I’m going to get personal for this post, not because I think anyone really cares about my personal life, but because I don’t think my story is all that unique and maybe someone out there can find something useful.
Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category
Do you need to respect what a prospect does for a living in order to be with them? Does someone need to be at your same level career-wise for a relationship to work? Would you date someone in the service industry or retail industry if you’re a corporate attorney? What about someone who is a freelancer? Would you date a woman who dreams of becoming a stay-at-home mom?
In theory, none of these sound like an issue, but money is one of the top sources of distress in relationships… and when there is an income disparity, problems can arise. Unless, of course, you have respect. Do you respect your mate for working 40+ hours a week, even if they aren’t making as much as you or working at a job as high-powered as yours? Would you respect your mate and see them as an equal for staying home to take care of the kids and “not working?”
In the end, it really has nothing to do with how you spend your day or how much you earn, but if you have mutual respect and appreciation for each person’s contribution to the relationship as a whole.
Let’s discuss something that’s been on my mind lately. I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I’m talking about the M word… and it’s not marriage or money – it’s maturity! In the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Relationships” (which I just made up while writing this post), I’ve self-diagnosed several instances of what I’ll call Non-Syncing Maturity Levels (NSML).
More on NSML in a minute, but first, a few defining features of this unfortunate malady. When I say someone is mature, I mean he or she possesses a set of skills such as the ability to communicate effectively like an adult, to not be overly judgmental or heavily influenced by peer pressure, to use manners and common sense appropriately, and to see the world realistically and practically – basically, skills that teenagers tend to lack but are typically solidified in those with more experience. In my opinion, maturity has very little to do with money, interests, looks, career, or personality – it’s more of a quality that you pick up on while getting to know someone. A person can love comic books and laugh at the Three Stooges but be pretty mature (hey, Dad!). Conversely, you can own a house, car, fancy clothes, nice job, have a great education, and still spend years texting girls “hey, wuts up” at 10pm. Additionally, a person can be mature and also fun, spontaneous, and creative; similarly, one can be intelligent, reliable, and get drunk every night while refusing to learn how to pay bills.
Here’s my point: I don’t care what level of maturity you have. I’m not ascribing any qualitative judgment to any particular level on the maturity ladder. You could be in a committed, fulfilling relationship with someone who, by my definition, is pretty immature. But, the problem of NSML occurs when you are on one rung of this metaphorical ladder and the person you are interested in, dating, or committed to is on another.
So, Caryn, you may ask, how can I avoid the frustration associated with NSML? Well, there are no guarantees, but it’s as simple as first figuring out where you are (or want to be) on the maturity ladder. Then, seek out dating partners on the same or nearby rungs. To identify your level, ask yourself questions like: “Do I frequently throw temper tantrums in public?” or “Am I capable of making everyday decisions without relying on the opinion of my Twitter followers?” As far as I know, there is no current search function on JDate to narrow your matches by maturity; however, I think this is something that you can feel out in a few dates. So if you’re a 45-year old guy reliving his frat boy days, you may want to think twice about messaging the girl who loves Emily Post. However, if you find that girl who loves Tucker Max, well, I hope they serve beer at your wedding.
An interesting article ended with the following (edited for brevity) stanzas:
Hot is admired from afar; beauty is to be held.
Hot is perception; beauty is appreciation.
Hot is smokey-eyed; beautiful is bare-faced.
Hot is an appearance; beautiful is more than skin deep.
Hot is a strong appeal; beautiful is strong mind.
Hot is youthful; beautiful is ageless.
Hot is conventional; beauty is unique.
Hot is a state of being; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Hot is a text message; beautiful is a love letter.
Hot is a facade; beautiful is a woman.
It sometimes is difficult to separate lust from love, but if you can describe what it is about a person that you are attracted to, and determine if it would land in the “hot” or “beautiful” column, then you may be closer to making the differentiation. The article is basically asking if you are looking at your date — in this case a woman — as a sexual object or with respect? Do you love how she looks more than who she is? Think about it.
When you’re dating as an older adult, who you should be with now is not the same person you would have been with when you were younger, although maybe it should have been! Chances are you are not looking to procreate, although you may still have kids in the home and need to take co-parenting into account. When you’re an empty-nester and a grandparent, then you can really reassess your needs and wants in a mate.
This is the time that similar hobbies and interests, in addition to being a conversationalist, is even more important. You know now that it’s not all about appearances, but about having someone you can talk to about more than just the superficial things and enjoy spending quality time together.
