Monday, December 24, 2007

Dysfunctional Family Bingo

This week, I think it would be fun to look at family relationships, and learn a unique way to get through the holidays. I come from a dysfunctional family, whom I love and am grateful for today. This wasn't always true. Often before I worked through my relationship issues, I was the one who had several squares on this Bingo game.
The game was designed and suggested by Martha Beck, PhD. When Martha talked about Dysfunctional Family Bingo as a way to get through family gatherings by stepping back from the fray, and being able to laugh at ourselves and our family, I jumped right on board.
If you find that your family gatherings are difficult and there are people you can count on to do the same obnoxious, silly, or even sad things every year, playing this game can help you get through, and be able to laugh at yourself as well. I find it also works great for office Christmas parties, and business meetings. So here are the rules, as written by Martha Beck, for Dysfunctional Family Bingo:
INDICATIONS: For relief of boredom, frustration, cringing, revulsion, childhood regression, and surges of violence due to holiday celebration.
INSTRUCTIONS: Prepare your Bingo card before any gathering you dread attending. Get at least one other player to create his/her own Bingo card to provide competition.
Begin by listing 24 dysfunctional events that are likely to happen at the gathering of your choice (for example, "Mom begs Morris to stop gambling," "Jim gets drunk," "Little Bobby Sue sets a fire," etc.).
Write ONE event into EACH of the blank squares on the Bingo card.
Take your Bingo card to the gathering. When the specified event occurs, mark off the corresponding square on your card.
When you have marked off one entire line of five squares, horizontal, diagonal, or vertical (the middle square is a freebie), sneak away from the dysfunctional gathering, call your competitor(s), and whisper "BINGO" into your cell phone.
DOSAGE: Create and fill out one (1) Bingo card per dysfunctional group interaction.
WARNING: May cause explosive laughter and family discord if discovered by hostile relatives. Do not use in combination with hallucinogens.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Change is in the Air!

How many times have you went into a relationship with the idea that you can change the other person? Or, even better, figured that they would miraculously become the person you wanted them to be without you having to communicate anything at all to them!
Today, I want to talk about what you can and can't change in a relationship. This is actually really simple to do, because there is only one thing you can guarantee to change in a relationship and that is YOU! Not again, you cry, it can't still be about ME. Yes, it can.
However, it is possible to be so clear with your needs and boundaries, that your partner will treat you the way you want, because they realize that nothing else is acceptable. If you are obviously not a person who will put up with lying, cheating, or other bad habits it becomes extremely difficult for a person to do these things when in a relationship with you. This is because when they do these things, you make it clear that the behavior is not acceptable, and either end the relationship then, or make it apparent that another occurence of the behavior will result in the relationshp ending.
There is opportunity for growth in relationships for both people by being totally authentic to who we are. For example, let's say you love to travel and your partner doesn't. This actually was true for me when I first began dating my husband. Since he was not very open to travel, I didn't often push him to go to exotic places with me. What I did was to continue traveling with other friends who enjoyed the same things I do, like river rafting and adventure. Not too long into the relationship, I asked my partner to go to Alaska with me. When he sounded like he couldn't go, I said, "that's okay, I'll go by myself." He actually said to me, "You mean you would go without me?" And I assured him that I would. Amazingly, he was able to get the time off, and went with me. We had a fantastic adventure on an 85 foot fishing boat, hosted by some friends of mine. Since then, we have also had other great adventures, including going to Hawaii.
So, you can change others through your behavior and influence, as long as you are not trying to force them to do things they really don't want to do, and you are not purposely manipulating them. It is no good to pretend you are going to do something to get your partner to change, you have to actually authentically be doing what you love, and often they will follow.
It is particularly difficult to change things that are important values or choices that others have made. For example, you meet someone and decide to have a relationship, but they really want children and you don't. This is not an area where you can expect them to change. I'm not suggesting that people don't change, but with really important issues like whether to have children, expecting that over time someone will change can lead to heartbreak for both parties. When you have strong differences in values or needs, it is important to be honest with your partner, and decide together whether the relationship can work within the boundaries of those differences.
So, it is almost a New Year and I always think about the future and change at this time. I hope that if there are things you personally want to work on this year that you will add a comment or response to a post, and I would love to respond.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mars Vs Venus

I know, this is a picture of Jupiter, but I like the look of it! The reason for the topic today, is that if you are going to love men, you have to like them for who they are, and understand that they are very different from us. I am sure most of you just read that statement and went "Are you nuts, they are really from Mars, how am I supposed to understand them?" It is true that we probably won't ever totally understand men, any more than they will truly understand us. That isn't what I am hoping to educate you on in this posting. What I am hoping to do is to help you see that by men being wired different than women, we can learn to love and enjoy the differences.
Let me tell you a little about my husband. He is what I call a "hunter-gatherer" to the core. He gets great pleasure out of going fishing, crabbing, clamming, picking wild blackberries, growing tomatoes, anything that will provide food for our table that doesn't have to be bought at a store. Now sometimes the cost of going fishing, etc. can be very expensive. When you consider gas prices for the truck and boat, fishing licenses, bait, equipment, and all the trip entails, a ten pound salmon can cost a lot. This doesn't matter, as the act of fishing and bringing it home and cleaning and cooking it give him so much pleasure, it is worth it to him. And, I am not complaining. I enjoy some of these activities as much as he does, what I lack is the drive to do them every chance I get.
The other thing that really makes my husband happy is (no it's not sex, although that ranks up there too!) is having his "cave". At our house, this looks a lot like a garage. When I get up and start working indoors, my husband heads for the garage. He can spend hours doing all kinds of things out there! I once tried to give advice to a woman who had just bought a new home with her husband and kids, and he wanted to turn the garage into a music studio. I said something like, "sounds good, that way he will have a space of his own." Her reply was, "are you kidding, I don't want him to have a space of his own, I want him in the house helping me with the kids." When I tried to show that men need their "cave", she made it clear that was not going to happen in her house. I'm still worried about that situation today!
Now, don't get me wrong. I have spent a lot of time suggesting you love yourself first, and I have not changed my opinion on that. If you need a room of your own, and space to be who you are, you should definitely have that! What I am suggesting by noting some of the things that men need or find important is that one of the best ways to love someone is to respect and honor and enjoy their choices and needs. I love the things that make my husband a guy. I don't want him to be a man who feels and acts just like me. Think back on the men you know that are happy in their lives and relationships, and think about why they are happy.
The other thing that helps is to be able to acknowledge with each other the differences and even talk and laugh about them. My husband and I both joke about our differences and realize that we are not ever going to think alike about many things. What we don't do is try really hard to change each other, and we work hard at loving what is.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I Don't Know if I Even Like Men!

