because you are showing your true self around the three month mark, you should recognize the other person is too. You are getting new insight into what she is like, how she deals with conflict, and how she feels about herself. This is an ideal time to step back, ask lots of questions of the other person, and assess the relationship with a calm, objective eye. It is always possible that the person in front of you is not a good match. Breaking up and trying again with someone else is always an option. If you decide you want to stay in the relationship, take a breath, and get ready for the ride.

 

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

roses

The Secret Truth About Lying

He is such a dick. I can’t believe he lied to me! We have all sputtered or spit this refrain. The akin phrase from the men: What a crazy bitch! How is it that we view as liars those who have scorned or left us because all those sweet nothings whispered in the middle of the night evaporated into words of vitriol?

I have a theory that some of our craziest, most delusional declarations may not be lies per se, but hopes, dreams and wishes instead. I also believe those statements are heavily influenced by the chemicals in our brains.

Now, I am not making an argument that people don’t ever lie. I was married to a chronic liar, which he copped to, in a letter, that he said he wrote to me, that his post-divorce girlfriend told me he said he wrote for her, that he posted on Facebook. (He had an attention deficit disorder of a different sort.) So I understand malicious liars. This isn’t about them. This is about the things we say during relationships and how they may not qualify as lies.

Four Proclamations Said in the Heat of the Moment: Are They Lies?

Try these four on for size.

1. I want to be with you forever.

When we are falling in love, our brains are awash in dopamine and norepinephrine. Those chemicals send us into a land of extremes (picture snorting cocaine and the immediate aftereffects and you may understand why everything in love is so very). Falling in love is like we are in a tunnel with tunnel vision only hearing the reverberations that emanate from the tunnel echoing back at us. She is all you think about. She seems perfect! She is like no one you have ever met. Your brain ruminates on her all the time. You are staying up late talking and touching and looking into each other’s eyes. Your brain is convincing you that she is a unique being on this planet, unlike anyone you have ever experienced, ever! So, of course, you throw out words like “forever”, “best” and “perfect”. You believe it when you say it.

2. Let’s make a baby.

This is an interesting one to me. Having had triplets, I felt completely over-done with babies soon after their birth when I was 30. My plan was for one and done and I ended up with half a hockey team. But during my rebound marriage, delusional ramblings came out of my mouth and his in those first six months. Lets have a baby together. My sex education when growing up was a book called “Where do babies come from?” which suggested it is natural to want to be as close as we can to the one we love, and there is nothing closer than having a baby together. The chemicals flowing through our brains make us think we can take on anything. I also believe there is a strong evolutionary pull towards wanting to procreate together.   Luckily, we were able to step back and see that the existing 5 kids between the two sides was too many and 6 would have been perfectly disastrous. No one was lying when they proclaimed a brief desire for children; we were just in love.

3. That was the best sex ever.

This is one of those statements that is not worth questioning too much. I mean, really, who cares to dissect their entire sexual past to determine whether that last 20-minute session was truly the best ever?  When you get to a certain age, like mine, you will have made the statement to five, ten or twenty different people. In doing research on the brain’s reactions during lust, sex, and love, I realized that it is the intense hit of endorphins in the build-up to and following orgasm that forces “oh my god” over and over out of your mouth, regardless of your religious beliefs.  It is the same force that allows you to clearly and sincerely state your fervent ardor. So, if someone tells you are the best ever, smile and say thank you.

4. I love you.

This is the big one. How could he say he loved me and then walk away from me? He never loved me! My worst divorce #1 moment came when the inept therapist I was going to said, “It seems like you never loved you husband.” This was my love of the last 18 years that he was dissing with a single harmful sentence. I repeated the sentence to my soon-to-be ex and he was completely destroyed. What a ridiculous waste of emotional energy to turn what had been an important and enduring relationship into a waste of time. We can lose that loving feeling, but a moment in time doesn’t erase the past. We can also feel fully in love, yet a month later move on to someone else. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that there are different brain systems at work for lusting after someone, falling in love with someone, and having a long term attachment to another person. Another part is that we all feel love and express love differently from one another. Some of us move on quickly from one love to the next; others need longer to heal. But those are different articles. For now, suffice to say, believe him when he says “I love you” but accept it if he moves on.