Do you want to travel a lot? Or do you plan on working way past retirement? Those two people will likely not be a good match. Do you enjoy giving back and attending every function and volunteering and being involved? Or would you prefer to spend your time relaxing and being with a small group of close friends enjoying good television, movies, and plays? Again, these two types will probably not be a good match. How do you want to spend the next 10, 20, or 30 years? And what kind of companion do you want?
Figuring out how you want to live the rest of your life, and thus figuring out the type of partner you want to share that with, will help you create your preferences and easily narrow down your prospects.
She Blinded Me With Social Science: Deconstructing that NY Times “To Fall in Love with Anyone” Article
I was in the middle of drafting this week’s post when I noticed several friends of mine sharing a recent New York Times article titled, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.” It’s easy to dismiss such a tantalizing headline as mere clickbait, but the article is based on an actual published psychology experiment in which participants felt “closer” to each other after answering a series of 36 personal questions — and the author herself says she fell in love with her partner because of it.
For the people who gave this article a superficial read, it would appear that true love could be yours if you just performed a simple exercise. And if this sounds too good to be true, rest assured, it most certainly is.
Because I’m me, I downloaded and read the original scholarly article (it’s since been pulled from the web), published in 1997 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (23:4) with the decidedly less enticing title, “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings.” When discussing any study, the first thing to consider is what exactly is the study trying to measure. To wit:
We should also emphasize that the goal of our procedure was to develop a temporary feeling of closeness,not an actual ongoing relationship (364)
So right off the bat we’re not talking about how to establish a meaningful relationship, but rather to create fleeting moments of connectedness. How do we accomplish this?
Indeed, Aron et al. (1992) found that various measures of closeness have two latent dimensions of behaving close and feeling close (364). [Emphasis original]
Following this logic, the study decided to measure if acting in a way to achieve “closeness” would, in fact, generate the feelings of closeness.
One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure…Whereas behaving close in this sense could not really arise outside of a long-term ongoing relationship, it seemed to us that the subjective feeling of closeness, which is our focus, might well arise at least temporarily in a short-term interaction (364).
It turns out that putting in the effort of feeling close to someone else through personal sharing can even overcome or override some of the factors people normally assume do lead to connectedness.
Overall, these data suggest that matching in terms of not disagreeing on important attitudes or leading subjects to believe that they and their partners will like each other probably has little impact on the overall closeness subjects achieve through this procedure, or even on their mutual attraction (367).
To summarize, one way two people can feel closer to each other is by actively sharing intimate personal aspects about themselves, with reciprocity from their partner. This can certainly be useful information for people who are trying to make a go out of a relationship, either dating or even after marriage. But, before you start printing out the questionnaire for your next date, keep in mind there are some crucial caveats which come with the research.
The experiment was done in a controlled environment where the participants knew each other to some degree as classmates, or otherwise the pool was not completely randomized. There was also no expectation of commitment or consequences attached, which could have lead participants to give more freely. Perhaps most importantly is that the participants were willing to participate. That is to say, two people made the conscious decision to try to open up to one specific person, at least for a short period.
Dating usually doesn’t work like this. If you’re meeting someone online or from a setup you’re effectively meeting a random stranger. Even if you ask out someone whom you know, you still need to get past the willingness aspect. It’s not just that people are incapable of opening up to someone else (though many are), but they may not want to open up – or at least not to this particular individual. Even the NY Times author admits, “I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening,” which is of course an obstacle many of us can’t even get past.
And let’s say we do find a partner to undertake this exercise, do we actually wind up finding True Love? The authors of the study address this question and have some bad news.
So are we producing real closeness? Yes and no. We think that the closeness produced in these studies is experienced as similar in many important ways to felt closeness in naturally occurring relationships that develop over time. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the procedure produces loyalty, dependence, commitment, or other relationship aspects that might take longer to develop…Thus the procedure is like other experimental paradigms such as mood induction procedures, the minimal group paradigm, or methods for temporarily lowering self-esteem: It is useful as a means of creating a similar although not completely identical state, but under controlled conditions permitting experimental tests of causal hypotheses and theoretical issues (371-372)
Practically speaking what we really have here is a strategy and mechanism for two people who are open to the possibility of getting close to each other to at least try to develop feelings of closeness. As the NY Times author stated, his could in fact indicate that love is indeed more “pliable” than we’d otherwise have thought, in which case we have more control to determine our own happiness than we’ve imagined.
Even if you find solace or encouragement in this empowerment, keep in mind you still need to work at the relationship, but more importantly you need to find that willing partner.
But then again, that’s why there’s JDate, isn’t it?
As I said in Monday’s post, let’s forget about the negative connotation of “baggage” and call it “your story” instead. But, how do you turn it from negative to positive?