One question I had to answer when I began being open to relationships again was, "Do I even like men?" Now, I wasn't questioning my sexuality, I knew that I am basically heterosexual in nature. What I was questioning was my belief that decent men existed. How many times have you heard someone say, "There aren't any good men left" or "All the good ones are married", or even "I hate men!" These statements are usually made by women who have been hurt in the past, and feel they are open to relationships, but in reality are not ready yet.

So, how does one learn to like men again when they have been hurt before? In my healing process, there were several practices I used. First, I spent time with men who were safe, and not available for me to date. One of the best people I hung out with during this time was my brother. I certainly was never going to date him, but he was a great person to go places with, play and watch sports with, and enjoy his male energy without the fear of being hurt. He is a wonderful guy, (and by the way single), and he showed me that no matter how much I said "Men are dirt!", that I was definitely not 100% correct.

The next thing I did was join a twelve step group. This group usually had more male participants than women. This was during the time where I was learning to love myself, and I was committed to staying single. What happened was, that as I listened to the honest and heartfelt sharing from the men in the group, I realized that men can hurt, love, care, feel, and grow, just as the women in the group did.

I was also on a co-ed softball team during this time. This was a good place to see men in all their testosterone's glory, and witness men who were able to accept me as part of the team, and witness a few men who did not. I made friends with some of these men, who are still good friends of mine today.

From all of these experiences, I learned that men are not so different than women (Oh, I know they are very different in some ways, but here I am talking about basic human nature, not male-female stuff). Men may express their feelings differently than women, but they do have them. Men also get hurt, struggle to find the right women, and become fearful of opening up to the opposite sex.

I also learned that men can tell if you like men or not. Really nice guys will not usually ask a man hater out. Men could tell that I was not open to them, and consequently I didn't get attention from the type of men I would have wanted to date. Once I got to the place where I no longer feared, disliked, or looked down on men, there were men who were ready and willing to get to know me.

If you have man issues, and you are not able to see men as inherently okay then try these steps:
  1. Find men to hang out with who are safe, these might be family members, people you work with, part of an organization you are a part of, anyone who you can enjoy without any sexual tension.
  2. Join a support group, there is Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, or try a local therapy group that is focusing on communication, relationships, etc. It is good to be able to witness men who are willing to express their feelings.
  3. Practice being open to men as decent human beings. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about men, ask yourself "Is this really true?" Come up with instances where you have met men who are kind, generous, and loving. If you can't find any in your personal life, consider movies you have seen, books you have read, public figures you know that are kind and loving.
  4. If you get really stuck on this issue, work with a coach, a counselor, or someone else who can help you get to the limiting beliefs that are keep you from being open to men.

I hope that this has helped you feel better about men in general. If anyone who reads my blog has other ideas and comments, I would love to hear them.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Love Lessons

I apologize for missing my post last week, I was lost in a stupor of turkey and family and pumpkin pie! I have now returned to share my wisdom (or is that insanity!) with you again.
After writing the last post I realized that it is important to talk about the long and winding road that got me here, and the men I met along the way. What I hope that you take from this posting is that whether a relationship lasts a week or a lifetime, there are things that can be learned from each one. When I take the time to look back on the route that brought me to where I am today, and the man I married in the Little Church of the West Wedding Chapel, I find that each relationship brought with it lessons that got me here.
Some of these people were husbands, and some of them were long term relationships, and I am not going to name them or give incriminating details, those I save for my closest friends!
My first love was an Imago love, I met him and for a long time never wanted anyone else. I was instantly attracted and in love with him. He was smart and crazy. He could be the nicest man in the world and in the next go into insane rages. From him I learned that you cannot stay with someone when you keep imagining them dead. The biggest lesson I learned from him was that violence is never okay in a relationship. I made a decision when we split that I would never be treated with violence again, and I haven't been.
My second love was sweet and funny and sexy. He was not gainfully employed, and after we had been together a while I found out that he had never gotten divorced from his wife. He was a lot of fun for a while, but what I learned from him was that monogamy was important to me. I don't like to share, when it comes to men!
The next man taught me that you can get into your thirties and still have the job you dreamed of having as a youth. He lived life with gusto, and was extremely generous. During this relationship, I took a look at my life and decided that I didn't want to use alcohol or other substances to alter my moods anymore. Unfortunately, he did not want to give up his six pack or his bag of weed, and we parted ways. I learned that I didn't want active addictions in my life any more.
The next man was a mistake! He was another one of those Imago boys! I fell hard and fast, he swept me off my feet, and I thought this was it. Unfortunately, shortly after we merged households, he decided he didn't like where we lived (he picked it out!), he didn't like my daughter, he didn't like my dog, and he didn't like his job. We didn't last long, and in this relationship, I learned to never go for that instant love at first site stuff again. I also learned that emotional abuse is never okay.
My next relationship was the closest I have ever come to a soul mate. I knew this guy through and through. He was Native American, and a Vietnam Vet, and he turned me on just to look at him walk away in his Levis and Cowboy Boots! However, after a couple of years this little gambling addiction he had reared its ugly head. I went to counseling and stuck it out as long as I could, and in the end I learned that sometimes you love someone so much you need to let them go. This lesson was the hardest yet, and led me to staying single long enough to learn to love myself first.
Today, I am married to a man who is there for me in every way. I know that he would not even think about abusing me, emotionally or physically. I know that he wouldn't cheat on me. He is strong, and really funny, and is a wonderful friend. He traveled his own path with women and along the way learned a lot of the same things I did, and I am going to do my best to be as good to him as he is to me for a very long time!
The moral of the story is don't give up, don't stop learning, and don't stop believing that you will find the right love eventually.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Wrong Answer

What happens if you have invested a lot of time in a relationship you have the discussion, and your partner absolutely does not want the same things you do? This is a difficult question. Usually by the time this happens you have built a strong foundation of love for this person, and it is difficult to believe they do not feel the same way you do, or want the same things in life.