The truth

We want people to be perfect, to know themselves perfectly, and to speak their truths all the time. The older I get, the more I realize truth is relative, impermanent, and transitory at best. Sometimes I have to try a statement out loud before I know if it is true or not. I told my last boy that I was totally up for taking care of his 3 year old child, and I felt completely sincere in my proclamation at the time. Trying out that statement now, I can see there is no way I can step back 10 years in time after I have hit the golden years with my own 13 year-old triplets.   So it was my truth at the time, but it is not my truth. Get it?

In the throes of love anything seems possible.   Wrap your last love-lost story in some perspective. Remember that as we say bold and big statements, we are influenced by our past patterns, our recent experiences, and the chemicals flowing in our brains.

 

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

single people

Four Reasons it Sucks Being Single

The people that came into Local Flames warmed my heart.  They were interesting, from all walks of life, were willing to go deep and happy to be part of a community.   Many came in because of what Local Flames represented: being authentic, building community, creating a safe environment for dating and encouraging growth and introspection. Others came in looking for a mate or a playmate. My eyes were opened and my mind forever changed through experiencing 300 single people in six months. This is what I learned.

Being constantly vulnerable is hard.

Being single is an exercise in being vulnerable, all the time. You get to figure out how to fix your refrigerator without someone to consult. You get to reduce recipes so you don’t have more leftovers than you can eat.   And, bonus, you get to continually expose yourself to strangers on online sites and then to those same strangers in person on dates in public places. 35% of the people that signed up for Local Flames never showed up to a single event. We talked to a lot of these people (or their friends that reported in for them). The biggest barrier was simply walking in a room, full of strangers, for the first time.

People have been hurt, a lot.

For every divorce (or long-term breakup) you hear of, there are at least two adults and potentially, a number of children that have suffered. The initial relief to be out from under gives way to the acknowledgment of having experienced more hurt than you ever thought possible and potentially lasting trauma you weren’t at all expecting.   The challenge is in walking around with this pain, each day, and trying not to recreate it with the next person you get involved with.

People want to relate to others.

Again and again, the same sentence came up in workshops: “I feel better knowing it’s not just me.” As much as we feel alone, or shame or blame in our experiences, I have learned something extremely important: we have all experienced loss and hurt and heartache. We desperately want to feel a connection to something or someone. We have lost a sense of connection and community in the overly online way of life. When we feel seen and heard, a wave of relief washes over us. It is this sense of relating to each other and having shared experiences that begins the formation of community. There are so many similar experiences and actually very common patterns that we, as human beings go through in the journey into and out of love. Seeing members discover others, as friends or lovers, was my favorite part of 2014.

Finding love, tru luv, takes time.

One huge lesson from my life and from Local Flames is that finding the person with whom you radiate joy takes a good, long time. I met awesome, absolutely worthy people who had been single for 2 months to 2 years to 15 years. Continuing to believe in and invest in love takes a past-defying leap of faith. Heartache doesn’t always come from breaking up with someone, it can also arise from the intense desire to be with or near or under another human being. The pain of loneliness can push us to be the last one in the office, to check facebook for the 20th time… in an hour, to bury ourselves in yoga, to drink one too many or to power watch Breaking Bad. Sometimes it is easier to distract ourselves in these ways than to invest our time and energy in exposing our true selves to the world, yet again. The journey to soul gratifying love is long and littered with pieces of ourselves. I commend and admire those of us, including myself, who continue the search, each day, for better or for worse.

 

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

whome

Who me? How Single People Self-Sabotage.