You need to get to a place from within where your story becomes that amazing thing called life that has made you who you are. You get there by accepting your past and your current situation, and then embracing it. Then you need to figure out how to spin it so that it adds confidence and character. By spinning it, I don’t mean lying or manipulating the truth, but seeing the silver lining in all of your life experiences — what you learned from them, or who it brought into your life, or how it changed your life for the better.
You cannot change the past, but you can change your attitude about it moving forward. You do not want a date to feel pity for you with a sob story, so get to the point where you realize that you are the amazing person you are today because of your story, and then tell your story as an adventure. It’s called life. You can live it or let it happen to you.
It doesn’t matter if you are labeled a “mature adult” or an “older adult” — because many dating problems remain the same, regardless of age. In some ways it’s easier, but in some ways it’s more difficult.
Instead of having nosy Jewish mothers bugging you for grandchildren, you may have nosy Jewish children bugging you to find someone to keep you busy so you leave them alone.
Instead of a bad break-up that felt like the end of the world after a mere three months, you may have 30 years worth of memories that only came to an end because your spouse passed away.
Instead of a drama-filled relationship that ends where you’re able to avoid that person at all costs, you may have three children with your ex-spouse whom you will be connected to for all eternity and have to deal with in some capacity on a near daily basis.
Instead of feeling like your life is over because you’re single on your 30th birthday, you may have instead embraced your independence and yet still hope to find someone to enjoy the rest of your life with.
These comparisons are the differences in your baggage as an adult dating after 40-ish. Everyone has baggage, whether you want to admit it or not. Baggage has a negative connotation, so let’s just call it – “your story.” Everyone has a story. There’s no way you can get through life without making one. What’s yours?
An awesome thread on Reddit titled What can you do that is NOT appearance based to make yourself more attractive? brought some great answers that singles should take to heart, including:
- Be passionate about something
- Be decisive
- Recognize your best qualities
- Be a good listener/conversationalist
- Have a sense of humor
- Be confident
I’m going to boil this down for you: what are you good at in life? You should have a few items on that list whether it be a skill, hobby or character trait. Now, what makes you happy? Knowing both of those answers will help build your confidence because it creates self-awareness. You are going to be asked these types of questions on dates so it’s better to be prepared (NOT rehearsed) to answer them by thinking about it now.
“Turn from evil and do good” Psalms 34:15
I’ve long since forgotten how many dates I’ve been on, but I don’t have that many horrible stories. At worst, most of my dates have been forgettable or what I sometimes describe as, “painless but pointless.” Decent days or nights out with decent people, but either no chemistry or just pronounced feelings of “meh.”
Regardless of how much time one chooses to invest in any person – some people are always willing to give someone a second date, others bail quicker – when we aren’t interested in someone else, a popular confronting us is “what’s wrong with that person?” This is usually more common among matchmakers, some of whom I have encountered tend to take rejections personally (both before and after the date).
Asking “what’s wrong” can be constructive if it helps someone gain greater insight into their wants or needs, or to help friends and matchmakers refine their suggestions. From my own experience, people ask “what’s wrong” more like they ask “why aren’t you married yet?” – as an accusation meant to put others on the defensive for their life choices. The problem is that most of “what’s wrong” isn’t always apparent, in part because there may not be anything actually wrong at all.
Here’s where I think a common cliché may be useful. Looking for the absence of a negative would be what I call, “dating not to lose.” According to this attitude, the default status would be that you’d marry the first willing individual who you don’t find particularly objectionable. Depending on your priorities in life, this may be a perfectly valid option and precursor to a long and healthy marriage, provided of course that it’s your decision and not imposed by external (e.g. family, social, economic) pressures.
But for many others, this is wholly insufficient. I’d like to think that people don’t just want to “get married” as much as they want a happy and healthy marriage. While this is never guaranteed (even in the best scenarios), my sense is that the more optimistic people are in dating, the more hopeful they’ll be entering the marriage. This is more along the lines of what I’d call “dating to win,” where you’re not trying to avoid what could be wrong as much as finding someone with whom you feel “right.” In this regard, the mere absence of attraction or chemistry (however you choose to define it) is itself enough of a “flaw,” such that it’s not worth it to pursue it further.
“Dating not to lose” is a surefire way to get stuck in a long-term dissatisfying relationship, one of those where it’s not bad enough to leave… but not good enough to commit. This can certainly be comfortable in the short-term, and you might even convince yourself to get married, though I’d suspect there would be a greater chance for future remorse and resentment.
“Dating to win” is far more difficult. It requires a certain degree of confidence to be unattached rather than be in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship, or even continuing to go on dates where you’re just not that into someone. But I’d also suggest that the potential rewards are far greater in the long run.