Before getting to this place, I asked you to be really clear on what you want before having the discussion, and to be confident that you will be okay whatever the outcome. But doing that in reality is much harder than in the planning stage. So let's look at a specific scenario, and work on possible ways forward. Suppose you want a committed relationship that is exclusive and leading towards marriage and children. You have the discussion with your partner and he wants to continue dating, and is open to being exclusive for now, but wants to see what the future brings before making a big commitment. You feel really let down by this, but came to the discussion prepared for any options. After more discussion, it becomes clear that this is as far as he will go. Here are some suggestions for working with this, without going straight into "he doesn't love me, or he doesn't want to commit to me" mode.
  1. Give yourself some time to think about and absorb this turn of events. I would suggest taking as long as you need to do this. You can let your partner know that you need some time without making it seem like punishment, by being open and honest about your needs.
  2. Make sure to take inventory of the relationship and notice all the good things, and no matter what the outcome, what you have learned from this partnership.
  3. Talk with friends, an advisor, a coach, others that you trust to listen to your issues and give good feedback if you ask for it.
  4. Decide whether you are able to continue on in the relationship without a commitment for now. Then the next step will logically come from that decision.
  5. If you feel you want to go ahead and see where things go, then let your partner know that you want to continue in the relationship, and that you will let them know if you get to a point where that no longer works for you.
  6. If you feel that you cannot continue without a commitment, then you can discuss that with your partner, and let the relationship go if necessary.
  7. Whatever you do, continue to practice the good self care and loving yourself first that you have learned along the way.

If you stay connected to who you are and that your life is good with or without a partner it is much easier to be okay with any outcome. Continue to be kind and loving to yourself, and to your partner in any circumstance, and the best outcome can occur.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Keep Dreaming

One of the hardest things to do is stay grounded when you have finally achieved your goals. You have spent some time enjoying your relationship, seeing where your path has led you, and are in a relationship that is on track with your essential self.

At this point, there is sometimes a let down, as we have spent all our time planning for this moment, and now that it is here we aren't sure where to go next. This can also happen when the answers we got in our discussion weren't what we were hoping for. You may still be committed to seeing where the relationship goes for the time being, but you are back to the great "not knowing". I actually hate the great "not knowing". This is where you are sure you want to keep moving on, but the future is an absolute mystery. Learning to stay in the now, and enjoy what is happening this moment is difficult for most and particularly for people like me!

One thing that can help is to allow a certain amount of each day for dreaming and future tripping. For me, this is during my morning walk with my dog. I allow myself to build my own castles in the air, and I work hard on visualizing myself living the life I want. To make this a more concrete action, you can allow yourself to dream, and then write down all the details of your ideal future. Include all types of description, including smells, sounds, sights, textures, so that you will have a rich detail of what that future looks like. Better yet, create a collage or picture board of what you want to bring into your life.

Once you have spent you dreaming and scheming time for the day, whether it is fifteen minutes or an hour, then put it away. Come back to where you are right now, and try to be completely present in your relationship, your career, and all other parts of your life. Be sure you don't miss what is happening right now. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens, while you are making other plans." So although planning can help you attract what you want into your life, make sure you live your life too.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Take Time to Enjoy!

Okay, so now you have had the discussion, and guess what, he feels the same as you do, or at least he is on his way to feeling as you do. What now? First of all, take some time to enjoy where you are. When you started this whole adventure you were not sure how to love yourself, let alone love someone else. Now, you have gone through a huge transformation. Let's look again at the steps along the way.

  1. You worked on yourself to figure out why you chose the kind of partners that you had in the past.
  2. You really began to look at who you were, and spent some time loving yourself completely.
  3. You made lists of what you wanted in a mate, and you sorted that list into what was really important for you to be in a relationship with someone.
  4. You made yourself as authentic, open, and available as possible.
  5. You let your friends, relatives, and co-workers know that you were single and looking for dating opportunities.
  6. You got out there, and tried dating, and didn't write off the types of men you had in the past, and you had some fun while you were at it.
  7. When you met someone you were interested in, you made sure that they had many of the qualities you were looking for, and if they had a lot of qualities you didn't want, you let them go.
  8. You stayed authentic to who you are throughout all of this, and you allowed some mystery in your romantic life.
  9. You gave it time to let the relationship unfold, rather than forcing it into your time schedule or agenda.
  10. You decided when the time was right to move forward in the relationship, and you allowed your partner into you heart, and let him know where you wanted to go.
  11. You prepared yourself for the outcome of this discussion, by being ready to accept his hopes for the relationship, and know that you would be strong no matter what the outcome.

And now you are ready to more forward and begin the relationship of your life. What next? The next step is called "acting as if", and this step is used to attract and build what you want.

First however, I want you to take this next week to reflect back on how far you have come, and enjoy it all. This is your chance!


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Discussion

I don't know about you but I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I have a feeling I am not the only one! As a result of this I have a hard time bringing up topics with people I care about that might be met with any kind of strong emotional response. In my last post I wrote about talking with your partner. In this post I want to give you an idea of a sample script for this discussion. This script is a good tool to use whenever you are getting ready to talk with anyone about a subject that can be scary or when you are bringing up an emotional or difficult issue.

The first thing to do when you need to talk with your partner, is spend some time really considering what you want out of the discussion. In letting your partner know about your End Game, you should already be fairly clear about what that is for you. The second step in the process is to find a time to talk, and to ask your partner to be a part of the process. This can be difficult, as just about every man I know, wants to run when they hear the words, "I think we need to talk". What I did, was wait until we were alone together in a comfortable place, and I knew we had time to discuss things. Then I said to my partner, "I'd really like to share some ideas with you, is this a good time to talk?" This phrase is a little less likely to provoke flight than the first one. Secondly, if they say that it is not a good time to talk, you can say, "I understand, when would be a good time?" Once you have agreed upon a time, than let the subject go until then.