Excitement was in the air.  A bit of tension as well.  They came walking in, subtly scanning the room for hope.  It started with 16 people at a Local Flames mixology event down in Kennebunk.  Heads thrown back laughing, which is exactly what ensues with two perfectly mixed drinks.  People wanted more.  They came to movies, game nights, dinner, kayaking, and even an event to clean up the trash in Deering Oaks Pond (which, by the way, is hard to do without falling in!).  I observed them for six months, weaving in and out of relationships and our events.   However, they didn’t always do themselves favors when it came to finding their one.  There was some out and out sabotage going on.  These are the things that were not working for the singles.

1. Men go too low; women too.

Our mixers were like a candy story for men.  They routinely and almost universally made a beeline for the, youngest, tautest bottom, knocking other women aside.  Women were not totally immune from this phenomenon either.  In our initial in-person conversation, many a 50 year old would lean in and confide that “also… a younger man would be nice” (if only we served them up on a platter!). Our society emulates the young and I believe when we are released from the cages of past relationships or put in a room with a mash of people, most of us will at least look at, if not approach, the smooth skinned.

2. Men and women don’t necessarily see themselves accurately.

The harsh truth of the matter is that the rule of the land in high school still applies. The pretty people go with the pretty people and the rest of us can pick among the remains. I saw lots of potential matches; people who were on the same playing field in terms of looks, age and fitness. But inevitably, there were many members remembering what they looked like in years past turning to gaze at people fitter, younger and “prettier” than they were. This led to too many people missing the interesting people in the room and frankly, lots of rejection and ignored connection requests.

3. Men don’t want to compete with other men.

Some men were intimidated by the concept of standing in a room with other men, fearing the competition in getting to talk to the women of their choice. This seemed to be a barrier to membership for some men.  But this is the thing, so many of these men were missing out on what they say they wanted, interesting, intriguing women who wanted to meet people in  a more authentic way.

4. Men don’t like getting help, with anything.

This was the most common refrain I heard for why men hesitated to sign up. They didn’t want to feel like they needed help with their dating life. This was the reaction when we offered a “fix a (bike) flat” workshop too. “I already know how to fix a flat!” Yes, I get that, but there are 10 hot women at a workshop that like to bike and may be impressed with your prowess. In fact, try a workshop. They are full of thoughtful, introspective women. Do you know how many potential points you get for showing up to improve yourself?!?  And, frankly my dear, we all need a little help.  That is why we are single (or will be after that second and/or third divorce).

5. Once women hit the 50 year mark, there are challenges ahead.

I thought my eyes were deceiving me. We had about 40 women that were in their 50’s and seriously hot (this went for a bunch of 60 year olds as well). They were done or almost done with their kids. They were successful and active. Their hard bodies proved their regular workouts were working. They had their shit together at home and work. Yet, they were totally overlooked. These women reported being disappointed with the men their age and their sagging bodies and overworked minds and would love to go younger themselves. But men in their 40’s seemed scared by a category with 5 in it and the men in their 50’s and 60’s were hoping against hope that the 30’s and 40’s were the perfect decade for them.

6. Everyone wants to lie about their age.

Universally, men and women wanted to downgrade their age thereby increasing their chances of snagging a good one. The staff was entertained by routine requests to alter ages by members who hook, line and sinker bought into our principal of authenticity. See #5 for why this might be.

7. Everyone thinks they are just too picky to find someone.

Listen up. This is important. Dozens of people that I spoke with felt that people of their caliber were not in the room. These were people that were standing in the same room with each other. Do you get what that means? While you were dissing all the men in the room, they were dissing you too. Okay, so if we all believe we are too good for everyone else in the room, then we will get, precisely… nowhere.  I am currently dating someone from Local Flames (after membership ended of course).  Yes, I got to see them all and pick among them (the one benefit of running this business) but there were plenty to pick from.  To see the fantastic men and women in Local Flames, it was critical to cut out the negative perceptions (there are no “good men anymore”) and judgments of others so you could actually get to know those around you.   The next time you state that you are “just too picky”, ask yourself… “Am I too picky or am I too judgmental?”

