Everyone talks about learning lessons from your past so that you don’t repeat your mistakes, but you ought to also learn from your past in a positive way.
What did you like the most about your exes? What attracted you in a way that wouldn’t wane no matter how bad the relationship got? What did your exes do to make you happy? What were the reasons you wanted to stay with your ex? What kept you there when the going got tough?
Look for those same qualities in your next mate… and then of course remember the lessons you learned about from your past relationships which contributed to their demise (i.e. the negative stuff) and keep those things in mind as well.
In writing my blogs, I sometimes like to remember that it’s not only single people reading. So for this week’s piece, I went to one of the sturdiest relationships in my life, the marriage of my friends Alastair and Lauren. As we ate dinner together last week, I decided to ask them for advice on healthy relationships.
- On how they decided they were right for each other. Practicality is always king. Agreement on where you’re both headed is vital. Alastair and Lauren think of themselves as good roommates and think that, combined with their attraction, made for a great relationship. Common goals are also vital, and the practical understanding of the long-term blueprint was important in their relationship leading into marriage. They also trust each other immensely, and think of each other as their closest confidants. Money is an important point that comes up for them as something they immediately trusted each other with beyond just living together.
- On what keeps them happy. Anticipate the other person’s needs. For example, Lauren and Alastair cook for each other when one is stuck at work (or in a classroom with me, in Alastair’s case). Basically, do nice things without being asked and put your partner before yourself. Life isn’t having sex and talking about G-d, it’s making the decisions to help each other and keep life stable.
- On finding the right person for you. Find an environment that’s conducive for people being together regularly. Jewish events, hobby groups, and universities (within limits — maybe not if you’re in your 30s or older and not in college) are great ways to find people. Finding a place where you’re comfortable with lots of people is great, and while the university option was how they met, they still have lots of faith in meeting at community events.
One final note I’d like to make is how much I enjoy having Alastair and Lauren and their fellow married friends in my Jewish community. In Dallas, we don’t have “singles” events for young Jews, but rather events for young Jewish people in general. While some people don’t love the mixing of singles and couples (how can you tell who to hit on?), I think there’s an added value not just from the fact that those in relationships can also be great people, but in the fact that they can give you a sense of guidance in a very confusing dating landscape.
Having two people in as stable of a relationship as Alastair and Lauren is more than just a great reminder of what I aspire for, but also a great resource to help me get there. So couples of the Jewish world, be sure to stay active in your community as my friends have, you never know who will benefit from your friendship, and the friends you can introduce them to.
You finally met someone you like and the feeling is mutual. Dating turns into a relationship rather quickly — and before you know it, you are spending all your free time together as your emotions grow. But then the other person’s feelings deepen… while your feelings stay stagnant. You continue to move forward as a couple because you still like your significant other, but since you’re not falling in love with the same veracity, you begin to doubt if this is “The One.” As you learn more about each other you start to see flaws where there once was perfection.
You know intrinsically that you should be able to accept these flaws as human and normal, but instead they start to irk at you. And the things you liked before also start to gnaw at you, making you wonder if you can get back to that exciting, lust-filled place — or if the relationship is a ticking time bomb. Unfortunately, once you get to this point, it is likely that you won’t be able to backtrack and that the relationship is indeed doomed.
Don’t try to fight it, this is a course that many relationships take. Be comforted by the fact that you didn’t allow it to go any further, and listened to your heart and mind when it told you that something wasn’t right. Feelings are going to get hurt in this wild ride we call dating; don’t be shocked when you are on the receiving side and don’t feel bad when you are on the distributing side.
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People are often on their very best behavior for much of the first phase of dating. Playing “Prince” or “Princess Charming,” making romantic gestures, acting affectionate, and using their very best manners. It’s easy to hide mood swings, flaws and ticks when you aren’t living together or experiencing all of the normal day-to-day doldrums of life without an escape hatch.
When you’re dating, and you have a terrible day at work, or traffic was a beast, or a customer service rep wasn’t helpful after being on hold for an hour, you typically have the chance to decompress before seeing the special person you’re dating. The luster of the relationship hasn’t dulled and your excitement over the possibility of a future together means you are going to put on a happy face, try to enjoy yourself and leave the ugly day behind.
But that’s not reality.
In fact, it would behoove you to keep it real after a month or so of dating to see how you both deal with times of stress, and how you handle each other when one of you is moody and stubborn. It is not realistic to always be charming; no one is that smooth all the time. Everyone has their issues and if you can’t figure out how to be on the same team and deal with them together, then you may need to find a different partner.
A recent article in The New York Times “Modern Love” column titled The Hard Won Lessons of the Solitary Years resonated with me. Although there are lessons that we learn while IN relationships, there are also many lessons we learn the older we are as singles. Which is why it always bothered me when my coupled up counterparts would speak to me in a condescending way about things that I “wouldn’t understand” because I wasn’t married or in a relationship at the time.
What I found ironic though is that I was learning life lessons as an independent woman that would go on to benefit me later. There’s no right or wrong answer to what age is best for getting married; everyone has their own path, but in the meantime we should be cognizant of the way we speak to our friends who are on a different path and make sure we are respectful. Everyone learns their own hard fought lessons on their own time and we never know what someone is going through, it’s best to appreciate what they bring to the table — a perspective that comes from being in a different stage of life than ours.