When presenting something like an end game, I like to start the discussion by letting my partner know how important they are to me, and that my goal is to see our relationship grow over time. You can say something like this, "I want you to know that our relationship is very important to me, and I love you more all the time. I'm really interested in hearing your goals, plans, and hopes for this relationship." Use your own words, not mine, but something to let them know that you aren't wanting to point out where things aren't right, and that you really want to hear what they have to say. Sometimes it is hard to get your partner to talk much about his ideas. A phrase that I found that works is "Tell me more". If you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will be more willing to talk.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I had this discussion with my now husband, he was clear that he wanted us to at least merge households, but the "M" word did not come up. This was where I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be clear about what I wanted. This is much easier when you have spent the time really working on yourself to be sure of your needs. When their idea of the future is different than yours a good way to begin talking is something like, "I too, would really like us to be able to come home to each other every day, but my idea involved a larger committment than moving in together, can we explore that idea?" or "It makes me happy that you want to get married and have kids, I am not sure that is where I am yet, can we discuss interim ideas?" Whatever their response, you will get farther by acknowledging their hopes and dreams, and then suggesting more exploration of the possibilities than just going straight into any "my way or the highway" discussions.

You and your partner may have a clear understanding of where your relationship is heading after that first discussion, and you may not, until much later on. Whatever the outcome, it is important that you keep being open and willing to see what the universe brings. Sometimes, we think we know exactly what we want and by being open and willing to share with someone, we end up with something far different and much better.

Take care,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Way Forward

Once you are clear on your End Game, it is important to share it with your partner. Again, I am assuming that this is a relationship that has been building for some time, and not brand new. Even if you know before you ever date someone that your long term goal is marriage and children, it is not a good idea to bring this up on the first date!! Or second or even the tenth. Building a relationship takes time and needs to be somewhat free flowing. Otherwise you may find that the relationship becomes derailed by expectations about where it is going.

However, once you have a built a relationship and figured out your End Game, it is good to discuss this with your partner. I know this can feel risky, and is often difficult to bring up. So there is another step before the discussion. This step is being ready for what your partners End Game might be. Sometimes you already have a good idea from talking and getting to know each other what your goals in life are. Still you might want a committed long term relationship and he may want to continue a more open relationship, or maybe just the opposite. One of the things I found helpful was to consider what I would do if my choices for the future were completely different than my partner's. I was clear that when we talked, I wasn't at the point where I wanted to make any sort of ultimatum.

In fact, let's talk for a minute about ultimatums. When I was struggling in a previous relationship a wonderful woman I knew, who had been married for over twenty years told me to never make ultimatums in relationships unless I was absolutely prepared to follow through with the consequences. This was great advice. I told my partner at the time, that I wasn't going to make an ultimatum to him, unless I absolutely was sure I meant it. And considering where the relationship was headed (straight down the toilet!), he knew I was talking about splitting up. He agreed that if and when I came to the decision, he would willingly leave because he knew I meant it. This was a lot better way to do things, then when I would get frustrated and ask him to leave and then give in and take him back later!!

So when I was ready to present my End Game to my partner, I really thought long and hard about what I wanted, and what I would do if his future was compatible with mine, and what I would do if it was not. When I did discuss the future with him, I was clear about what I wanted, and I was also clear that if he wasn't thinking along the same lines, that I would be just fine. I also let him know that I was still wanting to continue our relationship as it was, until such a time as we decided either together or individually that it was no longer working for us. Quiet authority works better than ultimatums anytime!

Next time I will talk about how to script this discussion for those of you who have never done anything like this. It can help to have a clear plan before this big step.


Monday, October 8, 2007

The End Game

Once you have met someone who you are attracted to, and want to have a long term relationship with, it is good to consider what your End Game is. What I mean by this is what are your hopes and goals for the future. Not everyone wants to end up married, or monogamous for that matter. Look at the relationship of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, they have chosen as their End Game to be who they are as individuals and not get married, but to enjoy each other as long as they want.

For me, the End Game I wanted was marriage. I wanted the security, monogamy, and commitment of matrimony. When I started getting to this point in my relationship, I wanted to be clear of what I wanted. My past history had shown me that if I wasn't clear, I might not get anything near what I wanted. (I also want to say that I had been married in the past, but to people who were definitely did not have what I wanted in a relationship, so once I found someone with the right qualities, I knew I would do whatever I could to make it work.)

I had been in a couple of long term (if you consider four or five years long) relationships prior to meeting my husband. In both of these relationships, I had gone into them without considering the End Game. I dated for a period of time, then we moved in together, and then after around four years we split up. One of the things I found was that it was easy for us to split up when we weren't married, and that marriage was hard to commit to when you had every thing but the marriage certificate already.

When I started looking at the End Game this time, I knew that I did not want to live with my partner without the commitment of marriage. I did not want to break up with him, if he wasn't ready for that commitment yet, but we would need to keep our home lives separate, and keep dating, until we either decided to make that commitment, or decided to move on. When we had been dating for a couple of years, and skirted the issue of where the relationship was going a few times, I decided it was time to let my partner know what my hopes for the future were. Now, I know that many women feel that this is up to the man to do, but many men and especially nice guys often need the subject broached for them.

So I asked him is we could talk about our future, and he brought up the need for us to live in the same place. At that point, as difficult as it was I let him know where I stood. I let him know I loved him and wanted to be with him, but did not want to live with him without the commitment of marriage. Thankfully, my partner was happy that I wanted that kind of commitment, and we got engaged about four months later.

So your assignment this week is to consider your End Game. Is marriage what you want, or would you prefer something more free flowing? Do you see yourselves living in the same house or staying in separate residences? Are there children in your future, or are you happier with your Labrador retriever? What does your relationship look like in five years, ten years, twenty years? Begin taking a few minutes a day to visualize the possibilities until you have an idea of where you want to go, and next time we will talk about making it happen.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

On Vacation!!

Hi All, I am going on vacation this week so I won't be doing a formal post. However, I am looking at a challenge on vacation. We are going to spend a week in Oregon and California with my husband's family.
This is somewhat scary for me, as I haven't met some of the relatives we are staying with. I am going to need to use all my own coaching tools this week to make sure I stay authentic, and true to who I am. So I hope you all have a great week, I know I will too, just a little pre-vacation nerves. I will write when I return!! Marquita

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Word About Mystery!