Let the love in guys and gals.  Open up and get to know the person standing next to you. They may or may not be the one but they will make your life more interesting, guaranteed.

 

Other Articles on Single People by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Four Reasons it Sucks Being Single

Six Ways to Find a Lover

 

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

how the flames started

The fire roared to life

The Genesis of Local Flames

In October 2012, I thought it was high time to address what had gone wrong in my life. My second divorce was declared complete. It was initially fun to look around and blame other people or parents for my issues but really, in the end, I, softly, acknowledged that the convoluted trajectory of my life had arisen directly from me and my actions. I embarked upon a journey of writing, meditating and yoga. I whipped my body and soul into shape with a 40 day program at Portland Power Yoga. I scribbled unending, incomplete, angry sentences in small notebooks with deceivingly serene covers. I wrestled my brain into ceasing the replay of nasty pre-divorce scrimmages and forced it to hear my breath, filling my body, fully, for perhaps the first time.

From the silence, a radically simply idea arose: if we were to evaporate tomorrow, all that would truly matter are the connections and love we have with others. There are so many ways in which we have lost connections to others in our technology dominated world. We all feel loneliness, especially those of us who are single. Local Flames was my way of creating a place where people could form connections with others and feel a part of something.   It was to be a place where people knew your name, where you could take the time to heal from that last relationship, where you could avoid getting back together with that guy just because you didn’t have anyone to go to Port City with you on Friday.

July 2013… Big Idea #1

Early on, I brainstormed that what was really needed was divorce coaching, especially for men.

Flashbulb moment: Coaching with divorced men! That’s it!

Emanating from too many dates that turned into therapy sessions, my thought was to provide an outlet and practical advice for men who had been crushed by their divorces, financially and emotionally, leaving them overly dependent upon their match.com dates for spiritual redemption.  My well of empathy for men following divorce goes deep; I hear of too many of them that are financially screwed, totally out of their element, with questionable shoe and jean choices and an inability to cook for their children.

I thought if men had a compassionate, non-judgmental, experienced and educationally and life qualified person to talk to and answer their questions about the children and the ex, they could focus their conversational abilities during dates on their interests, and passions, and books and travel and basically, anything, besides their custody schedule and the last nasty text from their ex. I imagined slowing men down, allowing them to pick their next date or wife wisely. I have seen so many men (and women) (and myself) chose a partner within months of their divorce, resulting in a second wedding, marriage, disillusionment and not surprisingly, divorce. Critical to this all, I was hoping to serve and protect children, those children who’s pleading gaze falls upon their parents, with unspoken words cajoling them to please, please pull it together in time.

September 2013… Bigger Idea #2

From continued, questionable, tiring online dating experiences, my facile, never-quiet brain produced another whammy.

Flashbulb moment: Matchmaking and active, intellectual and engaging events so people could meet, in real time, in person! That’s it!

The game of singledom, smiling and feigning satisfaction with life, while creating 10 word marketing pitches and photos from a thinner time had lost its charm. The solution would be to create the only place worth going in the midst of our 6 month winter, a living room, a comfy setting, where people know your name and just happen to be single and available. We would have game nights, and house parties where people show up with instrument in hand, and contemplative nights where we wonder about the meaning of life and how we all got to this interesting place in life. (We actually did all those events and they rocked!)

In the fall and winter of 2013, I made steps towards shutting down a psychological research company I had founded in 2002 following the birth on my triplets and starting a new business focused on love, connection and relationships. My immersion in the yoga world led me down a pathway of not just wanting to provide a place for people to meet, but a place to grow and learn, to feel seen and heard and feel less lonely and more connected.  I wanted this connection to be inclusive and comforting, for others and for myself. Yes, some would accuse me of starting the business just to find myself a beau and to them I say… yep, there was a bit of that in the plans as well. Regardless, in April of 2014, excitement was building from the musings of newly hired staff convinced that we could crack the age old conundrum of how to meaningfully meet other available, interesting human beings, in Portland, Maine of all places.