A girlfriend of mine was telling me a story last night about how and why her most recent relationship ended. Apparently the guy, who’s a few years younger than she is, freaked out after continuously meeting all her engaged, married, and parenting friends. Since there’s still a “2″ before his age and a “3″ before his, he felt pressure that she would want to rush into getting married even though she had never said anything of the sort. She explained to me that she tried telling him that she wasn’t in any hurry but he had already made up his mind and broke off the relationship. After a few weeks he came back into the picture ready to listen to what she had to say and admitted that she hadn’t put any pressure on him and now they are cautiously talking again. She sat next to me and told me all this and my response to her was that neither she nor he could rationalize his feelings away and making excuses for the past month wasn’t going to magically change the fact that he freaked out nor was he going to magically not feel any subconscious pressure from dating a woman in her 30′s. I warned her to proceed slowly with her eyes wide open and that in the meantime I would ramp up my efforts to set her up with someone.
People don’t change in a month but they can change over time when they truly want to. Actions speak louder than words so if you are dating someone who hasn’t asked you for Prime Time Date Night within the first few weeks or hasn’t introduced you to his or her family and friends after a few months or refuses to have The Talk after half a year and always has excuses as to why, then stop making excuses for that person and move on to someone who is going to treat you as special as you deserve to be treated.
A great blog post about marriage has gone viral… it’s called: Marriage Is Not For You written by Seth Adam Smith. The post was written by a man who met his wife in high school and was friends with her for 10 years before they took it to a romantic level. He says that you should marry your best friend but yet he was very nervous and anxious as their wedding day approached. He explained his fears to his father who told him:
“Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
Seth really took to his father’s advice and went on to say:
“No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”’
The point is, make sure when dating that you’re looking for someone whom you want to make happy without strings and who wants to make you happy without any strings. The minute you start having selfish thoughts, such as: “I’ve spent this much money on him/her and I’m not receiving the same in return” — then you need to gut-check yourself and figure out if this is a make-or-break thought or a fleeting thought. If you’re keeping tally on anything in the relationship and can’t stop doing so then you may need to keep searching for someone with whom you won’t care how much you do for them and how much you receive in return because all you want to do is make him or her happy.
under Date Night
I’ve seen a lot of relationships end due to incompatibility. Let’s admit it, a lot of those online “tests” and horoscopes don’t give us the real answers. Through much conversation and research, there are three ways to tell if you’ll be compatible with your new date. It’s important to know right away… or your relationship could end in a disastrous break up.
1) Sense of Humor
If you two don’t have the same sense of humor, you can nearly guarantee the relationship is doomed. Connecting with each other on a deep level has to do with how you both perceive the world and it’s craziness. Do you laugh at the same jokes? Do you make each other laugh? Or maybe you are both serious and have no sense of humor. That’s good too! As long as both of you are the same level, then it will be a much smoother life together.
2) Taste in Music
Of course, I could have said anything here: movies, food etc. But, music says a lot about a person. Music defines our culture and our taste. If you two have different tastes in music then it may be difficult to enjoy the many fleeting moments of life such as car rides, concerts or turning on the mp3 player at home. Be sure you look out for their taste in music and see how similar it is.
3) Your Drive
No, not the model of your car. When I say “drive” I mean for your passion and purpose for life. This is a big one because it can tell the future of your relationship. Do you both like to relax in the same way? Are you both hard working entrepreneurs? Is one lazier than the other? These are just a few of the things you need to look for in regards to compatibility. It may not be as important when you start to date, but as things get more comfortable each person will fall into their own ways. Be sure to know if your significant other has the same passions and zest for life as you do.
If you meet someone and you connect on all three of these levels, you can be sure your compatibility rate is very high. Make sure to look out for these details listed above on your next first date. That way you can get a good read on your future together.
At some point in your dating career, you will end up with someone who is annoyingly affectionate. Usually you already have an inkling that this person isn’t “The One” — and so everything they do is annoying, but whether it’s a first date or a one-year anniversary, there are people out there who don’t realize their type of affection is anything but loving.
It’s those people who constantly touch you — regardless of if you’re eating, sleeping, in the midst of a fight, talking, walking, crying, getting ready, cooking, you get the point. Affection is (usually) welcome, as long as its the right amount at the right time. Some people don’t like to be touched when they are doing certain things or feeling a certain way and anyone interested in being with you long-term needs to learn to both read your body language and your moods!
You’re on JDate looking for a relationship and meanwhile you’re probably looking at other couples and thinking: “when I fall in love I’m not going to gain weight like everyone else does!” Well, that’s easier said than done. Once you start dating someone seriously a few things tend to happen — you go out to eat more often, you choose to hang out with your new beau rather than hit the gym, and you sacrifice sleep for the sake of staying up late at night to talk. Those three things are the perfect storm to gaining love weight in the beginning of a relationship. It’s not impossible to avoid, but be prepared for it to happen. Chances are, both of you are gaining said weight so both of you can work together to lose the respective pounds too, but in the meantime you can try to order healthy without coming across as an anorexic, you can fit in even 30 minutes on the treadmill or on a run, and you can choose to put your zzzzz’s before your xxxxx’s and oooo’s. In fact, this way you will draw out the lovely honeymoon stage by making yourself ever so slightly unavailable for the sake of your health. No prospect will fault you for that and in fact, it will only be respected. If you still end up gaining the love weight, have fun doing so together and then bond over shedding it together as well.