What's the next stop the road to having a fantastic relationship? If you've met someone, you are having a good time, and you are doing well at being authentic and setting boundaries, then the next step is be a little mysterious. Again, I want you to be authentic, don't be someone you are not, but I find that to hold a person's attention, it is a good idea not to give all of yourself right up front. Men in particular really like to be the pursuer in a relationship. What I am suggesting is let them!

I know that if you have waited a long time getting ready to be in a relationship, and especially if that biological clock is ticking, it is hard to go slow. Many of you want to have him hog tied, and on the road to marriage and babies withing a short period of time. I think you'll have a better chance of this happening, if you don't lay all your cards on the table. Remember my earlier post about desperation, this may be a good time to reread it, if you are feeling the urge to push the relationship too fast.

I found that if I wasn't always available, and had plenty of interests and pleasures in my life, that I had a certain mystery about me. My future husband kept coming back time after time, because I let him pursue me for quite a while. As we got to know each other more, I slowly let him into other parts of my life. What I tried to do for myself throughout the first year we dated, was to really enjoy myself and be authentic when we were together, and to not be invested in the outcome. By that I mean not concentrating too hard on whether we would end up together for the long haul.

By doing this, I allowed our relationship to unfold in a way that made me feel safe, to trust him, and to really be open and ready for a long term commitment. By not being fully available to him, whether it was about dating or about sex (which by the way can be really hot, if you keep it mysterious for a while), or about getting too involved in each others families, I allowed myself to have the security I needed. By the time I was ready to tell him I loved him, and move into a much more serious phase of our relationship, we had built up a good friendship, as well as a relationship. This may not have happened, or we might have not even stayed together, if I had jumped in with both feet from the beginning.

So my suggestion this week is to allow yourself a little time and mystery in your relationship.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boundaries, Did She Say Boundaries?

I just read over my last post, and I was wondering if the word boundaries struck a chord with anyone? I know that most of you have worked hard to love yourself first, and in doing that have set some good boundaries along the way. Sometimes when we are faced with a new relationship, it becomes a whole new ball game where boundaries are concerned.

One coaching trick that I find works well for setting boundaries is the Body Compass, designed by Martha Beck, PhD. Our bodies are great predictors of what is right for us. They can also be used as an easy lie detector, but that is another story. To use the Body Compass takes some practice. To get skilled at using it, try to do it often.

  1. First, picture an event in your past that has been painful for you. Close your eyes and focus on this event. Then check out your body and see what you feel. Is there tightness anywhere. Are you feeling tired, or sore in any part of your body? Do you feel like you can't breathe or can't talk? Notice whatever you are feeling in your body, and what it feels like for you.
  2. Now picture an event from the past that was very happy for you. Again close your eyes, and remember everything that happened. How is you body feeling now? Does it have more energy, feel lighter, and freer? Notice whatever your body is feeling when you remember this happy event.
  3. Once you get used to knowing the difference between how your body feels when you are happy and when you are unhappy, you can use the Body Compass in any situation.
  4. When you are faced with a situation that is uncomfortable, and you are not sure whether you should set a boundary, or what that boundary should be, you can use this exercise. First don't make any quick decisions. Let your partner know that you need time to think about what you need to do.
  5. When you are alone and have had some time apart, check in with your body about the choices before you. Your body will ALWAYS feel more energetic, and freer when you are making a choice that is right for you.

Our happiest times are usually when we are being our most authentic self. Our unhappiest times are often when we are trying to fit the mold that someone else has designed for us. You can learn to be authentic and to have a relationship that is loving and right for you.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh My God! I Met Someone!

Okay, so let's say you meet someone, and you are interested in seeing where it will go. What now? First of all you need to really be clear on what you want. Is this person someone who is relationship material? Remember that list you made of the qualities you wanted? Take a look at it, and see if they have what you are looking for. If they have some but not all of the qualities, it might be worth dating them a few times to see where it might lead. If they obviously have qualities that you don't want, and few of the qualities you do want, don't continue seeing them. I can hear you going, "What? I spent all this time looking and now I find someone who I'm attracted to, and you say I should let them go?" Yes, I am saying you should let them go, unless you are capable of having a completely fun, expectation free, relationship with them. Because if you give up what you really want in a relationship to pursue someone who is not right for you, you will end up back here reading my first blog again. Save yourself the heartbreak!

If the person you have met has many of the qualities you want in a relationship, then move ahead and date them. Remember in my post about Internet dating when I talked about setting the tone for your date. Well I want you to continue doing that. Let me explain in a few short sentences what I mean by setting the tone.

  1. Take things at a speed that works for you. If you want to go out for coffee, and he wants to take you away for the weekend, go out for coffee. Someone who really likes you will respect your boundaries in dating. If they don't, they may not be right for you.
  2. Be open to new possibilities however. Say he wants to take you to the opera, and you would rather go to a Nascar race. Be open to the opera, and suggest a race another time.
  3. Take intimacy slowly. I know, again you are going to think I am a prude. I happened to come of age in the 70s, and was a part of that whole do your own thing generation, and have never been pegged as a prude in my life. But what I found is that if I respect myself and take intimacy at a pace that works for me, when we do become intimate, it is much more satisfying.
  4. If a person treats you in anyway that is not acceptable to you, you need to let them know that their behavior is not acceptable. If a person is really interested in you, they will be willing to listen, and they will respect your boundaries. If they do not, then let them go.

Alright that is enough to think about for now. I know that these are hard steps to take, so let me sum it up in a few words. Check in with yourself on a regular basis to see how you are feeling, and let the relationship unfold in a way that feels good to you.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Return of the Inner Lizard