What’s Up with Single Mainers?

 

Erin Oldham, Ph.D., is the founder of Local Flames, an organization dedicated to supporting people in developing and sustaining healthy relationships. We offer a newsletter to connect people to local events and the latest research on healthy relationships as well as workshops, divorce consultation and relationship coaching. Erin has a Ph.D. in psychology specializing in child development and has researched how children and adults form secure attachments and healthy relationships for 25 years. Contact Erin at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970 for more information about her workshops and coaching. Localflamesmaine.com

bluebus

Wait. What’s Up with Local Flames?

Wait, so are you doing events now or what? Nope, those events almost did me in. Hooking your friends up is hard to do; hooking 300 strangers up, some looking for the perfect one and others looking for the perfect drink, is damn near impossible. Oh, the secret lives of single people in Portland. There were plenty of good ones. And plenty that were charmingly odd. Some walked in, puffed and proud. Others slunk around, staying away from photos or any proof of their singlehood. A majority were so thankful for anything, ANYTHING, other than the dreaded online.

We had this crazy notion of providing a high quality experience so I put in place qualified staff, a beautiful office and events galore. But the realities of Maine frugality (which I appreciate) and the nonsensical spending habits of Americans (which confuses me: $100 for a phone, easy, but never for your love life) made it clear that we, and specifically my dwindling bank account, couldn’t survive the events business.

Despite that eye-opening experience, Local Flames is still here, a year and a half after we begun. I made a quick business decision to put the events on hold and focus on what was actually working: The workshops and my expertise. I love creating space for people to tell their real stories, to get down to the nitty-gritty, to talk about the real deal. He Said/She Said discussions on what men and women really want, workshops on how your childhood is still impacting your relationships, relating to people one-on-one, lending my decades of research experience and perspective from my real-life debacles in my writing… these things resonated with people and will continue. So this is the deal.

  • Yes, we offer workshops.
  • Yes, we offer relationship coaching.
  • Yes, we offer divorce consultation.
  • Yes, the blog will continue to offer relationship advice.
  • No, we don’t offer matchmaking (but here is someone who does!)
  • No, we don’t sponsor events (sign up for our newsletter to find out who is doing events)

How do you come up with this crazy idea?

In October 2012, I thought it was high time to address what had gone wrong in my life. My second divorce was declared complete. It was initially fun to look around and blame other people or parents for my issues but really, in the end, I, softly, acknowledged that the convoluted trajectory of my life had arisen directly from me and my actions. I embarked upon a journey of writing, meditating and yoga. I whipped my body and soul into shape with a 40 day program at Portland Power Yoga. I scribbled unending, incomplete, angry sentences in small notebooks with deceivingly serene covers. I wrestled my brain into ceasing the replay of nasty pre-divorce scrimmages and forced it to hear my breath, filling my body, fully, for perhaps the first time.

From the silence, a radically simply idea arose: if we were to evaporate tomorrow, all that would truly matter are the connections and love we have with others. There are so many ways in which we have lost connections to others in our technology dominated world. We all feel loneliness, especially those of us who are single. Local Flames was my way of creating a place where people could form connections with others and feel a part of something.   It was to be a place where people knew your name, where you could take the time to heal from that last relationship, and where you could avoid getting back together with that guy just because you didn’t have anyone to go to Port City with you on Friday.

Early on, I brainstormed that what was really needed was divorce coaching, especially for men. But I blew past that notion in my exuberance to a full blown organization providing events (!), coaching (!) and matchmaking (!). Now I have come back full circle to the divorce consultation, somewhere between a therapist and lawyer, someone who knows how things really works, understands the psychology of people, understands how to protect children during times of upheaval, can apply the research on effective communication and negotiation and can truly empathize with what people are going through.