Once you begin meeting men and entering the dating scene again, you may find that your Inner Lizard rears it's head again!! What I mean by this, is that even though you have worked on your issues and worked hard to love yourself, your reptilian brain still has a picture of who it thinks you should be dating.
For me this tended to be short, dark, and somewhat stocky men, often with an exotic and adventuresome bent. I had my list of what I wanted in a relationship, and I thought I was open to new ideas, and to a new kind of man. When I met my husband, he was all wrong for my Inner Lizard. He is tall, has light brown hair, blue eyes, and is pretty average on the adventure scale. Lucky for me, he had a great sense of humor and made me laugh on our first date, or me and my lizard might have written him off. He also met a lot of the qualifications I was looking for on my list, so even though I had a hard time believing this incredibly nice guy could be right for me, I gave it a chance.
This may not seem that hard to some of you who have always met and dated nice guys, but I found it very difficult. I wanted more adventure. I thought I would be bored stiff if I stayed with him. Over the first year we dated, I thought about ending it any number of times but I didn't. Here's why. First, I never told him about my misgivings, and he just kept coming back, showing up, being accountable and reliable, and all those things I knew I wanted, but found confusing. And second, even though he didn't look my type physically, when he kissed me for the first time, it definitely left me wanting more. Even though my brain didn't know it, my body knew the chemistry was there.
The point is, that after you have done all that hard work figuring out who you are, and what you want in a relationship, don't let your Inner Lizard mess it up. Be willing to date men that are totally different than you are used to. Remember that the other ones didn't work so well, or you wouldn't be reading this. Nice guys are not always as forward as the men you have dated in the past, they may not immediately make your knees go weak, but given a chance they can be everything you need.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Web of Love

Last post I talked about meeting my husband on the Internet. Considering my earlier statements about the Internet not being a good dating ground I am a little embarrassed. But you have to realize it was an accident!!

To begin with, I originally saw the Internet as being a fun place to meet men. I could have some very interesting and exciting discussions with people, and not have to follow through unless I felt like it. I joined a couple of online dating sites and checked out men in my area. I talked to a few, but they seemed to want to jump too fast into intimate details about me and my life. I was cautious, as I still believe everyone should be about opening up about personal details. When I did meet someone, who lived in my small rural area, we talked for quite a while getting to know each other. I found this very exciting (actually I now realize my inner Cinderella was still fantasizing about happily ever after!), and enjoyed the ability to get to know someone without the physical constraints of actually meeting. It was apparent from the way he wrote back that he was feeling the same way. This went on for several months, and then we decided to meet. We met and frankly our meeting was a big dud. All those expectations we had built up by talking so long fell flat when we actually met in person and had no chemistry whatsoever.

In talking with a good friend who had a much longer history of Internet dating, she told me that she had met over a hundred men and was still looking for mister right. I don't know about you, but I didn't want to go through that torture at all. Five years later, this same woman is getting ready to go to Morocco to meet a man she has been talking with for two years. Then one of the women I worked with met someone on the net, promptly left her husband, and had the guy move in with her on the night that they actually met in person!! I decided after a few more months of lackluster discussions that the Internet wasn't for me. I would wait until I met someone in person and we could judge all areas of chemistry, and I stopped looking on the net.

What happened was that I met a guy in person who I thought was really interesting, and we started the getting to know each other. Then one day I got an email from one of the old match sites, that said someone had written to me. I checked it out and the guy said that he thought we had a lot in common. I looked over the profile, and not only did he live close to me, but he liked to play golf and do outdoorsy things. We began talking by email, and so I had two men that I was interested in at the same time.

As I was getting to know my Internet fellow, I decided to follow certain rules in Internet dating. For any of you who are currently using the Internet or want to start, I would suggest the following:

  1. Be honest about who you are on your profile, and provide a good picture of how you look on an everyday basis, not one of those mall fashion shoot pictures. People who are attracted to the real you, will be more suited to you.
  2. Don't give away any personal information, such as full name (I used a pseudonym to start), address, telephone number, or work place, until you are sure that you would want to actually date the other person. I would suggest a first name, and a phone number after you are interested, and are considering meeting. I wouldn't give out your address or work place until after you have met, and feel safe.
  3. If you are interested, and he is writing regularly, consider meeting. I found that I couldn't really gage chemistry or what a person was truly like without meeting them. If you wait too long it is easy to build up an unrealistic attachment, on your part or his, and you will be disappointed.
  4. Meet only in a public place for coffee or a light meal such as lunch. Make him come to you, and to a place you are familiar with. Never go to another town, state, country, planet, etc. to meet someone. If they are into you, they will meet you on your turf. Drive your own car and meet them at the restaurant. You set the tone of how you want the date to go. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself and leave. A good trick is to have a friend call you about half way through the meal at a predetermined time, and you can use them to excuse yourself if you have to.
  5. Again keep the meeting on your terms. Whether or not you shake hands or hug or don't touch at all is up to you. When lunch is over if you had a great time suggest another meeting in a public place. I know some of you are going, "Wow, this woman is such a prude!" Believe me, I'm not. If you learn early in a dating relationship of any kind to set good clear boundaries for yourself, the relationship has a better chance of progressing.

But that is another post down the road. I'll talk to you next time.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Available, Authentic, and Open

Now that you are ready to get out there, what next? Most of us, myself included still bought into the Cinderella idea that somehow the universe would provide me with the right mate. Unfortunately, the universe is often busy with other things, and might forget to look my way. The next step to finding someone is being truly open, authentic, and available. This is harder than it seems. Most of us have spent a long time building lives that we are proud of, and we work hard to maintain them. This can mean long work days, many projects and activities in our time off, and not a lot of time left for relationship hunting.
When I first entered the dating field again, I thought I was totally ready and available. However, I had a busy job, was getting my Master's degree, had several busy pass times, as well as a family I was close to. This didn't leave a lot of time and energy for relationships, or even dating for that matter. My life was great, and very full, but I still wanted more. So what I did was get a little help from my friends. You know how your friends are always wanting to set you up with their crazy brother Randolph, or their favorite cousin Duke? Well in the past, I shied away from set ups, I didn't do blind dates, and I thought the Internet was for losers.
Well, I was wrong. When you have limited time, and don't necessarily want to look in bars, friends and relatives are a good place to begin. Let them know that you are ready to join the dating scene, and see if they have any single friends that might work for you. I still don't like blind dates, but small parties and get togethers with friends is a great place to meet other single people. I met and dated a couple of people this way, and although we didn't hook up, it was a place to start.
Another area that is often overlooked is social clubs, or sports clubs, classes etc. I would suggest if you have a hobby or sport you love, that you look around and see if there are any regular clubs, or sports teams to check out. I played softball, so in my not so spare time, I joined a co-ed softball league. It was allot of fun and I met some great people. If you've always wanted to learn to ballroom dance, there are many local places to learn, and you don't usually need a partner. One of my best friends has been married for 10 years to the man she met and partnered with, while she was learning to swing dance.
I am wondering if some of you at this point are going, "I don't want to do any of those things." I would ask myself, am I truly ready and available for a relationship? When I first started this process I thought I was a lot more ready than I was. The reality was that I was still not completely open to a relationship. This was due to a fear of opening myself up to being hurt again. What I would suggest is to go back and read the last post. Don't do more than you are ready for. Be open to the idea of dating, and see what happens. Along the way you may meet someone who is safe enough to open up with. One trick I used was to practice openness, by asking the universe (or any higher power you believe in) to put someone in front of me if that was their plan. Otherwise, I would go about my business enjoying life, until the universe did just that. And it did, via the Internet, which we will get to in my next post.
If you keep trying, and keep finding you are not ready, then you may need to go back a few steps, and work more on loving yourself, and making sure you know what you want in a relationship.
Until next time,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ready, Set, Dream

Are you ready? Have you spent the time to get to really know you? Good!! We are ready for the next step, which is figuring out what you want in a relationship. When I was getting set to go out and explore dating again, a friend of mine gave me the book, "If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?" by Susan Page. I found this to be a great book because it posed some questions that I had never considered before. Questions like, what do I want, need, and hope for in a relationship? What qualities are important in the partners I choose, and which ones are deal breakers? Ms Page suggested writing a list, and checking it over and over again.

Now this may seem really simple to a lot of you, but at the time it was new territory for me. I began writing down what I thought was important in a relationship. I knew that I wanted someone who was funny, dependable, and who had many of the same basic values that I had. I wrote and edited this list, and ended up with several columns. I found that I had a column for things I hoped for in a partner, that would be great to have, but not an absolute must. I had a column for characteristics that were extremely important and necessary for a long term partnership. The most important column was for the things I was no longer willing to accept in a relationship. I didn't want addiction, unavailability, current court dates, no job, and my favorite, needing fixing in some way.

The second point that Susan Page made that I found valuable was that not every one I dated needed to be a future marriage candidate. She suggested that some men were acceptable as dating material, but not relationship material, and that some who were boyfriend material, were not necessarily marriage material. What a concept!! I could go out on a date with someone for fun, and not worry about whether it was going anywhere. I could have a boyfriend without having it become a long term relationship. I really began to open up to dating as an art form. I let people know, friends, family, etc. that I was available, and I began dating men who I hadn't considered before. And the best part of all of this was that I was so comfortable with myself and my life that I had fun, did not jump into any relationships, and really enjoyed meeting new guys. The other great thing is when you feel good about yourself, and are open to dating, the men just seem to appear. They can tell you are not desperate, or heartbroken, or angry at men in general, and they love women who know what they want.

So the next step is to begin that list. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the qualities I would want in a long term partnership?

  2. What are the things I would like to have, but that are not absolutely necessary?

  3. What are the things that I don't want in a relationship?

  4. What are the absolute deal breakers, the things I never want to have in a relationship?

And then begin to do a little dreaming everyday about what that relationship and that partner would look like. Keep picturing it, until you have a clear idea of what is important to you, and then start making the dream happen in your life.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Timing and Desperation

I know a lot of you are going, "Oh, my God, what does she think, I can wait for ever to be out there finding the right person". I understand that there is a lot of press given to how difficult it is too find a relationship as we get older, and biological clocks do tick, whether we like it or not.

What I know is that you can do the work now, and be ready in time to find and love a nice guy. Or, you can not do the work, and still be one, two, or ten years older and still making the same mistakes and be alone. When I used to worry about this, I had a good friend who loved to tell the story of her Aunt Irene who went to Hawaii at the age of 80, met a man on the plane, fell in love, and they lived happily with the time they had. Now I am not suggesting that you have to wait till your are 80!!! But the fact is, there is no deadline for love, there is no point where we run out of time to have the life we want, and the universe is out there for those who are willing to find it.

Now let's talk desperation. Have you read the book, "He's Just Not That Into You", by Greg Behrendt. I think Greg is right on about many things. He talks about men being able to sense desperation, and then they run from it like the plague. I can't count the women who I have met, who believe there is a timetable, and they have to be married and have children by a certain point in their lives, or they have failed miserably. Don't get me wrong, it is perfectly okay to want marriage and family. But when our time frame is getting short, and we are desperately trying to find and marry, and mate with a person on our agenda, men do sense it, and they do run like crazy.

Desperation is a turn off. I didn't like it when I met men with similar agendas. I believe if we take the time to get clear on what we want in our lives, build the life we want as a single person first, we can then attract into our lives the kind of people who are right for us. The one thing we can't control is the timetable. To find the relationship that works for you, you have to feel like you are a whole person, who would have a good life, with or with out a partner.

Timing is not everything. Being authentic to you is. Be willing to give yourself the gift of time.


Friday, July 20, 2007

How do I love myself first?

This is the question that bothered me the most while I was trying to be a whole human being. There was part of me that figured I deserved to be loved and taken care of by somebody else. I grew up in the 60's and 70's and still had a fairy tale belief in some wonderful person coming along, and loving me without reservations. I dreamed of a Cinderella story with a happy ever after in my future. What never occurred to me was that to find my prince charming, I needed to know what I wanted in my life, and be grounded in the reality that I was a whole person first.

This required me to know how to take care of myself in a healthy way in all areas of my life!! This was something that I had never done. I had always been in a relationship or trying to find a relationship, or in the middle of leaving a relationship. Looking back now, I can't believe how long I held on to the myth of "If I just meet the right person, it will work out". It never dawned on me that the right person was me.

I have to tell you, that I didn't choose to be alone, so that I could love myself, and become the person I am today. What happened was I had been deeply in love with someone who I believed was the one for me. Unfortunately, after a couple years, this one small flaw in his character appeared, and a latent gambling addiction became completely out of control, and soon both he and I were all wrapped up in trying to control his addiction. This led me to counseling, where I learned to let go of the addiction, and eventually the relationship. I was so devastated after this relationship, that for the first time in my life, I could not conceive of wanting to be in another one. I decided I was terminally in love with someone I couldn't be with, and decided I would probably spend my life that way.