Read the full story behind Local Flames here.

Tell me more about why the events stopped.

Hiking, cycling, running, yoga, cooking, painting, game nights, concerts and kayaking were our mainstays between June and October when 120 events were planned and executed. Lots of things were running smoothly. Good press was at our back, the people were coming (even the men!) and almost all of the events were actually working, some even producing various couplings. Over 300 people had signed up for membership and there were more men at many of the events as we headed into fall.  There was one major problem though: We were running too hot. It was costing a ton more to run each event than each event (or portion of the membership fee) was bringing in. Think staff time to set it up, advertise it, recruit people, make sure both men and women of similar ages were attending and staff to run the event. Think consulting time to produce convincing branding, copy and blogs. Think basic business overhead.

While people craved more events (and begged for them once we stopped), they didn’t want to pay for the events. There are so many groupons and coupons and free meet up groups in the world today, that even when presented with well-run events with professional event leaders, people balked at paying even small amounts to participate. While people regularly pay $50 for a dinner and $150 for their cable bill, most were not in favor of paying $79 for a monthly membership getting access to 20 monthly events.

As the sole financer of the operation, this was all slowly draining my savings. I was experiencing enormous and debilitating stress. My belief in family friendly policies (full benefits!) and deserving pay for dedicated employees was bringing me to the brink. I was unable to lift my arm for much of July and August, due to the pain of a herniated cervical disc, caused, not by injury as all 4 doctors I consulted with assumed, but strictly from untenable and unsustainable levels of stress. Decisiveness came, at the end of October, as I made the call to stop events (and the outflow of money). Relief was instant.

What’s up with single people in Portland.

Tell me more about what’s up with Local Flames now.

Local Flames activities are focused on the genesis of my original brainstorm, supporting people to make connections with themselves and others to develop healthy relationships.

1. We offer workshops.  

Each month we focus on fun, engaging ways of understanding ourselves better and meeting others in similar positions.   Topics facilitated by professional trainers range from light and fun (“Art of the First Date”) to deep and thoughtful (“How love and divorce affect your brain”).

2. I offer divorce consultation.

Divorce lawyers, mediators and therapists have begun referring their clients to me. I am working with clients on whether to step into divorce, how to make children feel safe as a divorces progresses, how to start meeting people in a safe way, how to step parent or support a step parent in your home, how to file papers to ensure reliable child support, and how to negotiate a healthy relationship with your ex.   I am getting trained as a mediator and will soon be able to offer that service as well.

3. I offer relationship coaching

My workshops get people wondering about themselves. They make people want to know more. My most recent client wants to figure out how to get past the three month mark in his relationship. That I get, and can help with. Similar to location, location, location in real estate, in relationships, is it patterns, patterns, patterns.

4. My blog will continue

This is my favorite thing to do.  I love writing.  I have this brain that observes and captures images and thoughts.  I love learning new things and sharing them with others in my own way.  Read all my latest blogs on single people.

Four Reasons it Sucks Being Single

Six Ways to Find a Lover

Who me? How Single People Self-Sabotage

5. We are promoting events sponsored by local businesses and groups for singles.                                                    

Through the newsletter that reaches over 800, people are being connected to local businesses that are hosting events and to local meet-up groups that are coordinating singles parties. At present, Local Flames is not sponsoring their own events.

 

Thank you! Thank you for reading my story, the story of Local Flames. And thank you to those of you who are part of and will continue to be part of the Local Flames experience. I am happy to be coming into 2015 having met so many tremendous single Mainers and continuing to work with them in meaningful ways. We are evolving in ways that I hope will contribute to what really matters: love, connection and community in Maine.

p.s. And, no, there is no particular reason for the blue bus.  I just like the blue bus.

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