Dramatic, huh? Well at the time it felt that way. But what happened was that I spent the next two years, getting to really know me, without the presence of a relationship. What I found was that being alone was wonderful!!! I would come home and my house was clean, I could eat the food I liked, there was no fight over the remote, and I could go out dancing, or to the movies, or to retreats, and never worry about what some man wanted or needed. I also learned a few great tips for making myself feel better when I was lonely or needed support.

1. I learned to develop some wonderful non-romantic relationships with others. I have a group of friends today that regularly goes to self care retreats, and has great adventures together.

2. I learned that I loved to hike, golf, whitewater raft, travel, dance, and that all of these did not require a man in my life.

3. Whenever I felt low, I would buy myself a low cost bunch of flowers at the grocery store, light a candle, and read, or make myself something delicious to eat, and pamper myself for the evening.

4. I learned that even as an adult, it is okay to have a Teddy Bear, and to snuggle up with it when I was lonely.

5. I learned that sex was too intimate for me personally to have with someone casually, and found I could truly love myself first!!

6. I learned who I was, by trying anything that truly felt authentic to who I was.

7. I learned that having gratitude in my life, for all I have been given, helps be to want what I have right now. Writing a daily gratitude journal, a suggestion I heard from Oprah, got me started, and keeps me grateful today.
Each person is different. So what will work for you will be unique to your essential self. My suggestion is that you spend enough time learning about yourself, and learning to really love your life and who you are, that it continues when you are ready to dive into a relationship.
Until next time,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Broken Pickers

So, what is the first step to finding not only the right person, but having a relationship that lasts?

Well, for me, it was dealing with my "broken picker"! Most of you are wondering if I am talking about harvesting fruit or finding men. I am talking about the men I picked. I think it was in a support group meeting where I first heard the term "broken picker", and someone was telling me that I had one. I thought they were nuts!! I knew that I went into every relationship expecting the best, and thought each one would work out. The person clarified the fact for me, that I was the person who picked, not necessarily in correct order, men who were unavailable, who were not going to commit, who were not always faithful, sometimes had addictions, and rarely had jobs that would support themselves, let alone a family. Subsequently the determination, that my picker was broken.

Now, up until this point in my life, my belief was that the problem lay with the men, and that somehow I had nothing to do with these relationships not working out. What a shock to find that it was about me after all. And why, you ask, did I pick people who were destined to break my heart, leave, or more commonly drive me to leave them? Well, a lot of it was because of a guy, Martha Beck, PhD, the well known life coach, (and my personal Coach Trainer) would call, my Inner Lizard. All of us have a part of our brain that goes back to the days when we were still crawling around in the primordial soup, and today scientists still call it our Reptilian Brain.

This is the part of the brain that tells us when to run if we are in danger, or stand and fight if running isn't an option. It is also the part of our brain that learns to recognize certain people, who we feel a strong emotional response to. This often begins with our parents or other caregivers who raised us. When I've had a strong emotional response to people in the past, I often thought it was charisma or intense attraction, what I didn't realize was that my Inner Lizard was responding to them, and not necessarily in a good way. It took me a lot of work with counseling and coaching to realize, that I was intensely attracted to men, who my Inner Lizard recognized as having some of the traits of my father (eeeuuuu!), and that my brain wanted somehow to heal our relationship through my relationships with men.

Now not everyone out there has a broken picker. And some people have them in varying degrees. What my picker did, was lead me to believe that I was intensely attracted to the wrong men, and that I wasn't that attracted to the right men. I did meet some very wonderful men along the way, but I would usually not stick around. So having a broken picker was a problem, but it didn't stop me from meeting decent people. Once I recognized this fact, I could learn to fix the problem.

So the first assignment along the path of finding and loving a nice guy, is learning to make peace with your Inner Lizard. This is accomplished first through committing to being single, while you work on your relationship issues. Now, don't run, it sounds really difficult, but the first key to having a keeping a relationship with a whole, healthy, human being is being one yourself. So, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Do I have a lot of turmoil in my relationships, whether they are with family, friends, co-workers, or romantic in nature?

2. Am I still working through childhood issues with my parents?

3. Am I often angry, tearful, moody, or depressed?

4. Do I use any substance to the extreme?

5. Am I truly available to be in relationships, or am I still in one that isn't working, grieving one that has recently broken up, in the middle of a divorce or separation, still in love with someone from the past?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, the first step is to work with a life coach, a counselor, or other program to deal with these specific issues. Martha Beck says, "you've got to live it, to give it". That means that to be in a relationship with a healthy person, you need to be a healthy person. For myself, I spent a couple of years working on building the life I wanted, and learning to be great alone, before I was ready to love a nice guy.

I would be happy to work with you to do the same. This may take some time, but not as much time as it will take if you do nothing. So start today, with me or someone else, because he is out there waiting, and wondering when he will find a nice girl.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

In The Beginning

I don't know about you, but I spent a lot of my life involved with the wrong men, and wondering if I would ever find Mr. Right. I would meet men, and if I found them attractive, and they were interested, I would date them. Sometimes this would evolve into a relationship that would last a while. But what would happen, was that inevitably I would get tired of the behavior of my partner, or get tired of waiting for a commitment that wouldn't come, and I would leave.

What was constant about these relationships was that I would pick men that I found exciting, adventurous, and often a little on the wild side. They were a lot of fun, but not often that dependable. They would sometimes be self supporting through their own contributions, but not always. In every instance, I found myself trying to make something secure and lasting with someone who wasn't really into secure and lasting!

When I would meet someone who I considered a "Nice" guy, I usually found them boring, and wouldn't stick around. Fast forward to the present, and I can tell you that I am married to a really "Nice" guy, who is funny, hard working, dependable, and we are really happy.

Most of you are probably going, "now wait a minute, how did you get to him, considering your track record." I can understand your doubt. What happened in between was a lot of looking inward, a lot of finding out who I was, and what I really wanted, and then figuring out how to get it. I am willing to share my expertise and help others find the man of their dreams, but it will probably take more than this blog. I will share parts of what I did here, and I will be happy to answer specific questions that are put forward.

I am a life coach with a program that works to help people find love. And by people, I am focusing on women, because that is who I am. I am glad to help men also, but feel more capable on the female side of things. Check out my website: for the info on my coaching services. Stay tuned to this blog for the the next post which will include the first step towards getting the relationship you want!!